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/qst/ - Quests

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Dad’s eyes were set to the screen of a dead tv, bottle of Jack in his lap sitting in the crusty embrace of a third-hand couch. If he’d worked today I couldn’t tell, but since he was half done with the bottle I doubted it. He didn’t look when I came in, or when I passed by to my room.

We didn’t talk much even when he was sober. I figured we’d run out of things to talk about.

I threw my bag on the bed. Cockroaches scattered up the wall.

I didn’t have much to decorate my room with except mounds of dirty clothes. Dry wall crumbled in stark patches and the roof was mottled with dark spots.

The stink of sour milk hung heavy in my room, bad enough I cracked the window, bringing in the howl of a police siren zipping down the street. The cool fall breeze fluttered the curtain, chill biting through my sweatshirt. A cat raised its heads out on the fire escape, pink nostrils flaring as if I’d offered it an invitation inside. It was scrawny and wet with mange, no way in hell was I letting it into the apartment.

A drunk sang somewhere below our building, shout-singing as he shuffled down the street, only to get cussed at in Spanish from the apartment windows opposite. The sun had mostly set. It was a quarter past five and the city was waking up.

At my desk I went over today's homework. We were doing a report on the lead up to the Civil War, Bloody Kansas, John Brown, all the blood and guts stuff, and I could get a head start. I also had a whole bunch of math to do, and a couple pages of Hamlet to read.

The teachers implied I could blow it off though, being a sophomore just transferred in.

It had been a month since we’d moved up from Indiana to Chicago.

For Dad’s work, and to be closer to the hospital. Mostly the hospital.

Chicago was bigger than I’d expected. I don’t know what I’d expected. It wasn’t like home, quiet like home. It was always noisy, and you couldn’t see the stars.

Between the stink in the air, the cockroaches and the chill wind I wasn’t all that into doing my homework.
My phone buzzed. I was new here, but I’d made a friend. Kind of. When I transferred in the school had assigned a ‘buddy’ to help me adjust and get to know the school. Kemal was a senior and he’d extended that out to Chicago as a whole. He seemed cool.

Kemal – Yo Eric we’re hitting up a pizza joint at the Loop. You in?

I looked at the homework, I looked to the fire escape outside the window. I could go out, get a slice, come back. Dad wouldn’t notice me gone. But I had a lot of schoolwork to grind through if I wanted to keep up. It would break Mom’s heart if I flunked out.

>head out to meet Kemal
>stay home and study
hey guys, the system is going to be best of 3d100 with + from bonuses or with - from malluses.

For now our hero, Eric Miller, hasn't gained his super powers. As we go the focus will be split between his ordinary life and his life as a costumed adventurer.

Hope you guys enjoy it!
>stay home and study
locking it in
I shot a message back.

Me - Sorry man I got school work.

A ping back.

Kemal - All good homie.

And bent my neck over the books.

"The Secret Six were a ring of wealthy abolitionists based out of the industrial north," I muttered, and cupped a yawn in the palm of my hand. I read through to the start of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. You'd think with all the gun fights and murder going on it would be a more exciting read, but the text book sucked out all the flavor. Names, dates, locations, names dates, locations. "And in June of 1958 John Brown...."

When the knock came on the door it was a relief. I shut the book and swung out from my desk. The knock came again. Dad was in no state to get it.

When I went out he was slumped over the bottle of Jack, drool running down his chin, knocked out where I'd found him.

I opened the door.

"Mrs Valdez, hi," I said. Mrs Valdez lived on the ground floor, right underneath us. Wispy dark hairs covered her top lip and she carried a foil wrapped platter.

"Eric, hello, is your father home?" she asked, trying to peer in. She was short and fat, and had probably always been short and fat.

"Is everything ok Mrs Valdez?" I asked.

"Oh, everything is fine. I made too many fajitas and thought you might like some. Or, have you eaten?" she asked almost bashful. My guts answered with a loud gurgle. "Please, a boy your age needs all the fuel he can get."

She pushed the fajitas into my hands.

"I really can't..." I started, but she wasn't having any of it.

"Please, we're neighbors, we look out for each other," she said, "And after all, right now you could use..." she fell into an awkward silence, but brightened, "Well! Enjoy, and if you ever need anything please don't hesitate to knock on my door."

She bobbed her head before leaving. Closing the door I peeled back some of the foil, stomach crying at the sight and smell of Mrs Valdez's fajitas. Chicken with jalapenos, salsa and guacomole. I set it on the table in our kitchenette, and wolfed one down.

It was hot, in both ways. The spicy prickle ran over my tongue almost making me gag. I chomped down, chicken squishing between my teeth. It was just what I needed, washing out my brain fatigue.

I sat alone under the fluorescent light, the fridge humming, Dad starting to snore.

It didn't look like Dad would be getting up.

> leave him where he was
> help him to bed
> help him to bed
QM pls have meaningful choices early on.
Also its standard to give 1-2 hours per post not 10mins.
>help him to bed
>>help him to bed
locked in and writing
I couldn't leave him like that.

Getting Dad off the couch was easier said then done. He was taller than me, and heavier too, drunk as he was he didn't have the faculties to co-operate, but at least he didn't put up a fight.

First I moved the bottle of Jack, setting it on the coffee table next to the half-eaten pack of Cheetos. Then I took him by the arm, and pulled him half onto my shoulder.

"Find your feet old man," I said as he snorted in my ear, "Bed time."

I shuffled him along, it wasn't easy. Dad had worked in labor jobs all his life, worked with his muscle. His skin had a red tan, and a face starting to turn leathery. The drinking wasn't helping. He had a voice could cut through a dockyard.

But now he was mild as a new born doe and just as clumsy, snorting half-awake in my arms, tripping up in our awkward embrace.

I kicked open his bedroom door, stumbled over an empty bottle, and dropped him on the dirty covers. He hit with a thud.

"Hell if I'm doing more than that," I said, bent over for breath.

Dad's room stank worse than mine, the sour smell turning into a bad taste at the back of my mouth. I wondered how much of it was him.

A picture on his bedside mantle caught my eye. It was him and Mom, back when they were young. It stopped me for a second. It was easy to forget he hadn't always been a drunk. He'd once been strong, with a working man's dignity, looking like a Bruce Springsteen song. And Mom, young and smiling, bushy brown hair swept back...

I didn't hang around. Dad's snores followed me out.

I down another fajita before getting back to work, muddling my way through a math problem. It was getting late. My eyes were getting heavy, yawns growing bigger and bigger.

Then I heard a scream.

It came from outside, a woman, followed by a harsh man's voice. My skin prickled over and my belly went cold. She screamed again and I heard something break.

I was at the windowsill without thinking. The mangy old cat sprang away when the window screeched open. My heart was in my ears as I stepped out into the harsh chill night,out onto the rusty grate.

"No, por favor, no!"

Mrs Valdez.

Someone big was grabbing at her, pulling at her. Something bright shone in his hand. A knife, a gun? I couldn't tell. I couldn't see. It was dark.

"Hey!" I barked, my voice breaking, not thinking as I leaned over the rail of the fire escape, "Hey, le...leave her alone!"

He stopped to look, and I saw the whites in his eyes. They were flushed pink, his olive skin covered in sweat despite the cold night. He was on something, off his head.

My legs locked and my heart stopped beating.

"Mother fucker!" the knife in his hand pointed at me. Mrs Valdez's sobs choked out. "I cut your fucking face off maricon. Fuck you with a knife, eh, fucking white boy."
Fuck. Terror-sweat broke out down my back as I clenched the rail. I'd never known fear like that. Jesus Christ. I was breathing hard but I couldn't feel myself breathing. I couldn't feel anything but a numb terror freezing me in place.

He twisted Mrs Valdez's arm, and her sob turned into a painful whisper.

>go, now, she needs help!
>God, I can't, I can't
>>go, now, she needs help
>go, now, she needs help!
>>go, now, she needs help
Before I know it I'm over the rail. I'm in mid-air, the cold air rushing around me. I'm in-flight, wind whistling around me. But it only lasts for a second. I hit the cement and the pain that shoots up my shins is enough to trip me. I stumble forward, panting. Stupid. I'm stupid. My legs throb.

The knife glints under the street light. The man snarls. Mrs Valdez whimpers. She looks at me and all I see is glassy eyed terror.

Dad upstairs sleeping. Me running. Breath pumping out of me. Not thinking but a hundred little things all at once.

Nobody ever called me tall. Nobody ever called me strong or tough. Nobody ever called me brave.

But I'm running. I grab something from off the ground, a bottle in a brown paper bag.

As I'm running I keep thinking, 'if anyone's watching, please for the love of God do something.' But no one comes. Its just me, closing in, closer, close until I can smell him, the gutter stink of him strong with alcohol, sweat, piss, and I don't even know what else.

Close til I see the filth on his teeth.

"Fucking psycho," he said. I don't know if he meant him or me.

His knife flashes in front of my face. I swing the bottle.

> roll 3d100 dc 75
Rolled 15, 37, 26 = 78 (3d100)

You mean 3 rollers of 1d100 or everyone rolls 3d100?
If you meant the first than just take the first of the three rolls qm.
I meant the first, 3 rolls of 1d100.

So we'll call that result a 15 and wait on 2 more
Rolled 11 (1d100)

oof, this is not going Eric's way so far
Rolled 78 (1d100)

Here goes, anyone remember Capes of Rain City? Shit was kino for all of three threads
I felt something cold slice my cheek.


The bottle hit his chin.

He stumbled back, tripped, fell hard on his ass in a pile of trash. I slapped my palm against my cheek, fingers sticky and wet. I slapped my hand back down.

Mrs Valdez cringed between us, hands half-raised. crying. I brought bloody fingers off my cheek, hand trembling. All of me was trembling, the bottle shaking in my grip. I swallowed a hard lump. The latino man tried to get up but his legs weren't under him, his knife lost in the garbage.

Knocked down he wasn't so big. Scrawny even, with a ratty black beard that gave him a rodent look.

I swung the bottle in his direction.

"Get out of here, get the fuck out of here," my voice was brittle, cracking with puberty, but whatever fight he'd had I'd knocked out of his head. He scurried out of the trash, head low, sprinting up the alley with his hands shoved in his pockets.

I heaved, shaking hard. Then puked up Mrs Valdez's fajitas in a hot gurgle. Jesus, I couldn't stop shaking.

"Eric are you all right?" she asked, trying to get a look at me. She was having trouble lifting her right arm, wincing when she did. My cheek was starting to throb, my legs were hot from jumping a full floor down to the hard ground. Somehow I nodded.

"I'm fine," I said.

"He cut you," she said.

"Not bad, just a nick."

"Let me see, I'll stitch it up," she said. She had me sit on the sidewalk, using a street light to get a better look, thumb wiping away the blood. I got a close up look of her dark whiskers, and the dentures behind her lips. "Yes, not much of a cut, I don't think it needs stitches," she said, "Maybe it will leave a little scar." She held up her thumb and finger to show a tiny little gap.

"Is everything ok out there?" someone called from the building across from ours, "Should I call the cops?"

"No police, no police!" Mrs Valdez called back, "No ambulance either. It's fine."

She rubbed my back as I swallowed on a hot lump. I felt in worse shape than she was.

"You're a brave boy, Eric," she said.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

She winced, clutched her shoulder, "My arm, but its an old injury."

It was then it happened. A roar grew overhead, grew until it rattled the windows and the ground underfoot. Mrs Valdez stumbled with a cry of shock and I felt the guts drop out of me as the world went deaf. Then the roar began to fade, the rattling settled.

And in its wake a streak of white light blazed across the inky black sky, parting the city gloom to show for a brief moment a brilliant array of stars.

I gaped in surprise, heard Mrs Valdez do the same. Then the bright streak came to a point high above the city, a single white dot.

A star.

That errupted into a brilliant shower, thin trails streaking down all across the city.
I stared in wonder, it was...I didn't have the words for how beautiful the cascade of falling stars was.

I was so taken with it I didn't notice the roar return until it had built to a low howl, climbing higher and higher. Then the rattling began again, worse, it was an earthquake. The world itself jumped up under my feet. The apartment buildins shook in their foundation. Then the bright hot light, smaller than the last, came screaming down from the night, a shooting star, or a missile. Night was wiped out in the hot white blaze, cold turned to heat, our street turned black and white.

"Mrs Valdez!" I pushed her back, the last thing I thought to do before it hit me.

And the world and with it my terror, all disappeared in the enveloping white.
Oh great, we’re going to be a fucking magical girl
how old is Ms Valdez btw, I know you said she’s short and fat but Latina MILFs are top tier and I’m betting she’s got a daughter/niece
How is getting hit with a star equal magical girl
The main character from Monsters Vs. Aliens got hit by a shooting star, does that count?
You still alive OP?
yeah, I'm here

Mrs Valdez is in her 50s and has a moustache

Writing up the next chunk, bare with me
Looking forward to it, liking the quest so far
How doesn’t it?
"Eye witnesses referred to it as an explosion, but according to NASA experts the light over Chicago was a rare atmospheric phenomenon. Similar events were witnessed over-"

"It really was just a harmless light show. Any concerns over health orpublic safety are entirely unfounded. If there was a risk-"

"In other news, a mass shooting on Chicago's South Side leaves five dead-"

The sound woke me up, snatches of conversation skipped over as channels were changed. I was in my bed, still in my clothes. I don't know how long I was out. When I checked my phone it was in the AM, the sun slow to rise outside. Instead of getting up I scrolled through the messages I had backed up.

Kemal - Holy shit!

It was a photo from Kemal, part of a message chain. It was a picture of a blurry white dot hanging over the city.

My stomach tensed. Last night was a white hot blur. I put the phone down, closed my eyes. 'Atmospheric phenomenon' my ass.

When I sat up I straight away bent over, my whole body now awake and sore. A painful throb ran through me, red hot and intense. It faded though, lasting only an intense few seconds. My eyes blurred but I got my feet on the ground. Then the pain shot through me again when I tried to stand. Had I torn something or fractured something when I jumped down the fire escape? I felt my cheek, where the knife had cut me. A squishy bandage flexed under my finger.

I got up, moving with an unsteady old man's gait to the door.

My nostrils flared on the smell of bacon and eggs frying.

Pushing out, I saw Dad at the stove. He looked roughly how I felt, raccoon rings under his eyes, flipping the eggs in the skillet.

He muttered something. A bottle of Tylenol sat open on the counter. I shuffled past and popped a couple.

"I said you're an idiot," he said. He dished up the fried eggs and bacon onto a plate, set it on the table. "Mrs Valdez told me what happened. Jesus Christ Eric, your life isn't worth an old lady's handbag."

"He had a knife," I mumbled, spearing the bacon with my fork. Dad's cooking was inconsistent. Not bad, exactly, just, he didn't always understand how to cook something all the way through. So his eggs tended to be on the watery side.

"Yeah, a knife," Dad dropped into a chair with his own food, his face dark, "Knives are dangerous. What if he'd had a gun? Jesus, Eric, what if he comes back looking for you? What if he has friends, bad ones?"

That took the flavor out of the eggs.

"Look," Dad said, "Don't, I don't want you to be a coward. I don't want you to do nothing if someone's in trouble. But you have to...you're a bright kid. Be smarter."
He looked like he wanted to say something else, but didn't know the words.

"Is that all?" I asked, swirling the egg yolk with the tines of my fork.

Dad's jaw clenched, expression growing tough. "Get cleaned up and get to school. I'll see you late. I got a shift today."

"Two shifts in one week, wow. That's real great. You're really moving up in the world."
I shouldn't have said it, I felt mean for saying it, and I felt worse for the look that crossed Dad's face. It was the longest we'd talked in weeks and I'd shut it down. He sipped his coffee and stabbed his food, eating it in a quiet, sullen anger. When he was done he got up. "Get to school," he said, pulling on his denim jacket.

I finished breakfast in an unhappy silence, then hit the shower. Cockroaches watched me from the basin as I adjusted the taps. Pressure was bad and the heat took forever. I kept the bandage clean. When I got out and cleaned the steam off the mirror, I peeled it back to get a look at the damage.

It really was a small cut, barely as long as my finger tip, closed with a couple of stitches. I kind of hoped it would leave a scar. I don't know who stitched it up, I guessed Mrs Valdez's daughter. She was some kind of nurse or paramedic or something.

I put the squishy bandage back on then felt a hot grip on my guts. For a second I thought I'd puke, but the feeling passed. I got dressed.

School was waiting.
We lived on the west side but my school was in the north. It was a selective school, meaning you had to take a test to get in. Mom had heard bad things about most Chicago schools so she had worked me into their good graces. I passed the test easily enough, but I think our circumstances helped.

Getting there was a trip. I had to take a bus, transfer to another, and all up it took almost an hour. Back in Indiana I got to school on my pushbike but my bike had been stolen first week here and it was too far anyway.

All the way there I was sweating. Whatever chill wind was blowing off Lake Michigan I wasn't feeling it. It was a weird kind of fever. My body was sweating but my head was clear.

My school was big, so big when I first saw it I thought it was a college. It had a bell tower rising up from the main building, all red brick, and the bell did ring the hour. Most of the students were from northern areas, let's just say they were nicer places than where I lived, and I was learning in Chicago where you lived mattered.

Nobody talked to me when I came in. That was normal. It was only a month and I hadn't got to know anyone yet anyway.

Then I heard - "This. Little. Nigga. Right. Here!"

Kemal's hand clapped hard on my shoulder and I looked up into his grin. Kemal called himself a caramel bear and it made sense. He was tall and pudgy, not fat exactly, and he was loud.

"Ditched me for the nerd work, broke my heart!" He dressed in a preppy way, popped collar, chinos, shades sitting on the top of his head, but it was mostly a put on. He was from the southside, a rougher place than my neighborhood. "You see the alien stuff last night? Crazy! Like the Death Star blowing up over Chicago. Dude it was metal."
"Yeah, yeah, I saw," I said.

"You know I heard," he said, dropping to a whisper, "It was some kind of experimental new missile. Some kind of Lockheed-Martin shit gone haywire."

I swallowed, gut clenching, sweat dribbling down my neck.

"You ok homie?" he asked.

>I'm fine
>Tell Kemal about last night
>I'm fine
It's probably nothing...
>I'm fine
>I'm fine
>I’m good man, just slept like crap
Can’t wait till we start getting signs of our powers
>I'm fine
locked in, writing
"Nah man, I'm good, just slept funny," I said.

"Hmm," he looked me over, "Maybe you should see the nurse. What you got up first, English?"

"Yeah, we're covering Shakespeare, Othello."

"Yorick, I knew him," he said.

"That's the one," I replied, "You like Shakespeare?"

"Nigga, I like theater in general, the Bard is my boy," he said, "I played Prospero last year in the Tempest. Hey, do you sing? You know we're putting on a production of Les Mis, you should try out."

"Uh," I said.

"Not your thing? All good. Think about it though, could help you meet people, make friends. Anyway I got class. Later gator!" he waved as he walked off.

"Later," I said, waving back.

English. At my old school our English teacher had been an old guy, Mr McMichael, a man of eternally stuffed nostrils and phlegmy throat. He wore tweed and walked with a cane.

My new English teacher was uh...

"Eric," Ms Flores called me by name when I walked in, the dimples in her cheeks deepening with her smile. A breath stopped mid-throat when she stood up. She was twenty something, wore a black dress that matched her thick dark hair, and had the curves of an instagram model. We were dead-on the exact same height.

"Ms Flores," I kept it cool-ish, but the burning feeling grew worse and in all new places.

"Please Eric, call me Carmen," she said, and touched my shoulder. She had warm, feline eyes. "Did you do your homework?"

"Homework?" my voice cracked, I sounded like a parrot. God I'm a loser. "Homework!" I went into my bag, flipping through my notebooks.

"It's all right," she said, nose crinkling oh so cutely, "Just take a seat." Her finger poised over my bandage. "Cut yourself shaving?" she asked.

"Uh..." I touched the bandage. In my head I thought 'No, I got cut fighting off a thug trying to rob my neighbor. It was badass. By the way are you single?'

But I just awkwardly smiled and laughed as I went to my seat. I kept my head down.

The school was heated for the fall. By mid-day I was sweating like it was mid-July. I shuffled through classes, mumbled my way through questions. It was getting more and more clear I wasn't feeling well. People were giving me space. I was thirsty, and hit the water fountain, drinking long gulps, the cool water cooling me down.

The gum chewing turned my head.

"Some kids you see and you just know they ain't going anywhere," Mr Sack taught PE. Mr Sack was an asshole. He had a bulldog face and sandy blond hair thinning at the crown, skin blotched with freckles. He chewed gum, gnashing it in his mouth. "No Hopers, I call 'em. I put 'em in the No Hopers Club." He wasn't talking to me, he was talking to Mr Nfume. Mr Nfume was a tall, thin black man. He taught chemistry, he also coached the basketball team. Mr Nfume sipped coffee from a white mug chipped at the rim as they patrolled the halls together, Mr Sack glaring at me.

"You tweaking on something?" now Mr Sack was talking to me, "You look like you're on something. Dropping molly, smoke some crack? Huh?"

"Huh?" I said, water running down my chin.

"You're Miller, the transfer," he said, "I got my eye on you."

They kept walking. "Like I said, No Hopers, I can spot one a mile away..."

My gut churned. I went to my locker, switching my books for chemistry. I tried the combination once, twice, three times. I wasn't getting it, my fingers were slick with sweat. I grabbed the handle and jerked it with frustration. Burning swept down my arm, a hot pins and needles flooding through my hand. The locker door came off with a crack, swinging free in my hand.


I dropped it with a metallic crash. I looked up, and realized I'd had the wrong locker. This was some girl's locker. I backed up, looking at my hand. The fire burned unseen under my skin. I held it to my chest, gasping. What the hell. I looked up and down the corridor. no one had seen me, yet. My head was starting to spin.

>I've got to get out of here
>Maybe I should see the nurse
>Just keep it cool, stay in school
>Go to the nurse
Fuck that teacher, and fuck that other teacher too
>I've got to get out of here
Hey OP keep it up, this is some good shit so far. Way beyond what I expect from /qst/ these days. Appreciate it.
>Maybe I should see the nurse
>I've got to get out of here
Yeah, I'm digging this style OP, really good. Also I like Kemal, here's hoping he doesn't get benched
If the next vote is

> stay in school

I'll be annoyed
>I've got to get out of here
locked in
I understood a little of what an asthma attack must feel like. I strained to breath, stumbling for the door, feeling my heart beat expanding in my chest, its throb heavy bass pounding through me. I couldn't get enough air. My body was pouring with sweat.

I knocked into someone.

"Watch it asshole!"

The voice came through in a distorted. static

Nothing was clear, the world was set at a dutch angle as I came out the front door, bursting into a cold wind whipping the flag above and over my own burning skin. For a second I thought I was going to puke again like I did last night.

Pressure closed around my head, my mouth wide open, nostrils broad, trying to suck in air to fill my struggling lungs.

I staggered out of the school gate, body heaving, grabbing at the front of my shirt. Was I sick? Was I going to combust? What the hell was wrong with me? I felt as if I was going to...going to explode.

A shimmer covered the world, silver lights bright. My legs were weakening, jelly in my knees. I kept moving. The heat, oh God.

Had to get out of here. Had to get...somewhere.

A sound broke through the pressure, almost too late. I turned to see a car caming for me. Saw the frightened expression behind the steering wheel. The horn blaring, the crunch of the brakes. Our expressions matched in a frozen moment.

>roll 3 x 1d100+20 dc 50

I'm going to be more careful with proof reading in the future
Rolled 66 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

roll 100 you get a crit success

roll 1 you get a crit fail

crit success trump crit fails, but crit fails trump all other rolls.
Rolled 50 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

So, so far we have super strength and super nausea
No one around to roll huh
Rolled 54 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

ok, good result. writing up.
I jumped.

My foot landed on the hood of the car. The bottom of my foot pulsed with heat and around it flared a white light. Then I leapt.

Cold wind swept over me as I launched up over the car and into the clear blue sky. My lungs cleared with one great exhale, eyes wide as I arced higher and high, one foot in front, arms to either side. Beneath me the car screeched to a halt but I was leaving it far behind, my cheeks numbed by the force of the whipping wind, the pulsing heat running through me just pouring out, filled instead with an awesome rush.

The school, the street, the buildings, all raced by underneath me.

I was flying! I was flying!...wasn't I?

Then I began to drop, coming down in a long arc. I wasn't flying, I wasn't flying. I came down and the street rose up to smash me.

I flailed. My foot hit the ground, the shock running up my leg, my ankle twisting, sent me rolling into a sliding stop.

Pain raced through my legs, but not as bad as I'd expected. In fact, I didn't mind the pain at all. I was too busy panting up at the clear blue sky, breathing starting to settle.

When I got up I was in front of a Wendy's. The school was, I don't know, a mile behind me? The car was stopped in the middle of the street, driver out and looking bewildered.

The silver light had cleared, the world had come back into sharp focus. Sharper, maybe. The nausea was gone. I looked at my hands, trembling.

A paper bag dropped and a porky dude out the front of a Wendy's stared at me, his bag of burgers at his feet. I got up, a sting in my leg putting a hitch in my step. My belly squelched for food.

"Yo can I borrow a fry?" I asked as he picked up the bag.

He shoved it at me. "T-take it," he said.

"No man, I just want-," but he was already waddling out of there, leaving me with the bag in hand.

Shrugging I opened it up. What guy orders five sandwiches? Anyway, I took one and started eating. Before I knew it I'd sucked them all down and was still hungry for more. I wiped the grease off with the bag and dunked it in the bin.

I'm a lot of things but I'm not stupid. It was the 'atmospheric phenomenon' that had done this to me. Whatever knocked me out last night had left me changed. I don't know how much, but I'd done something no human being was able to do. Real...super hero stuff.

No, no, no, don't be stupid. I jumped good, that wasn't any kind of super power.

I'd also ripped the door off a locker.

I wondered...just how did this work?

In my belly I felt the strange heat start to build, kindle, the start of a fire. Not as overwhelming as last time but the same kind of feeling, a second pulse.

Was that where it came from? But what powered it, what was the fuel? Was it just part of me now or did I need to, I don't know, activate it or something?
My stomach gurgled for more grease and fat. I stumbled into the Wendy's. I had ten bucks and bought some more food, wolfing it down, chips and burgers both, practically shoving it down my throat to the clear disgust of the staff. A soft burp and then I chugged the pop.

I stumbled out again, feeling better.

Okay, clear head. You'd done something weird but no one really saw it. Maybe a couple people but not anyone serious. Maybe the best thing to do was head back to class and just get through the day.

>head back to class, just be cool, be normal
>screw that, time to go test this stuff out
>screw that, time to go test this stuff out
it seems we have super strength and thankfully a better resistance as well
>Text Kemal that we weren't feeling good so we went home just a bad fever tell Ms flores pls
>screw that, time to go test this stuff out maybe a abandon warehouse will do
>screw that, time to go test this stuff out
Support. Lots of people saw how badly off we were, it's a good alibi.
Locked in, writing
I got out my phone and fired off a message to Kemal.

Me - Hey man, you were right I am feeling off. Nasty fever. Decided to go home. Let Ms Flores know pls thx.

I walked with a slight hitch in my step, a dull ache in my knee. Whatever I was I wasn't invulnerable, had to keep that in mind if I was going to push myself, but it didn't put a damper on my growing excitement, an electric thrill shooting through my spine. Jumping like that, getting clear off the ground and hanging in mid-air so far above the earth, was like nothing I'd felt before. A rollercoaster without the safety guards.

The thing was finding a place to test myself, one without an audience. There had to be an abandoned warehouse or condemned building or something, this was Chicago.

Google Maps was a blessing. There was a place not too far from where I lived.

I caught a bus back that way. No one seemed to care I was playing hooky. Back in my home town a kid out of school would get noticed, but I guess Chicago was so big no one noticed or had the time to care.

Down the way I got a look out the window, watching the city transform around me from nice north neighborhoods to grimier, denser streets, suburban homes becoming apartment blocks. I caught a transfer, waiting ten minutes in the cold. Whatever the fever, heat, whatever it was that had left me sweating, it had broken and I got to feel the full experience of a Lake Michigan wind, a cold autumn promising a colder winter.

On and off the bus and I was back in our neighborhood. It was early afternoon but a couple houses were already jumping, hard bass shaking the windows, guys drinking malt hanging on the stoop. No one bothered me as I limped by.

Shouting came out of a window then a plate smashed, a woman started crying. I kept limping on.

A big pink nosed dog snarled at me from behind a chain fence, slobber flying as it barked.

I paused as I passed a house marked with police tape, a heavy set cop standing out the front while I don't know, forensics or something combed through the place.

"Keep walkin'," the cop said, expression flat and unfriendly under the bill of his cap.

I marked a hole in a window looked like a gunshot, but I did what I was told, I kept stepping.

I walked a good fifteen minutes, hopping a chain fence and ducking over a grassy field to get to the empty lot.

It was a squat building, run down with boarded up windows. I don't know when was the last time anyone had been here but it had a 'keep out' sign dotted with rust pinned to the door. It was nice and away from anyone, with a screen of trees blocking a view from the road.

I tried the handle on the door. Locked, of course.
I stopped, and focused on the little fire inside of me. I thought about how I'd torn the locker door open, the pins and needles feeling in my arm, the warm pulse. I tried to make that feeling in my arm, and slowly my arm began to throb with heat.

So I tried again, and the door pulled back. The lock broke, the door squealed open. I wedged my way in, stepping into a gloomy open space.

I don't know what this place had been, but it was a bunch of nothing now. Something stirred in a pile of trash in the corner, a swept up mound of plaster and other stuff. A rat raised its head, glaring at me for intruding on its feral kingdom.

Whatever. I cracked my knuckles.

I looked up, sniffed. Place was dusted and flaring up my allergies. The ceiling was plenty high though, the open space broad and wide. I hopped from foot to foot, nervous for no reason.

What was I doing here? What was I thinking? What would Mom think?

I shook the thoughts out as I loosened up.

Time to figure things out.

I started at a jog, from one end of the place to the other, just a quick back and forth lap. My limp evened out. I felt a pulse run through me. My speed picked up, now I was at a sprint, dust picking up under my feet. Faster, I was at a full run. Fast as I could go, I was at my limit, starting to struggle. Then I thought about the leap, the fever, the power in me. A light flashed at my feet.

I wouldn't call it super speed exactly, but Usain Bolt wouldn't keep up. I was flying across the ground, practically bouncing from one side of the space to the other, which was no small distance. Faster than a normal man. A quick step maybe, and on my next lap I turned it into a leap, again taking to the sky, wind whipping through my hair, a smile ripping open my face. I couldn't help but shout with joy as I hit the ground. Again though, my landing was off, I hit funny and went into a roll, huffing on my knees.

Where I'd leapt from I'd left a hot white foot print, the glow starting to fade.

The fire inside me dimmed but didn't die. I only had so much energy in the bank.

I was stronger than the average person, but I don't know by how much. Faster too. Quicker. More agile. But I had no idea what my limits were.

>test my strength
>test my speed
>test my agility
>test my strength
/qst/ is a lot slower than I expected so I'm going to try to make up for it with larger updates
As long as you keep running it I'll keep voting
>test my agility
I appreciate that
Rolled 2 (1d2)

I'm going to flip a coin.

1 is strength
2 is agility
ok, writing
I could move fast, I could jump high, and I was strong, but could I bring all that together?

I eyed up the distant wall, the thick cement pillars holding up the roof between it and me, a thought percolating in the back of my mind.

I skipped from foot to foot, breathing in and out, getting in touch with the burning spark inside me. Whatever I did, the little fire I felt in there was the key. Then I took a running start, and jumped. Mid-air I struck my legs forward, double kicking the pillar. The shock jarred my hips and I buckled into a squat, horizontal for just a second on the side of the column, then I sprung out, out to the next one along. Like a frog or a grasshopper I leapt from pillar to pillar, each time hitting with enough force to rattle me but not enough to break the pace, an explosion of strength carrying me on, a trail of fast disappearing foot prints left behind me.

I moved, giving the laws of physics the middle fingers, and I couldn't stop smiling. I didn't once touch the ground as I hopped from pillar to pillar.

I bounced to the wall but this time my foot slipped, and I flailed, swinging out horizontal against the plane of the wall. As I fell back I felt something turn inside me, as if my body knew how to move, and when I dropped it turned into a tumble, and I landed in the dust on my feet in a crouch, breathing hard, plaster dust threaded through my hair. I sneezed.

When I got up my legs were jelly again, and when I took a step my body tipped forward. I threw my arms out for balance, dancing forward. Then hunger punched me square in the gut. The fire inside me was down to burning embers, and with it my hunger was stoked into a vicious pinching animal. I was out of energy and now I was struggling to walk. I needed food and I needed it soon.

But I didn't want to go and I didn't want to stop, even if I was feeling woozy. I couldn't remember the last time I'd felt like this.

The last time I'd felt...happy.

I struggled out of the abandoned warehouse, over the grassy field. I don't know how long I'd spent in there, but the sun was starting to dip, the chill building up into a cold dead atmosphere. The only sound as I hopped the fence was the clink of the rusty chain links and the pad of my sneakers on the road. Street lights were coming on as I moved back in among residentials. Dark figures moved in the park I passed, up to who knows what. nothing good. I'd lived in Chicago a month and change now and I knew not to go in the parks, least of all at night. Not a risk worth taking, yet.

When I walked it was doubled over from hunger-pains and a stiff leg. I hoped this wouldn't last. For all the good I'd felt before now I felt miserable.

