They were both waiting at the kitchen table. Mom had her hands folded together, Dad sat with one hand held behind his back. Something was up. Mom never sat and waited. I came to a halt in the doorway and studied them. "What's up?"
"We wanted to hear about your first day. How were classes?" Mom asked.
"I really liked all my teachers. They were all really upbeat and into it, ya know. They weren't boring at all." I replied as I slid into my usual place at our kitchen table.
"And...," Mom said, trying to prompt a lengthier answer.
"I saw Keri and Doug there. I had lunch with them."
"From BADGE? Why are they there?" Dad asked. "I thought they lived out west."
"Travel isn't too big of an issue for her. She's in her senior year. He's closer to my grade." I knew they wouldn't like me talking about being around heroes. "I met some new kids in my Modern Tech Usage class. They liked to argue a LOT. Not with me. With each other."
"Sounds like a good first day. How about after? Did you find any clubs you wanted to join?" Mom asked.
"I started to look around there, but ran into Mr. Hamilton. You know, the one from the Sentinel."
"What was he doing there?" Mom asked. "I would think a first day of school would be a bit of a downgrade from his usual stories."
I shook my head. "He was there meeting someone. Then there was some weirdness happening inside the main building. I showed him how to get in through a different door."
"Blossom. You're there for an education, not to be a tour guide for BADGE's most loudmouthed media rep," Mom said. "What about keeping your identity secret?"
"I didn't say who I was or anything. I took him into the building through a side door and showed him the way to where the commotion was. After that, he was on his own." I chose not to tell them about Mr. Hamilton's hacking the door. No need to tell anyone's secrets. My own conscious wasn't handling my own secrets from my parents well. "He headed off to see what was going on. When he wasn't looking, I did what I wasn't supposed to. I shifted into a mouse to follow him."
"Why, Blossom? Why would you do that?" Mom asked wearily.
"I was curious about what was going on," I said, trying to describe my motivation in the moment. "I realized I shouldn't, and left once I realized what I had done. I'm sorry. I was careful about it, but that doesn't make it right. I just couldn't stop myself."
We sat at the table in silence for what seemed an eternity. I hated disappointing my parents, but I felt like I was being pulled in directions they couldn't understand. My powers were part of who I was. Turning them off and not using them wasn't easy.
"You know what nanites are, don't you?" Dad asked.
"Yeah. Extremely small robots, basically." I replied, rubbing my cheek to be sure no tears were escaping my eyes. I didn't want to cry in front of them.
"You know that there are nanites in some of the gear Ms. Fae gave you?"
"Ya," I said, not sure what he meant. I didn't use nanites to change my costumes like most heroes. I shapeshifted my clothes with me, but I still wore the bracelet they were stored in, just in case.
"We'd asked BADGE if there was any way to tell when you used your powers. We trust you, Blossom," Dad said with a slight smile. "But we also knew keeping your promise to not use them while at school would be hard after all the work you've done with them recently. You're going to slip up. We know that, and it not OK that you did use them, but its normal. We all make mistakes. You owned up to yours."
"With some help," Mom said from across the table with a bit of ire to her voice. "Temptation is often hard to resist, but knowing our limits is extremely important. You need to think before you act. Being impulsive and being foolish often go hand in hand."
She was right. There were enough other people around to handle what was happening, I didn't HAVE to poke my nose in, but I did. But the fact they were tracking my power use bothered me. "Why didn't you tell me you were spying on me? You should have told me."
"You deal with heroes that walk both sides of the proverbial fence, dear. Angels and demons. We trust you, but sometimes there are demons inside of all of us that help us make bad decisions," Mom said. "It's like that movie your dad loves. The Italian Job. 'Trust, but verify. I trust you, but not the devil inside of you.'"
"So, whenever I use my powers, you will know?" I asked.
"Yes. We trust that you will use better judgement in the future as to when and how you use them," Mom said. "And when you do, we expect that when you come home you will share the reason for doing so. You're learning to be a hero, so we can't expect you to give up on what you are being trained to do, but we can expect you to honor your promise to only use your powers if completely necessary."
Seeing as I had already messed up, I couldn't argue. "So you aren't going to make me drop out and go back to my old school?"
"Not if you keep to your word." Dad said as he pulled out a cupcake from behind his back. "Congratulations for surviving your first day, Kitt'n. Keep making us proud. And telling us the truth. Always. We only want the best for you, so don't hate us too much."
"I don't hate you. And I'll do better." I said with a smile. They could have swung the hammer hard at me for not sticking to my word, but they didn't. I might not agree with them not wanting me to use my powers, but if they could be cool about when I slipped up, I could do more to give their instructions more merit. I might not like it, but they didn't make the request to be mean, I suppose.
I'd never given it much thought before, but I always wanted them to see things my way when it came to having powers. Could it be that their asking me not to use my powers was so I could see things their way? They didn't have powers and managed to have a happy life with one another, even after having a daughter like me. Powers were great, and I loved mine, but they weren't everything. My love for my parents didn't come from any power, and no matter who asked it of me, I would never give that up.
Did that make love more powerful than superpowers?
