NEW VINDICATORS #1: Vindicated
Chapter I: Vindicated
Drew Jenkins was under the belief that he was a normal, seventeen-year-old youth growing up in Brooklyn. He had normal parents: his father was an engineer at Patriot Robotics and his mother was a secretary at his high school. At least, she had been up until a drunk-driver had claimed her life. His girlfriend, Erin Peters, was normal enough. The two had a normal relationship. They had gone on normal dates and he was trying to get her onboard with the idea that they should begin having normal sex. For all intents and purposes, Drew Jenkins truly believed that he was a normal young man…
Drew also believed that whatever supreme force was at the wheel of the universe had a sense of humor and a knack for the ironic. At times he cited the duck-billed platypus to be evidence of this fact. Still, to a normal young man such as Drew Jenkins, there was no other explanation as to why he was wearing nothing but a blanket, sitting on the hood of a squad car outside of a pawn shop, other than God needed a good laugh.
To say that Drew’s night had been anything but normal would be the understatement to end all understatements. When had his existence deviated from the path of normalcy that it had been on?
It was likely that everything changed the moment he stepped foot into that pawn shop…
“-just five years ago today, on September 8, 2001, when the Vindicators VII returned from the Himalayas where they defeated the super-powered terrorist Atlas, albeit at the cost of two of their own-”
“And I care because…?”
“-used his Neo-Sapien powers to attack several students at the school. Though Redding’s teachers say he was frequently the target of bullies, no action-”
“-not having my daughter bringing home some filthy NS! I won’t have no freak for a grandbaby!”
“This show’s still on? Huh…”
“-has announced that a new team of Vindicators, led by Crusader, will be introduced following-”
“Blah blah blah!”
“-Forrest Bedford and all members of his organization have been acquitted on all charges regarding the deaths of Arthur and Denise Skraag. Their son still-”
“Isn’t there anything good
on?” muttered Sam White, using the remote control to surf through the channels. Another news broadcast met him and his eyes sparkled as he recognized the building being shown. “Ooo, that’s my store!” he announced cheerily.
“-where just moments ago, police followed the suspects here, to White Pawn in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. We go now to outside the 137th precinct where Sergeant Thomas O’Malley gave us a rundown of the events thus far.”
“Two of our officers were undercover investigating suspected BOOST dealers.” The sergeant was an overweight man in his mid-forties, sporting a graying mustache surrounded by two day’s growth of stubble. His eyes barely left the prepared statement that he read with a tone that somehow transcended apathetic. “At some point in the investigation, their identities were compromised and one of the two young men shot and killed one of the officers. Presently, we are not releasing names until we have had a chance to notify their families.
“The suspects were pursued by the other officer and backup swiftly joined him. The suspects took cover at a nearby pawn shop where we have identified several hostages. At present, this district is doing everything we can to resolve this tense situation without further bloodshed.”
The scene shifted once more to outside White Pawn where a female reporter was ready to provide some exposition to the sergeant’s statement. “BOOST is a relatively new drug on the streets that creates a euphoric high in normal humans. In Neo-Sapiens however, it causes a surge in power—so much so that latent Neo-Sapiens have had their powers manifest just by using applying this paste-like chemical that is absorbed through the skin.
“Authorities believe there may be a connection between the drug’s distribution and rumors of a criminal kingpin who rules the five boroughs. Believed to be called the Wisent-”
Bret Morris turned and instantly became a being composed of white hot light. His arm out-stretched, a blast of energy erupted from his palm and blew the television set apart. “Like they’d know anything about the Wisent,” he grumbled.
His brother, Kyle, eyed him worriedly. Kyle was four years Bret’s junior and would have still been in high school if he hadn’t dropped out of school to join the gang his brother had partly led. The Bisons were one of the most feared gangs in New York City and rumor had it that seven Neo-Sapiens sat at the top of the ladder. Though Kyle had no powers of his own, his brother’s status helped him ascend the empire’s ranks.