A group of black guys came up the other way talking. I had trouble understanding them, they spoke in thick AAVE and I'm still a glorified country boy, but they slowed up when they saw me.
"Ey, you aight?" one asked. There was four of them, one of me.

"Fine," I mumbled, skin prickling with a sudden fear as they hovered around me. Maybe I should have crossed the road.

"You get in doors kid, you don't look so hot," he said, then they kicked on talking, leaving me be. For a second I was ashamed of being worried. They were just normal guys out and about. Most folks in my neighborhood were either black or latino, they weren't all criminals.

The lights of a cornerstore called to me and I hustled in. A big orange tabby cat lounged on the counter, a Latino behind the till.

"Ey, how can I do you?" he asked, smiling through an ink black beard. He wore a couple gold chains, his Hawaian shirt opened at the collar, and stank of cologne. He frowned, seeing me pale under the bright light. "You need a place to come down?" he asked, "The church up the road can take care of you."

"Food," I said, stumbling to the back of the store. I sniffed, looking around. Saw a pack of four microwave burritos. I snatched them off the shelf, bumbling up to the counter.

"You want me to microwave these?" he asked as I fished in my pocket for some change.

I was about to say yes when my guts just clamped down hard. "They're fine," I said, dropping coins on the counter.

He looked at me sideways while he rang them up.

Then said, "You the white kid helped out Mrs Valdez last night?"

The question took me by surprise. I didn't think word would have got out about that.

"Hector tried to snatch her purse, then a white kid jumped out, hit him upside the head. That you?"

I couldn't tell if his tone was respectful or suspicious, but he looked wary.

>yeah that was me
>I don't know what you're talking about
>yeah that was me
>yeah that was me
writing up
"Yeah, that was me," I said, popping open the first burrito. "Why?"

I started into a burrito, then the second. It wasn't pretty but I was starving.

The cashier pushed my pocket change back to me. "Consider those free, holmes," he said, "Mrs Valdez is a nice lady, you really stuck your neck out. But you got to be careful doin' stuff like that. This is a rough neighborhood, and you gots to know you stand out. Certain people start thinking you're a hero they might start thinking you're a problem, feel me? We all gots to live here."

"Oh," I said through the mashed up meat and tortilla in my mouth. The orange tabby swished its tail, looking up at me with narrow eyes.

"You want a pop?" he asked, getting out a can of coke and putting it on the counter. I cracked it and slurped it down.

"Don't worry about Hector though," he said, "He's small fry. Snatchin' purses don't make him a gangster. He's more sad than anything, ever since he got on the horse. I mean, he was always an asshole, but you could talk to him back then. Now who you got to look out for is the Latin Reapers. Those guys are on some bugged out cartel kind of crazy."

"I'm Luis by the way," he said, putting out his fist.

"Eric," I said around the rim of the coke, pounding it, "Thanks for the heads up."

"Keep it real Rico," he said, waving me out with a grin, "You come back whenever, we're open late!"

I went out guzzling the last of the can, a bit less limp in my step. Food was fuel, it wiped out my fatigue and put a bit of spark back in me. I hoped it burned it off too, because if I have to eat like this every day I'd be obese by Christmas.

Sun had set and my breath was frosty.

Back home and I turned the key to get into the building. It was only three apartments, each on top of each other with us in the middle, a staircase going up. Mrs Valdez was out, she lived with her daughter and her daughter's kid on the ground floor. Above us was Mr Green, an old black guy who didn't go out and only had a nurse swing by every other day for guests. I only knew he existed 'cause Mrs Valdez had told Dad about him.

I went up to our place, fought the lock until I got the door open.

Dad was still out like he said he'd be. I went to my room, dropped hard on my bed.

Something happened to me yesterday and now I was different, could do things shouldn't exist outside a comic book. It was that explosion, the bright light. What was it, and was I the only one? And why me?

Fate or coincidence? Had I been given something or had it unlocked something that had already been there?

I was getting no answers from the roach climbing up the wall, but I was getting sleepy. I rolled onto my side, and before I knew it I was out.

It was gun fire woke up me up, somewhere between midnight and sun rise. Just three sharp barks and screeching tyres, someone screaming then starting to cry. I lay in bed, eyes wide, heart cold. Was it our street or the next one over. Was it anyone I knew?

Eventually I went back to sleep.
I didn't see Dad when I got up for school but his jacket was on the coat hook so I knew he got in.

When I got to school I was called to the principal's office almost right away.

Principal Wrightson was a short, fat black woman with a fixed smile that frankly unnerved me. The vice-principal, Mr Getty, was a stick in a bow tie. He stood behind her chair, a white shadow in an ironed shirt. They wore the kind of beaming friendliness that said I was in trouble.

"Eric, thank you for coming," she said. She wore floral perfume. A photo of Obama sat on her desk.

"Am I in trouble?" I asked.

"Oh child," she laughed, "Please. We just thought it was time we had a talk. You're new here, a transfer!"

"Half way through the school year," Mr Getty said.

"When I talked to your former principal he said you were a good student, punctual, kept your nose out of trouble. Not an honor's student exactly."

"A solid B+."

This was some kind of good cop/good cop routine.

"Do you know our school has a 95% graduation rate?" she said, "We're proud of that. And one of the reasons we have it is because we take an active interest in our students' well being, all our students."

"All four thousand of them," he chimed in.

"Now yesterday you skipped school, just hopped up and ran out the front door," she said, "You should know this isn't how we do things here."

"No ma'am," I said.

"You worried us sick," she said.

"Gum?" Mr Getty offered.

"Uh, no," I said, turning down the strip of chew.

"We understand your circumstances have been...unhappy," she said, "And we've tried to give you as much slack as we can, but we take truancy seriously."

"I wasn't feeling well," I said.

"We have a nurse's station, a very good one," she replied, "Now we're starting to get concerned we've given you too much slack. Are you signed up for any extracurriculars?"

I wasn't, and they knew I wasn't.

"We have some very good clubs, excellent programs," she said, flipping through some papers, "We're strongly encouraging you to join one." She held out a list toward me.

"Voluntarily," Mr Getty said, "But you know, not really."

"You'll also need to come in Saturday morning," she said, "Out-of-school detention."

I took the list, looked it over. "And if I don't join a club?" I asked.

"Oh now why would you do that?" she said, grin wide, "All you'd be doing is damaging your own future. Your mom worked hard to get you into this school. She wanted the best for you. Why put all her hard work to waste?"

I swallowed a sour taste, neck prickling with anger.

"Take your pick," Mr Getty said, looking to the list, but meaning something else as well.

I looked down.

>no thanks
Don’t some US schools have target shooting teams? That might be cool
>Inb4 we become a lightly powered Punisher ripoff
locking it in.
"Athletics seems cool," I said.

"You're a bit short for basketball," Mr Getty was a bit smug.

But Principal Wrightson countered with, "Sport activities is a great way to burn off excess energy. I'm sure you'll find something there you'll enjoy," smiling over her clasped hands, she added, "Why don't you see Mr Nfume at first break to get signed up."

"Is that all ma'am?"

"That's all."

I got up, got out, feeling kind of jerked around.

"Oh but remember Eric," she called out the door, "Be here Saturday for your detention."

I kept walking. They'd been really nice about punching me in the ribs.

I bumped into Kemal in the hall.

"You get in trouble?" he said, walking up with me.

"Yeah," I said.


"Yeah. Weekend detention too."

"Oh hey, then you'll get the full Mr Sack experience!" he patted my back in boisterous sympathy. "You know there's a party Saturday night. Why don't you swing by after detention and we can shoot the shit?"

Right now that seemed pretty cool, and I'd never been to a senior party. With beer. And senior girls. It must have shown on my face.

"I'll be your wingman, just remember to be yourself and you'll have a great time. Anyway, I got to skate."

We split off, him one way, me the other, lost in the hub-bub of school traffic.

As much as I'd had a talking to from the principal, I didn't focus much in chemistry. I was preoccupied by what had happened, the change in me, and the event that caused it. I wasn't the only one.

"Aliens," Ben was a fish-eyed nerd who came to school in a full suit, with rubbery pale skin, "It was an alien shuttle exploding in re-entry."

Chad snorted. Despite his name he was as big a nerd as Ben. "Yes, let's just jump to aliens. Please, if it was anything it was a meteoroid. A basic atmospheric break down dispersed over the city. They get them all the time in Siberia."

"North Korean missile," Annie stressed. She was an Asian girl with no chin and heavy acne. I figured she was the boss of the three. "It was a test run on a North Korean attack, intercepted by our own missile defense system. We're lucky it wasn't carrying a payload or we'd be gone. You'd be lucky if the blast killed you."

"Oh please it had none of the qualities of a missile," Chad said, "The most logical and therefore most likely explanation is-"


"Hey!" Mr Nfume called from the front of the class, half way down a chemical equation, "What in God's good name are you all arguing about?" They piped down, focusing back on him. He glared across the class. "Nobody better peddle any of that Alex Jones, Joe Rogan psuedo-science conspiracy bullshit in my class room, you got that? The Earth is round, climate change is real, and Beyonce is the finest thing God gave two legs, am I understood?"

"Yes Mr Nfume," we all said in unison.

"And as for the explosion the other night?" he glared, then nodded at Ben, "He's right, it was goddamn aliens. Now focus up."
After class was done I went up to him sitting at his desk.

"Mr Nfume?" I said.

He took a long sip of his coffee before looking at me.

"I was told to come talk to you about joining the athletics club," I said.

"You're that trouble maker from yesterday," he said.

"Principal said I had to join a club," I said.

He looked me over. "All right. You ever play any sports before?"

"Some backyard hockey in the winter," I said.

"That's a 'no'. Don't dress up inexperience kid, this isn't a job application," he said, "What kind of sports you into?"

I took a second to think. "My dad's a big Pistons fan."

Mr Nfume smiled. "Careful where you say that or you'll get shot." He got up. He really was tall, looming over me. "We always need equipment people," he said, "If you don't make the cut for one of the teams we can put you in as support. It's not fun but from what I've heard you having fun isn't the point. I'll let you know now you keep it straight with me and I'll keep it straight with you. Tryouts are tomorrow after school, don't be late."

"Yes sir," I said.

"'Sir', good, I like that," he said, "Now get out of here, I got my own lunch waiting."

Well that was that I guess.

By the time last class came around I was just itching to get back to the empty warehouse, to keep figuring out my powers, ad just to use them.

It was biology and we were dissecting frogs. I got partnered with a girl.

"Hey, you're the new kid right?"

She smiled. She had thick auburn hair and freckles, a bright smile that matched the kind twinkle in her eyes.

She gave me her hand. "I'm Kaylee," she said, "But call me Kay." I already knew her name. I'd seen her before, a couple times.

"Eric," I said, "Just Eric." She had soft hands, soft, warm fingers.

"I'm actually on the student council you know," she said, "If you need help with anything...getting to know the school..."

"Heh, yeah, maybe," I said, swallowing as I took scalpel to frog belly.

"Just let me know, Just Eric," she said. I tried not to blush. I failed. She shot finger guns at me. I kept my focus on the incision.

The class passed without me stabbing myself so I called it a win. I'm not a complete loser around girls, but back home the girls had been, not what was going on around here.

"You know we're headed down to the Loop after school," she said when the bell rang, "You should come along."

"I would but, uh," I said, really wanting to get to the warehouse but really not wanting to pass this up.

"It'll be fun, but no pressure," she said. She had a dimple on her chin.

>yeah ok, see you there
>sorry I already had plans
>sorry I already had plans
Second day of testing for safety reasons
>yeah ok, see you there
>yeah ok, see you there
Ah, teenage spaghetti
locking in
"Yeah, sounds like it'll be fun."

"Cool," I liked the way she said 'cool'.

The rest of school went by in a hum, and the next thing I knew when I was going out the front door I was looking for Kay.

She waved from under a tree out the front, a couple of others with her. Two white guys and a black girl. Kay made the introductions.

"This is Zeke and Dane," she said, "This is Ayesha." Ayesha was the black girl. She wore her hair short and natural, and had a pair of round glasses.

"Sup," Zeke had long floppy hair that fell over his face, hiding his eyes but not his grin. Dane just nodded. He had an Eastern European kind of look going on.

"You're the new kid?" Ayesha asked, "I think we're in English together."

"Yeah, maybe," I said.

"We're just waiting on Hunter," Kay said, "Then we'll get going."

Hunter it turned out was a tall white guy, and when I say tall I mean tall. He was six and something with a build starting to look adult, which gave him a kind of swagger.

"Hey guys, what's good?" he said, dishing out fist bumps until he got to me. When he went to bump knuckles he skated his fist away at the last second, brushed it through his hair. "Maybe next time," he said, leaving me hanging. Whatever.

Ayesha rolled her eyes while Kay gave a frustrated sigh. "You're a big jerk you know that?" Kay said.

"Yeah," Hunter said, "I'm just hazin', wassup? You're the guy going to try out for the basketball team or something? That's cool."

"Hunter's the power forward," Dane said, "He's good too."

"Yeah," Hunter wasn't modest.

"Sportsball, ugh," Ayesha said, "Can we talk about literally anything else?"

"Anyway gang, let's go," Kay said. Whatever Chad energy Hunter gave off I thought it was clear Kay was calling the shots. Either way she herded us along.

It was a walk to the station and we caught the L down to the Loop. The Loop is the heart of Chicago's downtown. All the fanciest restaurants, entertainment, sights and sounds. We got out at Washington/Wabash, near Millenium Park. It was busy, crowds streaming through. The L was always crowded in the mornings and afternoons, we were packed in with the working crowd and happy to get off into the fresh air, a cold wind coming off the lake.

Chicago's heart was home to some of the tallest buildings in the world. Being from No Where, Indiana, the first time I'd seen them I'd stared. They went so far up you couldn't see the top from where you were standing. I was more used to it now, but it still set an excitement running through me. Knowing something and seeing it are two different things, and I understood what a skyscraper really was now.
People in their multitudes went this way and that. There had to be something of everything in Chicago. It was a place no one would stand out because it had everything and then some. People talked about the melting pot of New York City but I figure Chicago is a contender. Taxis and ubers waged war down the streets, bustling with traffic. We dashed through the packed ranks of gridlocked cars, following Kay's lead.

Millenium Park was set on the shore of Lake Michigan, the city looming behind it. When we got close live music came pumping down its broad boulevard. A three member band, a couple guitars and a small drum set were playing local bluesy tunes, one of the guitarists crooning for a small audience. A hotdog stand stood just off, happily dishing out dogs to anyone stopped longer than a minute.

When we came up to the hotdog seller Kay asked, "You got vegan?"

The look of disgust he wore under his paper hat could have made a portrait.

"I can find something," Ayesha said.

"You vegan?" I asked.

Ayesha nodded. "Yeah but I'm not a jerk about it. You do you."

The rest of us got hotdogs except Kay and Ayesha. Must have been a solidarity thing. I got two and wolfed them down.

"Little man can eat," Hunter said with a smirk. I'm not tall but I'm not particularly short either, but I guess to Hunter anyone outside the NBA was short.

"So how do you like Chicago?" Kay asked.

"Is good," I said around the dog in my mouth. She had a lick of red hair fallen across her cheek and I just...really wanted to tuck it back behind her ear. She did it for herself, a natural smile lighting her face.

"Where do you live out here anyway?" she asked.

I swallowed the mushed up dog. "Out near K-Town," I said.

The others recoiled, exchanging quick, nervous glances.

"What?" I said.

"Nothing," Zeke said, "That's just a rough hood."

"Oh," by instinct I touched the bandage on my cheek, "Yeah, I guess its whatever."

"Everywhere's pretty rough these days," Ayesha said, like it was meant to make things better, but Dane and Zeke exchanged uncomfortable looks.

"Hey, let's go listen," Kay grabbed my hand, pulling me closer to the music, the others dragged in our wake.

The band had a sign set up, with home made CDs for sale and a soundcloud link. Called themselves the 'Millenium Falcons'. I don't know much about music but Kay was digging them so I thought they were pretty ok.

It was about then shouts started up, the screech of tyres and the bee drone of motorbikes. The music faltered as the crowd broke up, and three bikers came bumping into the park from the street.

They dressed in matching white leathers with matching white bikes, each with a different black number on their helmet. I couldn't see their faces under the visors but they came to a rumbling stop. Their bikes were zippy little Japanese looking things.
"These guys," Kay said, getting closer to my side.

One of them, the leader, hopped his motorbike close to the band, ducked down and scooped cash out of the guitar case in front of them. The crowd cleared a wide space for him.

"Tax," the biker said, voice rough under the visor.

"Hey man, you can't just do that," someone in the crowd said. I saw Kay wince. The leader's head jerked around looking for the guy who had spoken, hand going to his belt like a gunslinger going for his pistol.

"Who are these guys?" I asked.

"The Stunt Crew," she said, "Just keep your head down, they'll leave."

One of the bikers scanned the crowd, spotted me with Kay. His bike groaned over, and he pointed at my remaining hotdog.

"You going to finish that?" he said. My jaw tightened.

"Just give it to him Eric," Kay said, holding me by the arm.

>give him the hot dog
>screw him, finish eating it
well i would love to sock the guy but im not sure if the rest have guns sooo
>give him the hot dog
changing to
You know fuck it
>Give the guy the hot dog but once he grabs it use power to knock the guy out then bumrush the other two. Go for face
finish eating to will just give him an incentive to antagonize us atleast giving him the dog will let him only have one hand free for us to hit him
honestly the second option seems like it'll end up with us fighting so might as well make a plan
cause fuck these duded we already played hero once might aswell again to make us seem either cool or stupid
>give him the hot dog
Changing my vote, revealing our powers is stupid. We can learn more about the gang and deal with them when we have a disguise.
okay, giving him the hotdog wins. writing up.
I handed over the half a dog left. He raised his visor. He had a squashed in pug face coated in blond beard. He didn't take his helmet off but pushed it over the lip, getting mustard over his top lip. His chewing was messy, bits of meat spraying.

The leader, looking for whoever had talked, pointed.

"You say something?" he said to a college student.

"You can't just do what you want," the college guy said, but he was losing his nerve.

A rip of velcro and the biker pulled something worse than a pistol out of his pocket. It was a phone.

He took a snap shot of the college student. "We've got your face now," he said, "We'll have the rest soon enough. Speak up again and see what happens." He slipped the phone back into the hip pocket.

Swinging back into the saddle of his bike, he revved it up. He popped up on the back wheel, spinning around, his cronies flanking him, and they zipped off, their flex done. The band wasn't in the mood for kicking out another jam after having a day's work swiped, and the crowd broke up with bitter muttering, the college student pale and shook.

"You did the right thing," Kay said, squeezing my arm. I could feel the press of her through her sweater.

"That was crazy," said Ayesha, looking a little frail.

"Man tries to take my hotdog he's getting something else," Hunter said.

"Is anyone going to go to the cops?" I asked.

There was uncomfortable laughter. "Even us sheltered suburb kids know the cops are crooked," Kay said, "They'll play it down, write it off as nothing."

"You pretty much have to shoot someone in front of a cop to get them to do something," Dane said.

"Unless you're black," said Ayesha, "In which case you just have to look at one funny."

"Oh please," Zeke groaned. Ayesha shot him an angry little glare.

"Let's not soap box," Kay said, playing peacemaker, "It's a nice day, we've still got about an hour of sun. Let's enjoy it."

But it'd be a lie to say the run-in with the Stunt Crew hadn't soured things a little.

We ended up down Harrison when I saw Kemal coming up the other way, walking with a girl in a hijab and a black dude.

"Yo Rico!" Kemal said, coming up with a big energetic grin, "Hey out and about, who're your friends?"

I made a couple introductions and he did the same. "This is my cousin Nasim," he said about the girl, "This is Jamal."

"As-salam alaykum," Jamal said. Kemal and the girl, Nasim, both looked awkward.

"He's from my mosque, man, he's new," Kemal explained.
"I've discovered the truth and beauty of Islam," Jamal said, and I was worried he was about to produce some literature.

"Dude don't be a nerd," Kemal said with a laugh, "Anyway, good to see you homie. You still going to try out for Les Mis?"

"I am," Kay said, "For Eponine."

Kemal smiled. "Hey cool, I can see that. I'm going for Jean Valjean."

"You could totally pull off Jean Valjean," Kay said.

"Oh yeah?" Kemal put out a hand and in the middle of the street belted "Two-Four-Six-O-One!"

Someone stuck in traffic shouted back "Yo shut the fuck up." Kemal just laughed.

"Well I'll see you at auditions," he said to Kay, "Maybe you too huh?" He said to me with a wink and a subtle look toward Kay. "We need a Marius!"

He and his pals went one way, we went the other, ending up in an arcade.

All in it was a good afternoon, but by the time the sun was gone and the cold night was reaching in from Lake Michigan, we knew it was time to go.

"See you at school," Kay said.

"Yeah see you," I said, not really to anyone else.

And maybe the run in with the bikers hadn't been so bad. No one got hurt. I saw a squad of them zip by on their white bikes, light trails glowing behind them, heedless to the law as they weaved through traffic and through a red light.

You hear stories about the kind of town Chicago is. Murders and gangs all over the place. And it was kind of true in places, but there was good stuff here too. I got on the L, winding a scarf around my face, pulling up my hood. It was getting cold, a heavy kind of cold that just grew harder with the dark as the train chugged around to the next station, traffic crawling by underneath it with bright lights bouncing off car hoods.

By the time I got back to my neighborhood Chicago had become a city of street lights. The skyscrapers glowed with office lights left on, giant steel and glass lighthouses in a sea of brick and cement.

I got off feeling hungry and figured Dad wouldn't have made anything, so I swung by Luis' corner store for a bite.

I slowed on seeing guys out the front. White guys, and definitely not Latino which was weird.

They wore heavy parkas and had a greaseball look. All of them were on the older side, standing out front while inside, a little guy with a flat cap was talking to Luis.

"Now see, we've been out of town a while," he was saying, "But now we're back, and you've got rents due."

"I own my land," Luis said, face stiff.

"You don't own shit unless Rooster says you do," the guy said.

"Rooster's in the joint," but Luis didn't sound certain about that, "And this is Latin Reapers turf anyway."

The guy in the flat cap looked amused, looking at his goons. "He got out on good behaviour, and we made a deal with the Reapers. They say you ain't with them, so that means you owe us."

"I didn't bust my ass off building this to sell it to the Outfit," Luis was sweating.

The old man sighed. "Bruno?" he said, looking back to the biggest goon.
Bruno stepped forward, and his fist rocketed over the counter to lash Luis in the face. He went back, hitting the cigarette dispenser, his orange cat skittering away with a hiss.

"Now you can keep talking to me, or you can talk to Bruno," the man said.

"Chingate asshole piece of shit," Luis spat, a cut spilling blood above his eye. Bruno hit him again.

"That Latin pride," the little man said, like he knew it was going to come to this.

One of the Outfit goons glared at me and I pulled my scarf up tight over my nose, the hood of my sweatshirt already up. I glared back, couldn't help it.

The fire inside me began to flare.

>step in and do something
>stay out of it
>step in and do something
Shove the little man's head up Bruno's ass, Will Smith hobo with super strength style.
>step in and do something
locked in, writing
Anger stoked the fire in me. I wasn't going to let them beat Luis into the ground.

I looked up at the goon.

"Wait right there," I said, voice muffled behind the scarf.

I jogged down the way I'd come, until I was maybe fifty yards back. I squared up. The fire inside me built up. My skin prickled hot. I'd only had a day to practice, now it was go time, now it was time to use my new gifts for real.

I saw Luis get dragged over the counter, blood running from his nose. Bruno raising a big fist ready to squash his nose even more. Nerves locked my legs for a second but I exhaled, letting them go even as fear fought the white flare glowing inside me.

I dropped to a runner's starter, eyes fixed on the thug blocking the corner store entrance.

This was it.

I coiled back like a spring, and like a spring I launched forward, not a run but a jump, the street whistling by me, the thug growing tall, the look of shock on his face growing wide.

> roll 3 x 1d100 +20 dc 60
Rolled 44 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

inb4 we accidentally turn them into paste
Rolled 14 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

unless the next roll is a critfail this is a success
Rolled 23 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

Rollan again because I'm an impatient fucker
Rolled 13 (1d100)

Here's the critfail
Rolled 94 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

Now with the proper modifier!

Damn, nice roll anon. We're gonna need your luck after we piss off every gang in Chicago.
Lo siento anon I wasn't expecting another roller so soon
I hit him hard, feet first right in his chest. With me on top of him we crashed through the front window, shattering the glass. He hit the ground. Glass sprayed over Bruno and his boss, both of them pulling back in shock. I leapt off the goon and landed on the top of a shelf, squating on the corner edge. The goon stayed down, groaning in his bed of glass, white foot fading on his chest. My body burned hot, I was jumping in my skin, eager to keep moving.

Bruno shouted, "Frankie!" and the boss, the little man in the cap, reached into his jacket saying 'What the fuck?"

I leapt from my perch, dropping right on him before he could draw the pistol. He went down under the impact of my weight. I rolled off, leaving him groaning behind me. Bruno let Luis go, swinging at me. I ducked, and came up with a punch of my own, driving it into Bruno's chin. Where the knuckles hit there was a flash. Pain rocked my arm, he had a granite chin, but his knees gave out and he collapsed back against the counter. Groaning he got up, slipped a little, but found his feet.

It occured to me that I know exactly nothing about fighting other than a dust up one time in middle school.

"You don't know who you're messing with!" flat cap on the ground said, pulling his cap back on to hide his thinning hair, "We're the Outfit. We run this town!"

Bruno tried to clobber me. He was sluggish, I stepped back. I grabbed him by his short, and with the fire inside me blazing, threw him through Luis' other store front window, glass smashing out.

This time Bruno didn't get up.

"You're dead! Dead!" the flat-cap, Frankie, said, but he said it as he was heading out the door, glass glittering on his shoulders, his goons soon chasing after him down the street, Bruno wobbling as he tried to keep up. Pussies.

"Bunch of clowns if you ask me," I said, feeling like the baddest mother fucker alive.
Luis got out from behind the counter, his face all puffed up. He went and he brought down the shutters, the grill over the front door. Locked up tight. He looked angry, scared, and relieved all while blood dribbled out of his nose. He sniffed back, his nose at a bad angle. He got a broom, looked at the glass, then looked at me.

"At least you covered your face this time kid," he said.

I winced. "How'd you know it was me?" I said, pulling down my scarf.

"The bag, the hoodie," he said, "Same height, build. I mean, I won't snitch but..."

He went to the back of the store, where they had all inds of surplus sporting junk. He came back with a pair of snowboarder goggles, handed them over.

"Hide your eyes next time," he said, "There's a reason the Lone Ranger hides his eyes."

He started sweeping. "That was some cool shit though," he said.

"You going to go to the hospital?" I asked.

"For this?" Luis shook his head, "Nah man, I can't afford no hospital. It's nothin' anyway."

"Those guys, think they'll come back?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Probably. Not tonight though I think. You going to be here when they do?"

I shrugged. "Maybe."

Luis grinned blood stained teeth.

My gut pinched and I doubled over in hunger. Luis stopped sweeping, concerned.

"Just hungry," I said with a tight smile.

"There's a box of donuts back there," he said. I had them out and started feasting before he could say more. The powdered donuts went down one at a time, each after the other. "Jesus kid, you going to chew those?"

He got me a root beer from the back fridge.

"Sorry about the glass," I said.

"Eh," he waved it off, "I got a cousin can fix me up. So are you some kind of superhero or something? Or more like a Goku?"

Superhero? I guess I was. "Yeah, something like that," I said, draining the root beer.

"You better be careful man, you do it wrong a whole lot of evil is going to fall on your head," he said, "But you ever need help, you just swing by an' I'll do what I can."

"I won't tell nobody. We need more people like you around here. People willing to step up."

I believed him. He didn't back down against a bunch of gangsters ready to do some serious violence against him, and that was just for his store. The way he looked at me, the stubborn pride on his bruised face, I knew he was a guy would walk to his grave before he'd betray someone.

It was a kind of intensity I wasn't ready for. This wasn't a game, these were people's lives I was running into.

"Thanks," I mumbled. He let me out the back way and gave me a bag of groceries for my trouble. "Let me know if they come back," I said.

He grinned. "Don't worry holmes, I'll sort it out."

And that left me to wander home through the cold dark night.
taking a break

I hope you guys are enjoying this so far. its probably going to be more of a slow burn quest for a super hero story than some are used to. I hope the slice of life elements don't bore anyone too much.
I'm into it man, that's always missing from superhero quests. Especially when compared to the comics they're based on. If you're just seeing the superhero part of their life then the stakes are always lower in the end.
How bad will it be for us if we start putting people in the dirt? If the cops can't be trusted to do a damn thing then we'll be fighting the same people the rest of our lives.
I'd be careful about killing people.

I won't say you can't be a lethal vigilante, but there's consequences for it.

I don't want to spoil anything but just so you guys don't start ripping the heads off every jaywalker you see, you will get a chance to build a support network of allies in a sea of corruption.
I don't think we're the type of guy to go around killing. Not without some kind of extreme inciting incident. Causes more trouble than its worth anyway.
I appreciate all you guys playing and I'll pick this up again in a couple of days
I'm not saying we're there yet, but the picture that's been painted is pretty bleak. Fucking with these guys is already going to bring down a lot of heat, potentially from the reapers as well if they decide this is their turf after all. Nobody else is worried about dropping folks and we aren't bulletproof.
Interesting quest so far
I will say that we seem to be burning through energy at a frankly ludicrous rate. Every powered action we take seems to leave us with no gas left in the tank. I'm going to assume with time and a classic superhero training montage we'll be able to hold out long enough to do actual super heroics.
Do like the powers we've seen so far, seems pretty street level but with decent mobility and offense. Was hoping for a little more durability right off the bat though.
I think the biggest limitation is caloric intake, we should keep some high calorie snacks on us at all times
>I think the biggest limitation is caloric intake
That's my point though
I get that the powers are supposed to be draining for us at the moment and that's fine, after all we've only had powers for like 2 days
But this is a superhero story, which means we will need to be doing prolonged superheroics at some point
Having to stop every five minutes to dip into a backpack full of big macs is not an ideal or particularly entertaining solution
we should focus on efficiency then too
And I feel like I need to make an addendum to this
I'm not really even criticizing our guy being a big eater to fuel up his power reserves, Flash did it for years
What I'm saying is the need for refueling needs to be spaced out far enough to actually do cool fun super stuff
I'm totally okay with needing some practice to get this down to a reasonable level, but if this is every single time we try crime fighting we're going to have a short career and more than likely a short quest
Resource management in a genre that's all about spectacle is a recipe for disaster
Personal opinion
The superhero genre isn't necessarily all about spectacle, in fact a lot of the focus is on the effect of fighting crime on the hero's personal life. Maybe not in marvel movies or superhero power fantasy quests with all the favorite waifus, but in comics.
Great writing style QM keep up the good work
Maybe some of those 24-hour emergency ration bars?
Yeah I get the feeling we're using more energy than we need to at times.
>I get that the powers are supposed to be draining for us at the moment and that's fine, after all we've only had powers for like 2 days
We do need to spend some time in the future focusing on training but if we participate in basketball workouts we should be able to build our endurance.

I actually really like that we have this big flaw in our power. It keeps us from being over-powered and keeps the character fun by providing balance and a challenge. Hopefully the flaw can be mitigated in the future somehow, but I also hope that it isn't mitigated too much, or it will lose its function.
The squeak of sneakers on linoleum and the drumming of basketballs came from the auditorium. Inside the sophomore team was running drills on the court, overlooked by green and gold bleachers. I recognized maybe three people on the team and one of them was Hunter. I'd changed into my gym clothes, I didn't have a uniform. No one stopped on my account.

The school day had skated by and now I was here for my tryout.

Standing by the water cooler was a short fat kid with a weird smile, watching the drills with a wonder more suited for a professional game. He wore a jacket in the green and gold colors of the school and a Bulls caps.

"Yo," up behind me, sitting on the bleachers, was Kay and Ayesha. It was Kay who'd called out, and she hung over the railings with a smile. "Hunter said you were trying out for the team today so we thought we'd swing by and cheer you on."

A good kind of panic leapt up my guts. Did she like me? She was smiling down. Ayesha waved from behind her.

"Figured you could use the support."

Mr Nfume's whistle brought the drills to a stop, the team broke for a rest, forming a school circle around him.

"Basketball," he said, "Is all about triangles. Isosceles, equilaterial, right angles, all the rest. Where ever and when ever you move, you move in threes. Don't play that one-on-one street ball bullshit, other teams can play that one-on-one shit, we move as a team."

"Yes coach," the team barked.

"Get some water in you then get back on the court," he said. They broke from the huddle and Mr Nfume strode over.

"I'm here like you asked," I said.

The little fat kid fetched water for the team. "Thanks Howie," one of them said, shotting it back. The waterboy buzzed around desperate to help. A few of the team gave me looks giving me the impression I was an interloper, not particularly welcome and not wanted. Outside the waterboy I was easily the shortest guy here.

Mr Nfume took me aside and passed me the ball.

"Before we start, I need you to know something," he said. I listened. "Last year these boys were the freshman team. Next year they'll be the junior team, and if they stick with it they'll be the senior team. For some of them this game is their only shot to college. For a couple it might be their professional career. Without it, they don't have a chance at much else."

"I've seen your grades Eric," he said, "You're a good student. If you put your head down and do the work you could go any where you want. I'm going to ask you and don't sugar coat it, do you think that's true for Hunter?"