Too much to think about all at once, I took the cupcake and pulled off the wrapper at its base, opened my mouth wide, and took a big bite.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
Keri awoke in the morning. The nightmare was a product of her trauma and she knew it. She would schedule a session with a BADGE therapist a little later in the day. she got ready for her day at Sagan Academy, and grabbed a quick breakfast. Futurina preferred a good breakfast but they had to leave early to be to school on time.
After breakfast she teleported to Doug's place and rang the doorbell. Doug cautiously opened the door. "Hi, Doug, ready to go?" she asked.
"Yeah," Doug confirmed. "One year stuck on the Astral Plane sure brought about a lot of changes, Keri."
"Tell me about it," Keri commented. It hadn't exactly been a walk in the park for her either. A new body, new powers, training and becoming a hero. She knew that Doug was experiencing shock to his reality. He now had a new body, and was going through the very things she did. He needed to vent. She understood that.
"Mom was working on something for BADGE last night," Keri mentioned. She didn't know what they wanted her to do, but Futurina spent hours in a trance using auto-drawing and auto-writing for Director Nova.
"I thought she was retired," Doug stated.
"She is," Keri stated. "Director Nova asked her to do it. She accepted." There was a flash of Red psionic energy and they were standing in front of the school gates.
Keri waited backstage. She saw Krystal and she knew Doug was in the audience to cheer her on. She had changed into her costume. She paced as she was nervous. Her deep blue eyes showed a confidence in what she wanted to say. The pounding of her heart countered this.
"You're up next, Keri," someone told her.
"Thanks," Keri stated. She used her telekinesis to fly out and provide a spectacular display of power. Many people cheered and the applause brought a smile to Keri's face.
"Thank you," Keri accepted the cheers. "As many of you know, I am Astra. I'm also a student here at Sagan Academy. I'm here to tell you, if you need help adjusting, we are here to help."
"When my powers emerged," Keri explained, "I underwent a transformation. Puberty is already a time of transformation, throw powers and physical transformation. That's terrifying."
"I had help," She continued. "When I was stranded and homeless, a retired superhero took me in and helped me understand what was happening. I found a new home and mentor. If you need help adjusting to powers or school or even just what puberty is doing to you. Ask someone to help you. You are not alone."
In reply to this post by Astra
I poured into the auditorium with the other students of the Sagan Academy. A vast room with rows of seats in three sections, all facing a large main stage that was occupied by a white screen hanging from the ceiling, a podium draped with the school insignia, and several chairs. The Headmaster wanted to address the student body, but I wasn't sure what he wanted to share. None of my schoolmates seemed to either. I took a seat in the center section, mildly frustrated that I couldn't take the form of a snowy owl and perch higher up on the scaffolding that held the lights.
"No. I made a promise," I said to myself.
"What was that?" a young girl next to me asked.
I turned to face her. "Sorry. Just talking to myself."
She gave me a big smile and shook her head. "It's cool. I do that too." She wore large, round glasses that on most people would look strange, but with her wide grin, thick afro, and bright eyes, the glasses suited her well. "I'm Wren."
"Blossom," I said. The lights dimmed above the stage. "I think they are getting ready to start."
"Good. I want to get back to class. Being around all these people at the same time makes me nervous." She said.
"It's ok. I'll protect you," I said, trying to ease her worry.
"A skinny girl like you? Please. I can take care of myself just fine." She looked me over. "If there's trouble, I'll pick you up and take you with me."
The way she spoke, I couldn't help but believe she would try to do just that. She wasn't trying to be boisterous, simply matter-of-fact.
Individual people stepped onto the stage and introduced themselves. Astra came out as the third of the students to present herself, speaking about being a hero and offering support to others who found they had powers. At first, she looked slightly nervous but it didn't take long for her to capture the interest of the audience. She took her seat next to a young man with a cello and another student with very colorful clothing who was very androgenous in their appearance who did a modern dance presentation.
In total, six of my fellow students took the stage. After they were all seated, Headmaster Smith came onto the stage, waving at the crowd of students. He walked up to the podium and placed a folder upon it. "Good morning, students. I would like to speak to all of you about a very important topic, but first, allow me to introduce you to some of your classmates."
The students were either gifted with musical skill, athletic ability, exceptional knowledge, or powers, some due to being altered by Morphons or aliens. Astra was the last to stand up at his request.
"This is Astra, or as most of you know her, Keri," Headmaster Smith said. "Thank you for joining us. You are a hero with BADGE, aren't you?"
Astra nodded. "Yes."
"And can you give us a demonstration of your abilities?" The Headmaster asked, just as he had the others. Each gave a brief demonstration of what they were capable of.
"Sure." Astra lifted into the air, teleported to the back of the auditorium, and used her psychokinetic powers to lift Doug into the air. She returned to the stage after setting Doug down. "Would you like to see more?"
The headmaster smiled. "No. That is sufficient. You've seen the others here on stage. Each of them had to work hard at what they excel at. Did this come easy for you?"
Astra's eyebrows raised as she considered the answer to his question. "Not really. I gained powers but lost quite a bit at the same time. And having the powers meant I had to take a lot of time to learn to use them as well."