Ever since Bogart made a move to usurp the others’ power and command the Wisent’s empire alone, Bret had been on the run and fearing for his life. Rumor had it Bogart had killed one of his brethren with a car bomb; now the surviving five were frantically looking for anything that could protect them from their former friend and ally.
The brothers had stolen what BOOST they could carry and were hoping to use it to pay for protection. Word had it there was a group of assassins—hitmen who specialized in Neo-Sapien contracts.
Now that they were cornered by New York’s finest, they were more desperate than ever.
“Shut that kid up!” Bret screamed as he reverted to his natural state. His display had upset five-year-old Ryan Holden, who along with his mother had been eyeing the antique pistols as possible gifts for his father’s upcoming birthday. Angela Holden hugged him tightly and whispered for him to quiet. She didn’t want to risk Bret turning those abilities on her only child.
They composed one-half of White Pawn’s patronage at the time the brothers had burst through the doors. The other two sat next to the eccentric Sam White, their backs against the counter where a freshly emptied cash register sat.
Sam White, Angela and Ryan Holden, Thomas Martin and Drew Jenkins sat there in stunned silence evoked by terror. For two hours now they had been sitting, praying in their heads to their respective deities that they would make it through this alive.
Drew Jenkins forced himself to look away from Angela Holden. He was disgusted with himself; even in this sort of situation he couldn’t help but ogle her. He tried to excuse his behavior by blaming hormones. Still, he couldn’t help but stare; she was a redhead and Drew had a thing for redheads.
He compelled himself to look at Thomas Martin instead. Thomas Martin was rapidly approaching fifty, though he looked close to sixty. His snow white hair was noticeably missing from the top of his head and his eyes never looked at whoever was talking to him. He was blind. He played the organ at Trinity Lutheran Church. He had come looking for a keyboard so that he could practice in the comfort of his own apartment.
“I’m afraid they’re getting desperate,” Sam White said, whispering into Drew’s ear. Drew appeared alarmed to have the man talking to him and his green eyes darted about as if terrified this may also conjure Bret Morris’ rage. “It’s a stalemate. They won’t go out long as the police surround us and the police won’t move so long as they remain cool. I’m afraid this situation won’t be resolved until shots are fired…”
Drew ran his hands across his sweat-drenched brow and then up and through his dirty-blonde hair. His sweat slicked the shaggy mane back and left a smell like bad eggs on his palms. “Don’t talk like that,” Drew said, praying that would be enough to quiet the eccentric old man.
Sam adjusted the tweed jacket he wore and then fanned himself with his ragged and worn cowboy hat. “You got regrets, son?”
“I always thought that the worst way to die would be to die having regrets…”
“Please stop talking,” Drew pleaded. He didn’t even want to think the word ‘die’, let alone hear it uttered.
Sam returned his hat to his head and a misplaced smile flashed over his face. “In case I don’t get a chance to say it later: I’m sorry.” He clamped a hand on Drew’s shoulder and suddenly Drew could feel something inside of him. It felt as if he existed in two places at once. There was the world he could see set out before him and then there was the world he could feel revolving around himself. It felt so dark and empty, save for a tickling sensation that sent shivers down his spine. There were so many other tickles out there; they were too far out of reach though; they were nothing like the one just a few feet from him… He knew he could reach it if he only just stretched out to grab it…
He closed his eyes and imagined himself in that world. There Drew stood in an ocean of darkness. On the horizon, thousands of stars taunted him with their very existence. Still, he could perceive Bret Morris, standing so close to him. He couldn’t reach any of the others, but he knew that if only he would reach out he could seize Bret.
Drew reached for him and the ocean of darkness swallowed him…
“So… let me get this straight,” Detective John Long asked, looking back at the young man sitting before him. “You’re here at White Pawn when these two guys come in… holding up the owner, yourself and three other customers…”
“…and you suddenly turned into light and were able to melt one of the guy’s guns…”
“…but not before the other kid shot two of the victims?”