I looked over to the gangly player, chatting with Kay and Ayesha in the bleachers. "No sir," I said.

"Everyone gets a fair shot, that's how I roll," he said, "But I'm a teacher first, coach second. Do you get me?"

"I think so," I said.

"Ok, let's see how you shoot, then we'll run you through some plays," he said.

I jogged out onto the court, ball slapping on the linoleum floor.

"Woo, go Eric!" Kay cheered, and I tried not to blush.
Most of the team stopped to watch, judging me as I went to the three point line. It had been a while since I'd played any kind of basketball. Back home my middle school had a half court in the playground where we used to shoot, but I never got much use out of it. This auditorium with the lines in the school colors and the green and gold bleachers was a whole other world of sport. Still I didn't let it shake me.

I sunk two of five shots. Mr Nfume winced.

"Don't stress yourself, it takes practice," he said.

Now he ran me with a couple of guys running defensive plays, just to see how I handled the ball. He ran me up against Hunter and a black guy.

I took three steps before Hunter was crowding me, another and he tripped me up, stealing the ball out from between my hands. I hit the court hard and he was racing down to the hoop, netting an easy layup.

The black guy helped me up. "Got to do better than that, snowflake," he said, bumping me hard with his chest when I had my feet. Hunter passed the ball back to me, harder than he needed to.

"Come on Eric!" Kay said, clapping. She elbowed Ayesha to get her attention, she was busy reading a book.

Anger built a fire in my guts, and I felt the new power inside me start to flare up. Using it I knew none of these guys could touch me.

>draw on my power to get an edge
>no, keep it honest
>no, keep it honest
Oh shit didn't realize this was back!
>>no, keep it honest
I probably should have announced it some where like the /qtg/
locked in.

> roll 3 x 1d100 - 10 dc 65
how long does a thread usually last in the catalog? I think we're already in permasage.
Rolled 71 - 10 (1d100 - 10)

Permasage kicks in at 72 hours after thread creation, anyone with a brain sorts by last reply though. This thread will last a while before falling off the board, probably like a week or more
Rolled 16 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

Let's go!
Rolled 73 - 10 (1d100 - 10)

Now with proper formatting!
oof, just failed
I shook off the temptation. There was no need to go all out.

My sneakers squeaked as I drove forward with the ball, moving for the basket. The black guy stepped in my way trying to ward me off but I weaved around him, moving for a jump shot.

It was looking good until Hunter sprung up and swatted it out of the air, his team mate scooping it up.

I moved to intercept the black guy but got caught with a hard bump that knocked me down again. I got up quick, running after him, but he was half way down the court.

"Good hustle," the black guy said, firing the ball at me. I caught it, keeping to the spot while he and Hunter repositioned.

I was sucking shit through a straw and I knew it. If I could just get one basket...

I went for it again. driving forward I ducked under the sweep of the black guy's arm, going low and coming up. Hunter got all up in my face but this time I hit him with my hip, getting enough space for another shot.

It went up, hit the backboard, rounded the rim, but before it could sink Hunter popped up through the hoop and slapped it away.

"Almost," he said with a cocky swagger, fingers in a peace sign.

Mr Nfume's whistle ended the game. We jogged back over. I was sweating but feeling more raw from pride than being tired.

Mr Nfume wasn't impressed, we both knew it was an average effort.

"We'll keep you as a substitute," he said, "If anyone gets hurt we'll drop you in. Some training should get you up to speed, maybe by next year you can even start. Mean time you'll work with Howie in support."

"Yes sir," I said.

"Hear that Howie, you're the boss now," Hunter said, giving me an asshole grin.

"I'm the boss!" Howie said, beaming.

The black guy who'd knocked me down came up while the rest of the team dispersed back to practice. "I'm Rufus," he said, "You did ok out there, don't let the trash talk get under your skin. If anyone tries to block you out like that again though just drive into them instead of backing off."

"Thanks," I said, for all the good it did me.

He scooted off, leaving me with Howie. Howie smiled. "I'm the boss," he said, "You have to do what I say. Without us they can't play the b-ball."

There was clearly something not right about Howie.

But my attention turned as Kay came down from the bleachers, Ayesha behind her.

"That was rough, buddy," she said with a punch to my arm. I smiled anyway. "Hey Howie, how are you doing?" she said.

Howie smiled, clapped his chest. "I'm the boss now."

"Hell yeah you are," Ayesha said with a smile, giving him a high five.

"You know if you're feeling sore maybe we can talk it out over a shake," Kay said to me, "I've got to run lines with someone today, but what about tomorrow?" She tucked a lick of hair behind her ear.
Tomorrow? Her and me splitting a shake, I saw it like an Archie cover, sitting in a retro-booth.

"Yeah, that sounds..." I said, but then I remembered I had weekend detention. If I skipped it I was risking a suspension. She waited with big green eyes for my answer, wearing a sweater in the green and gold school colors.

I felt my heart banging on my rib cage.

>sorry Kay, I've got detention
>screw it, skip detention
>sorry Kay, I've got detention
let's do Sunday instead. or after detention tomorrow
locked in and writing
"I've got detention tomorrow," I said, but I wasn't going to let that stop me, "Maybe we can meet up after?"

"Ooh, weekend detention, he's a bad boy," Ayesha said. Kay gave her a startled look, whipping back to me with red spots on her cheeks.

"Oh cool, yeah," she said, pulling on the hem of her sweater, "Text me when you get out and we'll uh, meet up. Maybe at Francisco's? It's a pizza joint, uh, I can send you the address."

"Yeah cool," I said, pressing a basketball between my hands.

When they walked away I caught Kay hissing 'Shut up Ayesha!' as Ayesha giggled.

So, I had a date. I think. Sort of. A loud pop had everyone jump. The basketball had burst between my hands.

"Must be defective," I said to Howie, who stared at the wrecked ball between my hands.

Practice ran for a little over an hour and I took a bus home, riding with miserable office workers scarfed up for the season.

Instead of going straight home I swung by the abandoned warehouse. I wanted to get some practice in there too. I barely understood my powers, and I hoped with more training the intense hunger it left me with would ease up.

After another hour bouncing around the warehouse, leaping off pillars and working on my landings, trying to put some of my new basketball skills to use, I was still aching with hunger. But either it was easing up or I was getting used to it, because when I hit Luis' shop I only ate half a dozen donuts and two burritos, almost half what I'd had the day before. We'd cut a deal I could have whatever was left in the back for free, if I could stomach it.

Right now I could stomach anything.

The glass still hadn't been put back in the windows and I wanted to ask what was up with those Outfit guys, but he had another couple of customers he was dealing with, a white couple come in from the suburbs for some reason, young with a hipster flare.

"Wow, its like a genuine bodega, cat and everything," the guy said, trying to pat Luis' cat.

"Eh, bodegas are more a New York thing," Luis said, "This is just my store. But hey, glad you like it."

"Random," the girl said, looking over a statue of the Virgin Mary as her boyfriend bought a pack of condoms.

"Come by any time," he told them as they wandered out, then rolled his eyes, "White people."

"I'm white," I said, buying a candy bar.

"You aint white, Rico, you live here," he said, skipping the tax on the candy.
"So those Outfit dudes," I said, munching on caramel and chocolate.

"I got a cousin who can step in there," Luis said, "He's tight with the Reapers, and he owes me. We should be good."

"Who the heck are the Outfit?" I asked, "The Mafia?"

"Kinda, yeah," Luis said, "You could say they're what's left of Al Capone's crew from way back when, changing hands over the years. They used to run everything in Chicago until they got broke up on a RICO thing. I guess they're back, trying to reclaim lost glory."

"And Rooster is their boss? He serious?"

"Salvatore Mangielo, he's as serious as throat cancer," Luis said, "Everyone calls him Rooster."


"Hell I don't know," Luis said, "Last night you ran into one of his capos, Frankie the Nose. You planning on running into him again?"

I shrugged. "Yeah, maybe," I said.

Luis seemed to know what the score was, maybe he could give me a head's up. If I was a 'super hero' or whatever, I had to fight crime, right?

>ask Luis to keep an eye out for crime in the neighborhood for you
>he does enough for me, I should do that myself
>ask Luis to keep an eye out for crime in the neighborhood for you
We have no other way to gather intel, gotta start somewhere. Maybe he can introduce us to others
>ask Luis to keep an eye out for crime in the neighborhood for you
locked in

writing up
Luis had done me a couple of solids so far, maybe he could do me a few more. I didn't know who was who or whatever, but if I could stop another couple of muggings like with Mrs Valdez the other day it'd be a job well done.

"Hey Luis, you think you can give me a head's up when bad stuff is going down?" I asked, "Any bad spots I should scope out?"

He rubbed his chin. "I don't know if you're bullet proof or what, holmes, but there's always trouble in the parks. People getting robbed, rapes, murders. All kinds of nasty. You go scoping out there, you be ready for what you'll see, and remember to keep your face covered."

I nodded. We'd gone over this stuff the other night.

"Don't you got a home to get to?" he said. Yeah, I thought, with Dad passed out on the couch and a Hungry-Man dinner defrosting in the sink. I just waved off the question as I went out the door, sipping on a coke.

The cold night made the stitches tighter in my cheek, the cold rim of the coke can sticky. The street was lonely in the dark. A man coughed somewhere and a dog gave a vacant 'woof'. I scuffed my feet in the direction of home. I was tired from an afternoon of running around, on the court and in the warehouse.

But then I heard distant shouts that turned into a gun shot and the screech of tyres.

The neighborhood was cold and lonely, and no one was looking out for it in the night.

>head to the park and look for trouble
>head home and get some bed rest
>head to the park and look for trouble
>head home and get some bed rest
Just because we suddenly have super powers doesn't suddenly make us a super hero. We don't really know how to fight and we don't have food for if we use up all our energy fighting.
We just aren't prepared.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

a tie so I'm going to flip a coin

1 is go home
2 is go fight crime
Part of me wanted to go find trouble and maybe cause some trouble of my own. The thought of good people getting hurt made my blood run hot.

But another part remembered what Luis said, I'm not bullet proof, or at least I don't think I am, and finding out from a Latin Reaper drawing down on me wasn't how I wanted to do it. And that left my belly cold. I didn't know how to fight, and just leaping in head first was going to get me into a badsituation sooner rather than later. I can't just go off into the night without thinking things through. And just because I can do some fantastical things, did that make me a super hero?

I'm fifteen and poor, I'm not Bruce Wayne.

I turned those thoughts and soubts around in my head while heading back home.

Going in I bumped into Mrs Valdez, her arm in a sling.

"Eric," she said with a smile, "How is your cheek? How is school?"

"Fine," I shrugged, "What about your arm?"

She sighed. "Old injury flaring up. It will be fine in a week. Come in, Maria said your stitches should be good to take out."

Without really giving me a choice she herded me into her apartment.

Her daughter Maria was thirty something and looked like her mother. She was still wearing her hospital scrubs, employee card dangling from a lanyard. They were sitting down for dinner, Maria's kid in a high chair playing with the inside of a tamale, but when they saw me they smiled.

"Eric," Maria got up, wiping salsa from her cheek. She went to a sidetable under a carttonishly large wooden fork, and got out a little kit. "Sit down, let's look at your scar."

I sat beside little Pedro, the baby staring at me with narrow dark eyes. Maria peeled back my bandage, fingers spread around it.

"Feeling tight?" she asked. I nodded. "One more day and it'd start to hurt, the skin starts to grow over them. Let's get these out." With the careful snip of tiny scissors she removed the stitches, then drew them out of the skin. I felt a flood of relief as my cheek slackened, not realizing how tight it had felt. I rubbed the tiny ridge of scar tissue.

It was a small purple scar right over my cheek bone, as long as the tip of my thumb. I wondered if it made me look dangerous or silly.

"Would you like to stay for dinner?" Mrs Valdez asked, "We have plenty."

It smelled good and looked hot, habaneros mixed in with beef and chicken, but I turned her down.
"Let me make you a plate," she insisted, and when I left it was with enough tamales to last the weekend.

Upstairs I found Dad on the couch, laid out flat on his belly and snoring. An empty bottle of whiskey lay under his outstretched hand, fingers flexing in some kind of dream. The TV showed a perfect blonde news anchor reading out terrible news in a practised tone.

"-brawl in downtown left ten injured and one in a critical condition, police say rival gangs-"

I turned it off.

I ate before I got Dad up and like usual walked him to bed. He never fully woke up from his drunken stupor, but he did mutter some drunk gibberish in my ear, his breath hot and rancid. I dropped him on the bed.

"I'm on the basketball team," I told his unconcious body, "Just a substitute but...hey, I might be the next Larry Bird, right?" Larry Bird was one of Dad's heroes, and Dad didn't have many. He snored on the filthy blankets. "I got detention too," I said, "You can't say I didn't tell you."

I went out to the kitchen to put the left overs away before the roaches could get them. There was a pay check sticking out of Dad's jacket. I guess his work was steadier than I thought.

I washed up, went to bed, and thought about today while worrying about tomorrow. It had been a good day. I even had a date lined up with a cute girl. Thinking about Kay made me think about Kay in other ways, and I groaned turning over, face shoved into my pillow as puberty rioted through me.

Tomorrow I had detention, then a date, then maybe a party with Kemal.

After months of...of one bad thing after another, life was starting to head in a pretty ok direction. Something told me it wasn't going to stay that way. It was just a matter of which boot was going to drop, and how big the boot was going to be.
Based latina neighbors
we should train our power to limit how much power we put out so we can use it daily without it being ridiculous like jumping into the sky and without it using our energy/hunger alot
also how to fight maybe we take some boxing lessons if we find someone
I'm here and going to post the next update soon
No one wants to go to school on the weekend. When I got there what struck me as weird was how quiet it was. The school had around four thousand students, a thousand per grade give or take, so it was usually bustling, as busy as a small town with halls packed and grounds littered with groups. Now it was empty, dead quiet, looming silent in red bricks. The only sound came from the traffic behind me, which wasn't much but a local car cruising by. I headed in through the front door.

Detention was held in a small class room near where I had Chemistry. When I got in it was a small mix of students, from freshmen to seniors. The only one I recognized was a girl I shared English with, Ivy. It was a surprise to see her actually, she was one of those popular kids shaping up to take over the school next year. She sat at the back, pointedly ignoring everyone.

I slipped off my bag and took a seat next to a pudgy white guy with a shaved head. He looked like a senior.

"Brian," he said, "Wassup."

A couple others shuffled in, then Mr Sack showed up.

The door slammed open and he came in chewing gum with teeth gnashing in rapid intensity, black rings under his eyes, fuming on a bad mood. He wore gym shorts that gripped his bulge and showed off his pasty legs, a bulls cap pulled over his mean bulldog eyes, and a whistle bouncing on his man breasts. He looked over us with the kind of hard contempt a teacher shouldn't be showing. He stalked over to the white board, slapped it. Brian bounced in his chair.

"No Hopers," he said, "I don't know what you all did to end up here, I don't give half a god damn. The fact is you're here because you screwed up. You're in a good school, most of you come from pampered little neighborhoods with a mommy and daddy making bank, so you got no excuse for your screw ups. This ain't the hood, you got no place acting like hoodlums."

The gum squished between his teeth, drool flecking his chin. "So if you fail that's on you," he said, "Now normally I'd be having you run laps instead of sitting at a desk. So many you little pukes'll puke up your guts. But you No hopers got lucky today, yeah, you don't have ol' Mr Sack breathing down your neck."

I relaxed a little in my chair.

"But if you think you can pull any crap on the substitute coming in, you got another thing coming. This is one teacher you can't screw with. A real mean mother. You'll wish you had ol' Mr Sack to bitch about by the time you're done today."

His smile turned nasty and he stepped back. "Ms Flores, they're all yours."
Ms Flores' smile brightened my life when she came in, carrying a cardboard box. She was dressed down in blue jeans, jordans, and a Blackhawks hoodie, not even trying, but she still looked fine as hell.

"Thanks Mr Sack," she said, "I can take it from here."

"Watch yourselves," he warned us as he stepped out.

Ms Flores sat on the edge of the desk, hands clasped over a raised knee.

"Good morning kids," she said, "How are we all doing today?"

We answered with a general mutter.

She laughed. "That's what I thought," she said, "But hey, now that Oscar the Grouch is gone you can all relax. I'm not here to ruin your day. I know you guys just messed up. It's nothing serious." She shook the box beside her. "Now I can't let you kids just kick back and play Fortnite, we need to do school work of some kind, that's just how it goes, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring."

"So no writing essays about what you did wrong or just doing your Math homework," she said, "Let's try something a bit more interactive. I have a few select Shakespeare pieces here-" the groan from her captives cut her off. She played up mock offence. "You guys don't like Shakespeare? I thought all the kids were hip with Billy of Avon-Upon-Stratford."

"Is this where you tell us he was the first gangster rapper or some shit Ms Flores?" someone said.

She laughed. "Hell no, please," she said, "Have some respect. If it were down to me I'd just throw on a movie or something, but even us teachers have rules and I'm bending them as best I can. Now what we're going to do is go through pairs and read some lines and talk about them, figure out what they mean. We have a couple of hours to kill so let's get started."

"Do I have a volunteer to start us off?"

She batted her lashes over those big warm eyes and my heart fluttered with them.

>keep my head down

I'm tired
locked in I guess

writing it up
I tentatively raised my hand.

Ms Flores smiled. "Eric! Well I'm surprised to see you here, but glad you're willing to give it a shot." She pulled from her box a piece of paper, part of a script. "And do we have anyone else?"

She scanned the rows of seated students.

"Ivy, why don't you come and be Eric's partner?" she said. Ivy brushed back her thick golden hair with a light scoff, uncrossed her legs from off the desk, and walked up with a natural strut. She was tall, and looked down on me with a cool superiority. Ms Flores handed her a script. "We'll start off with something less than usual. No, not Hamlet or Othello or even MacBeth. We'll be doing a reading from Henry IV. Eric, you'll be playing Henry Percy, called 'Hotspur'. He's the villain of the story, a young lord with a bad temper, planning a rebellion against his king. Ivy, you'll be playing Hotspur's wife, Lady Kate Percy. In this scene you're annoyed with him, scared because he's keeping secrets from you, and angry that he doesn't trust you. Now you want to know the truth, and are done with his lies."

I flipped over to the second page. This went on for a while.

She looked between us. "It's an argument between two people who love each other passionately, but who fear for each other, and what the truth will do." Someone, I think it was Brian, hooted. It got him Ivy's ice-cold glare, which shut him up.

I swallowed, scanning the lines. Ivy read her own, a hand in her pocket, looking bored.

"Don't worry about giving a grand performance," Ms Flores said, "Just read out the scene then we'll discuss its meaning."

I nodded, looked up to catch Ivy's eye. "You ready?" I asked. Her lip curled in an unfriendly way. Sheesh. Was her problem with me or the world in general?

"Enter Hotspur," Ms Flores said, giving me the floor.
"But, for mine own part, my lord," I started, beginning a long monologue, "I could be well contented to be there, in respect of the love I
bear your house. He could be contented; why is he not, then? In respect of the love he bears our house. He shows in this he loves his own barn better than he loves our house. Let me see some more. The purpose you undertake is dangerous. Why, that’s certain. ’Tis dangerous to take a cold, to sleep, to drink; but I tell you, my Lord Fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety. The purpose you undertake is dangerous, the friends you have named uncertain, the time itself unsorted, and your whole plot too light for the counterpoise of so great an opposition. Say you so, say you so? I say unto you again, you are a shallow, cowardly hind, and you lie." I stumbled over the words, my delivery rough and stilted. The Bard didn't move in me and I imagine Kemal would have cringed at my delivery, but I soldiered on, "What a pagan rascal is this—an infidel! Ha, you shall see now, in very sincerity of fear and cold heart, will he to the King and lay open all our proceedings. O, I could divide myself and go to buffets for moving such a dish of skim milk with so honorable an action! Hang him, let him tell the King. We are prepared. I will set forward tonight!"

It was a lot and I felt stupid over every word.

"Enter his Lady," read Ms Flores.

"How now, Kate?" I said, turning to Ivy, "I must leave you within these two hours."

Ivy's cool gaze turned into wrinkled worry, her lips pursed in concern, and she placed a tender hand on my shoulder. She didn't read from her sheet the way I did, but held it to her chest.
"O my good lord, why are you thus alone?" she asked, and for a moment I was stunned by the fear in her blue eyes, "For what offense have I this fortnight been a banished woman from my Harry’s bed?" she pressed close to me, "Tell me, sweet lord, what is it that takes from thee. Thy stomach, pleasure, and thy golden sleep? Why dost thou bend thine eyes upon the earth and start so often when thou sit’st alone? Why hast thou lost the fresh blood in thy cheeks and given my treasures and my rights of thee. To thick-eyed musing and curst melancholy? In thy faint slumbers I by thee have watched, and heard thee murmur tales of iron wars, speak terms of manage to thy bounding steed, cry “Courage! To the field!” And thou hast talked of sallies and retires, of trenches, tents, of palisadoes, frontiers, parapets, of basilisks, of cannon, culverin. Of prisoners’ ransom, and of soldiers slain. And all the currents of a heady fight. Thy spirit within thee hath been so at war, and thus hath so bestirred thee in thy sleep, that beads of sweat have stood upon thy brow like bubbles in a late-disturbèd stream. And in thy face strange motions have appeared, such as we see when men restrain their breath on some great sudden hest. O, what portents are these? Some heavy business hath my lord in hand, And I must know it, else he loves me not."

I stared as her grip firmed on my shoulder, her head ducked to mine, speechless for the words singing in my ears.

"But hear you my lord," she said, covering my silence, "What is it carries you away?"

"My horse, my love, my horse," I said with a weak smile.

The fearful imploring upon her face twisted into a hot anger. I thought for a second she might hit me, and the power inside me flared in self-defense.

"Out, you mad-headed ape!" she spat, pulling from my side, "A weasel hath not such a deal of spleen as you are tossed with. In faith, I’ll know your business, Harry, that I will. I fear my brother Mortimer doth stir about his title, and hath sent for you to line his enterprise; but if you go-"

I entered quickly with my line. "So far afoot I shall be weary, love," I said with a forced grin, touching her on the shoulder to draw her back.

She turned back, snatching my hand in hers, pulling forth my finger to her lips, her eyes cold with deadly intent. "Come, come, you paraquito, answer me. Directly unto this question that I ask. In faith, I’ll break thy little finger, Harry, an if thou wilt not tell me all things true." She pressed my finger back as if she really would.
An anger in me grew and I jerked my hand from her grip. I no longer stumbled on the words but spat them, sheet scrunched up in my fist. " Away! Away, you trifler. Love, I love thee not. I care not for thee, Kate. This is no world to play with mammets and to tilt with lips. We must have bloody noses and cracked crowns, and pass them current too. Gods me, my horse! What say’st thou, Kate? What wouldst thou have with me?"

I was breathing hard, glaring at Ivy.

And her anger and ire slid into a sorrow that made my heart ache and regret my anger. "Do you not love me? Do you not indeed? Well, do not then, for since you love me not, I will not love myself. Do you not love me? Nay, tell me if you speak in jest or no."

"I love you," I said, the words hot in my throat, though it wasn't the right line, and I saw irritation flutter through Ivy's imploring sadness. I checked my sheet, swallowing, forcing a smile, going for tenderness again, "Come, wilt thou see me ride? And when I am a-horseback I will swear I love thee infinitely. But hark you, Kate, I must not have you henceforth question me. Whither I go, nor reason whereabout. Whither I must, I must, and to conclude. This evening must I leave you, gentle Kate. I know you wise, but yet no farther wise than Harry Percy’s wife. Constant you are, but yet a woman and for secrecy no lady closer, for I well believe thou wilt not utter what thou dost not know, and so far will I trust thee, gentle Kate."

"How? So far?" she asked, her hand once more upon my shoulder, her voice again tender.

"Not an inch further. But hark you, Kate, whither I go, thither shall you go too. Today will I set forth, tomorrow you. Will this content you, Kate?"

She gave a slow nod, drawing from me, and again in sadness said, "It must, of force."

A moment of silence, then Ms Flores said, "And scene!" Ms Flores hid a grin behind clenched hands, eyes bright. "You were both wonderful!" she said.

Ivy eyed me over like she didn't agree. Gone was the string-willed but tender wife, now she was back to the high school bitch. Something squirmed in me, uncomfortable about what had just happened.

I thumped down into my seat, trying to ignore the attention I was getting from the other delinquents. For her part Ivy dismissed them from her mind, her feet up on her desk again, legs crossed as she leaned back in her chair.

"So, thoughts?" Ms Flores asked.

"Hotspur is an asshole," a girl said, "His wife comes up to him with all that and he gets shitty with her. Screw him."

"He certainly has a temper," Ms Flores said, "But is he really as big of a jerk as you think? Think about what she's saying about his restless sleeps and quiet anguish. Doesn't that sound like something else?" The girl turned uncomfortably in her chair.

"PTSD is no excuse for being a jerk," Brian said, "He got a fine lady and he's doing what, putting her aside?"

"No," Ivy said, and we all turned to look at her.
"He's got a big secret. A massive one. He's planning treason," Ivy said, "He's committing a crime and he knows the less she knows about it the safer she'll be if he fails, because if he fails he knows all his allies are going to be executed. And...and I think he knows he's going to fail, even if he won't admit it. When he reads the letter saying his friends won't back him up, he knows he can't win but has to try."

"Which is why she gives up trying," she said, "She knows he has a dangerous secret, and in the end knows she has to let him keep it. But she still loves him and stands by him. Because he's wrong about her, she's ride or die. And I think...I think she'd rather win or die with him, but he can't see that through his fear."

Slowly our attention dawned on Ivy and her cheeks bloomed pink. She buried her chin in her neck and stared at the window. "Or whatever," she said.

"That's an interesting perspective," Ms Flores said, "I don't know if the text fully supports it, but I like the direction. Now we're going to do another scene, this one's from Julius Ceasar. If I can get another volunteer..."

By the time detention was over my head was stuffed with too much Shakespeare.

Before I left Ms Flores held me back.

"You did a good job, Eric," she said, "Have you thought about trying out for the school plays?"

She hadn't been the first person to say that. "Between school, basketball, and my home life I'm pretty busy Ms Flores," I said.

"Hey, come on, it's Carmen, not 'Ms Flores'," she said, "I heard you joined the basketball team. How are you enjoying it?"

"Honestly I'm just the equipment guy," I said, "Mr Nfume says I might get to play if I keep working hard and training."

My phone buzzed. A text from Kay, a picture of herself at the pizza joint we were supposed to meet at, looking playfully sad.

"I uh, I got to go," I said, "Detention was fun, thanks Miss...uh Carmen!"

I waved as I ran and she waved goodbye.

I had a train to catch.
The L shuddered along the tracks, Chicago sweeping by, and I played with the button of my shirt. I'd never been on a...well, the last 'date' I'd been on was an awkward middle school dance that had ended with me getting food poisoning at a Chuck'E'Cheese. This was a real date, with a cool girl, at a pizza joint that didn't have cartoon mascots on the wall. I gulped, hands a little unsteady. She'd even asked me out. I don't think that's how its supposed to go, but I wasn't going to turn up my nose.

The train emptied out in down town and I checked myself in a reflective surface, checking myself against an ad for an insect exhibit at the museum. I looked as good as I was going to look, I guess. I sniffed my arm pit. no way should I be stinking up in this cool weather, but I was nervous enough to sweat. Fall leaves blew across the street as I made my way through the alleys cutting off the tall skyscrapers, backpack bouncing as I jogged.

I was dressed for a date but I had my 'disguise' stowed in my bag, a loose grey hoodie, a scarf, and the ski goggles Luis had given me. I hoped I wouldn't need them.

Finding the place was easy with Google maps. It was a retro-1950s kind of place. By the time I got there I must have had her waiting half an hour or more.

My heart climbed as I went inside, then dropped out of me. She wasn't alone, this wasn't a date. Hunter had his albatross wing-span arms stretched out over the back of the booth, and with him was Zeke and our team mate Rufus. Sitting opposite with Kay was Ayesha. Ayesha wore a loose red sweater that looked home knit. Ayesha smiled, waving as I came in. I tried not to seem disappointed.

"Cool scar," Ayesha said, pointing to the new ridge on my cheek, "Get that shaving?"

"He doesn't need to shave," Hunter joked. Kay smiled, a half drunk chocolate milk shake in front of her.

"Hey, what's up?" she said, "I was waiting when these guys showed up. What kept you?" So maybe it was supposed to be a date. I slid into the booth next to her, trying not to be a nerd.

"Would you believe it was Shakespeare?" I said. She grinned, a soft elbow to my side.

A portrait of Frank Sinatra crooned down over us from the wall.

"Hungry?" she asked. Food was set out in the middle of the table, a couple of deep dish pizzas with slices missing.

"Yeah," I took a slice of deep dish and chomped in. Tasted like tomato and dough, but I slurped it down. I'd finished my second slice before anyone could start to talk.

"You here about the brawl last night?" Rufus said, "There's weird stories going on about it. Something about a guy throwing people around without touching them, like a psychic or something."
"Oh please," Ayesha said. The door jingled, a guy in a long thick winter coat stepped in. My skin prickled. He had a raw, boney face and a swollen pink nose, eyes looking about with a pinkish tinge. "That's some anime nonsense. People have been telling stories all week."

"You hear the one about the shark-man on the docks?" Hunter said, lips smacking as he ate, "They say he ate a kid. Chowed him down faster than Eric did that slice."

"It's all bullshit," said Zeke, "Just stories because of the explosion."

"Excuse me," Ayesha slid out from the table, going to the counter.

I wasn't listening. My attention was on the man in the coat, now by the jukebox, fumbling with the buttons.

"You ok?" Kay asked, "Sorry about these guys."

"Yeah," I said, still watching the guy in the coat. A server came up to him.

"Excuse me sir," the server said, "If you could just..." But the server's eyes widened and she stepped back.

A shotgun rose up out of the coat. "The register," he said, "Everything in the goddamn register."

He fired a shot off into the air and a scream rose up from some place as we ducked our heads. People ran for the door.

'Oh God, oh God!' Kay squeaked beside me. Then I noticed Ayesha backed up into the counter, between the man and the register, trembling, bottom lip wobbling in terror. He grabbed her arm and shoved the shotgun under her ribs.

"Anyone try anything, I blow her guts over your nice seats, got that?" he pulled her close and Ayesha closed her eyes, shaking hard, her glasses askew.

He scooped up cash into his coat pocket. Someone ran for the door. He let off a shot overhead and Ayesha screamed, clutching her ears. The customers broke, running for their lives out any possible exit. He held Ayesha close, a human shield as he started crab walking to the door, hot barrel of his shotgun pressed behind her ear.

"No, God, no," Kay sobbed, curled up under the table. Hunter and the others had ran away. It was pretty much just the staff left, plaster falling in crumbs from the holes he'd left in the cieling.

>grab Kay and get out of here
>step up and do something
hope you liked that hot dump of Shakespeare

sorry about the typos
>step up and do something
We've got our disguise, fuck this guy
>step up and do something
Are we gonna have a Justice League type thing going on? Can't wait!
>step up and do something
Kay's safe there under the table right?
We should reassure Kay first, she's losing her shit
+1 to this though >>4538079
locked in
I ducked under the table. "Kay, Kay are you-"

She stared at me from over the collar of her sweater, shivering like a frightened woodland critter.

"It'll be ok" I said, trying to reassure her with my voice, with my eyes, "It'll all be ok."

She nodded, her large eyes welling with tears. A harsh swear turned my head.

Ayesha was shaking, paralyzed in the robber's grip. He sneered from her to the door, dragging her with his shotgun in one hand, face turning pink with rage and fear. Would the cops be here soon? I didn't know and I didn't want to wait.

"Move you little bitch!" he said, pressing the barrel into her neck, "I'll cut your damn head off if you don't move those feet."

I'm sorry," she hiccupped shuffling her feet, trying to move. The fire in me roared with a crackle as I ducked into the toilets, door swinging behind me. I zipped open my bag, snapped on the shiny ski-goggles, pulled on the hoodie, and wound the scarf around my mouth. I tossed the bag into an empty stall and ran to the door.

My legs were shaking, my body humming, the power a second pulse under my skin. I was prickled over with its heat.

If I screwed this up people, my classmates, my friends, could die.

If I did nothing they could still die.

I swallowed my hesitation, and with a single backward step, leapt through the swinging washroom door, bounding out to land on a booth table in a crash of plates and cutlery, dropping into a squat on the tabletop.

The robber swung to face me, his shotgun raised, Ayesha pulled close to his side.

"Who the hell are you?"

My attention was so caught on the mouth of the shotgun barrel I thought the gun itself had asked.

White light flared around my feet. A name sprang to my lips without thinking.

"Me?" I said, "I'm Hotspur."

Then throwing away my fear, uncoiling from my crouch, I leapt.

>roll 3 x 1d100 + 20 dc 75
Rolled 70 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

Rolled 43 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

Rolled 11 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

The shotgun blast tore through the wall where I'd been squatting, but I was already arcing overhead, hanging for a moment above the robber, looking down at the top of his building head, Ayesha held tight to his side as I tumbled over to land behind them. Smoke rose from the gun barrel and from the foot prionts on the spot I'd launch off.

I tried to say something smart to cool my own nerves.

"Seriously, robbing a pizza joint in the middle of the day?" I said. He turned, hugging Ayesha, keeping her as a shield, swinging his shotgun around. He smelled bad, he smelled like street living and desperate days. "It's a hell of a way to get bus fare!"