"Thank you. Please take your seat," the headmaster said as he nodded at her. Then he turned to the assembled student body. "You've seen some very impressive displays here today. Let's have a big round of applause for these students who have been willing to stand before all of you as examples."
I and most of the kids around me clapped and cheered, but it wasn't hard to find some who did so with half-a-heart or less.
"I asked them to stand before you not because of what they can do, but because they've found themselves. They've recognized their own capabilities and worked to master them. What I would like is for all of you to take some time to think who you are. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? And most of all, don't compare yourself with others for the answers."
There was a general murmur of confusion from the crowd. Even the people on stage exchanged glances, trying to understand his meaning.
"It is far to easy to lose yourself in comparison to others. We as a culture have place value on certain qualities." He put his hand into his pocket and removed a remote. Pressing a button, a 3-D image of a brilliantly cut diamond manifested before the screen on the wall. "Diamonds, for instance. Do you believe that sapphires, rubies, and emeralds look at diamonds and are jealous? Does an aquamarine feel inadequate to this clear piece of carbon?"
"If our science teachers are successful here, you will learn, if you already haven't, that diamonds are a organized, pure form of carbon. Somehow, they have become the popular, desirable stone that many consider the best of the gems. Why is that? Because they are rare? The rarity is a construct of what we have as a people measure, not an actual quality of what it is."
"If this isn't making any sense to you right now, I apologize. I guess what I am trying to say is that who and what you are should be determined by you. Look to your left and then to the person to the right of you, if you each would please."
I looked at Wren and then at the boy seated on the other side of me. The shuffling of all the other students doing as instructed created a wavelike sound in the acoustically crafted room.
"With our eyes, it is easy to see the people around us. With our ears, the same can be said of the way these people speak, as well as the content of what they speak about. Now, think for a moment. Can you see yourself in the same manner? When you talk to your friends, do you hear yourself the same way you do others?"
Thinking on his questions, I didn't quite know what to think. The only time I looked at myself was when I looked in a mirror. And when I talked to people, how was I supposed to hear myself when I was the one speaking the words. I picked out what I was going to say, and said it. Why would I listen to myself talk?
"These questions might sound strange, and that's perfectly ok. The aren't meant to be easy, but I hope you each take some time to consider them. They deal with a philosophy of self-awareness. An easy way to understand it is answering this question. How many of you like to watch a video of yourself or listening to yourself speak after you've been recorded?"
I screwed my nose, knowing the answer to that question. I hated watching videos of myself. And listening to my voice when I recorded my greeting on my phone made me cringe. Around the room, a few hands went up, but not that many. Far less than a quarter of the gathered students.
"Don't be ashamed of that. It isn't surprising. In the context of reviewing our own actions, it is uncomfortable for many of us. We are critical of our own behaviors when we observe them, and it is infrequent that most people do so. Consider if you would, though, if you are equally critical of others when you see them. Do you laugh when someone stumbles as the walk, or find some people's voices grating or accents irritating? As people, we are analytical. We observe. We learn from what we see others do. We judge. But because with our eyes and ears it is far easier to see outward than it is to have the same awareness inward toward ourselves."
I found his comments inspired thoughts I hadn't considered before. They were kind of simple thoughts, but ones I hadn't dwelled on, but I started to have a glimmer in my mind that maybe I should. Last night, I was surprised by my parents when they told me they tracked my use of my powers. If I'd thought a bit more before turning into the mouse, I might not have done it, but when I did morph, all I was thinking about was what Mr. Hamilton was doing and wanting to discover what he did. My actions were triggered by someone else's, and I copied them.
"Now that we are in a world where people are developing these miraculous powers, it is easy to fall into the trap of being jealous or envious of them. The same way people in the past were fascinated by Bach or Beethoven and their music. Da Vinci or Michelangelo for their art and creativity. Ballet dancers on stages around the world. Carl Sagan, Einstein, or Hawking for their scientific miracles. Each of you has it within you to become the best, just like any of these examples, but the best what?"
Another quiet murmur filled the room. I wasn't sure of where Headmaster Smith was trying to lead us.
"Each of you should strive to be the best versions of yourselves. Be who is true to you. Each of you is a precious, unique gemstone in the world. Be what you are. And you do that by getting to know what it is that makes each of you special. So, I want each of you to think on this and over the next few weeks, I will schedule meetings with each and every one of you to discuss your answers. After that, together, I hope that we here at the Sagan Academy can help you discover and become the best versions of yourselves."
A concerned groan swelled in the crowd. A combination of concern and frustration. We were being asked to consider something no other teachers had asked of us. I didn't even know how I thought about discussing myself with him. There were so many things, one very big one, that I didn't want to talk about with anyone.
Astra suddenly stood up and teleported away. A few others got up rapidly and headed toward the doors. A woman walked up to the podium and whispered in the headmasters ear. His microphone picked up a small portion of the conversation. "What? There's been an attack on where?? Did you say D.C.?"
The hair on the back of my head stood on end. Something Madam Marvelous should be aware of was going on, and here I was in school without my BADGE communicator.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
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