“And that’s when the other kid—the one with the melted gun—turned into light and began blasting you back.”
“Yeah… look, I know this sounds ridiculous…”
“When I turn in my report, I’m going to say that the kids became panicked and shot two hostages and you had a surge of adrenaline and tackled them to the ground.”
Drew couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Excuse me?”
“I’m also going to leave out the part about the melted gun. As far as I’m concerned, only one kid was armed.”
“C-can you do that?”
“Mister Martin? He’s blind so he saw nothing. The shop’s owner says he blacked out and saw nothing. Neither of the Morris brothers are willing to talk so… I guess it comes down to your word.” The detective closed his notepad and looked up at Drew, his eyes reflecting how saddened he was by the situation. “Kid… I had a step-son. He was a Neo-Sapien. We tried to hide it as best as we could but… well, when he was outted it didn’t just affect him—it affected each of us. His younger brother took the brunt of it. If I turn in the truth… it won’t be just you who suffers here.”
Since the end of World War II, the general public had been aware of the existence of Neo-Sapiens—those rare people who discovered themselves born with fantastic abilities inherited from one or more parents. Since then, many had begun to speculate as to the cause of their existence—had their ancestors all been victims of unusual circumstances? Was it a random occurrence? Did the environment play a factor?
Did Neo-Sapiens share a common, inhuman ancestor?
Regardless, in the decades since the first team of Vindicators had been launched against a super-powered remnant of the Third Reich the world had been both protected and devastated by these beings. It had caused a rift in society, for many believed that super-powered beings—SPBs—posed a threat to the current order, while proponents truly believed that these changes meant a transition into a better tomorrow.
For Drew Jenkins, the revelation that he was a Neo-Sapien meant that a better tomorrow was a far-off fantasy.
Drew looked back to the eccentric pawn shop owner. The man was wearing flip-flops with white, snake-skin pants; a lace shirt with a tweed jacket and a cowboy hat pulled low over his brow. He could remember thinking just hours ago, when he met Sam White, that this was the weirdest person he had ever met. Was that just the precursor to being plunged into a world he would never come to understand?
“I know some people… people at this special school. They’ll help you…” The detective had already reached for his cell phone, before Drew could even fathom a protest. John Long had not strayed far, but he had waded out of Drew’s earshot. Instead, Drew’s attention was brought to Channel 11’s Cameron Kirk, Manhattan’s most trusted roaming reporter.
“-when the drug bust went bad, one of the young men allegedly shot and killed Officer Avery St. James. His partner, Officer C. John Holden, pursued the pair, forcing them to seek sanctuary at this pawn shop where, in an ironic twist of fate, the hostages shot were Angela and Ryan Holden, wife and five-year-old son of Officer Holden.”
Drew shook his head, not so much at the media’s apparent intent to exploit the grief of innocents but at Cameron’s quick response to the news. Just an hour ago in the pawn shop he had caught the tail end of Cameron’s report on the fifth anniversary of the Vindicators VII’s breakup. The eighth day of September had come to be an eventful day in American history. It was September 8, 1945 that the Vindicators first went into battle. Led by Uncle Sam, the team of Crusader, Frog, the Iron Curtain and Jaundice took down Johann Meinstein: the man who had proclaimed himself to be the Fuhrer of the Fourth Reich. His minions, Lebender Schatten and Schadenfreude had toppled with him. It was a day that would live on in infamy.
Sixty-one years later, the last team of Vindicators had called it quits. Led by Onyx, the group had ventured into the heart of the Himalayas to put a stop to the villainous Atlas’ mad ambitions. Two of their members, Bio and Xianbei, forfeited their lives in that battle. Xianbei’s husband, Chimera, had lost his right arm in the melee while Bio’s twin brother Siphon, Onyx, Michuru and Rift made it out alive and unscathed.