I leapt, kicking him in the chest. He crashed back against a table, but his grip hadn't let up on Ayesha. He aimed the gun over her shoulder and in one hand let it off. But I jumped, landing 'on' the ceiling, the power in me defying the laws of physics as I took a running jump 'off' the cieling, and kicked his head back into the table's edge. My foot slid off his dome and for a second I thought I'd fall, but I turned it into an artful spin and landed on my hand and feet.

Drool hung from his lip, eyes dazed. But the dude was on something, eyes flared pink, body pushed beyond its normal limit. He raised his shotgun again, but this time there was a flash of white teeth. Ayesha bit the wrist of his gun hand, blood spurting from the skin. The shotgun went off wild, murdering a poor booth seat some where to my left.

"That's enough of that!" I whipped my fist forward, throwing my body into it, and clocked him hard in the temple.

The lights went out in junky town and he slumped to the side, his grip on Ayesha easing. She pulled out from his clutches and stumbled into me, grabbed me and hugged me hard, shaking.

"Thank you," she sobbed, "Thank you Hotspur."

I had my arms up over her, looking down where she hugged me around the chest, body thumping hard with power and the warm feeling of a pretty girl pressed against me.

"Uh..." I said, moronic in the moment. I carefully untangled myself as police sirens started to blare through Down Town. "That's my cue to leave!" I said, pulling out from her hug. I ran for the door.

"You're my hero!" Ayesha called as the bell rang above my head, speed picking up as I ran. A crowd had built up outside, and one good leap got me over their heads and leaving their gaping mouths far behind, the cold Fall wind whipping around me as I bounded out into the city.
Friendly neighborhood hotspur?
By the time I got back the cops had the robber cuffed, forcing him into the back of a squad car. I'd stowed my gear up behind a trash can at the back of an alley where no one could see. I was groaning with hunger but tried not to let it show, my body humming with the afterglow of an adrenaline rush.

Out the front Kay was sobbing in Ayesha's arms, fanning herself as she tried to give a cop a witness statement.

"It was just so fast," she said, face bunched up and pink, "I didn't even know what was going on until...until..."

"And the other guy, the one who stopped him," the cop said, "Did you see him enter? When did he show up."

"No, I was...I hid under a table I didn't see..."

"It's alright. What about you kid?" he turned his questions to Ayesha, "Did you see this uh..." he checked his notes, "this 'Hotspur' enter the shop?"

"I was a bit busy with a shotgun in my face," she snapped, her focus more on Kay, "Why are you asking questions about him? He caught the bad guy, he saved my life while you were busy getting donuts."

The cop's posture changed, his note book closing and a hand moving to his belt, near his gun without it being illegal.

"Oh yeah, you're real tough," Ayesha said, cheeks still wet with tears, "Now the action's over you're a real tough guy."

"Ayesha," Kay said, pulling at her friend's sweater, "Cut it out."

Ayesha gave the cop an ugly look. "Whatever," she said as the cop went to talk to one of the kitchen staff. She hugged Kay close, walking away from the police tape. That's about when they saw me.

"Thank God you're ok," Ayesha said. They both sagged with relief.

"Sorry I ran," I said.

She gave a cool smile. "It's cool man, protect ya neck." But Kay was still crying.

"You ok?" I asked. Kay nodded but it wasn't convincing.

Behind us came Hunter's voice. "That was fuckin' wild!"

Rufus and Zeke were with him. "Nobody got hurt, right?" Zeke asked.

"No, everyone's fine," Ayesha said, "Thanks to Hotspur."

"Who?" Hunter asked.

"He's a...um...he's," Ayesha pulled her sweater up over her mouth, face scrunched up and blushing. I made a soft sound in the back of my throat, squirming awkwardly.

"Some kind of super hero," Kay said, "He sprung out of no where. He saved us."

"Then he just...took off," Ayesha said, "Disappeared into the sky."

"Maybe he heard a cat up a tree needed rescuing," Hunter said.

It was while Ayesha gushed over this mysterious 'Hotspur' that I got a text.

Kemal - dude, you want to come to a senior party? y/n

The party. in all the action I'd forgotten about it.

I looked to the others. Kay was still in a state, Ayesha squeezing her in comfort. Hunter was starting to look board, scratching ihs belly for something else to do.

>text back a y
>text back a n
I hope you guys don't mind the name being pre-set
>text back a n
Kay must have some suspicions about us unless she was freaking out too much to pay any attention us going into the bathroom, hotspur leaving and running off, and then us never coming back out of the bathroom. Let's make sure she's okay, if she doesn't realize we were hotspur then it just looks like we ditched her completely.
>text back a y
The world is a big place - let's see if we can't invite our new friends along with us to take their mind off things
Not at all! hotspur is a great name :)
Rolled 1 (1d2)

flipping a coin

1 is y
2 is n

I think I'll take a break there and open the next session with the winning vote.

hope you guys are enjoying this quest. oc cape stuff is pretty niche so I appreciate the guys sticking with it. hopefully we can get to some pretty exciting places soon.
well i can already tell there's gonna be trouble at the party cause lately mc have been in a lot of situations where there's trouble
which is good if we want to do more hero stuff
we also need a better costume
now that we got a name
just like spider man we'll create our own costume
wonder if we have more abilities besides super strength and good hops like izuku midoriya
Oh boy those typos.
Me - Y. is it cool if I bring some friends?

Kemal - All good homie. The more the merrrier!

I put down my phone. "You guys want to go to a party?" I asked, "Could help take our minds off this stuff."

The crowd was starting to break up, the excitement over. Now it was mostly just us hanging out the front of the police taped pizza parlor. I shoved my hands in my pockets. I was still thrumming with the after shock of it all. The fear and adrenaline was gone, the hunger had set in and I was feeling the good kind of weak, with a sharper clarity than usual.

"It's a senior thing. My friend Kemal is throwing it," I said.

"The Arab guy?" Hunter said.

"Sounds good," said Zeke. We looked to the girls. Kay sniffed, and after another reassuring squeeze from Ayesha, nodded.

Kemal sent me the address, a house on the north side, and Hunter ordered an uber. We waited in the chill afternoon, the city getting back to normal like nothing strange had happened. By Chicago standards maybe nothing had. When the uber came we all squeezed into the back seat. There was more of us than was legal but the driver didn't care, and I didn't mind having Kay pressed so close to my hip. The driver passed out free water and a pack of skittles. I'd popped the bag and downed half the packet before thinking about it.

Hunter made horking pig noises. It got a giggle out of the others.

"Sorry," I said, handing the pack over.

"You got that post-terror hunger," Rufus said, rolling a couple in his mouth.

"Me, I can't even think about food," Zeke said.

I pressed my cheek to the window, watching the street lights whip by, embarrassed and trying to forget it. I closed my eyes, and could feel myself like I had back there, leaping into the sky, the staring faces under me as I whistled overhead, bounding down the street with one impossible leap. That feeling of my body freed from the clutch of gravity, my fear dropping out under me as a sweeping joy took hold.

Getting shot at was scary, but that? My hands were shaking in my pockets. That had been amazing. Together it had been a rush like I'd never felt, life itself reduced to a microsecond reaction, me against him with the safety of my friends between us.

I didn't know enough about morality, philosophy or whatever else to explain it or justify it. But I'd liked it, and not just because of the cocktail of fear and adrenaline that had washed through me. It felt good to know I'd kept them from being hurt. That I'd done something right.

"You think there'll be beer?" Hunter asked.

"It's a senior party, they'll probably have a keg," Zeke said.

"I could do with something harder," Rufus said.

We rolled up on a suburban house, two storys, with a low bass beat pumping out the windows. A couple of older kids were out on the lawn drinking. We got out. Hunter slipped the uber driver a ten.
We looked at each other feeling kind of nervous. I'd never been to a big party like this before. Maybe the others had, Hunter seemed relaxed.

"You good?" I asked Kay.

"I think so," she said with a weak smile.

"Well then what are we waiting for?" Ayesha said, taking her by the hand.

Inside were a bunch of seniors, sitting around drinking, bass thumping from a set of speakers. I didn't recognize anyone, but Rufus waved at one of the black girls, strutting over while Zeke snooped around. They had a pool out the back. It'd have to be heated to be worth swimming in this weather.

"Yo!" Kemal's voice boomed over the speakers. He skipped down the stairs to the upper floor, grinning, a beer in hand. He punched me in the chest, forced a beer in my hand. Then he said "Wait, do you drink?" and took the beer back. He wasn't all that sober. His drowsy dark eyes moved past me to my friends."Hey, Eponine, wassup?" he said to Kay.

She tucked a lick of hair back behind her ear. "Hey Kemal," she said with a thin smile.

"You guys look like you've been through some shit, what happened?" he asked, chugging the beer.

"There was a hold up at the pizza joint we were at," Ayesha said. She trembled a little. "But it's all ok. We're fine."

"Oh shit, that's a story," he said, going to the couch, "Spill the beans. Which joint was it?"

"Fransisco's," Ayesha said, popping down on the arm of the couch, "You know the one down in the Loop?"

Kemal bobbed his head along as the story started.

There was a case of beer open on the table, and a bottle of soda with a couple of cups. First I grabbed a handful of candies and scarfed them down.

I'd been drunk a whopping total of once in my life, the day before we'd left home for Chicago. My friends had swiped a bottle of whiskey from a drink cabinet and we'd split it in the woods behind my house, a goodbye drink playing like we were adults. We'd ended up puking so bad we thought we'd die.

>drink a beer, cut loose
>stick to soda pop, stay sober
>stick to soda pop, stay sober
Not now, not ever. Don't want to be like our father in that aspect.
>stick to soda pop, stay sober
fuck that shit
Agreed, rabid consumption of non-addictive foodstuffs on the other hand is a priority, gotta have our tank full, just in case
locked it in
Thoughts of Dad at the kitchen table, sitting in filth with a can of Blue Ribbon in his hand, had me pass over the beer. And I didn't want to deal with puke and a hang over anyway. I poured myself a cup of pop, some off-brand coke. Tastes about the same anyway.

There were a couple of Papa Johns pizzas on the table, free to eat. I devoured one of them in between chugging back pop, finally stopping myself after a heavy belch that caught some ugly looks from strangers.

Looking around I spotted Brian from detention with an Asian guy playing beer pong, a small crowd around them. There was a splash outside and a playful scream as partygoers found the pool.

We weren't the only juniors here. Ivy swished by with a bottle of vodka, a couple of shot glasses clutched in her fingers. When our eyes met for a second I saw her disgust, before a friend dragged her away. Whatever her problem was it was none of mine.

I moseyed back over to the others, Ayesha playing out the robbery, even miming shotgun blasts with added sound effects.

"Boom, boom!" she said, swinging around a cup of vodka and soda, her face already shiny, "I thought I was going to die, but then Hotspur came in-"

"The super hero," Kemal said.

"Yeah yeah," Ayesha said, nodding, "He leapt in saying all kinds of funny stuff. He said something, oh man I'll mess it up but it was like 'Who are you supposed to be, the pizza-burglar?' and then kicked him in the head."

Dammit, I thought, that was a better line than what I actually said. I hid my sour look behind a sip while Kemal laughed, clapping.

"Nice," he said, "He sounds like a badass."

"You think Hotspur is a brother?" Ayesha asked, "He was all covered up."

"No way is he a brother," Rufus said, cuddled up with a girl.

"Why's that?" Ayesha asked.

"Only a white guy thinks punchin' a crook in the head is doing some good," he said, his attention more on the girl then what he was saying.

"Boo, boo to that, no way. A brother can throw hands," Ayesha said, hiccuping, "But whatever he is," a drunk-tinged grin grew across her face, "I bet he's cute."

I blushed, shoving my face in my cup, or my cup in my face.

"Sounds like someone's in love," Kay teased.

Ayesha's face went hot and she squirmed. "Oh shut up!" she said with a grin, looking up at the ceiling. "So...so anyway back to the story. So he, Hotspur, kicks the guy in the head and we go down. The guy's still holding me y'know, so we both hit the ground. God my heart was beating so hard. And then the gun came up and I thought 'no, I've got to do something' so I bit his wrist and-"

"Can we stop please?" Kay said, hugging her knees, "Just stop talking about it. I just...really want us to stop." Tears started building in her eyes again.
"Oh man, I'm sorry Kay," Ayesha said, slipping down to hug her friend, "You alright? Is it your anxiety?"

Kay nodded, sniffing, eyes pink and glassy. "I'm sorry let's just talk about something else ok?" she said, taking a long sip of her beer.

"Bet," Ayesha said, wrapping her arms around her shoulder.

"Hey Kemal, ain't you a Muslim?" Rufus asked as Kemal opened another bottle of beer.

"Yeah," he said, snorting as he took a drink.

I refilled my cup, hunger settling.

"How about you, Eric?" Kemal asked, "You doing good?"

I swallowed.

"I'm fine," I said.

"Of course he's fine," Hunter laughed, "He was out of there so fast we didn't even see him go! If you can move like that on the court we have this season in the back." Zeke and Rufus both snickered along with him.

"What about you, Hunter," a voice from behind me and I turned. Ivy stood with a shot of clear vodka, a look of hot girl contempt on her face. "I bet you were rock solid and stood your ground. A real badass."

He dried up under her glare. She tipped her head back, swallowing the shot. "That's what I thought," she said, "What'd you say this guy's name was again?" she fired at Ayesha.

"Hotspur," Ayesha replied, "But we're done talking about that, ok?"

"Huh," Ivy said. That's all she said, but then she glanced at me, and my skin prickled and my heart stopped. Did she know, was I that transparent? I froze up, staring at her. "Whatever, losers," she said, "If you're done crying I'll be in the pool." And she walked away, her spell broken, leaving me to sag with uncertainty.

"What's her problem?" Ayesha snapped.

"Ivy? Nah, she's just..." but Kemal couldn't do much but shrug.

"A bitch?" Zeke suggested, getting a laugh.

Whatever that look from Ivy had meant, it left me shook.

>I think I should go
>stick around the party a while longer.

I should probably write this up in something with a spell and grammar check before posting.
>I think I should go
Seems like Kay isn't into it
>stick around the party a while longer.
I kinda wanna romance Ivy. She seems like a cool person - plus, I got a thing for Tsunderes myself
>stick around the party a while longer.
Try to get Kay into some party games. Bouncing after that might be a giveaway.
sorry, had some computer problems.

locking in

might be a while before the next update though
because of some really stupid things going on I'll have to post pone the next update

No worries, real life takes priority. Thanks for running!
No worries Bully, it's worth the wait. I just got caught up with the story. :)
>stick around the party a while longer.
>Hang with Ivy and Kay, make sure nothing bad happens to them
I telling you guys bad shit has been happening alot lately around eric
The others all split off to do other things. I set my own worries aside and slid onto the couch next to Kay.

"Hey, you doing alright?" I asked.

She blew into the top of her bottle of pre-mix, candy cane alcohol. "Yeah, I think I'll...sorry for being such a wimp," she said, "You don't have to babysit me if you want to have fun." She looked sorry too, beating herself up inside.

"We've all had enough fun for one day," I said.

"I know Hunter made a crack about you running away, but its...its ok that you did, Eric," she said, "I don't think it makes you a coward. Heck I was too scared to even run. You saw me hiding under the table. I'm so stupid."

She looked ready to beat herself up again. I wasn't going to let that happen.

The party vibed around us. It wasn't wild but there was an energy in the air that cracked. The bass thumped the air. The beer pong table burst into cheers as a senior downed a beer. Being sober it was more a headache than fun. I got up and gave Kay my hand.

"Let's find some place quieter," I said.

"Oh, sure," she said, taking it with a warm squeeze.

We looked for a spot to find a place to talk and ended up on the second story, on a balcony looking out over the pool. We weren't 'alone' alone, there were a couple of others up there, but they stuck to a dark corner not paying us any mind. A splash from down beneath us and I saw Zeke bobbing in the pool, Kemal a step behind him, shouting 'cannonball!' as he leapt in. Water errupted in a great splash, wetting the girls lounging on the edge. They shrieked in playful annoyance as Kemal spluttered water.

It occured to me I didn't know whose house this was. "Do you think we'll get in trouble for being here?" I asked.

Kay grinned. "If we do it isn't the worst trouble we've been in today," she said, leaning on the railing. She turned wistful, looking up to the starry sky. "I've never been so close to dying before today," she said, "It really makes you think."

"Yeah?" I said.

"Yeah, mostly 'Oh God, oh God, I don't want to die'," her nose crinkled in amusement. I smiled at the dark joke. She took a long sip.

"It just makes everything seem so fake right now. Are we really doing this party stuff, just throwing our time away when it can all get snatched from us at any second?" she said, "It makes me think about my parents. God, they're such phoneys. Acting all lovey-dovey in front of us but arguing behind closed doors. Why waste all that time playing a game you don't even like when it's all just...all so short."

She looked up at the sky and I thought she was going to cry again.
"You know all those stars up there?" she said, "They're all dead. They've been dead for millions of years. All we're seeing is their...their ghosts. And if there's life out there looking at our star its the same story. By the time they notice us we'll already be gone." Her face crinkled up and she dabbed tears from her cheek on the sleeve of her sweater. "Like that star there, what even lives there?"

"That's Mars," I said.

"Well...great. Even the planets are dead," she said. She gave me a look, like she was annoyed at being corrected. I think she was starting to slide into proper drunk territory. But then she thumped her head on my shoulder, sighed. I swallowed, a nervous clutch starting downstairs.

She really was pretty. Auburn hair with the slightest curl, playful freckles on her cheeks, and big green eyes I could drown in. My heart hummed, something I don't think hearts are supposed to do.

"Thanks, Eric. You're really good at listening," she said, "You're a good friend."

It was a splash of cold water. 'Good friend' was the last thing a guy wanted to hear.

>take it for what it was, a compliment
>screw being a friend, try to kiss her
>take it for what it was, a compliment
I think being still being able to see the stars after they're gone is a good thing. thinking about mom
>take it for what it was, a compliment
Wait is our mom dead or just in the hospital?
locked in
"Thanks," I said, swallowing the acid in my throat. She smiled, nestling against me in a way that didn't feel like friends.

"You know, the stars aren't really gone," I said, "They just...change. Either they grow so large their energy disperses out across the universe, riding the cosmic waves to the edge of infinity. Or they collapse into themselves, becoming black holes. Either way they become...miracles."

For a second I wasn't with her. It wasn't my voice I heard. I was on the back porch back home, outside and shivering in the gentle snow fall standing by her telescope, her gentle fingers guiding my eyes across the night sky, a brilliant display of stars stretching out over our heads running from horizon to horizon. An owl called its lonely hoot from the woods behind our house, the crackle of a fire popping in the fireplace inside.

I was six I think, or seven.

"It's an astounding miracle, our universe. It's so young yet so old, and it will keep growing and growing," she said, "Until it grows too big and then it'll become something else too, just like a star. And when it does we'll see for ourselves, but not with these eyes, not with these faces and names. People are like stars too. We change, and when we leave we aren't really gone. We become something new. Maybe we ride the cosmic wave to the edge of space. Wouldn't that be something?"

It was too cold to feel anything except her warm fingers on my cheek.

"You're my brilliant little star, Eric, my little miracle," she said. Her lips pressed on my forehead, a soft tender kiss.

Then I was back where I'd been, standing with Kay looking up at the stars, her cuddled against me, for warmth and comfort.

The moment was broken by the loud 'whoop' of a police siren. Someone downstairs yelled 'oh shit!' and kids started scrambling across the yard, laughing.

"Break it up now, break it up!" the bullfrog voice of a cop yelled from downstairs, "You all got parents to get back to! That better not be what I think it is kid. Someone turn off this music, it's trash, you kids listen to trash!"
Kay tensed but her fear was playful. "Oh my dad will kill me," she said, dropping the bottle. She took my hand. "We have to get out of here!" But she ran laughing, towing me behind, and I followed after laughing just as wild.

We got out of there and I don't remember how. Kids scattered into the bushes and into the street, the cops more annoyed as they hunted as with flashlights, but didn't bother running anyone down.

We ran down to the end of the street, stopping under a street light. Kay puffed a light mist, checking her auburn curls behind her ear. I leaned on the street light, grinning.

"Maybe we should call this the end of the night," she said, "I should get home. My parents are going to be worried sick by now."

"Yeah," I said, knowing Dad was probably just passed out on the couch.

"You really turned my night around," she said, tugging on my sleeve. She bit her bottom lip. "See you at school."

"See you there," I said, rubbing my throat. She grinned once more before skipping out into the night, right as Zeke and Kemal came running past, howling with laughter.

I shook my head. It was about time to turn in.

With streetlight for company I started the cold trek home.
brb taking a break
Over the next week 'Hotspur' was on everyone's lips. At school, in the news, on social media. #Hotspur was trending on twitter and with it a blurry photo of me mid-leap over the heads of a gaping crowd. Talking heads were debating my existence all over the place, across blogs and talking head tv shows, and one thing I found out quick was the cops? They were not fans.

"We can't have these kind of hot dog vigilantism," a spokesman for the Policeman's Union said, the perfect blonde newsanchor nodding to what he said, "It's lucky he didn't get everyone in the pizza shop killed. Now we aren't going to get drawn into the particulars of supposed 'super powers' but law enforcement is the responsibility of Chicago PD and other legal authorities. So if whoever is running around in the mask is listening, buddy-"

Dad changed the channel with a grunt.

"That's better," he said, "I like this chick." He was talking about Priscilla Takanawa, who was standing out the front of Fransisco's with a mic in hand. I had to agree with Dad, she was pretty hot. We'd caught her mid-sentence.

"-local pizzeria 'Franscisco's'. The armed intruder, known to authorities as Leon cardanelli, was said to have multiple outstanding gambling debts to a criminal organization known to most as 'the Outfit', also referred to by the FBI and other federal agencies as the Mangielo crime family. The robbery was just one in the latest of a spreading crime wave through out the city, instigated, some experts believe, from the release of Salvatore 'Rooster' Mangielo from Stateville Correctional Center after having served only two years of a ten year sentence. Mr Mangielo denies any responsibility for the spread of crime throughout the city, and says he is being used as a 'scapegoat' for the institutionalized failures-"

Dad clicked over to the basketball with a frown. "You don't need to hear any of that," he said. For the next half hour we watched the Bulls get their asses kicked.

Dad lowered the remote. "I heard you joined the basketball team," he said.


"That's good, I'm glad you've got something to...take your mind off things."

"I'm mostly just the waterboy," I said. Technically assistant waterboy. I was still Howie's underling.

"Work hard and you'll get there," he said, squeezing my shoulder. He stank of stale beer and cigarettes, his shirt two days old. "How's school going, made any friends yet?"

"A few," I said. Since the robbery I'd fallen in as part of Kay's group. Her, Ayesha, Zeke, and Dane, with Hunter around when he wasn't with his team mates. I'd got friendly with a couple of guys on the team too, mostly Rufus and a string bean named Tim. Kemal too, but Kemal was friends with everyone.

Dad smiled with relief. "Good, you were starting to worry me," he said.

Mostly over the last week I'd focused on:

>studying, I needed to turn my B+ into an A
>training, both my powers and my basketball skills
>socializing, I'm trying to get to know everyone better
>training, both my powers and my basketball skills
>training, both my powers and my basketball skills
locked in

All week I'd spent my time training. Running drills with Rufus and Tim, trying to nail down Mr Nfume's 'triangle plays'. Working on my shooting. I still wasn't much of a player but I was starting to nail a little over half of every shot. Of course once defence came into it that average dropped. Mr Nfume was relentless without being a bully, pushing me every time I was on the court. By weekend though I still wasn't ready to play.

Still it was good for my athleticism, and good for my 'other' training.

Late nights if Dad was out or drunk I'd slip out to the warehouse I was starting to think of as my 'hideout'. It's corny, the place was empty and undecorated, but the more time I spent there working on my own drills and power-fed plays, the more it felt like my space. I'd figured out a couple of new things.

With enough speed I could run clean up the side of the wall, all the way up to tap the ceiling. Run along the wall able to touch the ground when I did. But I needed a good lead time and speed, I needed to focus, and it left me tired.

Still there was something in bounding along the walls, running full tilt, that left me laughing. It turned dead air into a wind tunnel, the feeling of running free from the control of gravity something like true freedom.

My powers didn't just boost my strength or speed or whatever. There was something in them that broke the basic rules of physics. It wasn't just my speed or strength that let me bounce around pillars and run clear up a straight wall. Something else was at play but I didn't have the words or the knowledge to explain it.

I'd stop when I was at my limit, coated in sweat and panting. But my limit was growing the more I trained. When I went into Luis' shop, hungry as I wasn't as crippled as I'd been those first nights. Maybe I was unconciously learning to hone my control and release of the fire. Maybe the fire was growing stronger as I grew stronger. I don't know, but I still ate like a stable of horses though.

"You're getting famous," Luis said when I ducked in late afternoon, chill outside dropping with the sun. He held up a paper with the blurry photo on it. "Hotspur, huh, not bad."

The photo made me cringe. I looked awkward with my knees up to my chest and arms flung out beside me. Like some Naruto shit. I was glad it was blurry though, a quick snap on someone's phone.

"It's just something I made up in the moment," I said. I put down some change for an icecream sandwich.

"You still looking out for local trouble?" he asked with a conspiratorial look. I nodded. "Well-" he cut off sharp when a couple of customers came in. He was all smiles for them, friendly greetings. I went back to flip through some magazines. It could wait.

When they were done I wandered back with one in hand. I scritched his cat under the chin, earning a pur.
He leaned back over the counter. "Some Reapers been hanging around the park messing with folks. Stick ups mostly, but give it a while and the wrong chiquita and it'll be something worse."

I nodded. I'd seen enough of the Reapers around the place. Tattooed up in street wear, menacing people just for a laugh. A Reaper had spooked Mrs Valdez the other day when she'd come home with groceries. She'd dropped half of them and they kicked a bunch on the road just to watch her scramble after it.

Bullies and jagoffs every one of them.

"It's good what you're doing, holmes," he said, "The city needs someone who ain't on the take."

I chowed into the ice cream sandwich. It was cold on my teeth but I'd need the fuel. I waved goodbye to Luis as I ducked out, heading down a row of two-and-three flats in the general direction of the park. I stepped in an alley, pulling up my hood, pulling on my goggles. Good thing about Chicago was all the alleyways. Ever since the fire way back whenever, city officials made sure there was space between homes so if a fire started it didn't take half the city with it.

I looked to the top of the three floor apartment, and with a breath I turned the kindle of fire in me into a rising flame, and drawing on it kicked off, landing with a roll on the roof. I was getting good at my landings, not quite stylish but it took the shock off my legs.

I ran and leapt, night wind's chill cutting through my fluttering hoodie, clearing three houses at a time, landing with a thud to startle whoever was in. Running at night sent a thrill through me, the stars yawning above, the street lights beneath my feet, all the city turned into a dark ocean marked by pools of light.

Up ahead the forested park looked like something primordial in the night, the realm of Robin Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, where beasts and strange creatures would lurk, more than east side Chicago. A street light flickered at the park border, dividing society from primeval wilderness.

Of course in the day its effect wasn't so powerful, my imagination and building excitement transforming it into something way grander than it was.

Was it bad how excited I felt, coming up to it now? My body throbbed with the hot pulse of white fire. That alone set excitement racing through me. But the idea there was something ahead of me, a confrontation, the risk of injury or even death, heightened even more with its intoxicating shot of fear.

Maybe I'm crazy.

I leapt, and landed on the top of a street light, hanging by one arm like some kind of strange monkey.

Laughter, laughter with an edge. It wasn't just drunk, and it wasn't the kind of high you got from weed.
I leapt again and landed in the trees.
Reapers stood in a circle around a burning trash can, passing a bottle and a pipe. One was playing with a knife, clicking it out and cutting the air, the fire light glowing off the blade and leaving a faint after trail. High off their heads it must be entrancing, the light trails and the glint of steel. A drowsy eyed girl in a too big jacket stared in wonder with drool hanging from her lip.

One of them, a big guy with a face webbed with tattoos, finished the bottle of whiskey, then hauled back and pitched it into the air.

A snub-nosed revolver flashed into his hand. The muzzle flared and the bottle shattered into a rain of shards. His boys howled with delight. I had to admit, it was pretty impressive.

"What we doin' tonight?" one said.

"Whatever the fuck we want," the gun man replied, "I got a good feelin' bout tonight. A good night for hunting."

They laughed. "Maybe we hit up Navaja's later," one said as they started out from their little bonfire, "There's a chicky there I had my eye on. It's not my knife I jus' want to get some blood on." Crude laughter spilled out in their wake.

I let out a nervous breath, my arms starting to tingle over.

This wasn't like the pizza shop. This wasn't me reacting.

>hit them now before they can react
>tail them for a bit, see what they're up to
>hit them now before they can react
I think we've heard enough
>hit them now before they can react
This is as good as it gets. I doubt they'll split up if we wait longer - now's our chance to strike.
locked in

we're going to need a roll in a sec
It was time to act. I swallowed my caution.

With a burst I leapt, and landed on an archway, squatting, arms hanging over my knees, a faint white glow under my feet.

"Well if it isn't the Get Along Gang," I said, hands shaking with nerves, "What are you doing out this fine evening?"

Confused swearing broke out. "Who the fuck issat?" knife guy said, flicking out his switch.

"It's that super-homeboy or something," gun man said. The others gaggled around him, their girl starting to laugh.

"Holy shit man," she said, clearly not with us as she looked all starry-eyed around. She stamped her boots, cackling. "I'm in a comic book!"

"Nah, fuck that. Get that motherfucker," the gun guy said, drawing his nickle-plated piece.

I launched from my perch, right down among them, as guns and knives came out of hiding places. The girl shook in place, teeth bright in a clenched grin.

>roll 3 x 1d100 + 25 dc 70
Rolled 97 + 25 (1d100 + 25)

ooh, so close to a crit!

crit fail can still lose this for you though
Rolled 24 + 25 (1d100 + 25)

Watch this
one more
Rolled 27 + 25 (1d100 + 25)

Minus the woman these guys were all bigger than me, and I don't know much about fighting. But with my powers and these guys stumbling half drunk, right now I didn't need to know. I swung a long punch, fast, and it clocked the knife guy with a flash, the edge of my knuckles glowing on his cheek, fading as he dropped.

I ducked under a swung chain, the chain slashing over the goon behind me, tearing hair and skin and making him drop with a scream. I leapt at the Reaper with the chain, legs pulled up in front of me. A look of panic crossed his face as I drove my feet against his chest and spring boarded backward, flipping as I did to land on the low branch of a Fall stripped tree.

A gun shot tore through the tree trunk and I flinched at the spray. The big guy with the gun was tracking a bead on me, snarling. I sprung up and over his head.

"Nice shot, Tex," I said, sailing overhead. "Or is that Mex?" I said as I hit the ground in a squat, "Doesn't matter I guess."

He turned and I turned too, back to face each other. The gun was bright in his hand, the hammer drawing back. It was shoved in my face, I could just about smell the bullet. I saw Death in the Reaper's grin.

Then I dropped low as it went off, blasting overhead. One breath slower and my brains would have been fertilizing the lawn.

"Springy little bastard!" he howled, trying to whip me with the gun.

I grabbed his forearm as it came down, and with a surge of power, squeezed my hand.

Bone popped under my grip and I flinched in shock. An ugly howl burst from his throat as his forearm dangled at a full right angle. Revulsion swept over me at the contorted limb, the gun useless in his fingers. He swung around, crying and swearing in Spanish, before finally dropping to his knees to vomit.

I backed up, breathing fast, my hand shaking.

"Bastard!" the girl screamed, face contorted in a junky rage, coming at me with a knife, "You dick sucking mother fucker!"

My feet were stuck with shock and she cut a line out of my hoodie. The knife passing through my shirt brought me back to attention, and I bobbed forward, socking her in the ear. She dropped. I flinched.

"Oh shit," I said. She twitched on the grass, blood trickling from her ear drum, "Oh God! Sorry, I'm sorry." I felt like an asshole, hitting a girl, even with a knife. And I don't know how hard I'd hit her. I'd tried to pull it last second but...
She writhed on the grass holding her head. All the Reapers did, moaning in pain, piled over the grass. I panted, standing over them, fists bunched in front of me.

I had done some real damage to them. There was nothing fun about the sight of them laid out at my feet.

I went to my phone to call an ambulance. I stopped myself. "Idiot," I pressed the phone to my face before putting it away. I might as well just give myself over to the police if I did that.

I shivered, flexing my hands. Both from my shock and from the cold.

>leave them here, they'd made their bed
>find someone to call an ambulance
>find someone to call an ambulance
Use one of their phones to minimize the amount of attention
We aren't heartless
Good idea, let's use one of their phones
locked in. writing
I squated in the grass and reached into the jacket pocket of the guy who had tried to shoot me. He writhed, teeth clenched on spit and vomit, wriggling away from me.

"You fuckin' dead, pendejo," he snarled, clutching his ruined arm. Tough talk but there was no way he was getting up.

I looked at the lockscreen, a picture of him grinning with a smiling baby in his lap. Must be his kid. I don't know how someone like in the picture, beaming with love for the baby in his hands, could be the same guy leaking blood and spit into the grass, growling grotesque threats through pain and fear.

"What's your password?" I asked, "Don't worry, I won't steal your phone. Seriously, you might lose your arm if you don't get to a hospital."

He muttered it out and I called 911.

"911 Emergency," a tired voice on the other hand.

"Yeah, there's been a fight, a bad one. A lot of guys are hurt. You better send the cops and a couple ambulances down to..." I said. I gave the park name and nearest entrance, then hung up and crushed the phone into shards of plastic with a single squeeze of my hand. "That could be your other arm," I warned him, throwing what was left of his phone on his chest, "Maybe find a different hobby. I hear DnD is fun."

He spat at me as I limped away, feeling drained more from the rush than from the power-drain that normally followed a fight like this. Still the fire within me was a dull flicker as I drew on it, launching myself up into the cold night, the distant screech of sirens already on the wind.
I'll pick this up after a break. Hope you guys are having fun.
I am having fun. I really enjoy your writing style! How did you develop it? What do you read? Do you play tabletop?
>I am having fun. I really enjoy your writing style! How did you develop it? What do you read? Do you play tabletop?

Thanks, I'm glad you like it. I don't know, its just how I put words together. Osmosis I guess. I write a lot as a hobby and I read a lot of different stuff. I don't play as much tabletop as I used to, and I've only played the big games like DnD and WoD.
>Hope you guys are having fun.
Definitely. Love your writing style.
Yep having fun, interested in the development of the character and what'll happen next
ok let's do some of this
I got home some time after midnight, up the fire escape trying to be quiet. The rusty metal wasn't letting me though, and it squeaked and groaned under every step. The mangy cat whisked his tail at the sight of me, angling for a pat while I shimmied open my bedroom window. Once in I pulled off my hoodie, fingering the slash across the chest. It hadn't cut through to the skin, hadn't even cut the shirt I was wearing underneath. Still that kind of slice would be hard to explain to Dad, so I bundled it under my bed.

As super hero costumes it wasn't exactly fancy. Hoodie, googles, and a scarf for a mask. But it made do, it was cheap, and I didn't exactly have access to fancy fabrics or anything like that. I'm working class. I don't have Elon Musk money.

Checking the apartment I was glad to see Dad had made it to bed this time, snoring on his back in the rumpled up blankets of his bed.

I slid past to the bathroom.

My hands were shaking. Bruised knuckles and tracks of blood. I washed the blood off under warm water, wincing. Opening my hands stung. I wondered if I broke anything. There were a bunch of fragile little bones in the hand. Every basketball player I knew had messed up their fingers some how on account of how fragile those bones could be. Mr Nfume had a pointer that didn't point straight any more, and Hunter's pinky stood at an odd angle.

Throw fistfights with gangsters into the mix and I had to be careful before my hands became weird, mangled up crab claws. Whatever my power did it didn't make me completely invulnerable to damage, it just softened it a bit. As for how quick I'd recover, I had no idea.

I spent the weekend waiting to hear something about what I did, but other than a knowing look from Luis it didn't catch any attention. I guess super heroics in the Loop stood out more than in a rundown west side neighborhood. There were no pictures of me on twitter or whatever, or any commentary in the papers. I wasn't in it for the fame anyway, and I might not have heard anything about Reapers getting beat down in the park, but I didn't hear anything about little old ladies getting jacked either. So it was all good.

Late nights I spent scoping for trouble, haunting the roof tops of the neighborhood. A couple times I broke up a fight just by popping down between them, bangers scattering not willing to throw down. But truth be told it was a quiet couple of days.

When I went to school early one morning, hoping to get some practice in, it was less quiet.

I was moving through the quad between classrooms and the basketball court. It was laughter, nasty laughter, muffling whimpers.

"Quit crying you little puke," a boy's voice. "Quit crying and eat it up."
They were under the tree, one pressing down on the other. His name was Jeremy. Never Jerry. Never, ever Jerry. Not unless you want a fist to the gut, and Jeremy wasn't shy about throwing a fist, and always in a way teachers didn't see. He was sneaky and nasty, luckily he also looked sneaky and nasty, with limp, greasy dark hair and a heavy brow, with a cruel little nose over fat, wet lips. He was also big like the Michelin Man, but the fat rolls hid muscle.

He'd never messed with me, but he'd messed with Ben and Chad, the nerds, and had stolen Annie's DS.

Right now he was ontop of another kid, caught in the hours before school started, and he was trying to forcefeed him a piece of paper.

The kid was Howie, kicking underneath him, sobbing as the crinkled up wad of paper was shoved at his mouth.

"Eat it up fat-ass," he said.

"No," he sobbed, "I don't want it. I don't!"

"Come on butterbean, you'll eat anything else," Jeremy's grin showed teeth, bright eyes. The kind of viciousness a Reaper would admire. He slapped Howie around the head. "Open up, retard," he said.

"Puh-puh-please, Jerry-me," Howie sobbed, snot running down his nose.

"The hell did you call me?" Jeremy's slap turned into a fist, "Goddamn retard, what did I say?"

>pull Jeremy off him
>go find someone, a teacher
>pull Jeremy off him
also maybe yell "Hey" in our most authoritative voice to make him hesitate with his punch and give us time to pull him off if he still tries to attack
>pull Jeremy off him
Oh boy, detention here we come
locked in and writing
"Hey!" I barked, stomping over the quad. Dead leaves crunched under my feet. Jeremy's head whipped around as I grabbed him by the back of his shirt. I hauled him back.

"Get off me!" Jeremy yelled, throwing a punch. It clipped my chin. I let him go. "You feeling sorry for the retard?" Jeremy sneered, lips curling around the pimples dotting under his nose. "You going to suck his little retard dick too? You all think he's just a harmless little moron, but he's a liar."

Howie blubbered in the grass and dead leaves, scrunched up wads of paper on his chest, his breasts jiggling as tears rolled down the slopes of his cheeks.

"What the fuck is your problem," I said, rubbing my chin.

"Hey I know you," a mean look flashed over his face, "Yeah, you're the new kid. The one we're all supposed to be nice to. Bet you like that, huh? bet you're eating it up. They told us we're all supposed to feel sorry for you just because your mom-"

My mind went red and I was on him. I didn't even draw on my powers, I just slugged him in the face, my bruised hand yowling in pain. But I didn't care. He looked stunned I'd hit him more than hurt, so I hit him again. That brought him into focus. He grabbed my shirt and we went down.

He started yelling, "Get off me, psycho, get off!"

I didn't realize why until a large hand closed on my shoulder, squeezed, and ripped us apart.

Mr Nfume held as apart, glaring one way then the other. Blood trickled from Jeremy's nostril. He sniffed it back, face in a flat smile.

"Thanks Mr Nfume, I thought he was going to kill me," Jeremy said, huffing.

"What happened here?" Mr Nfume asked.

"Well sir," Jeremy started.

"Not you," Mr Nfume said, "Or you Eric." He looked to Howie, still on the grass. "What happened Howie?"

"I wa-was showing Jerry-me my b-ball pictures," he said, clutching at the crumpled up balls, "He asked to see."

"And after," Mr Nfume looked at Jeremy with cold suspicion. Jeremy smiled at Howie.

"Tell him what happened, How-Wee," he said, tightening his fist.

Howie went pale, looked away. "Nu-nothing," he mumbled.

"Howie," Mr Nfume said, "Eric is your team mate. If you don't tell me what happened, he could be in trouble."

Howie sniffed, eyes crinkling up. "Nothing, nothing. We were goofing. I'm goofy, Jerry-me always say. I'm a goof."

"That's right, you're a big dumb goof," Jeremy said, his smile shark-like, "Mr Nfume, Eric probably saw us goofing and got the wrong idea. You shouldn't punish him, sir, he's new, doesn't know better."

Mr Nfume's expression could have melted stone, such pure contempt for Jeremy's lying.

"Get out of here, Kusich," he said, forcefully letting Jeremy go. Jeremy fixed his shirt and gave me a sweet smile, sickly on his toad face.

"Just a big misunderstanding," he warned me as he slipped away, "No hard feelings."

Mr Nfume let me go. "Now why don't you tell me what happened Eric?" he said.
"You can't believe him, you know he's an asshole," I said, voice tight with anger.

"I'm not allowed to say what I think about Jeremy," Mr Nfume said, "I'm a teacher, they'd fire me if I did. Now tell me what happened here, and tell the truth."

Howie's eyes widened with terror. He quivered on the ground as a wet patch spread on his pants. What did Jeremy do to terrify the kid so much? Whatever it was it made me hate him even more.

>tell Mr Nfume everything
>it was all a big misunderstanding
>tell Mr Nfume everything
We'll have to have Howie's back, just in case Jeremy wants to retaliate against him for this
Tell him he's our boss - as he so proudly announced when we were first recruited to the team. Is this how bosses act?
locked in and writing
I was going to tell him the truth, and I'd deal with the consequences of that.

"I came in early for some practice," I said, "Then I saw Jeremy trying to force-feed Howie balls of paper, right here on the quad. He was calling him all kinds of nasty names, hitting him. If that was 'goofing off' I don't want to see Jeremy being serious."

I looked over to Howie. "Jeremy's been messing with you a long time, huh Boss?" I said.

"B-boss?" Howie said.

I nodded. "Yeah, you're my boss, right? Well no one messes with my boss," I said, "Ever. And if he ever messes with you again..." I saw some courage gleam in Howie's teary eyes, his wobbling lips quirk into a smile.

Mr Nfume sighed, sitting on the beach under the Fall colored tree. "I know you're telling the truth, Eric," he said, "But I need to know if you'll support what he's saying, Howie. Jeremy isn't your friend. He's a bad kid. He's been a bad kid as long as he's been here, but he's smarter, or clever enough to cover it up."

Howie swallowed, chin wobbling. Did he even understand what we were talking about?

"You got basketball pictures?" Mr Nfume said, "Can I see them?"

Howie trembled, but then began to nod. He picked up the crumpled bulls from the ground. Trembling hands tried to smooth them out.

It was the kind of art you'd expect from a kid with disabilities, scrawled over lined note paper, practically incoherent and even a little disturbing. Basketballs flying over what I thought was a court, some of them smiling, others weeping with looks of existential horror. Stick figures stood under the flying basketballs holding hands, some with crude penises between their stick legs. I tried to hide how creepy they were, while Mr nfume nodded in consideration.

"These ones are sad because they're misses, right?" he said.

"Air balls," Howie shuddered, "Balls belong in the basket."

"And these guys holding hands," he underlined the stick figures with a finger, "That's the team?"

Howie nodded, eyes glistening over again. Mr Nfume held the paper out to him. "I really like this, Howie. Can I keep it? Its all right to say no."

"Y-you c-can keep it," Howie said. Mr Nfume folded it carefully and slid it into his coat pocket. It was how calm Mr Nfume was, it calmed Howie too, even calmed me.

"Thanks Howie," he said, "Now are you going to tell me about Jeremy?"

"Some times he pinches me real hard," Howie said, "Here," he touched his chest, his nipple, "And o-other places. Sometimes it hurts so bad I cry. He's just trying to make me not cry any more. 'You'll run out of tears then you'll be normal,' that's what he says. M-make me a man."
My jaw tightened, the fire inside me beginning to flare. Mr Nfume didn't react, he kept his attention fixed on Howie. When Howie was done he put a hand on his shoulder.

"You've had a big morning," he said, "Would you like to go home?" Howie nodded, bottom lip bobbing as if he was going to cry again. "It's ok to cry, Howie. Jeremy is wrong. A man doesn't run out of tears, he just learns what's worth crying over."

Howie snorted back a trail of snot.

"I'll call your mom," he said, standing up over us. "Eric, thank you for telling the truth. Be careful about Jeremy."

"I can take care of myself," I said.

"Probably," he said, "But the kid's a little freak. He won't do the obvious thing, he'll come at you sideways. I'm going to see if the school will finally expel him. It's way past time."

He should be arrested, I thought. He should be rotting in juvie. But I kept my mouth shut while Mr Nfume walked Howie away.

My chest burned with the fire of my power, stoked by a helpless rage. It burned so hot I thought it would burn me. It set my vision swimming. What was wrong with...with people like him? Cruelty, pointless cruelty just for some sick fun.

I ran my hands through my hair, shaking my head.

>I have to let some power out, go let it out on the court
>try to calm down, go wash up and let it rest
>I have to let some power out, go let it out on the court
>try to calm down, go wash up and let it rest
>try to calm down, go wash up and let it rest
All brawn and no brains makes us a puppet to our emotions. It's time to bite down and learn to control ourselves - and our power.
locked in, writing
As much as I wanted to blow off steam, doing it at school was short-sighted. Instead I made my way to a change room.

Because of how large the school is we have a couple of showers, most attached to the sports areas. I went to the basketball court changing room, stripped down and hit a cold shower. At first I didn't hear the sizzle over the running water, but I did notice the steam rising from my shaking arm. Bruised knuckles stood out ugly on my hand. I rubbed my eyes, my shaking starting to settle, the fire inside me settling from a roar to a banked murmur, waiting for the right fuel to reignite. The throbbing settled and my dizziness subsided.

When I was done I dried off with an old towel.

"Fuck," I said to the empty locker room, putting my face in my hands. A deep, chest heaving sigh went out of me.

I had to always keep something in mind. Whatever else I am, my powers made me dangerous. The sight of the Reaper's splintered arm flashed before me in gorey detail. If I lost my cool in a schoolyard scuffle, who knew what I might do? Jeremy wasn't worth blowing my cover or risking prison time.

I'd have to keep tabs on him though. Not for my sake, but for Howie's. He could be annoying but he couldn't help it, and he didn't deserve being tormented like that. I don't know if anyone did.

Dried off I dressed, slinking back into school.

"Hey!" down the crowded hall Kay came skipping up to me waving, Zeke and Ayesha following along behind. When we met she hugged my arm. "How was your weekend?"

Just friends, I had to remember. And then an ugly memory cut through the warm feeling in my chest. Jeremy's nasty little words.

'we're all supposed to feel sorry for you just because your mom-'

"It was good," I said, not going into detail, "Sorry if I haven't been around, I've been training."

"Working hard to get on the court," Kay said, "And when you do we'll cheer you on, right guys?"

She looked back over her shoulder and they smiled. "Sure thing," Zeke said, "But I can't imagine you as a cheerleader, Kay."

I could. "How's the History assignment coming along?" she asked as we drifted through the hall toward class.

It wasn't, not in any great detail. It was due by the end of the week. I could afford to miss some study but not a lot.

"You're covering Bleeding Kansas, right?" Ayesha said, correcting her glasses.
"Yeah, what did you pick?" I asked. We all had to pick a specific topic to do with the Civil War.

"Reconstruction," she said.

"I picked the airport fight," Zeke said, "You know the part where Spider-Man swings in? Badass."

Kay sighed, rolling her eyes. "Dork," she said, "Hey, why don't you swing by the auditorium later? I'll be trying out for Les Mis. Kemal will be there."

There was no training that I knew of today. We split the court with a bunch of other teams so we had to take what we could get in the scheduled. Today I was pretty sure the senior team had the court, splitting it with the junior volleyball team.

"Alright," I said with a shrug, "See you there."

School dragged slow. It didn't help when you had Mr Tagglebeck for a solid hour and a half. He was a papery old man who should have retired out years ago, but like an old ship captain he seemed determined to die at his desk. When the bell rang us out I was in an ok mood for some theater.

It helped that running the show was split between Ms Flores and Vice-Principal Getty.

They had a little desk set up on the stage, a small audience waiting, and a cluster of various theater kids waiting in the wings to audition.

Kemal waved me over. "Dude, so you're giving it a shot?" he said, bright smile on his caramel face.

"Nah, sorry man, I'm just here to support Kay," I said, looking for her.

"Ooh, she your girlfriend?" he asked with big brotherly energy. I blushed, shook my head. "But you want her to be your girlfriend, right?"

"Maybe, yeah," I said with a strained laugh, "Don't say it so loud, dude."

"You should tell her," he said, "If she doesn't know she might just think you're good buddies."

Sage wisdom. "Maybe," I groaned, hoping she didn't overhear.

I looked around for people I recognized. Only a few, Ivy, Dane, and Chad. Chad was sweating, lip drawn back over his horse teeth as he flipped through the script. Ivy played it cool, leaning back like she didn't care against an old-timey piano. They were in a sea of flamboyant theater kids all jockeying for attention.

The lights on the stage seemed both bright and hot from back here. The auditorium dark behind it.

"Gotcha!" my nerves were tight when she grabbed me around the shoulders. I bucked in surprise and almost threw her off. "Whoa there! Easy boy!" Kay laughed, tussling my hair. Once she was settled she punched my arm, "Thanks for coming. I mean it."

She tucked back a curl of hair, grinned but I noticed a tremor in her legs. She was way more nervous than she was acting.

"You got this," I said. I looked around. "Where are the others?"

"In the seats," she said, "Backstage is just for people trying out."

"So," she said, "Are you here to support me, or are you trying out for a part too?"

>I'm just here for you
>I'm here now, I may as well try out
>I'm just here for you
You've got this in the bag.
I'd be into trying out if it weren't les mis and if we weren't busy with other shit already
>I'm here now, I may as well try out
Variety is the spice of life. Might as well give it a shot and see if we're any good at it.
Rolled 2 (1d2)

I'm going to flip a coin

1 Eric doesn't audition
2 Eric does audition
Eric auditions

I'll update it later
>Motivate Kay
If Jeremy is the establish eye contact and audition with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRIfsFefatg
Update today?
that's the plan
"You know I'm here now," I said, "I may as well try out."

Maybe she'd like that. Maybe if I auditioned and passed we'd get to spend some time together, working on our lines, rehearsing together. But the smile she gave wasn't as bright as usual.

"Cool, good luck," she said, "Maybe you'll get a part in the chorus."

There were a lot of students from all over the school auditioning, standing back here with Kay in a sea of unfamiliar faces was more awkward than I expected, shuffling along as they prepared themselves with a focused intensity I didn't share. Even Kemal had stopped joking, and was in the grips of amping himself up, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

The rise and fall of vocal exercises surrounded me.

"So do you have something you're going to sing?" Kay asked. I hadn't even thought of that. "Do you know any of the songs?"

"I'm sure you'll be fine," she said, waiting in the dark back room as more kids were called out, sang their piece then moved on. She looked over to where Ivy was, standing by the piano. "Hey Ive, what are you trying out for?" she asked, "Are we going to fight it out for Eponine?"

Ivy smirked. "Please," she said, "I'm trying out for Javert."

Before long Kemal was out there, and from back where we were his belting audition rang out. He had a powerful, brassy voice. It rose prickles on the back of my arms. After that, someone really great would have to step out to steal Jean Valjean from him.

"Next!" the call came. Kay gave me a friendly nudge out toward the hot spotlight.

I stepped out with a nervous hitch in my step. The lights really were warm, sweat started to bead on my forehead. I looked out to the auditorium. I knew there were people sitting out there in the dark, but between my shaky nerves and the bright lights I couldn't make them out.

But I heard Ms Flores say, "Eric! Glad to see you. Whenever you're ready."

I swallowed, my feet all of a sudden stuck to the pinewood floor, my throat squeezed shut.

"Stage fright," Mr Getty stage-whispered.

"It's ok, Eric, just take your time," Ms Flores calm, warm voice said, honey in my ear.

>roll 3 x 1d100 dc 80
Rolled 40 (1d100)

Rolled 57 (1d100)

Rolled 19 (1d100)

rolling again, hope that's cool.
under 80 pls theatre is for nerds
Eric blows the audition, but not as bad as he could have

I went out there not really knowing what I was going to sing, and it showed. Maybe some people can pull an off-the-cuff showstopper, I discovered I wasn't one of them. It's not that I can't sing, but I don't have Kemal's pipes and nerves didn't help.

"All the other kids with their pumped up kicks," a puberty crack broke the melody, and the lyrics started to slip away from me.

The silence beyond the lights was respectful. When I was done I got a soft clap from a single pair of hands. I could guess it was Ms Flores.

"Good try," she said.

"We'll let you know by the end of the week," Mr Getty said, far less respectfully.

I shuffled off the stage, bright pink. Kemal met me in the wings.

"Hey, you took a shot, that's what counts," he said, "You looked good out there, bro. Maybe you'll get in the chorus too."

"Yeah, maybe," I said. The last thing I wanted to do was embarass myself even more.

Out on the stage, Kay started to sing, picking a song not just from the musical but for the role she was angling for. She'd prepared and regearsed, and it showed.

"On my own
Pretending he's beside me
All alone
I walk with him 'til morning

Without him
I feel his arms around me
And when I lose my way I close my eyes
And he has found me."

I stopped to listen, the passion in her voice sweeping up to the rafters. She sang with her eyes half-closed. I'd never paid any attention to musicals before, it wasn't my thing. But the words, and the emotion she poured into each line. Yeah I like her but...I dabbed at the corner of my eye.

"I love him
I love him
I love him
But only on my own."

She sang through tears, and when she was done I heard Ayesha whoop from the seats, applause ripple through the scarce filled seats.

Kay took a bow, smiling wide, before darting from the stage to where Kemal and I were standing.

"Yooo!" Kemal said, "That was dope."

"Thanks," she said with a blush.

"You were great," I said.

She smiled. "Yeah, and you were uh...it's really cool how you just put yourself out there!"

"They'd be stupid not to cast you," I said.

"Well we'll see," she replied.

We watched a few more. When Chad came out Kemal and I exchanged a look. At least I wasn't going to be the worst performances today. Chad's nervous energy glazed him with sweat and panic, sheet music crumpled in his fist. "Take your time," Ms Flores' calm voice called.

Then he launched into a passionate verse, his voice so rich and power it took us all by surprise. His big horse teeth were no barrier to a rich voice. Theater kids shot jealous looks from the wings, knowing they'd lost out on at least one lead role.
"Damn, Chad's hiding some jet fuel," Kay said when he bounced off. He looked flushed and wobbly, ready to puke, but he kept it in until he was with us. Then before we could say hi, he staggered over to a bin and choked out hot vomit. We shared a collective winced as he spat up the last of it.

The last person I knew auditioning was Ivy. She stepped out with a sneer. She prowled out, with the confidence and menace of a tiger in the grass. She looked over the darkness with such contempt I was impressed.

"There," she started, holding the note.

"Out in the darkness."

She commanded attention. Just like in detention when we had ran through some Shakespeare together.

"A fugitive running
Fallen from God
Fallen from grace."

My skin prickled.

"God be my witness
I never shall yield
Till we come face to face
Till we come face to face."

Call it charisma or something else, but she had a magnetic force as she prowled the stage, both a pretty blonde sophomore and somehow a menacing French police officer. It was a shame she was such an asshole.

Kemal stroked his chin looking halfway to being in love while Kay was pink with jealousy. When Ivy finished there was no applause or cheers, but there was irritated hissing from the gang of theater kids still waiting to go. She had no friends to cheer her on, from the way she strode off the stage I'm not sure she wanted any friends.

"Wow," Kemal said as she strode by, "See you at rehearsals."

She flicked back her hair, barely pausing to say "You too."

If Kay's eyes could start a fire, Ivy's back would explode into flames.

"Let's get out of here," she said, pulling on my arm.

We met up with the others outside. Ayesha was grinning from ear to ear.

"You rocked," she said as we started our way back to class..

"Yeah, you were pretty good," Zeke said, then looked at me, "But what the hell was that, 'Ric? You ever sing before, even karaoke?"

I blushed. "Be nice," Kay said, getting in his face, "At least he had the courage to audition."

"If you play like you sing, we're screwed," Hunter said.

"Whatever, whatever," I said, laughing off their dunks as we got to Kay's locker, "But seriously Kay, you were great. You got this."

"Thanks," she said, flicking her locker open. But then her smile blanched, and she gave out a high pitched scream.

Zeke bucked in shock. Ayesha clapped a hand over her mouth.

Sitting in the middle of Kay's locker was a dead rat, swarming with ants.

"Jesus," Zeke said, "How did that even..."
I peered over Kay's shoulder. Its neck had been broken, twisted like a corkscrew, ants climbed through its mouth, attacked the jelly of its beady little eyes. The little black ants crawled through its matted brown fur and over its pink claws. It stank something fierce from death and its own natural stink.

Jeremy, I thought, fury lighting my power.

But Kay hissed, "That bitch!" and I looked to see her wide-eyed glare on the dead rat. Maybe not.

"You don't know if it was her," Ayesha said.

"It is, it totally is," Kay said, her face going pink, tears starting in her eyes, "She's getting back at me, I know it."

"Who?" I asked.

Ayesha looked uncomfortable. "Ivy," Zeke said for her. The friends shared a knowing look.

Ivy? I looked at the mix of shock, horror and anger on Kay's face. It didn't make sense to me.

>tell her about Jeremy
>ask why she thinks its Ivy
>mind my own business
>ask why she thinks its Ivy
investigation time
>ask why she thinks its Ivy
Glad we tried - now we know it's not for us
>ask why she thinks its Ivy
locking in and writing
"Why would it be Ivy?" I asked.

Zeke laughed. "Sometimes I forget you're new," he said. Ayesha's glare killed his laughter as she stroked Kay's back.

Ayesha looked to Kay. "You want me to tell?" she asked.

Kay nodded, too upset for words.

"Ok like, Kay and Ivy were best friends back in the day. They went to elementary school together even. They were tight, back until last year that is. Last year when they had a falling out," Ayesha said. She looked to Kay to make sure it was good to go on. Kay nodded, chewing her bottom lip and looking pale. "Ivy started pushing everyone around, she turned into a real bully. Then she started getting her friends to do bad stuff too. Steal things, start rumors about others girls, cut class. She even got into a fight with Jessica Finkly, broke her nose. You know, it was kind of nasty, really dragged everyone down. There's a reason she doesn't have a lot of friends any more. I wasn't really part of their group but the story got around."

"Well it got so bad someone had to do something and..."

"I told on her," Kay said, with surprising guilt, "I went to Principal Wrightson and told her what was going on. There was a lot of trouble. I got detention and Ivy was almost expelled, she got an out of school suspension instead. The gang broke up after, I mean, how could we all stay friends after that?"

"And Ivy's rep was ruined," Ayesha said with a nod, "Everyone knew she was the boss bitch. Ivy's had it out for Kay ever since."

"It's why I go by Kay now," she said, "Kaylee was Ivy's little flunky, and I'm not that any more." Kay ran her hands over her face. "Ivy and me, it's never been anything serious, not really," Kay said, "A cold look, maybe a shove. I don't know why she's escalating, but a dead rat? It's got to be her." Ayesha put a protective arm around Kay, while Zeke and Hunter both had a mean look, ready to start some trouble.

I couldn't imagine Kay running around with a girl gang or doing any of what she said.

"What do you want to do about it?" I asked.

She shrugged. "I'll figure something out."

Maybe I could do something.

>talk to Ivy, figure this out
>let it alone, I could make things worse
>mention it could be Jeremy
also just so you guys know I'm cool with write-ins
>mention it could be Jeremy
None of us should jump to conclusions though.
>talk to Ivy, figure this out
Yay more Ivy interactions!
>mention it could be Jeremy
Start out by saying like "earlier I got into a bit of a confrontation with Jeremy, do you think it could've been him? Since it doesn't sound like Ivy's usual MO."
Also we "ratted" him out
locking in
sorry got pulled away, back to writing
"It could be Jeremy," I said.

"The creepy lizard boy?" Ayesha said.

"Lizard boy?" I asked but they didn't elaborate.

Kay frowned. "Why would it be Jeremy?" she asked.

I felt a wiggle between my shoulder blades and butterflies in my guts. "Uh," I said, "He and I had a tussle and well, he got in trouble with a teacher. He might be trying to pay me back."

"What's that got to do with me?" she asked.

"Well because you and me, we're friends, right?" I said to her earlobe, heat crawling up my neck.

"Maybe," she sounded doubtful, then snapped out of it with a blush, "No, I mean, yeah we're friends. I meant maybe about it being Jeremy!"

"I got what you meant," I said, swallowing the lump in my throat. "He's a weirdo. He might be going after my friends because he's too chicken shit to come after me."

Ayesha split a look between us, a sly knowing glance.

"Maybe it just crawled in there and died," Hunter said, picking the dead rat up by the tail. He bobbed it in front of Ayesha, ants falling off it. She cringed back behind Zeke.

"Ew, Hunter," she said.

He guffawed, swinging it like a pendulum before dropping it in a bin.

"Should I go to a teacher?" Kay asked, looking around us.

>leave it to me
>that's probably a good idea
>just forget it, Kay
>that's probably a good idea
Let's begin leaving a paper trail. Maybe go to our coach?
>that's probably a good idea, I'll go with you
He'd be the one to go to since he knows about what happened earlier
locked in
"That's a good idea," I said, "Maybe we could talk to Mr Nfume. He broke up my fight with Jeremy."

"You know if it's ok I think I'll go alone," she said, "You've probably talked to enough teachers today."

>oh yeah, sure
>it's no problem
>oh yeah, sure
This IS technically her problem. She can handle it the way she wants to
It's her problem unless it's jeremy getting back at us by targeting our friends
>it's no problem
Rolled 1 (1d2)

coin flip

1 you go with her
2 you don't
going with her wins

I'll write it up in a sec
"It's not a problem," I said.

She twisted on the spot, away from our friends.

"Well come on then," she said.

Mr Nfume was in a chemistry classroom, setting up for an afternoon lesson, slurping coffee from a red mug missing a chip from the handle. When he saw us walk in he sat down with a labored sigh.

"I don't have you two today," he said, "So there's got to be a good reason you're looking for me." He checked over at me and asked, "Jeremy?"

"Maybe," Kay said before I could say anything. His attention went back to her. "I...someone broke into my locker and left a little surprise. A dead rat. Eric thinks its Jeremy, but it could have been Ivy. Maybe." Kay checked back at me before checking back to Mr Nfume.

For his part Mr Nfume didn't blink, even as he took another long sip of coffee.

"Like you said Mr Nfume, he'll come at me sideways," I said.

"Hmm," just the sound.

"Ivy was at the Les Mis auditions," Kay said, "But she could have done it before we got there, or had someone do it for her."

"Jeremy wasn't at the auditions," I said.

"Jeremy," Mr Nfume said with a heavy sigh, "Wasn't in school at all. He was sent home with a suspension. His older brother picked him up just after first bell. Now he could have come back later, but I doubt it."

"Despite what you might think Eric, the world doesn't revolve around you," he said. I wilted under his tough stare. Then he looked back to Kay. "Now whether or not it was Ivy...you two used to get up to all kinds of trouble not that long ago."

"I've turned it around, sir," she said, "I'm even on the student council now."

"Ms Whitman, I respect the efforts you've gone to to shape up, I do, but I'm not going to punish Ms Chambers without concrete proof. She's been putting in the work same as you, and with everything else going on in her life it hasn't been easy for her either."

Kay swallowed, shame crossing her face.

"You're a good student, so is Ivy, even if she's no one's idea of friendly," he cupped his hands on the desk, "What I will do is look into this, and whoever is responsible, whether its Jeremy Kusich, Ivy Chambers, or Jesus Christ himself, I'll hold them responsible."

"That's all I can ask," she said, "Thanks Mr Nfume."

"Yeah. yeah," he said, clicking open his briefcase. He was pulling out class notes when he dismissed us, "Now go on get to class." When we left I heard him mutter 'teenagers' under his breath.

"You ok?" I asked Kay as we walked together to the next class. She had an absent look on her face.
"I guess," she said. She looked to me with a rough smile. "You know, we are friends Eric, but I'm not made of glass. I can do things on my own."

"I know," I said, "But I mean, you've been a little..."

"Fragile?" she said, "A little. Do you really think it was Jeremy?"

I had, until I heard what Mr Nfume said. I still wasn't willing to rule him out.

"If it was Jeremy," she said, "It's a pretty bad friend who gets their friends drawn into stuff like that."

"So its my fault?" I said.

She squeezed her eyes shut. "No, I mean, look I'm sorry. That came out wrong. What I mean is...I don't know what I mean. I'm just shook up and talking stupid." She stuck out her tongue and went cross-eyed. "Stupid Kay speaking around the foot in her mouth!"

"If it was Jeremy," I said, "I'll deal with him."

"So macho!" she said, swinging into a classroom door. "Anyway, let's just drop it for now, ok?"

I shrugged, not happy with it, but she was clearly uncomfortable. "Yeah ok," I said.

"Right now all I want to do is go home, have a hot shower and relax," she said with a grin, "So let's just try and relax."

I can relax. I think.

But a question was starting to worm its way into the back of my mind as I took my seat.

If it wasn't Jeremy.

And it wasn't Ivy.

Who was it?
I'm going to stop here and pick this up tomorrow
>I'm not made of glass
trying to remember the last scene that Kay didn't cry in lmao
give me a minute
When I got home I was ready to crash out, my brain fried from school work and school drama. I'd skipped going to the usual afternoon training in my secret hideout or swinging by Luis' corner store. I just wanted to sleep.

Dad wasn't home when I got in. All the company I had was the mangy cat sitting on the fire escape, swishing its tail. I put on some music and tried to finish my history report, but it wasn't getting done tonight.

I put on the tv, just for the company.

Priscilla Takanawa stood in Daley Plaza, looking fine in a cut to fit blazer, her expression grim. Behind her the lights of police cars flashed, sections of the plaza taped off. I sat forward in the couch. Cops milled around behind her. Something bad had gone down.

"-abducted DSA Madeline Grant and shot dead Cook County deputies Frank Moore and Allan Gillen. Eye witnesses and video footage show a gang of white clad bikers riding into the plaz. Police suspect they're members of the notorious 'Stunt Crew' biker gang. No ransom or demands have been made. The brazen act has been cited by police as 'unprecedented'. We go now live to the chief of police for further statements."

Cut to the Chief of Police, glowering over a podium, flanked by the flags of Illinois, the shutter-clicks of cameras going off as he snarled into half a dozen microphones. He growled and threatened and promised all the fury of the law would fall on the criminals of the city, he promised his top officers were on the job, but there was something impotent in the threat, and when he was done the questions fired from the press weren't flattering.

"In the middle of Downtown-"

"Do gangs control the city or-"

"Is this connected to allegations of corruption in the-"

The Chief of Police's face darkened, he cut off the questions and stomped away from the podium, leaving cameras to take flash photos of an empty stand with flags hanging limp behind it.

They played snippets of the abduction. Daley Plaza sometime after 3pm, people going about their business. A black woman stood at a hotdog stand with a couple of uniformed officers. The lack of sound made it creepier somehow. The sudden burst of motorbikes into the plaza, the pistols drawn, firing off. A deputy fell before he could reach his sidearm. The other cleared his holster but went stumbling back into the hotdog cart, knocking it down as he died.

The woman, who had to be ASA Grant, cowered, covering her ears, was violently jerked onto a bike before the biker swung around and sped away. The footage ended there, cutting back to a pair of unsettled news anchors.

A deputy state attorney kidnapped in broad daylight, two dead deputies, and no known leads other than video footage of the abduction itself. Things really were getting bad, and I itched to do something about it.

If the cops couldn't rescue Ms Grant, maybe Hotspur could.

>hit the street to find out more info
>head straight to Downtown directly
>...maybe leave it to the police
>hit the street to find out more info
>hit the street to find out more info
locking in
I was light on contacts but there was always Luis. I stashed my 'outfit' in my backpack and hopped down the fire escape, the mangy cat mewing after me as I dropped to the hard cement.

I ran through sunset to his corner store, past a bunch of homeboys drinking malt liquor on the block. People around here were used to me by now, back when we first moved in the stoop lounging black guys would call out and hassle me. Now they barely looked up.

Inside Luis' shop were a couple of customers picking their way slowly through the shelves while Luis scrolled through a tablet, his cat chowing on his dinner behind him. I went to the back with the freezers, waiting for the place to clear out. A matronly black lady with a handbasket, picking out canned food, food stamps sticking from her handbag. She had yellowing eyes that suggested jaundice, but it didn't mar her dignity. Still, she took her time and it had me hopping like I needed to pee.

Placing out the tins on the front counter, she produced the food stamps like she was ashamed.

"Do you take these here?" she asked.

"Of course we do, and if we didn't I still would for you, auntie," he said with a wink.

She was more put back than amused by his smile. "Very good," she said, laying them down.

Just like it looked as if Luis would be free a couple of loud guys burst in. They chatted in that absent, tone deaf way that suggested they were high, and what they bought hammered it home.

"Finna get me some hot cheetos, maybe a couple packs of menthols, couple Arizonas, I got mad hunger, mad hunger," one said, limping down the shelves, flicking through packs of dry noodles.

"You uh uh, you uh, you know how many smokes this gets me?" the other said, pouring a handful of nickles and dimes on the counter as his friend browsed. He looked both sleepy and jittery as Luis pulled out a pack of smokes, slid them over the table. "Much, uh, much appreciated hombre," he said, sliding one out and putting it to his lips. Luis tapped the no smoking sign. The guy smiled. "Ey, sorry," he walked out flashing the peace sign, then dipped back in, "Ey D-Mark, Imma be outside man. Get me some of that jerky, the hot kind."
D-Mark put his hand up over a shelf, same peace sign, before ambling out with arms filled with junk food. He poured it out on the counter, eyes pink and sleepy, a sloppy grin on his face. Paid for it with a credit card and started into a pack of cheetohs before he was even out the door.

"Finally," I said, rushing to the counter. Luis tapped the side of his nose. Black Jay and Silent Bob were still out the front. "They're too baked to pick anything up," I said.

"You'd be surprised what a pothead remembers," Luis said, "What's up kid?"

"You see the news about the kidnapping?" I said.

"Everybody heard," he said, "Shame too. Maddy Grant was really doin' something about corrupt aldermen, and she was a fine lady too."

"You think she's dead already?" I asked.

"If she ain't she will be soon," he said, "I just hope it's quick and don't end up on the dark web. There's some sick shit out there."

"But what if she's not?" I said.

His smile was amused. "You going to go save her? Got to warn you, Rico, this is a grade above jumping bangers in the park. The Stunt Crew are just hired muscle, and if they're working for who I think..."

"The Outfit?" I asked. Luis nodded. "I messed with the Outfit once already, I'll do it again."

His smile grew into a grin, flashing a gold cap. "You serious? Of course you're serious, you're crazy," he said, "You want to find out what happened to her, you better start with the people who snatched her."

"The Stunt Crew, you know where they hang?" I asked.

"I can find out," he said, "They got dives all over town. Last I heard they'd taken over a bar in Canaryville but, you know, I don't know everything. If you sit tight maybe I can get something more specific, or you can go find a white jacket and ask one of them direct. I wouldn't bet on just finding one walking down the street right now though, the cops are actually lookin' for a fight right now."

>let Luis make some calls
>go find a Stunt Crew member to question
>go find a Stunt Crew member to question
I don't want to put Luis in danger, this is on us
locked in, writing
"Canaryville, right?" I said, "Down near Brownsville?"

Luis lowered his phone before he could make a call. "That's right," he said, "You know I don't mind helping."

"Yeah, you help enough," I said, "Any more and your neck'll be on the line too. I got enough to get started."

He didn't look happy but he put his phone away. "You keep your mask on, kid. This is the kind of one that'll come back on you."

"You know it, Unc," I said, swiping a mars bar as I left.

"Unc, huh," he called after me, "Streets really starting to get in you, Rico!"

I chomped down the Mars bar, passing D-Mark and his buddy hand rolling cigarettes out the front of the store, scarfing down their junk in a munchy hurry.

"Cops are out," I said to the potheads, "You guys be careful."

D-Mark puffed something that wasn't just tobacco, smiling. "Thanks, snowflake, you too."

He offered me a toke but I ignored it. I found an alleyway where no one was looking, pulled open my bag, pulled on my hoodie, scarf, and ski goggles. I checked myself in my phone. No way anyone was telling who I was.

My bag I stashed behind a grimey dumpster, took a breath, then took a running jump out of the alley and onto a corner roof top, hitting with a hard thud, fire pulsing through my veins. It washed out my apprehension. There was a lady in trouble and maybe I could help her. I checked my phone, mapping a course to Canaryville, down on the south side. Google Maps was giving a long time to get there, but Google didn't have my short cuts.

I took a sight on a distant building, took a couple steps back, then hit a full sprint, launching myself into the air. At my best I could cover almost half a mile at a single jump, arching up high into the night, landing hard at a far spot. The world rushing past me in a wind tunnel, coming to a hard stop with each impact, the shock softened by a crouch or a roll. Of course I couldn't keep that up, not just because it was tiring but because I could barely see where I was landing. The city at night, street lights and buildings, weren't the problem, it was my own ability to measure it out in my mind and pick a safe spot to land.

A couple of times I barely made the leap, tripping on a ledge or catching myself on a smaller space than I expected, a long drop under me. After one jump I caught my shins on a rail and thought I'd split them open, rolling onto my back in pain.

But my power dulled the agony. Pulling up my jeans I saw they were covered with vicious dark bruises, but when I stood they weren't broken. It was the kind of pain I could move with. It was after that I slowed my pace, last thing I needed was two broke legs lying stuck on the top of some flat house in a back area with no one for help. I dropped each bound down to a street length, covering a square at a time.
The moon was up by the time I made it down to New City. Bass thumped from the house I landed on. The thump on the roof got eyes from below, people looking up from a yard party to see me crouching there. A few called out, but I was gone. My next jump took me into Back-of-the-Yards, landing on top of a rotting old house in need of tearing down or building up. A bad exhaust fired off in the distance. Back when I first got here I couldn't tell a blown out exhaust from a gun shot. That wasn't true any more.

Bums around a fire, rugged up against the chill, spotted me crossing the bright moon. One of them yowled up, 'Get 'em Hotspur!' as I whipped by.

Canaryville was a lot quieter. I landed on a funeral home, watching, listening. The few people out were scurrying home, racing the chill and whatever predators were out. Whether they wore gang colors or a blue uniform, they were just as deadly to the poor folk out here, same as in my neighborhood.

I was only looking for one color tonight. White motorcycle leathers.

I heard before I saw the bee drone buzz of the bike. A zippy little Japanese motorbike, coming around a corner going way faster than a residential speed limit. White helmet, white leather, white bike, gave them a phantom glow in the electric street light, a pale after glow chasing them down the street.

Just the kind of asshole I was looking for.

I dropped into a crouch, ready to pounce.

> roll 3 x 1d100 +25 dc 75
Bronzeville, whoops
Rolled 95 + 25 (1d100 + 25)

Nice. I'm not even gonna roll.
crit fails can still cancel that out so I do need two more rolls
Rolled 86 + 25 (1d100 + 25)

Rolled 31 (1d100)

That's a very good result

Give me a sec and I'll write it up
We need to learn how to actually fight sometime. We should take up boxing. It'd be an easy way to explain away a black eye or something like that we might get while doing superhero shit. And we could infiltrate the outfit, people like them are always betting on underground fights and whatnot. Although our age might be an issue in getting us involved in that stuff.
Wait for it, wait for it.

He came screeching by, motor droning through the quiet neighborhood. Moonlight bounced off his helmet, face hidden behind a black visor, a 14 in black on the front.

Fire roared through my legs as I flung forward, arm outstretched, rocketing across the street.

We went one way, the bike went the other. It screamed as it dropped on its side, spinning down the road throwing up hot sparks, crashing into a thick hedge. I stumbled, the bigger man flung over my shoulder flopping. He kicked up a panic, screaming through his helmet. I flung him down onto the road.

He bounced off pavement, rolled onto his belly. He pressed up onto his hands and knees, fumbling at one of his pouches. I saw a dark little 9 in his fist as my foot rocketed into the side of his helmet. He swung back, head bouncing on the ground, visor torn off by the force of my kick.

The dazed face in the helmet, I'd seen him before. Squashed in, wrinkled face covered in blond facial hair. It was the jagoff who took my hotdog. He snorted blood from his nostrils, blindly patting the ground around him for his gun. I brought my heel down on the 9, busting it into pieces an inch from his finger.

"Jesus Christ," he said, "Jesus, you're the guy aren't you. Hotspur."

I grabbed the front of his jacket. "Where is she?" I put on my best tough guy voice, trying to sound adult. It came out fake and scratchy to me, but the biker wilted.

"I don't know who you're-" he started.

I pulled him off the ground, up over my head. his legs swung underneath him. There was blood on his leathers.

"The attorney right?" he said, "The-the-the black chick? I wasn't part of that. Ask anyone, I was at Soldier Field all day."

"You know who was," I snarled, "Talk before I bounce you off the road."

"It was, yeah, ok, it was a paid gig, work-for-hire," he said, "She'll be in pieces by now, you've got to know that. Drawn, quartered, and scattered all over Chicago by morning."

"Who?" I shook him.

"Th-the Outfit, who else?" he whimpered, "She's been busting their little ring in City Hall. Aldermen, clerks, even parking inspectors. She's been cleaning house. Everyone knows, even if no one can prove it."

"Where are they holding her?" I slammed him into the ground.

"How th-the hell should I know?" he said, "I'm not with them, I wasn't involved. It was Sullivan snatched her, Sullivan! He's been bragging about it all night."

"Where can I find Sullivan?" I asked.

"He'll b-be at Kelly's Bar, down that way," he pointed with his squashed in chin, "Come on, man, that's all I know."

"What's your name?" I asked.

"B-Billy," he said, "Billy Lonergan. Look, you'll let me go, right? You aren't going to-to-to tear my arms off or something? I told you what I know."

The fire in me roared.

>let him go
>let him go, but trash his bike first
>let him go, but trash his bike first
Next time I see you wearing white I'll do worse to you than I did this bike. Tell your friends.
>let him go
Time is of the essence. I'm fine with a threat. If it wouldn't take long to trash his bike that's fine in the event of a tie.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

I'll flip a coin

1 you let him go
2 you trash his bike first
"Next time I see you wearing white I'll do worse than this little car crash, understand me?" I said. He nodded. I dropped hijm. "Tell your friends."

"I will, I will!" he said, cringing behind his hands.

I looked the way he had pointed. Kelly's Bar. There was a lot of light up ahead, the distant thump of music. I stepped back, then lunged through the air, leaving Billy Lonergan lying on the road behind me.

Kelly's Bar was on a corner next to an abandoned lot, what the locals called a 'prairie'. The prairie was full of bikes and white clad bikers, revving engines almost drowning out the thumping music coming from in doors. I hit the roof, rolling into a crouch, looking down on it all.

For what it was worth the Stunt Crew were a multiracial kind of gang. Latinos, Black, Asian, all mixed in with a heavy presence of white guys. They had their helmets off and were drinking, talking shit, and admiring each others bikes. The girls in with them looked half plastic, escorts and girlfriends. I stayed low on the roof, there were plenty of guns on display, most in holsters. The atmosphere was charged with an animal kind of frenzy. Liquor came in and out of Kelly's Bar, some brought out by the black staff I guessed ran the joint.

Most of New Town, from Back-of-the-Yards to Bronzeville, was black. I can't imagine the local corner boys were happy with the Stunt Crew partying on their turf, but if they were they did nothing about it tonight. Maybe they'd been paid off, maybe they were doing good business.

I watched a biker take a bump of coke off the slope of a tit. I was the first set of bare breasts I'd seen in real life and it came from a half-naked plastic scort wearing a white leather jacket around her shoulders, holding her man's beer as he snorted white powder off her.

No one noticed me up here but then, who was looking up? I rolled an empty beer can under my foot, looking around. Discarded needles, dead Fall leaves, and broken glass littered the roof.

There was a roof top entrance leading down into the bar.

>sneak into the bar, stay low and keep quiet
>drop into the party outside, let them know Hotspur is here
>sneak into the bar, stay low and keep quiet
Not yet time for our grand debute. Maybe after we've honed our powers a bit.
Dammit, I keep missing typos before I post.
>sneak into the bar, stay low and keep quiet
locked in and writing
It was my luck the door had been left unlocked. I slipped down the stairs, the heavy music a pulse through the corridor. I heard kitchen sounds from below, staff shouting at each other to be hard over the music.

I was in some kind of back room area, out of the action and discrete. Music poured from a slit of a door, neon lights flaring through the crack.

I slipped out and into a wall of sound. Music pumped from a neon lit DJ on the stage, flanked by half-naked girls dancing in cages, long hair whipping around, bodies grinding against the bars.

I swallowed, face red hot under the scarf and goggles. I tore my gaze away from the half-dressed women gyrating in the cages. I stood up on a balcony overlooking Kelly's Bar. Under my feet was a surging pit of leather and skin, the Stunt Crew and their flunkies blowing off steam in a wild mesh of dancing, alcohol and drugs.

Back in Indiana the biker gangs I'd heard of were the white power metal types. There was something almost K-Pop in the techno thrum of the music. Someone whipped a champagne bottle around overhead, spraying the crowd with bubbles, his high pitched laughter a screech cutting through the music.

If 'Sullivan' was here there was no way of spotting him. I didn't even know what he looked like, and the Stunt Crew uniform of white biker leathers was no help.

I slunked back the way I'd come. Maybe I could find something in the backrooms. If there was a club manager's office or a VIP room it would be up here.

Success was a small room with a polished oak desk, an open bottle of congac and the lingering smell of cigar smoke. Wads of cash lay heaped on the table, spilled from an open duffel bag. But the room was otherwise empty, with a door behind the desk standing half-shut, leading to an inner room beyond.

I crossed the room quiet as I could, a creak from my old sneakers as I slunk low on the balls of my feet.

I crouched by the gap in the door, looking in, ears sharp.
It was murky, dark and smoke shrouded. My nose itched on the smell of perfume and cigars. There was some light in the room. The glow of an outside light falling through a window. It glowed on pale curves, a woman on black sheets, the pale shine of her backside, and a winding snake tattoo covering her back, a piece of Japanese arts that started between her shoulder blades and ended just above her very bare ass. She had a Japanese look, dark black hair in a bob-cut. She lay beside a man, leg curled over him, who lay just as nude with a cigar in his hands, smoke pouring from his lips. He was scars and muscle, a lean man with short cut hair dyed bright blond.

"It's enough to get out of here, Sully," she said, "Three million, we could start over somewhere new,as someone else."

"You know I only keep ten percent," he had a Southern twang in his voice, "That's the Code. What we earn is for the crew."

"But killing those cops, they'll be after you," she said.

"They weren't no cops, they was just deputies. Now don't fret, Baby Girl," he said, "The Outfit has it sorted."

'Sully' I could guess was Sullivan. Just the man I was looking for. Baby Girl propped up on his chest with a pout.

"You trust the Outfit?" she asked.

"Only their money," he said, "Now enough talk of business, there's more pleasure to be had." He held the cigar to her lips and she took a long pull, letting the thick smoke pour out from her nostrils and lips, her smile growing hazy.

There was a gun, a solid old revolver sitting within a hand's reach on a side table, next to an open pack of condoms.

>bust in now and get some answers
>wait for him to come out and jump him
>bust in now and get some answers
Lets see if we can't get the gun first
Bullpen, what's your time zone? It's 4am here in EST, gonna turn in for the night
>bust in now and get some answers
maybe wait untill he is too distracted to go for the gun, or knock on the door to lure him closer.
well this was going to be awkward either way busting into the sex nest or wait outside listening in until they are done.
>bust in now and get some answers
I like these suggestions >>4546798
locked in and writing
I crouched down by the door, waiting for the right moment without paying too much attention, trying to put aside the hot feeling in my chest as I watched Baby Girl move. I swallowed, feeling the sweat inch down my neck.

She sat up to straddle his lap, his hands took her around the hips. He laughed, she whispered something.

Behind me the beat of the music throbbed.

She straightened up on him, showing the full length of her snake tattoo, every scale and venomous fang.

Power flared in my.

I moved.

>roll 3 x 1d100 +25 dc 60
>in my
in me

I'm going to make the next post the last post for now. too many mistakes
Rolled 65 + 25 (1d100 + 25)

Rolled 40 + 25 (1d100 + 25)

Rolled 97 + 25 (1d100 + 25)

Here we go!
great roll

writing up
I kicked the door into splinters as I burst through it.

Sullivan gave a startled 'shit!' while Baby Girl scrambled off the bed in a shower as what was left of the door rained over them. He slapped his hand for the gun on the side table but I drove my feet into his chest before he could reach it, driving him back into the head board. He wheezed, silk sheets twisted up in his lap.

"Where is she?" I thundered.

"What?" his face swam with pain and confusion.

"DSA Grant, where is she?" I crouched over him, grabbing the dome of his head, "I know you took her, I know you handed her over to the Outfit. Tell me where she is."

"By now? Her head'll be in Cicero, her hands in North Lake, her legs in Lake Michig-uh!"

I drove his head back into the wall. "I'm not playing," I said.

I heard a sharp click. Behind me stood Baby Girl, nude except for the black shotgun in her hands, framed in the door.

"Get off him," she said.

But she didn't know how fast I was, or how strong. I grabbed Sullivan by the shoulder and wrenched him around in a blur, putting him between me and the gun. Doubt crossed her face as I twisted Sullivan's arm up behind his back, holding him on his knees on the bed.

"Try it," I said. I twisted Sullivan's arm until his teeth snapped together in a sharp hiss. "Now tell me where you took Ms Grant."

"If I snitch it'll be me they'll be fishing out of the river," he said. I twisted his arm a fraction more. How much more until the bones snapped and the tendons ripped? How far was I willing to go?

"The Railyard," Baby Girl said, lowering the shotgun, "South of here, all the way south."

"Shit, Baby Girl, you want to tell him my social security number next?" Sullivan said.

"No bullshit," I said, "Or I'll be back, and I'll clear out this whole place."

"No bullshit," she said. If anything she looked relieved. "You might still have time to save her. They like to take their time."

I let go of Sullivan and pushed him to his woman. He rubbed the back of his head, a bloody welt forming where I'd smashed it into the back of the bed.

I went to the barred window. I guess it worked as a demonstration. I grabbed the bars, pulled myself up, placed my feet on the wall, and with a straining pull ripped them clean from the wall. I threw the twisted metal at their feet, opened the window, and looking out into the night, sprung down into a back alley.

I hit the cement hard, dropping into a run. I could feel my power start to drain. I was running low, hopefully not too low to finish the job.

At the mouth of the alley with the chaos of the Stunt Crew party vibing behind me, I launched myself up into the cold, empty night sky, pulse quick as the clock was running.

Time and my power were both running out.
I hit the roof of a factory overlooking a rail yard. Baby Girl's directions weren't exactly precise, and unfortunately Chicago was riddled with rail yards and transit hubs. The L was one of the most extensive train lines in the country, with connections running in and out of the city. Back in the day Chicago had been the heart of the trans-continental experience, before airplanes had killed the passenger train. But it still shipped in and shipped out a lot of stuff by rail.

In twilight I looked over the rows upon rows of abandoned rail cars and shipping containers. The yard looked empty, the silence punctuated by a yappy dog out in the impenetrable ether of the city behind me. Sweat dripped down my back despite the cool wind slicing over the rooftops. Maybe it was the pressure, maybe it was tiredness, maybe it was a consequence of pushing myself and my powers so hard.

It had to be getting to midnight now. I didn't want to check my phone. I was starting to feel sore, not just from my bruised legs but all over. I pushed it aside. Dropping my scarf down under my chin I tore into a snickers bar, wolfed it down, rolling the last bite around my mouth as I secured my scarf again. The saltiness left me craving a drink.

It didn't fill me up but it gave the fire inside me a small lift, just enough extra in the tank.

I hoped.

Feet flashing I launched over the barbed wire fence to land on a long container with a metallic thud. Perched up there I searched for any signs of life.

A faint glow, in the center of the yard. I slid down from the container, dropping to the ground with a crunch of gravel. If I kept leaping around they'd hear me coming, and that could mean a faster end for Ms Grant.

The containers were half a maze as I slipped around them, trying to orient around the spot of light I'd seen, weaving my way toward it trying to be fast and quiet. I slowed at the sound of voices, the crunch of someone walking.

"This is insulting, guard duty, me," a man bitched. I dropped low in the shadows of the containers, darker in the dark of night. Two men walked by, some kind of submachine gun looped over their shoulders. "I didn't do ten years in the joint to freeze my balls off just so the little freak can get his kicks."

"Boss wants it this way," the other guy said, "Didn't you hear, there's some kind of super hero running around now. He messed up Bruno and the Nose a couple weeks back."

"Frankie the Nose, how'd that weasel become a captain?" he kept bitching as they walked by me, "The Outfit's really gone to hell, they even let a woman..."

Their voices faded into indistinct muttering as they walked on. I kept moving, slinking low.
The source of light was a rail car, a fancy looking one at that. It could be called an antique, a thing of steel and wood with all the gilt of a long gone golden age. That alone made it stand out next to the plain shipping containers that surrounded it. Add to the light spilling from the glass windows and it drew me like a moth to a flame. I ducked low, skirting under the windows, creeping along soft as I could.

In one compartment I heard the slap of playing cards, laughter, and the smell of cigar smoke. I kept moving. The next I heard shared muttering, the crinkle of paper and loud chewing. Didn't sound right.

The last I stopped, hairs on my neck prickling and arms gone to goose pimples. A low electric crackle, that became a hot electric spit. I raised my head just above the window, peering in through the glass.

There were three people inside. One sat behind a desk with a lap top open and a webcam set up. The other stood in front of it, some kind of engine groaning, holding a pair of rods. He was short, bald, and wore big rubber gloves, big rubber boots, and a butcher's apron. What hair he had stood out from around his ears in snowy white tufts.

The last was a woman. She was strung up from the ceiling, wrists cuffed above her head, stripped to her underwear and covered in sweat and bruises. Deputy State Attorney Madeline Grant, her head hung low, breathing hard. She was black, but so light skinned with straight dark hair she could have passed for Indian - either kind.

"I want to say there's nothin' sexual about this, it's just business," the short bald man said, touching the rods together to throw up sparks with a harsh crackle, "But you know, you're a beautiful woman, I'm a murderous psychopath, it's a little bit sexual."

He touched the tip of the rod to her belly and she jolted, swinging from the cuffs, a tight scream clamped in the back of her throat.

"Go ahead and scream, honey," he said, "There's no one around to hear anyway."

He lowered the charged rod. He had a wrinkled up, grandfatherly face, with a warm grandfatherly smile.

"You getting this Boss?" he said to the webcam, "This is a tough broad here."

He went to a table set with a claw hammer, a blow torch, a saw, a pair of pliers, and a little pistol. Normal tools twisted into instruments of torture.

"It's your own fault really," he said, "You put your hand up, we had to cut it down. Now if we could make it quick we would, but we need you to be a message to any other dipshit lawyers who are thinking about putting their hand up next. You understand that, right? In that way, this ain't personal."

He picked up the blow torch. "But I am havin' fun." The flame lit, a hot blue jet turning white at the tip.
"You got anything to say?" he asked.

I could see the terror in her eyes, her rapid breathing, her clenched teeth. But she didn't scream. "Eat my ass," she spat.

"Ho ho ho," the torturer said, looking back to the webcam, "Got to love the spunk. You ready Boss?"

The man behind the laptop scanned the screen then gave a thumb's up.

He moved on her, blow torch flaring in his hand.

I had to move too, power flaring inside me even as tiredness sucked at my body.

>roll 3 x 1d100+25 dc 75
Rolled 72 + 25 (1d100 + 25)

Rolled 4 + 25 (1d100 + 25)

Let's see if our luck holds
Rolled 67 + 25 (1d100 + 25)

so close to a critfail
that's a solid success

writing up
Grabbing the fine gilt edge of the window, I hoisted myself up, and with knees raised over and through the glass window, flinging myself in with a white hot rush. The glass shattered into chunks, spraying over the fine carpet, crunching under my feet as I dropped into a crouch in the middle of the compartment. I looked up to the torturer, blow torch in his hand, confused look on his ancient face.

"Yo," I said, then fired out out my feet, kicking his legs out from under him.

He dropped, and dropped the blow torch, with an old man cough. I rolled up to my feet, almost feeling bad for knocking down an old man. Then I saw the ugly purple bruises on Ms Grant's belly and felt less bad about it.

Shouting started behind me. The guy behind the desk rose, drawing a pistol out from his pin stripe jacket. I grabbed the clawed hammer from off the bench and threw it at him. He ducked aside, the hammer thumped into the door, but it was cover for me as I ran up on him, feet flashing underneath me as I closed the gap in a hard second. I jumped, driving my knee up into his chin. The gun went off in his hand, putting a hole in the floor. When we dropped I fell on his chest and slammed my fist down into his head, turning off his lights.

I got up and kicked the gun away from him. I turned, walking back toward Ms Grant. She looked up, the white of her eyes bright under her lowered brow.

The torturer groaned on the floor, grabbing the can of the blow torch. The carpet smouldered under the flame. He pushed up onto his knees and shoved the hot blow torch at me, trying to burn my chest.

I slapped it out of his hand then smacked him up side the head, his dentures flying out of his mouth. An open hand smack, a closed fist with my strength at his age could kill him.

"Ms Grant," I said, looking up at her, "I'm here to rescue you."
Her smile was strained. "You're a bit short for a super hero," she said. I reached up and yanked the bar she was cuffed to from the ceiling. The brass bar slid out from under her cuffs as she dropped to her unsteady feet, falling against my shoulder for support.

"I'll get you out of here, don't worry," I took her wrists in hand and with a careful squeeze snapped the chain connecting the cuffs.

She went to the table and grabbed the small pistol. She walked with a limp, I don't think there was a part of her that didn't have a bruise. She slid out the magazine, counting the bullets, then slid it back up with a secure click. Her face was hard with anger and determination.

Running drummed down from the other compartments, the door burst open. A bunch of goons in pinstripe suits crowded the door.

"It's him, it's the guy," one said, "Hotspur."

"Get him!"

Guns were being drawn. I tensed, putting myself between Ms Grant and the Outfit thugs, white fire burning in me. But the fire was running low, it was starting to fade out. I don't know how much I had left.

"Hold up," someone from behind them said,"Sit back, boys. Leave this one to Salamander."

They eased back from the doorway, hands off their guns.

She ducked her head to enter, easily the tallest woman I'd ever met, maybe six six, maybe taller. She was long and lean. She dressed in a pinstripe suit, her black hair cut short at the sides, long in the front. She was the dark kind of Italian, the only thing light about her was her smile. She took off her pin-stripe jacket, folding it neatly over her arm, then unbutoned the cuffs of her neat dress shirt. She rolled the sleeves up over her elbows, then snapped her suspenders, bobbed on the spot in her dress shoes.

"Hello!" she said brightly, "Nice to meet you. I'm Salamander, I'll be fucking you up this evening." She loomed over me, a knee half raised, a hand open out in front of her, the other cocked back by her cheek.

I didn't know what kind of name Salamander was, but a voice cracked from the computer, cool and dark. "Whatever else Salamander, I want him alive."

"Got it Boss," she said.

I looked back to Ms Grant, looked back to Salamander. She was tall, she was confident, but I had powers.

>take on Salamander
>grab Ms Grant and bail
>grab Ms Grant and bail
If we don't have enough juice to escape after the fight then we're still fucked
>grab Ms Grant and bail
locked in

I backed away from the tall woman.

"Sorry but I'm not here to tango," I said, "I already have a date." She smirked, switching her stance.

I spun, grabbed Ms Grant by the arm, pulled her close. The weakening power pumped through me as I leapt for the way I'd come.

Salamander's kick cut the air in front of me, drawing me to a stop, and a ribbon of fire arced behind it. I looked to the smoking tip of her shoe. Flames danced around her wrists. The fires cast a glow across her olive cheeks, sparked a light in her dark eyes.


I backed up, dropping to a crouch, positioning Ms Grant's arms around my neck.

"Hold on tight," I warned her. Salamander loomed above us, shadows dancing from her flames.

> roll 3 x 1d100 + 15 dc 80
Rolled 68 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Whew, barely
Rolled 27 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Nat 1 time
so far so good

one more roll
Rolled 61 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

I reached back to tuck Ms Grant's legs under my arms, piggyback carrying her.

I leapt. Salamander kicked.

She hit the side of my face, a pile driver blow that drove my head back and spun me off balance, pain bursting behind my eyes.

"You aren't getting away that easy," she said, driving in with a high knee.

But I dropped low on the balls of my feet, her kick whipping over my head with hot flames chasing them, then drawing on the last of my strength, drove myself toward the glass window in a leap frog spring. The glass exploded outward, white hot foot prints left behind me, as I rocketed out into the rushing cold wind.

I thumped on to the roof of a container, hard enough to leave a dent. Ms Grant wasn't heavy, but with my power stating to fade my strength went with it, and she was starting to weigh me down.

Glancing back I haerd her before I saw her, a low sound. Fire burned from her shoulders and her back as Salamander launched herself out of the train carriage. She landed a couple of containers back, but looking around it didn't take her long to spot me.

I took a stumbling run to the edge of the container and with a foot pushed off, leaping up high.

Ms Grant's breathe steamed in my ear, her eyes squeezed shut, her arms and legs gripping me tight.

We landed further down, toward the end of the rail yard.

Whatever powers Salamander had, she wasn't able to close the same distance, and each time she leapt it was with the same fiery roar and bright flames, marking her in the dark. I had that advantage at least, and when my next leap carried us out of the rail yard I used it.
Instead of leaping again I fell into a dead sprint, Ms Grant bouncing on my back. It wasn't super speed exactly, I wouldn't be racing Sonic any time soon, but it was faster than any human being could run and in the dark I left streets behinds me, chest thumping, hard breaths out of my mouth.

By the time I'd stopped running we'd made it a hell of a way. I bent double in front of Comiskey Park, coughing, loosening my scarf enough to gulp down cold air without showing my face.

Ms Grant stood shivering, dressed only in her underwear and bruises. It must have been past 1 by now, the cold was dry and hard. My eyes moved to her bra than broke away. I was glad I was wearing the scarf and goggles, or she'd see me blush.

"I owe you an apology," she said.

"Huh?" I looked up from my knees, still straining to fill my lungs.

"Just yesterday I was saying you were a reckless vigilante, that you belonged behind bars," she said. Breath came out in misty clouds from between her lips. "But now...Jesus, that's some irony isn't it?" She looked up at the night sky.

I straightened up, my legs trembling. "I had to do something," I said. My head was starting to throb. Salamander had hit me harder than I'd ever been hit before and it was starting to show.

"And you've made a very powerful enemy doing it," she said, "I didn't think Rooster would be bold enough to call a hit like that while still on parole."

"Can you prove it was him?" I asked. Hunger clawed at my belly.

"Of course not," she smirked, "But I will."

The headlights of a car flashed by and she shuddered.

"We should get off the street," I said, "Is there anywhere you can go, anywhere safe?"

"Jesus, I don't know," she said, "The Outfit has people everywhere. Turns out they even have people like you on their payroll."

People like me, I thought. Someone else empowered by the explosion.

"Hold up," she said as we stopped by a pay phone. "Let's do this proper. I'm Madeline Grant, Deputy State Attorney," she held out her hand.

"Hotspur," I said, taking the hand. She smiled as we squeezed.

"Now this is a serious question, Hotspur," she said, "Can I borrow a quarter? I don't keep change stashed in my bra."

Mentioning it made me more aware of her state, clad in black underwear with just a hint of lace. I swallowed again, keeping my attention fixed on her eyes. Her pretty, dark slender eyes.

"Sure," I said, shoving a hand in my pocket. As I handed it over a thought ocured to me. Maybe I could be a help in more ways than one.

>offer her a place to crash
>let her handle it
>offer her a place to crash
Our warehouse might actually be perfect for this, I don't see why we'd ditch her halfway through rescuing her
>offer her a place to crash
>offer her a place to crash
Nice, the hard part's over
locked in

"I am a reckless vigilante."
I don't want her to end up openly endorsing us, it hurts our rep with good people who don't like police, and I'm not about to be subjected to the limitations of the law.
"You know I have a place," I said.

"Excuse me?" she said, phone wedged between her ear and her shoulder, "I'm grateful you rescued me Hotspur, but..."

I blushed behind the scarf. "I didn't mean it like that," I said, "I mean if you're jumpy and need some where to keep your head down or just sleep it off, uh..."

She smiled. "What, like a secret hideout?" she said.

"More like an abandoned warehouse," I said, "But there's no way the Outfit would think of looking for you there. Could you say the same for your apartment?"

"Good point," she said, "But I was going to call a friend and book a motel. I guess an abandoned old apartment works just as well. One sec."

She turned to the phone, voice low. "Hey Adams, its me. Yeah, I'm ok. I said I'm ok! I'm safe, but I need a hand. Could you bring some clothes, doesn't have to be anything fancy, and drop them off at..." she looked back at me. I gave her an address. "Yeah, cool. And could you send an uber out to Comiskey Park? I need a ride. No, no don't come. I'm safe, I'm not that safe. Ok. Yeah, see you. Thanks."

She hung up, letting out a deep sigh, then hugged herself against the chill, her teeth starting to chatter.

Soon enough a car pulled up, an old Subaru. She got in, looked back at me. "You coming?"

I climbed in after her. The driver didn't blink, just chugged a can of Red Bull, loud Indian music blaring from the stereo. He probably saw weirder shit. We didn't say anything, just sat quiet as the city moved around us, grateful to be somewhere warm.

He dropped us off at the address I'd given her friend.

"So what's your plan?" she asked as he waited in the cold dead night.

"My plan?" I said.

"The super vigilante thing," she said, "Are you going to just bust heads every night, or do you have a goal? Because I'm tellin' you, in Chiraq you aren't going to run out of heads to bust."

I looked down the empty street. A stray dog took a whizz on a pile of trash.

"You some kind of anti-corruption type?" I said.

She nodded. "The system's rotten out here," she said, "Not just the mob too, its everywhere. The police are more into throwing kids around in handcuffs than dealing with the real predators, and the politicians protect them. Add the fact a bunch of them are on the take, they end up protecting guys like the Outfit too. The Russian mob, the cartels, even the bigger street gangs. All get their license from City Hall, who take their orders from Rooster. I wish I could say the federals are better." She shrugged.

"So what are you, the only honest cop in town?" I asked.
"If I am that's bad news," she said, "For me and everyone else. Let's just say I'm not interested in kids slinging dope, that's a whole lot of whatever. What I am interested in is those aldermen got their fingers in the community, running unopposed election after election, taking cash from crooks and developers, selling their own people out for profit. You ask me who the real crooks are, their gang colors are a suit and tie."

"More evil's been done to this city with a briefcase than a shotgun," she said.

Headlights turned down the street. I tensed up, Ms Grant looked wary.

"What I'm suggesting," she said, "Is maybe we can work something out between us. I can't rely on cops that are either crooked or incompetent, and I don't trust my superiors either. A working partnership, to help clean up the city."

The car slowed, grinding to a halt at the corner. I stepped back into the shadows as a white girl stepped out with a gym bag, looking like she didn't belong. They talked in low, intense whispers as she passed the bag over, the white girl looking back to her car, insisting Ms Grant get in. But she wasn't moving, she sent her friend on.

Out of the bag she pulled out sweat pants and a sweat shirt, a pair of old sneakers. She pulled them on to get out of her state, cover up her bruises. Last out of the bag she pulled a small phone and an envelope stuffed with cash.

"I started getting death threats a year ago," she said, "I put together a plan, contacts, that kind of thing. An escape plan and a safehouse. Guess it didn't matter in this town."

She sent a text, she didn't say to who.

"What do you say," she said, "To us working together?"

>sorry but I'm a solo act
>I'm down, we all need friends
>let me think about it
>I'm down, we all need friends
No man is an island. Hotspur, at your service.
We'll need a catchphrase.
>I'm down, we all need friends
>I'm down, we all need friends
locked in

I'll write it up in a sec
"Sounds good," I said, "I could use a few more friends, so could you. Consider me in. Hotspur, at your service."

We shook hands again. Then with a look up and down the street she asked, "So are you going to show me to this 'secret hideout' of yours or what?"

"Just follow me," I said, "Stay close though, this is a rough hood."

"Aren't they all," she said, but did as I instructed, tagging along close behind me.

We cut through the park, safer for now after I'd taken out some of the Reapers, and up into the old industrial area. I helped over the fence, careful where I put my hands when I gave her a boost, and scurried over after her. I was starting to feel pretty damn tired, I was even wondering if I would make it home before crashing out. If nothing else the burning hunger kept me awake.

I showed her into the dusty sparse interior.

"Could use a few things," she said with a smile, "Lights for a start."

"It does its job," I said, "I mostly use it as a training area, work on my moves. Sorry its not the Four Seasons."

"It'll do," she said. She set down by a pillar, the gym bag for a pillow, the burner phone for a lamp.

"So," I said, not sure how to say goodbye.

"I'll be out of here by sun rise," she said, "If you're free Friday meet me up on the roof garden on City Hall at 10 o'clock sharp."

"AM or PM?" I asked.

"PM," she replied, "We'll hash the details of the partnership out. You shouldn't have any trouble getting up there."

"No ma'am," I replied, giving her a smart little salute as I backed out of the door. I saw her smile in the glow of her phone screen as I closed the door behind me.

I had to admit, between beating up a bunch of greaseball thugs and rescuing a beautiful woman, rescuing beautiful women was a sight better. I flexed my hands dancing around the memory of where I'd had to grab her.

I'm not a pervert, I told myself, I'm not a creep. But yet...

Kicking my way back my vision was starting to swim, from normal exhaustion, pain and the new kind of lethargy from draining out my power. I pulled off my ski goggles and scarf, pulled down my hood, a trip in my step as I made my way home.

Pulling myself up the fire escape felt more difficult than anything else I'd done that night and when I was up I rolled onto my back on the rusted metal, panting. I managed to squeeze under the half open window though, clawing my way onto the bed.

It was dark inside. My clock read 2:30 in bright red numbers. I listened for Dad. My hearing adjusted and I picked up ihs soft snoring. Pulling off my hoodie, I chucked it and the rest of my gear under the bed and stumbled out to the shower. I hosed off, just letting the water spray me, not even trying to get clean.

I caught sight of the damage in the mirror.
From knee to ankle my legs were vicious dark bruises, my knuckles were swollen in odd places, and a big wine stain bruise was starting to form over the side of my face where Salamander had kicked me. It was puffing up bad, and when I brushed my teeth I spat up a thick blood.

There was nothing for it though. I barely made it onto my bed before the night took its toll, and rushed me off to a dreamless sleep.

I awoke unwilling to the stinging buzz of my alarm in my ear, the unwelcome flood of sunlight through my window, and a throbbing pain through half my body. Whatever sleep I'd had felt click a finger snap to my waking mind.

It took me a solid minute to remember it was a school day.

>roll over and go back to sleep
>get up and go to school
>get up and go to school
Mom worked hard to get us here. Not gonna be a dropout
>get up and go to school
>get up and go to school
Claim we got into a street fight.
Now that a DA is on our side we could finally get a proper suit
>>get up and go to school
Might not be the smart move in the long run, but claiming we got jumped is pretty plausible in our neighbourhood.
>get up and go to school
Fuck, we definitely have a concussion. We need to improve our defense somehow. We need to learn to fight if we're gonna be dealing with trained supes
A light helmet of some kind might help. Maybe some hockey equipment will work?
I'm kinda worried that teachers will think our Dad beat the shit out of us or something
locked in

give me a minute
The ski goggles are fine, we could use a mask though as a second covering for the scarf if it ever gets loose, ya a helmet would do good probably like a bicycle helmet since it'll be cheap
also maybe another phone so if we ever drop our original phone we'll won't be tracked/uncovered
some white bandages would be nice to cover our hands with or gloves so no fingerprints
wonder if we can get a taser so that we'll have something to attack with when we run low on energy a pepper spar would be helpful
if we ever encounter more supes we should have a list on them
However tired I was, however sore I was, however much I just wanted to stay in bed, I had to go to school. Mom needed me to go to school.

I slunk out of bed. Getting dressed was a mechanical process, finding clothes that weren't dirty or at least too dirty was a chore though. I rubbed sleep from my raw eyes, wincing when I'd touch a bruise.

Breakfast was a cold pop tart. Dad was still in bed. I didn't know when he got in, or what state he had been in, but he looked like a mess, tangled up in the bedsheets, arms over his head. The fact he was breathing told me he was alive. Dad rarely snored, it was one of his good qualities.

I stepped out into a chilly fall morning. The wind was strong today, sweeping dead leaves down the street, setting everyone at a quick walk to get where they were going. Overcast sky threatened rain to go with it. I hurried to my stop, just wanting to get the day over with.

When I got to school it was just before the bell. I met up with Zeke and Ayesha on the front lawn. Zeke had on a school jacket and scarf, Ayesha a baggy home-knit sweater. They looked like they'd been talking, Ayesha's face bright with excitement.

"Yo Eric, did you see the news?" Ayesha said, "Hotspur struck again last night, he rescued the kidnapped lawyer." She showed me the screen of her phone. It was a picture of Ms Grant and the same blurry photo of me mid-leap next to each other over the headline 'Hotspur Leaps Into Action - Saves Anti-Corruption Crusader'. Hotspur's number one fangirl lowered the screen. A frown crossed her face and she started trying to get a look at the bruised side of my face.

"What happened?" she asked.

"Dude you got fucked up," Zeke said, half-smiling.

>I got jumped by some guys
>I walked into a door
>I got this last night rescuing the lawyer
>I got jumped by some guys
>I got jumped by some guys
Show em your knuckles too, saying we have as good as we got. Ask if they know anyone into boxing or martial arts they could hook us up with
locked in and writing
"I got jumped last night," I said, "It happens, y'know, got caught slippin'."

I held up my bruised knuckles. "But I got my own in," I said.

"Damn," Zeke said, "So were they like black dudes or something?"

"Zeke!" Ayesha slapped his arm.

"Nah I mean, you know Eric lives out in the wild west," he said, "I just want to know if he's being picked on is all."

"There are better ways to say it," she said, then looked back to me, "So are you ok? Do you need to talk about it?"

"I'm good," I said, "What I do need is to learn how to fight. Any of you guys know an MMA class or something I can take?" We started into school, me walking with a slight limp.

"Karate Kid, give them the old crane kick," Zeke said.

"My uncle's a trainer at a gym out in Lincoln Park," Ayesha said, "Title Fight Boxing. He charges a buck, but gives a discount to young brothers looking to get off the street. You aren't a brother, but, maybe he'll let you in."

"Well if you put in a good word for me," I said.

"Aha, and what is my good word worth?" she asked with a grin, walking backwards to keep me in view.

"Are you looking for a bribe? I didn't think you were the type," I said, stepping around the stream of student traffic.

"Not a bribe but a favor maybe," she said as we came up on her locker.

"What's that, you want me to do your homework or something? Because honestly I think your grades are way better than mine."

"No, you'll like this favour," she said, pulling out a couple of books, "I want you to take Kay out on a date. A proper date, something to take her mind off things."

"That might be hard to do since she's not my girlfriend," I said.

"Well maybe if you take her on a good date, that could change too," she said, hugging her chemistry text book to her chest. "She likes you, you know," she said.

Uh. It wasn't just the throbbing pain in my legs that made me trip.

>yeah ok, I'll ask
>nah, I couldn't
>yeah ok, I'll ask
We were trying to have one at Francisco's before you all showed up too
>yeah ok, I'll ask
>yeah ok, I'll ask
gotta wash them clothes, freshen up
locking in

"Yeah, sounds good," I said, "But if she says no, I'm coming for you."

"Wash them clothes and put on some deodarant and you'd be hard to say no to," she said with a wink.

I tucked my books under my arm, feeling an onset of new confidence as I went to class.


I need to stop here to deal with irl stuff. I'll either be back later or tomorrow.
happy thanksgiving everyone
You too man, hope you have a good one!
Should we keep an eye on the thread for an update tonight?
Happy Thanksgiving!
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>reporter named priscilla takanawa
I had a sneaking suspicion but this confirms it, this quest is officially set in a family guy AU. Depending on the season we should avoid Quahog at all costs, season 10+ Peter is just bullshit overpowered
I knew when I named her that it had a familiar ring to it.

I'd rename her if I could
At least you didn't go with Tricia for the first name
You still alive OP?
don't worry, OP won't flake! Atleast I hope so..
I'm planning on running tomorrow
having a rough day

give me a minute
Chemistry had me hunkered down behind the nerds. Annie and Ben were filling their friend Chad in on something conspiratorial. Everyone was a nerd these days, even senators played video games, but there was something a cut above about the pimply trio. Anything that fell into the realm of the ordinary fell out of the range of their interest.

"Did you see those drones hovering over down town?" Annie asked Chad, "I saw it on the forum, photos of weird drones, looked military."

"UFOs," Ben said with a sage nod.

"Its not aliens," Annie hissed back.

"I never said aliens, I said UFOs," he replied just as sharp, "Literally unidentified flying objects."

"They're military drones," she said, "Taking atmospheric readings from the site of the explosion, I'm telling you..."

Mr Nfume tapped the white board hard to get their attention. I scribbled down what he was saying.

"The explosion," Annie muttered out of her mouth, "Harmless my ass. It's had some effect on the population, individuals in the population. I'm guessing its some kind of MK Ultra-esque super-soldier experiment, investing a random selection with fantastic abilities, to be harvested for service by the US military. The Hotspur guy? He's covert propaganda to normalize-"

Mr Nfume tapped the white board sharply again, cutting out their fervent whispers.

"You know they tested acid by putting it in the water supply," she said, "This is the same."

"No way does the US or anyone else have the technology to do something like that," Ben said, "The atmospheric entry story is a cover up for extraterrestrial origin. I've heard its a prelude to some kind of extraterrestrial attack. Those 'drones' could be scout vessels checking to see the effect-"

"If you two keep talking it'll be afternoon detention," Mr Nfume's voice sliced through their conversation.

He went back to making notes on the white board.

"You guys are going to get us in trouble," Chad said.

Mr Nfume's pen sped from the white board to point at the trio. "Chad, Ben, Anne, you three are staying back after the bell," he said.

"Good one idiot," Annie scoffed at Chad.

I kept my head down doing my work.

When the final bell rang the nerds' conversation still burned in my ear. I had no idea where my powers came from or where to start figuring out what they really were, but the three nerds had been rolling it over obsessively, scrutinizing the explosion from every angle. Maybe they could help me figure things out, without tipping them off that I was Hotspur of course.

But I also had to go find Kay and finally ask her out on a date. A proper date.

I swallowed.

>wait for the nerds to get out of detention and pick their brains
>go find Kay and ask her on a date
>go find Kay and ask her on a date
A deal is a deal
>go find Kay and ask her on a date
locked in

sorry, shit's come up and I have to go. I'll post the update some time later, probably tomorrow.
As curious as I was about the nature of my own powers, I had a promise to keep.

In its own way it was more nerve wracking than any super hero rescue. I doused myself in axe, combed my hair, tucked in then untucked my shirt. Smoothed out my eyebrows.

"You can do this, don't be a pussy," I told my reflection, letting out a few sharp breathes before heading out into the halls.

I found her out on the green in front of the school, books held to her chest as she said goodbye to a couple of people I didn't know except as faces. Ayesha saw me coming and pocked at Dane to get him to follow her off. I shoved my hands in my pockets, trying to play it cool.

"Yo," I said, staring.

"Hey Eric, what's up?" she said, brushing a lick of hair back from her face.

I stared. She looked over toward the others, lingering under a tree.

"Uh, sorry," I said, "You know, I was wondering. The pizza place."

"The pizza place, where we got robbed?" she said.

"Yeah, uh, that. That was supposed to be a date right? Until everyone showed up, and the uh, guy with the shotgun."

"A date?" she said.

"Yeah, maybe we can have a do-over on that. You and me," I said, "Just you and me. No Hunter, no Ayesha or Dane or Zeke."

"On a date," she said with a measured tone.

"If you want," I said, "If you're interested. We could go on a date."

Her lack of an answer was worse than hot bullets tearing over my head.

"Where are you going to take me?" she asked.

"Is that a yes?" I asked, my heart stopping.

Her smile was a bright flash. "I guess it is. So what's the plan, ace?"

"Do you like bowling? I thought we could go bowling," I said. Bowling was a thing in Indiana, did people go bowling in Chicago? Was bowling lame? I shouldn't have said bowling.

"Bowling sounds fun," she said, "I'm pretty busy all week. Rehearsals, homework. But I'm free on the weekend, what do you say about Saturday night?"

"Sounds great," I said, "Pick you up at 6?"

"You better," she said with a wink, then hurried over to Ayesha with her head down, the two of them falling into hushed giggling and whispers, leaving me standing under the tree with nothing but my heart beat rining in my ears.

It took me a second for it all to register.

I had a date, a real date, with a cute girl. I swallowed, body humming. Even the fire of my power seemed to flare up in me. I tried not to be a dork and dance or something, but I did walk with a bit more pop in my step.

Now I just had to get through the week, and not screw things up between now and then.

>check out the gym Ayesha mentioned
>scope out somewhere for the date
>spend the rest of the night on crime fighting
>check out the gym Ayesha mentioned
Time to git gud
I'm excited, there aren't many boxing-trained superheroes. The trainer could also serve as a role model since we apparently have none
Idk where everyone went OP, this probably isn't anime fanfic enough to get a bunch of players. This is my favorite current quest though so keep up the good work man!
>check out the gym Ayesha mentioned
Didn't know this was alive again!
Lincoln Park was a part of Chicago I'd never spent much time in and I had to say it was practically a different world from the west side. The streets were shaded with picturesque trees and folks went around on bicycles without once checking their shoulder. The cars were current models, putting me in mind of the families who buy a new car every year or every second year.

The street was free of weeds and the alleys empty of trash. The apartment blocks looked newly built, slick with all the modern fixings, and even the old ones had a grandeur that said 'heritage' rather than poverty.

I didn't feel comfortable about it, walking by smiling white couples walking their toy dogs and women jogging in small groups down sidewalks toward big parks that overlooked the lake.

Title Fight Boxing was part of a strip, between a joint selling cupcakes and a barbershop. It had an executive kind of front, I wouldn't know it was a gym if Ayesha hadn't sent me the address.

Going in I was met with the hard slap of fists on heavy bags and the metal clink of weight machines, all to the beat of club music. A young woman in leggings and a short hoodie that left a slice of her belly showing sat at the front desk, typing on a computer. She saw me and smiled.

"Hi there, welcome to Title Fight Boxing, my name is Diana how can I help you?" she was a blend of fitness trainer and receptionist, with the practiced friendliness of a salesperson.

I scoped the gym behind her. The walls were brick and the center was dominated by a ring, a couple of guys sparring it out on it. Weight machines were set up on one side of the floor space, free weights nearby. On one wall were three faces, portraits stencilled with black paint.

"Excuse me?" she said, catching my eye, "If you don't know this gym is by appointment. If you could give me your name and which trainer you're here to see I'd be happy to run them up for you. Of course if you're just curious I can arrange a guided tour."

I rubbed my chin.

"Yeah, sorry. Eric Miller here to see Roy Jackson," I said, "His niece maybe told him I was coming."

"Maybe told him," Diana said, nose crinkling like I'd said something funny. "I'll let Roy know you're here."

I slipped off my schoolbag while she went to do that, looking up at the high ceiling. A guy in a suit with an executive flare came in behind me, talking on his phone. He didn't even say excuse me as he stepped around but head toward the change rooms, loosening his tie.

Diana came back with a black dude. Ayesha's uncle was darker than she was, maybe not as muscle bound as I'd expected but still heavy framed and tall. He looked north of forty but well kept, a chin strap beard and a fade he probably got clipped next door.
"You Ayesha's little hoodlum friend?" he asked, not exactly friendly. Diana went back to her chair like I no longer existed, back to typing something up. "Eric, right. She probably told you I give discount lessons to disadvantaged kids. Well its true, but I don't hand it out to every sad story come through my door. Most come to me through youth programs, delinquency shit, not from my sister's girl." He looked me up and down, "Where you from?" He looked over my bruised cheek without much reaction.

"West side, sir," I said, "But originally, Indiana."

"Indiana huh," he said, "You know what they should call Indiana? North Dixie."

I smiled. "Haven't heard that one before," I said.

We walked to the back of the gym, me a step behind.

"Drop your bag over there, I'll get you some gloves," he said, going to a box of used equipment.

I looked up at the wall sized portraits of the men on the wall. All dignified black men. The middle one looked grim into the distance.

"This is Malcolm X, right?" I said.

Mr Jackson gave me such a sour look I near blushed. "Boy, that's Fred Hampton" he said, "What you think that's Martin Luther King smilin' there next to him?" I didn't want to say. Mr Jackson shook his head. "Huey Newton, and the other brother up there is Bunchy Carter. All Panthers killed by the Man."

I couldn't help but notice the lack of black folks in this fancy gym. He shoved a pair of gloves into my hands.

"What you know about boxin'?" he asked.

"Me and my dad have watched a couple fights," I said.

"Uh," a dismissive sound, "Well we'll fix that. If you stick with it you'll know the science in and out. First question for you is, how do you throw a punch?"

I raised up my fist.

"Is it with your hand?" he asked, "With your arm? Your shoulder?"

"Uh," was about my answer, now not knowing what he was talking about.

He dropped into a boxing stance.

"It's a trick question, boy," he said, "You throw a punch with your whole body. Starting with your feet, moving up to your core and then out through your fist. Every part of your body is used to deliver a precise strike, with biomechanical perfection. It's the sweet science, and it takes hard years to master."

He opened up a quick flurry of punches, the power shown in the quick cut of his fists.

"If you think its going to be exciting, if you think its going to be a Rocky movie, I'm sorry but that ain't the way this goes. It's long, boring work."

"Now why do you want to learn?" he asked, "You want to go pro, or are you just looking to avoid a repeat ass-kicking?" He flicked at the bruise on my face.

"I live in a rough hood," I said.

He nodded. "I grew up Back-of-the-Yards," he said, "But why learn to fight when you should be taking up track? Running might save your string-bean ass better than throwing hands."

"Some times you can't run," I said.
"True enough," he said, "All right I'll start you off with some basic stuff. Things you can take home. Nothing fancy, fancy comes a whole lot later."

Mr Jackson took me through the rawest most basic of boxing. A lot of it was just making sure I stood right, then having me throw jab after jab after jab. "If you can't jab you can't box," he said. He checked me over, made sure I was moving my body right. It felt clumsy and fake but he didn't give me shit, just kept making corrections.

"Remember when you shoot that fist out you bring it right back, keep your hands high and protect your head," he said, "Keep those elbows in, don't chicken wing it."

By the time we were done my arm was dead.

Then he started me on a simple one-two combination.

"Hands up Miller," he said. I kept them up. They felt weighed down already, every blow sluggish.

A touch of power might wipe that exhaustion away.

>tap into my power
>keep it honest, sweat it out
>keep it honest, sweat it out
My thinking here is that if we avoid power usage while training here, we can improve our body's ability to handle using our powers. Once we have the technique locked down we can start practicing it with our powers on our own time. It'd be hard as fuck to learn these techniques in two different ways at once.
I was thinking the same thing
locked in and writing
I bit back on the urge to use my powers. Like Mr Jackson said, it was going to be long, hard, boring work. If I was going to take on people like Salamander, super-powered criminals who knew how to fight, I needed to commit to doing this for real. And the stronger my body got maybe the stronger my powers got too, or at least the longer I could tap into it.

By the time we were done it had been an intense hour long session.

"Call this one free," he said, "Next time call ahead and bring ten bucks. I can slot you in where I can, but I got paying clients too. Social welfare doesn't keep the lights on, and the rent around here is high. You got a change of clothes? Thought not, bring something you can sweat in next time too."

"How long you been boxing for Mr Jackson?" I asked.

"Call me Roy," he said, "Since I was thirteen so about twenty years."

"You ever go pro?"

"I boxed Golden Gloves in college, even had a shot at the Olympics" he said, "But no, I never went pro." He tapped his knee. "Bad knee."

Before I left Diana had me fill out some paperwork, some kind of special membership thing that came with a keycard.

"Hope to see you again soon," she said with a perky smile, waving goodbye.

I kicked it down the quiet street, sun sunk low behind me heading to the L station.

I was tired but it was a good tired, having worked myself to the bone.

I got in after sunset. Dad came home a little after, a bag of takeout swinging from his fist.

"I picked up some Popeye's," he said, setting it on the table.

"You worked today?" I asked.

He stretched his back. "Yeah," he said, "I've got shifts down at a site in Bridgeport."

"How was school?" he asked while fishing a beer out of the fridge. It was halfway through a sip he finally noticed the bruises on my face. "Jesus Eric, when did that happen?" He looked troubled as he took a seat, condensation from the beer can dripping down his hand

>what do you care?
>it's nothing Dad, don't worry about it
We live in a shitty area. I'm learning how to fight now, don't worry about it
locked in

and writing
"I don't know if you noticed, Dad, but we live in a shitty area," I said, pulling out a piece of chicken, "I got my ass kicked but don't worry about it, I'm learning how to fight."

He didn't like it as he drank his beer and watched me eat. "You can talk to me you know," he said, "About what's going on with you, in your life. I know I haven't really been here, been around since your mom, even before she...you know."

He drank the beer while I chewed, silence hanging between us.

"If you're getting into trouble with local kids or something, getting roughed up, I can handle it," he said, "Tell me who they are I'll have a word with their parents."

I put the chicken down, dabbed crumbs off my lips. "Dad, this isn't Indiana," I said, "You want to talk to their parents you'll have to go out to a state pen or a cemetary. I'm just glad they didn't have a gun or something."

"That bad?" concern showed in his eyes. It was rare to see more than drunken incoherence on his face, and it aged him, brought out the salt in his stubble.

I shrugged. "Not always."

I finished eating, washed up and went to bed.

There was a week between now and my date.

>focus on crime fighting, clean up the area
>focus on school work and basketball
>focus on training, both my powers and my boxing
>focus on training, both my powers and my boxing
We can't keep getting fucked up like we did on our last outing, people will start to take notice. Let's get prepared and then make up for lost time afterwards.
>focus on training, both my powers and my boxing
this is life or death for us now that we're fully on the outfits shitlist and they have a supe martial artist on payroll. it's time to get serious.
>focus on training, both my powers and my boxing
Gains for the gains god
Also we should tell our dad about the date and ask him for advice. He seems like a good guy when he's not passed the fuck out
locked in and writing
The next week went by between time at the gym and my own private training. I tried taking what I was doing in boxing and applying it to my powers, keeping in mind something Roy Jackson repeated time and again.

"There are two key elements to boxing," he said, "Precision, and position. Positioning yourself to get the hit, and precision of your punch to land the hit. All your body moves together, remember, you don't punch with your fist or your shoulder. You punch with your entire body. It all snaps out, and you drive it through your opponent at a precise spot."

I didn't train alone at Title Fight either. Roy had a couple of street kids, his 'hoodlums' who he'd bring in and drill together, giving them ring time to spar. Most were young black guys, a couple were Latino, and Roy stressed I was no where near ready to step in the ring with any of them.

"You barely know how to punch, step in the ring too early you'll either hurt yourself or one of them. Boxing is a pain game, but it should be deliberate. I don't need you clipping a kid in the back of the head or getting knocked down and have to call an ambulance."

I nodded, that was fair enough.

A couple of time I saw Ayesha in there, jogging in some athletic wear fashion.

"Uncle Roy get you in the ring yet?" she said one time while I was huffing and puffing, offering me a sip of her water bottle, "Stick and move, Eric, stick and move." She bobbed on her feet as I slurped down cool water, throwing a couple quick jabs.

"You box?" I asked.

Ayesha shrugged. "Not seriously, but I was porky last year so I do work out." She waved and ran off for her own lesson, hitting a squat rack with Diana watching.

Sometimes if she was around she'd bug her uncle into giving me a lift to my bus stop.

"See you at school, don't forget you owe me," she said with a wink while her uncle drove off, taking her home and laeving me to shiver in the cold bus shelter.
It was still early days but I felt a shift in how I managed my power. My control was improving, and I thought I might have a trick with it, throwing it into my punches to deliver a real blockbuster of a hit. I sized up one of the cement pillars, controlling my breathing, readying myself.

I fell into a basic boxing stance, fists high, elbows tucked in.

Power rushed through me with the burning white intensity. I focused it down to my right hand, to my closed, wrapped fist.

This was either going to work, or shatter my hand.

I drove my body behind a hard straight power punch.

Pain roared up to my elbow as a chunk of masonry blew apart from the pillar, my hand dropping to my side. I clenched my teeth, snorting in pain, cradling the wrist of my hand. My fingers shook in the wraps. I hesitated to unwrap it, and when I did my front knuckles looked goofy, swollen over black and purple. I flexed my fingers. They were moving.

Smoke rose from the chunk missing in the pillar, the part I'd smashed free blown to powder. I wasn't going to repeat that on cement at least. It was a reminder even with increased strength and resillience, I wasn't impervious.

Between boxing and training my powers school slid back a little. I missed turning in my History report but got an extension, and did the same in English too, having missed some of the reading I was meant to do on Othello. I made it to basketball training but slipped up on training in my off time. My job was just to run towels and water under Howie's supervision. The little fat boy was still shaken up by Jeremy, but his enthusiasm always came back on the court, clapping and cheering encouragement at the rest of the team.

"Good job today Howie," Hunter said, jogging off the court. He snatched a cup of water from my hand without comment.

"Shoot the hoops," Howie said.

"Nothing but net," he said, giving Howie a high five. Hunter threw a used towel at me. "Clean it up, towel boy," he said.

It was a busy time and whenever I got home it was either to Mrs Valdez's cooking sitting on the table or take out.

However the shifts were going at Dad's work, it didn't stop his drinking. Most nights I came home to him passed out either on the couch or in his bed, and I had no clue if he'd made it to work that day, but the lights were still on. I'd drag him to bed if I had the energy, but usually I was too tired to do more than shower off and rip into whatever food was left out, my power fuelled hunger leaving no room for left overs.

I was viewing Saturday with a mix of throbbing optimism and dread.

A date with Kay. Bowling. I didn't know much about girls or dating, what I should do. I read a couple articles on the internet but found it more confusing than helpful. I needed some guidance on this.

>ask Dad for help, he must know a thing or two
>ask Luis, he seemed to know the score
>ask Mrs Valdez, maybe a woman would know best
>ask Dad for help, he must know a thing or two
>ask Luis, he seemed to know the score
Dad wants to know what's good in our life, we should give him at least some good news. And a second opinion never hurt anybody.
Also, I hope we didn't forget our meeting with Ms. Grant.
>>ask Dad for help, he must know a thing or two

>>ask Mrs Valdez, maybe a woman would know best
>ask Dad for help

this one wins

I'll update in a sec
I'll have to post the next update tomorrow

see you guys then
Another great thing to learn from boxing is reading your opponents movements and dodging accordingly. That'll definitely be important for us.
That'll be on Friday, the day before our date
I came home Friday night to find Dad washing the dishes, plates clinking together as he stood them to dry in the rack.

"Hey," I said, "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure," Dad had dark pits under his eyes, pink in the whites, and stubble that was starting to threaten a beard. I don't know if he'd changed into anything clean. The cold was building so he put on the heat, then got down a bottle of Jack from the cabinet, poured out about a fifth of a glass. We sat across each other at the kitchen table, the glow of the tv on but muted in the room beside us. "What's up?" he asked, taking a sip. To him these days whiskey was as smooth as water, even the roughest stuff which had a vapor smell that rankled my nose went down his throat easy.

"I've got a date tomorrow," I said, "And I was wondering-"

"You need money for it?" he said, pulling out a couple of twenties.

"Nah, I mean yeah but, I was thinking more just general advice," I said.

"My boy," he said with a rough smile, "I thought we had a talk about the birds and the bees."

"Not that," I said, "I mean, I don't know what to do. I just...she's cute, I like her, and I don't want to blow it."

He sipped the whiskey. "Hell I don't know," he said, "I never dated in high school. I never went out with a girl except your mom."

"Serious?" I said, eyebrows raised.

He nodded. "She was my one and only. Don't get me wrong I was interested in other girls I just...didn't know how to talk to them good or something. Never had that problem with your mom though. We fell in right away. Once we got talking it was like I'd known her my whole life. She made all the hard stuff easy."

"You guys met in college, right?" I said.

"First semester at Indiana University," he admired the amber liquid in his glass, then poured himself a little more, "Met her at some fraternity party, one of those cross campus meet-and-greets. I helped her walk a drunk friend home, we talked all night. By the end of the week we were an item, couldn't separate us. Never could." His eyes went misty and he downed the whole glass, set it down with a satisfied gasp. "I didn't believe in soul mates, your mother didn't either, but if there ever was such a thing...I don't know. The universe is too big for that kind of thing. Which makes it more of a miracle maybe, when people do meet, and they do fall together so neatly. A beautiful, cruel miracle."

"Nothing's forever, son," he said, tears starting to cloud the milk of his eyes, "Everything goes at some point. It takes more than it gives."
"We're going bowling," I said.

"I used to take you bowling," he said with misty eyed confusion. He was clearly growing drunk.

"Yeah," I said.

"Hey I got something for you," he got up from the table on unsteady legs, stumbling to his room, "If you're going on a date you'll need it." A scrape and shuffle followed out of the door, the sound of fabrics being searched through.

He came back out with a faded denim jacket, holding it up for me with a smile.

"I wore this my first year in college, the whole time I was courting your mom," he said, "She thought it was cool, real slick. Said it made me look like a young Bruce Springsteen. Kind of bugged me at the time, like a girl telling you you look like your dad, but it was a compliment so I learned to love it. You should wear it, it'll give you good luck."

It was a little big for me, had a musk of whiskey and cigarettes.

"Your mom loved Springsteen, I was more a Pearl Jam guy," he said, draping it off the back of my chair. He wobbled, then roared, "Even floooow..." followed by a string of gibberish, then laughed like he'd told a great joke.

He kept laughing as he thumped down on the chair, refilling his glass. He snorted into the depths of the cup as he took another sip.

>take the jacket, it meant a lot to him
>dress like someone from this century
sorry for the late start
>take the jacket but dont wear it to the date
denim jackets too badass to go on a date with add it to our hero costume
is the denim jacket black or blue
personally i think black denim is cooler cause i like dark themes
dark blue and faded in spots
>take the jacket, it meant a lot to him
make sure to wash it first. wearing it for superhero shit is dumb because it'll get destroyed in no time and our dad would recognize it in a picture
next on the list to buy for hero clothing is a leather jacket
or this jacket ( edgy it is but god does it look cool)
shit your right
lets take it on the date then
we should also look for places for a job since we are gonna need fabrics to make our costume
black jacket seems cool, I would like the contrast of black with some detailing the matches the bright glowing color left behind with our power usage, like with our footsteps and whatnot
aight so then our color scheme is black and white or maybe a sky blue
now that i think about it we really havent thought much on what our hero costume is gonna be
though i feel we are gonna go with punisher/ ghost rider type clothing maybe a bit of red hood
locked in
"Thanks Dad," I said, pulling it on.

We sat there in silence, him drinking, me in his old jacket with the sleeves hanging over my wrists.

His smile was sloppy and his eyes were bright. Whatever I could say about Dad's drinking, he wasn't the violent kind of drunk. He got sad or silly or over-emotional, he cried sometimes. Most times he was just quiet, drinking alone, drinking until he couldn't move or think. I don't think it was the drinking that hurt him, it was the thinking, the replayed memories. God knows I knew how they hurt.

He took another belt of whiskey, his chin beginning to drift down to his chest.

"I'm proud 'f you kid," he slurred, "You're a...you're a trooper, an Army Ranger. Don't want...don't want to be safe from..."

His head lolled forward and the glass tumbled from his hand into his lap, soaking into his crotch. It was then I noticed the mound of crushed beer cans by the sink. He'd started drinking early, and hadn't stopped.

I took him under the arm pits, hauled him from the chair. He stank of sweat and cigarettes and his breath reeked of alcohol. I dragged him to bed, pulled off his work boots. He didn't do anything but stirr a little, mutter gibberish in his drunken stupor. It was good in a way, him drinking. It meant I could go for my other date without drawing much suspicion.

Ms Grant would be waiting for me on the roof of Chicago City Hall in the heart of Chicago itself, waiting for me to show up at 10 PM, and the clock was climbing to the hour.

I left Dad lying on his side, closed the door behind me. I went in my room and slid out the fire escape.

The mangy cat gave a mew as I passed. I grabbed the rail and hopped over the side, landing on the cement. I gave a look up and down the alley. Coast was clear. I changed into my makeshift super hero outfit. I had to get some better duds, a loose hoodie and surplus ski goggles wasn't going to cut it. But that wasn't a priority.
I launched myself up to the roof of the neighbor's flat house, three levels up and down in a crouch. I ran to the edge and launched off the gutter, covering half the block. It was good I dressed warm at least, no one mentioned how cold the night air was, particularly when it was whipping by you a hundred miles an hour.

If anyone saw me bound through the night I didn't hear them. The street lights made good cover, protection from phone snaps. The same pollution that blocked out the stars did a trick for me too.

A train rolled by under me as I bound over the L, its chugging engine cutting through the whistle of the wind. When I hit the city the sounds grew louder. A friday night and people were out, hitting clubs, hitting restaurants, or taking in a show at any number of theaters. Broadway didn't have a monopoly on productions, and my next leap ended on the side of a building with a big poster for 'Hamilton' unfurled down the side.

Car horns fought each other in the streets beneath me, ubers competing for parking space, jousting with taxi cabs and the bustle of bus cars.

People spewed out of the L stations into packed sidewalks, decked in scarfs and coats against the night chill. Shouting went down the street, the whoop of an ambulance trying to cut a path through the dense traffic.

My next jump and I heard someone call out, point up from the ground, a gasp of awe but I was onto the roof of the building across the street, leaving them behind. I ran past a security guard slurping a steaming cup of coffee that he almost dropped when I leapt across the gap dividing his building from the next.

Chicago City Hall had its own city block. It was short than the buildings around it, but had its own size and sense of grandeur. Roman columns stood tall, its doors gold plated and flanked by Roman-esque sculptures carved or embedded into the walls. Flags hung limp above the entrance. City officials filed out of the golden doors, tired looking men and women in cheap suits. Clerks, politicians, lawyers, the civic officials that tried to wrangle the juggernaut known as Chicago.

I looked up to the roof. I leapt, and landed on a cement rail.

It could have been a park from any corner of Chicago, scooped up and placed on the top of the building. Grass, flowers, and a few hardy trees in tight squares, stone paths winding through them.

I scoped out Ms Grant, dressed in a long dark coat belted around the waist, breathing mist over a steaming cup of coffee, waiting for me by a thick bush of white flowers. She wore her hair high and pinned, a few graceful looks falling over her tan face, dark eyes searching the rooftop with suspicion.
"DSA Grant," I said, walking down the path toward her.

"Hotspur," she said, the steam from the coffee shrouding her face. Her bruises had healed, and I could better appreciate her face, wide with a feline touch.

We shook hands then she took a long sip.

"You mentioned a partnership," I said.

"I did," she said, "I'm building a network, one that could use a man like you. A task force."

"I take it not an official one," I said.

"Not exactly official, no," she said with a grin, "But there are too many leaks using official channels, too many ways things could go wrong. I can't trust anyone in my department, I can't trust anyone with any kind of power."

"Fighting the system, it won't be easy," I said.

"No it won't," she said, "So we have to be careful. There's a deputy in the Cook County Sheriff's Department I know I can trust, and a reporter with the Tribune. I also have someone in Records."

"A motley crew," I said.

"And you, if you're willing," she said.

"And what's my part in this?" I said, "You want me scooping around collecting evidence?"

"When you find it, yeah," she said, "But I thought you could do a bit more...muscle work."

"Muscle work huh?" I said.

She nodded. "I mean to disrupt their operations as we put together a case. The Outfit, and anyone else who has their claws stuck in the city. I can't trust the cops to bring in the real culprits, they'd rather bounce kids' heads off car doors. But if you were to bust up a drug ring, you could dliver the actual kingpin to justice."

"I don't know if that would hold up in a court of law," I said.
"No, but it would scare the hell out of them," she said. A look crossed her face, something hesitant. "You should know," she said, "Some people in the government have been asking after you." I leaned forward. "When I got into work Monday, a couple of suits took me aside to ask questions. Not so much bout my abduction but about my rescue, about you. I was with them for hours, they asked all kinds of things. Did you seem to have difficulty carrying me, how far could you jump, did you seem to have a disturbed state of mind. Who I thought you were and where you were from. If you mentioned any others like you."

"Did you answer?" I asked, skim prickling.

"I kept it general," she said, "But they grilled me hard. I don't know which agency they were with, maybe FBI, maybe NSA, maybe something I've never even heard of. Be careful, I don't think they're your friends."

"Thanks for the head's up," I said, "how are you doing?"

"Oh, you know," she held open her long coat to show a shoulder holster, a heavy pistol tucked within, "Not taking chances. The police didn't like it but they gave me a carry permit, next time the Outfit tries anything I'll throw some bullets back at them."

"You got beat up pretty bad," I said.

"Don't worry about me, I'm a big girl," she said.

"So if I'm going to help you out, I'm guessing you have an assignment for me?" I said.

She grinned, pulled out a folder. "Tomorrow night there's a yacht coming into the docks, down from Canada. It's owned by a Monsieur Nicolas Bellavance, a real party goer with ties to the Quebecois mafia. He's a real hot topic on instagram. Smuggles party drugs under the cover of parties on his super yacht, at least that's the rumor. He'll be docking in Chicago around 9 PM, off-loading his goods then gone up the coast by morning. Talk has it he might be into even wilder things, sex trafficking, prostitution. The Epstein of the Great Lakes."

The photo showed a stocky man with an open shirt and a boating tan, hairy arms hooked around two gorgeous bikini babes, white teeth bared mid-laugh.

"Before he rolls out I mean to take him down," she said, "Are you in?"

>I'm in
>Tomorrow night? uh, I have a date...
that's a chunky update
>I'm in
We'll just have to let Kay know we have to get her home by 845 to be "home" at nine.
Make some excuse about how our grades are sort of slipping so our dads cracking the whip. Turn it into an opportunity to work together on homework on another day. The first date doesn't have to be all night anyway.

The suits investigating us is worrying, especially since they seem to know about what happened. The disturbed state of mind thing is interesting, maybe that's a common side effect of the powers that we somehow avoided?
Basically the only thing I've been looking forward to this week is your updates.
Same here friend, it's been rough for me. Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving though!
Locked in and writing
"I'm in," I said, "Where will you need me?"

"Montrose Harbor," she said, "It's all in the file, along with the trouble we could be expecting. You stop the hand off and when they're docked we'll be waiting to move in."

"Sounds like a plan," I said.

"One other thing before you go," she said, catching the sleeve of my arm, "I need you to promise me no matter how deep this gets, no matter how far we go, never tell me or anyone we work with who you really are. You're the ace in the hole, nothing can be allowed to compromise that."

"Gotcha," I said with a playful salute.

Her stern glare turned into a smile. "Stay safe," she said.

"Ms Grant, if I wanted to stay safe," I backed up to the edge of the building, "I wouldn't be a super hero."

I dropped backward and out of sight, her surprised gasp in my ear, falling backward toward the streets. I turned about in mi-air, my foot touching the stonework, running headlong downward with white flash steps, then after three lunging steps I burst off and up into the night, laughter ripping out of me, snatched away by the wind.

And Chicago sprawled before me, gleaming in the dark.
glad you guys are enjoying it

taking a short break and will be back with the start of date night

that said, we're down to page 7. When should I start a new thread and when should this thread be archived?
I don't think anyone would be bothered if you started a new thread whenever. Autosage doesn't really matter on /qst/ and we've probably got a few more days before falling off the board though.
I crashed in at sometime past one, having stopped a mugging, a car jacking, and what looked like something could have turned into a rape. Grizzly stuff, and with a hand still bandged with me worrying it was a fracture, I wasn't as punchy as usual. Still when I got in I threw Ms Grant's folder on my desk, slumped onto my bed, and snored my way through morning.

Lunch time would have to make do for breakfast. I came out rubbing my eyes, jaw cracking on a yawn. Little blond hairs flecked my chin and the corner of my lips, I took them off with the gentlest brush of a razor. I poured a bowl of cereal and chewed through some off-brand Trix, drank the milk at the bottom of the bowl and burped.

There were a couple of twenties on the counter. I folded them up and slipped them in my wallet.

I looked up the place I was going to take Kay, 'Waveland Bowling'. It wasn't far from school, and the prices seemed reasonable. I did some maths in my head and figured I had enough cash, so long as she didn't want anything extra. Breakfast wasn't enough to fix my power stoked hunger, my belly yowled and a cramp had me buckle. Mrs Valdez was out so I hit Luis' shop, hoping he'd have some snacks set aside.

I limped down the road.

D-Mark and his boy Smokey were out the front, still too early to be high, drinking something from a brown paper bag, bitching about the Bulls. "Man this town used to rule the NBA," d-Mark said, "When I was a li'l un it was all the Bulls from coast-to-coast."

"It was all Jordan, man, the Bulls have always been a weak franchise without him," Smokey said, whatever was in the bottle sloushed thick. "Who they got now? Bobby Portis? Fuck outa here with that."

They saw me limping up. D-Mark smiled. "Hey Rico, how you doin' this fine Saturday? You wanna check out the hottest drop of the season? Gimme your number I'll link you our sound cloud."

"I told you a QR Code was the way to go, man, nobody givin' you their number," Smokey said, "But hey, give us a follow on your social media of choice an' we'd appreciate it."

"I'm good," I said, limping past.

Luis flipped through his tablet behind the counter, looking tired. His cat yawned.

"You going to run off those two or what?" I asked, not seriously as I grabbed a snickers.

"Los dos idiotas? Nah, they harmless," Luis said, "Good customers too, they almost eat as much as you do but they pay for their food."

I wolfed down the chocolate bar. Luis pulled out a pack of donuts from under the counter. "You can have two," he said. I barely chewed them, sucking them down. I got out a yoo-hoo from the back fridge. Just trying to get my energy back.

The plan as it stood was to go to Kay's house, meet her parents, then take a bus to the bowling alley. From there we'd see what happened, but I had to be going by 9.30 if I was going to hit the harbor for Ms Grant.

I thought about all this, what I'd wear, how I'd do my hair, when the front bell rang, and she walked in.
There was no forgetting someone like Salamander. Height alone had her stand out, add to it she dressed like an extra from the Godfather and you had a distinctive figure. She wore toe shoes and pinstripe dress pants held up by suspenders, a dress shirt with the sleeves folded up over her elbows, and walked with a forward leaning slouch, hands tucked into her pockets.

She looked around with coal dark eyes, hair clipped short at the sides but long in the front. She pushed her hair up out of her face, slicking it back over her head.

I ducked down behind the shelves, heart thumping in my chest.

"Can I help you?" Luis asked, looking up at her.

A bright smile lit her lips. "Well I'm hoping so!" she said with bright cheer. She reached out and scritch Luis' cat under the chin. "I heard this is where Frankie the Nose got his head busted in by Hotspur," she said, "First time he ever stepped out against the Outfit."

Luis drew up and stepped closer to his counter. I knew he stashed a shotgun back there now. "You with the Outfit?" he asked.

She cocked her head to the side. "Well yeah," she said, "You haven't heard of me? They call me 'Salamander'."

"I heard a rumor," he said. I'd told Luis about her. "About a crazy bitch who can do things like he can, stuff with fire."

"Oh I don't know if its just like him," she said, looking up at the cieling, ambling down to the shelves. I kept my head down. "You know I was wondering if you could take a message to him," she said, "Can you do that, run a message?"

"I don't know him if that's what you're thinking," he said, "I only met him the once."

"Well I'm sure you can figure something out, you're a resourceful guy. You got Frankie to back off! That ain't easy. When I saw him right after he was threatening to do all kinds of gross shit to you, and worse to your pal," she said.

"What's the message," he said.

"Tell him I want to finish that dance we started," she said, "Tell him to come find me at Humboldt Park, sundown tomorrow."

"What if he doesn't come?" Luis asked.

She walked toward the front door, looked back over his shoulder at him. "Well then I guess I'll look real silly waiting in the dark," she said, "Have a nice day."

Then she whistled something tuneless as she walked out.

I sagged with relief when she was gone. Luis did too.

He looked to the door a good five minutes before beckoning me over. "You hear that shit?" he said. I nodded. "Well, you going to go?"

>guess I have to
>hell no
>hell no
Luis has nothing to do with this. Us showing up will only confirm his connection to us.
>guess I have to
On the one hand, if we go it basically confirms Luis is connected to us, and they'll harass him. If we don't go, though, they might take it as him not giving the message, and they'll harass him.
We definitely have a better chance of winning if we're not running on fumes like last time though.
>guess I have to
I wanna say that she gives off a disturbing aura of innocence. The way she talks and her mannerisms... they seem normal and cheerful, even kind, and not at all what you would expect from a gangster thug. She scares me.

Good job by the way OP, this is a very interesting character and I think she's kinda cute and I wanna know more about her.
>hell no
No reason to rope Luis into this shit, if we don't show then the assumef association to us is marginal, if we do then they know we are in contact on a daily basis
She already knows we're associated with him. She might fuck him up just to provoke us into fighting her if we don't face her now like she wants. Not showing up wouldn't do shit to protect Luis.
>guess I have to
I get the feeling that she really just wants to fight us
sorry for the silence, had some internet trouble

locking in and will post tomorrow
we really need to find a way to get funds for better equipment
like a portable radio to hear either news or police reports
night vision goggles
a taser
some armour
and maybe a baton cause since we have super strength a blunt weapon will be great in our hands
Yeah I was just thinking that we need a job. Gonna be hard to balance all our responsibilities though.
true maybe we drop basketball
while we are at it we should also learn kicks and submissions
kicks because they can be more lethal than punches
and submissions to t\either take someone down non- lethally or to bring down someone with high durability also to put people in chokeholds and sneak around like solid snake
woops typed too fast
also if we are gonna fight salamander we should probably test if we can put out her flames with water
I thought we had to take basketball so we don't get suspended? We'll hopefully get a contact that can help us out with gear.
nah i think it was just the principal giving us a suggestion
also if we get suspended i think that would help since we technically have more time
>"We're strongly encouraging you to join one." She held out a list toward me.
>"Voluntarily," Mr Getty said, "But you know, not really."

Definitely not a choice. Don't make mom sad anon
i dont think they will hold us to it
a one time offense shouldnt equal a permenant punishment especially after they gave us a detention ontop of it
but yeah lets not make mother sad
either way we need to find a way to make money that doesnt get in the way of either our school time or hero time
sorry, I've been taking care of a sick dog all day and if she gets worse I'll have to take her to an emergency vet. I'll try to update but if I disappear that will be why
No worries man, the pup should take priority
understandable, take care man
Understandable, I hope she gets better.
"I guess I have to," I said, "They'll just keep sniffing around until I do."

"Things were going ok until Rooster got out," Luis said, shaking his head, "People let me be. Now the gangs are itching to fight it out for every street corner doesn't have a flag on it."

"Sorry I got you into this," I said.

"Nah kid, this isn't on you," he said, stroking his ginger cat, "With the way this city's been going something was going to come my way eventually. There's a stink in this city, and you can only go so long before you get it on you."

"What you got planned for the rest of the day anyway?" he said, "Helping more little old ladies cross the street?"

I grinned. "I got a date tonight, taking her out bowling."

Luis bobbed his head. "All right, all right, so little man's a player too. You got protection?"

I looked around. "Man I don't need a gun or nothing," I said, "It's in the nice part of town anyway."

Laughter roared from Luis, his head thrown back, a shaking belly laugh that startled his cat down from his spot on the counter. He wiped a tear from his eye. "I don't mean like that," he said, gold caps winking at me from his grin, "I mean a rubber, a condom."

I blushed. "Man, it's one date," I said, "I'll be lucky if I get a kiss."

"Well its something to think about," he said, "Better safe than sorry, or a baby daddy."

I bought another candy bar and left, still red from Luis' laughter.

I got home and changed. Black shirt, black jeans, and Dad's old denim jacket over the top. I brushed my hair one way then the other, then forward, then back, then I gave up. I doused myself in Ax and checked my collar.

Dad was out, gone with some co-workers to a bar. He'd left me another ten on the kitchen table. I scrunched it up, shoved it in my wallet.

Ok, I thought. All I had left to do was go to Kay's, meet her parents, and not screw everything up. Then I had to bust some Canadian drug smuggler, get home safe, and fight some crazy mafia freak tomorrow night and my weekend was done.

Easy, right?

I checked my reflection one last time.

Nothing to it.
She lived in Uptown, just north of Lakeview and Wrigley Field. Literally an Uptown Girl, Ihad to use the joke on her some time tonight. I took the bus with a couple of transfers, checking my phone for her home address.

I walked up a shaded street, hitching my backpack, trees Autumn stripped with a chill wind scraping dead leaves across the road. Night time was crawling up on me as I went up the drive, Google Maps guiding me. Her house was a surburban castle, two floors with a balcony out on the second floor. The front lawn had a small flower bed, a sprinkler system dribbling water into the soil. A car was in the drive and the sound of plates clacking and voices raised in friendly shouts came out the lit windows.

Nervousness bundled in my guts as I limped up to the front door, looking for a bell. I pressed it but didn't hear nothing, maybe it was broken, so followed it with a sharp knock. Then I sent Kay a text, letting her know I was hanging outside.

The sleeves of Dad's jacket suddenly felt too long, the whole thing not fitting right. I squirmed, flipping the cuffs back to try and do something about it. I looked at my shoes, seeing how raggy they were, scuffed what grime I could off the treads on the welcome mat.

I knocked again then heard a slidding bolt. The door swung inward, casting gold light around a hefty figure.

A tall fat man looked down at me in the doorway. He had the kind of chunk that suggested college football once upon a time, and a neat moustache between the squish of fat cheeks and a hard, strong chin. He wore button ups tucked into an expansive waist line. He smiled, and a year ago I'd have called it friendly, but there was something fake about it. He had Kay's auburn hair turning to salt.

"Well you must be Eric," Mr Whitman said, "Come on in and say hi to the family." His hand fell on my shoulder and squeezed. There was power in his grip, and practice too. This was a guy used to manhandling people. "Come on in, don't be shy. No one's gonna bite ya."

He walked me in without giving me much choice, straight into the frunchroom where the family was assembling for dinner. I didn't spy Kay but there was a couple of younger kids barely out of diapers fighting on the couch for a playstation controller, an older woman must have been her mom, and a boy sitting in a nook with a book in his lap I took to be a younger brother.

Kay had a lot of her mom in her, mostly through the freckles. She wore an apron and was setting down a crockpot of mac and cheese. She smile with more natural friendliness than her husband.

"Well aren't you just a picture," she said, "My oh my, like a little Harrison Ford. So handsome."

A voice came sharp from down the stairs, hot with embarrasment. "Mom!"
I looked around. Above the fireplace sat a framed photo of Mr Whitman in a police dress uniform, smiling as he shook hands with some old guy. An urn sat next to it, some long departed member of the Whitman clan. There were photos of all the kids with various achievements, but pride of place was given to a medal on a blue ribbon, right under a stuffed ten pronged buck's head.

"I see you've spied the decoration," Mr Whitman said, "I got that ten years back. Shot dead a homeboy tried to take a run at the governor, gave the other one a new asshole. Jagoffs clipped me one in the shoulder." He tapped the place with pride. "Well he's emptying his colostomy bag in Stateville now."

"Oh hush, Butter, he doesn't want to hear about that," Mrs Whitman said.

"What's the go with your hand?" he said, looking to my tapped up right, "Too much jerkin' off?" He gave me a kidding elbow a bit too hard to the ribs.

"Clarence, please," his wife said, mortified.

"I'm just playin' with him," he said, "So what's your play tonight, dinner and a movie?"

"Figured I'd take Kay bowling, sir," I said.

"'Sir' huh, now that's all right. Well let me give you a ground rule, you have her back by ten at the latest or I'm going to put a bolo out for you. Know what a bolo is? Means every cop and deputy between here and Milwaukee will have your face fixed in their mind."

"Yes sir," I said.

"Good, good," he said, "Kay's a smart girl, she's a good girl. Treat her right or our next conversation won't be a conversation."

"Clarence, really, you don't have to frighten the boy," Mrs Whitman said, "Oh he's playing a big barkin' dog but he's a softy, really."

I wasn't frightened. Maybe I would have been once upon a time, but I'd seen some shit since then.

"Daddy please, you're embarrasing," Kay skipped down the steps. I swallowed. She wore a cream dress patterned with flowers and a shoe string choker and a cropped denim jacket over the top I didn't think would do much against the cold. Now I was frightened as she tucked an auburn curl back behind her ear and smilled. "Sorry about the 'rents," she said, taking my arm, "Ten o'clock huh? Well then we should go before we run out of night." She said the last with a pointed look to her dad.

He fumbled with his strong hands. "Now if you have any trouble don't hesitate to call," he said, "Don't call the cops, call me direct or Uncle AJ. Understand that Kay?"

"Sure Daddy," she said, popping on her toes to kiss his cheek.

Then he looked to me. "Do you understand, Eric?" he said, "You take good care of my girl tonight."

> I will, sir, best as I can
> Kay's good at taking care of herself
you'd think I'd check for typos but proof reading is for losers
> I will, sir, best as I can
10 at the latest, got it
Wouldn't we need to drop her off closer to 9 to get to our mission on time?
update speed > typo-free updates
> I will, sir, best as I can
"You're the boss, boss"
locked in

give me a sec
"I will sir, best as I can," I said, "Ten at the latest." It would be earlier but I didn't say that. I had a second date lined up tonight, one that was going to be a lot less fun.

He shook my hand, squeezing too hard. I didn't wince.

"God, Daddy, I'm not made of glass," Kay said.

"Well don't think I've forgotten about the hold up," he said, "You can't always hope some two-bit thug in a mask will show up to rescue you everytime you get in some trouble."

"Dad hasn't stopped complaining about Hotspur since he showed up," Kay said, "You'd think he'd be more grateful."

"If he'd done the wrong thing who knows how many people coulda got hurt," he said, "And this stunt with the Grant woman."

"No, no, no, he's getting started," Kay said, pulling me away, "You don't want him to get started."

He kept going. "She's more concerned with putting good officers in cuffs than going after the bad guys."

"Ok Daddy, that's ok," she said, "Now if you'll excuse us, Eric and I are going to go bowling. Come on Eric."

She pulled me back out the door, her parents standing in the doorway watching us go.

We made it to the bus shelter, well away from the specter of her dad.

"So, you look nice," she said. She held my hand and my pulse went into a gallop. Her hand was soft, her fingers laced with mine.

"You too, you look uh really nice," I said, looking her up and down. Her smooth calves were shiny in the street light. Her hand was hot in mine. She sat with me on the bench hip-to-hip, smiling, waiting for the bus. "More than nice."

"So bowling huh?" she said.

"Its a place Kemal told me about," I said, "His secret hideout. Waveland, you ever been?"

She shook her head. "But if Kemal says its cool it probably is," she said.

The bus sidled up and we got on. We sat together up the back, my thoughts swallowed by the beat in my chest, tongue knotted up. Her hand was impossibly soft and warm. She smelled like flowers and candy. I felt like a king and an idiot all at once. King of the idiots. I smiled.
Waveland Bowl was a cartoon castle on a street corner, walking distance from school. A family hung out the front, parents herding their kids in for a family-fun night. Sun was down early, temperatures were down, and we were happy to get in out of the cold. Maybe Kay hadn't made the wisest choice wearing a short summer dress but it was hard to mind when she lead me around by hand. The lighting inside was dim, lit up by neon lights, the roar of a ball down a lane ending with the crash of pins. Kanye played over the speakers, not so loud as to be drowning.

At the counter I swapped cash for bowling shoes and a lane for two.

"You can order food at Alley Dogs," the guy behind the counter said, pointing out a place to the side, the 'Alley Dogs' sign lit up in red neon letters. "We close at eleven."

We switched into our bowling shoes, picked out our balls. I'd be bowling left hand tonight, the bandages on my right made gripping a ball unpleasant.

The last time I'd gone bowling had been a little after Mom got sick. We hadn't been back since.

We put in our names on the scoreboard. Kay's was KLEE, mine was ERIC.

"You ready for an ass whoopin'?" she said with a wink.

"I'm ready to whoop your ass," I said.

"On our first date huh?" she said, patting her butt. My face grew hot. I blushed, she blushed. "Hey well, watch this," she said, pink ball in hand, backing up to the lane.

She turned and let it loose right in the gutter. "Should I ask them to add bumpers?" I said as the ball rolled out.

"Second try, second!" she said. She did better this time, four pins down.

"You wouldn't really kick my ass, right?" she said with a pout. I chuckled as I got a strike.

"Yo!" a familiar voice called over the ten year old club music. Three lanes down Kemal stood waving, his hajib wearing cousin Nasim with him, with a couple of others.

We waved back. He gave me a thumb's up but didn't come over, catching what was going on.

Kay stepped up to bowl again.

>help her out, she was no good at this
>no, the weak should fear the strong
>no, the weak should fear the strong
Say something cheesy like
"I keep my promises"
something that we can refer to as Hotspur and she'll understand
locked in

I'll update tomorrow
shit I fell asleep, sorry OP
the 'rona is taking all my energy
"When I give my word, I keep it," I said, watching Kay knock down a lonely pin. She did a little better on the spare.

"Poop," was about all she had to say, sitting down with a sore expression.

I was ahead by a lot, with no chance of her catching up, when my belly started groaning.

"You want anything from Alley Dogs?" I said.

"Chili dog and an ice tea, thanks," she said.

"Aight, comin' right up," I said, checking my wallet for cash.

I went to order. By the counter was a fighting game booth, one of the older Street Fighters, and currently smacking around the stick and slapping the buttons was a detention buddy, Brian. Shaved bald and wearing a dark hoodie, when he saw me he grinned.

"What up nigga?"

Brian is very white.

I got my change on the order as he came over.

"Whatchu up to homeboy?" he said, "You finna get some fries or what?" He put a hand on my shoulder and I pushed him off. "Aight, yeah, don't be caught lackin' now," he said with a chuckle, "Yo, you here with that fine ass shorty Kaylee right? Maybe I can fix you up wit' something, let you guys have a good time you feel me."

"What the fuck are you going on about?"

"Party favors, man," he flashed a bag of pills, "Getchu goin' til daybreak, you feel me?"

"Man, whatever," I said, focusing on the wall.

"Aight, all good!" he said, backing up with his hands raised, "All I'm sayin' is you could show yo' girl a good time. But you change yo' mind I'll be right here, playin' some Third Strike."

I ignored him until the food came out, a couple of chili dogs and a pair of large drinks. I sipped my pepsi as I walked back to Kay, trying to ignore the dead beat drug dealer hanging out by the fighting game booth.

I handed her the dog and she took a bite, chili dotting her cheek.

Finally she said, "I didn't get the part. Eponine." She looked glum down the bowling lane where neon lights flickered above the pins. "I'll still be in the show, part of the chorus." She swirled the ice in her cup. "Ivy got the part instead."

That had to sting. "I thought she wanted to be Javert," I said.

"She did, but they wanted one of the boys and...oh its not fair! She doesn't even like theater, she only tried out to get back at me!" Kay's face went hot and she glared down the lane again.

"You guys really don't like each other," I said.

"Well if I don't like her its her fault," she bristled, but she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, "Look, I'm sorry, let's not talk about her and all that stuff. I shouldn't have brought it up."

"It's cool," I said, but I said it because I had just got distracted, because someone had just walked in, a couple of someone's I'd never have expected to see up here.
Sullivan wore a white leather jack unzipped, Baby Girl wore a matching black jacket and tight leather jeans that gripped her curves. They came in like they were comfortable, like this was their place and we were their guests. They looked around, casually arrogant, casually dangerous, and I hoped they wouldn't come near our lane.

My hopes were well founded, they took the lane right next to ours. Baby Girl brushed her fingers through Sullivan's bleached hair.

"Are you ok Eric?" Kay asked, "Are you listening?"

"Uh-huh," I said, distracted by the bikers. Kay followed where I was looking.

"Do you know them?" she asked, intrigued but wary.

"No," I lied, there was no explaining how I knew them without telling Kay everything.

"I'll be back, darlin'," Sullivan said, locking a deep tongue kiss with Baby Girl before peeling away. He moseyed over to Alley Dogs, hands in his jacket pockets.

Baby Girl must have caught me looking because once Sullivan was gone she lounged over the chair toward us.

"Why aren't you two just the cutest thing," the Japanese girl said with a grin.

"Um, excuse me?" Kay said.

"I saw your boy checking me out," she said, "I don't mind, but maybe he should keep his eyes on what he's got next to him, there's plenty to enjoy." Baby Girl looked Kay up and down, and Kay blushed. "Don't worry about my man though, he's not the jealous type," she added with a wink to me. Now it was my turn to blush. "You're both just too cute," she said, then held out her hand, "I'm Baby Girl, you?"

"Kay," she said hesitantly, but shook her hand.

"Eric," I said, but didn't shake her hand.

"You kids having fun?" she asked, "Out on a date?"

"Sure, yeah," Kay said, playing with a strand of hair, cheeks warm.

"High school romance, so sweet, enjoy it," she said, "You're in the prime of your lives."

"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may," Sullivan's voice behind us, with that smooth Dixie charm, "Old time is still a-flying. And this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying."

He came back with a couple of drinks. "Making friends, Baby Girl?" he said.

"This is Eric and Kay," she said, "This is my man, Sullivan."

"Sully to my friends," he said, "Don't mind us, we're just hear for some bowling."

But when I looked back the way he'd come I saw Brian looking back scared.

>check on Brian make sure he was ok
>whatever trouble Brian was in it was his own
>whatever trouble Brian was in it was his own
Probably getting shit for selling drugs without being affiliated. We can sort of keep an eye on him but going over to talk with him isn't a great idea
>whatever trouble Brian was in it was his own
We have to allow ourselves to have a normal life too. Focus on the date.
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