At least, they were unscathed on the surface…
Five years to the day after they disbanded… the world prayed for more of the people they hated so badly to step forward and protect them once again. Try as they may to hate Neo-Sapiens, society couldn’t reject that the Vindicators assured them a tomorrow. Banished into a Time Without Heroes, the world watched as single vigilantes like the Aurelius, Detective or Momentum fought to thwart the empowered terrorists who plagued society.
Drew was used to seeing those people in the news, but he was hardly prepared to become the news himself. Just as a reporter was about to sink his talons into Drew, his new found guardian pulled him away. “C’mon, son…” offered Detective Long, “lemme get you to those people I was telling you about…”
It was a long drive through the streets of DUMBO, one of Brooklyn’s many neighborhoods. Drew and his father lived on the cusp of Vinegar Hill, not forcing a lengthy commute to Manhattan each day. Drew kept quiet the whole ride home; his mind was still reeling from the revelation that he was a Neo-Sapien.
It was hard to believe and even more difficult for him to accept. Still, there was no denying that something had happened tonight in the White Pawn. He had used the same powers as the young man holding them hostage… were they somehow related? Hardly the most studious of pupils, Drew didn’t recall much of his freshman biology class—but he was still able to evoke some remnant of the week they had spent talking about Neo-Sapiens. If he remembered correctly, a Neo-Sapien received their powers from one or both parents. It was impossible to be a Neo-Sapien without having inherited the powers from a parent, though it was within the boundaries of reality for a Neo-Sapien to conceive a human child.
His father certainly wasn’t a Neo-Sapien… but the possibility existed that his mother could have passed her abilities onto him. It wasn’t so uncommon to hear of a happy marriage shattering when one partner learned their spouse’s genetic secret. More strongly than ever before, Drew wished she were still alive to guide him. If he had received her powers, she might have been able to teach him how to control them.
Deep down, he knew that even if she were still walking this earth there was so little she could do to help him now. Once someone found out they were a Neo-Sapien, their life was over. Would Erin still want to be with him? Would his friends embrace this change in him? He had heard tales of worse: there were people who lost their jobs or scholarships when their status as a Neo-Sapien was discovered. So many Neo-Sapiens fought so hard just to blend in… to simply survive. He had heard on the news that the parents of a Neo-Sapien boy were killed when their son’s powers manifested… and that was one of the happier stories.
“What’s going to happen to me?” He hadn’t meant to speak aloud.
For a moment, Detective Long was silent. Only the ticking of his turn signal answered as the officer turned onto Drew’s street. Hanging his head, Drew failed to notice the car outside his house, bathed in the light from his front porch.
“I’m not the guy who has the answers, Drew,” the officer said sadly. “I wish I had ‘em; I truly do.” He pulled up behind the white Chevy Lumina parked outside Drew’s home and put his own car in park. “I made a call though and this woman… she’ll be inside talking to your dad now.” Drew’s heart skipped a beat; what if his dad didn’t want him anymore? Such thoughts helped him to miss the odd sensation of that other world; in the back of his head he could feel one of those stars drawing closer to him. “She’s from this school… well, it’d be best if you heard it from her, I s’pose.”
Solemnly Drew opened the door and moved to climb out. In his stupor he had forgotten to unbuckle his seatbelt and turned to remedy that. “Here,” Detective Long said, thrusting out a business card for Drew. “It’s got my cell phone on it. You can call me if you need anything, kid. I don’t know what all I can do for you… but I’ll be there to do what I can, when I can.”
Drew nodded apathetically and accepted the card. He slithered up the walk and slipped in through the front door. The house was dark, save for the light stealing away from the kitchen. The hall pointed directly from the front door into the kitchen and he could make out his father sitting at the table, his hands enveloping a steaming mug. He was nodding to something and as Drew crept closer, he could hear a woman’s voice: “-would give Drew a chance he otherwise wouldn’t get.”
The boy’s father seemed to notice Drew then; a smile, warm, yet nervous, flashed on his face as he waved his only boy to join them. “Drew, I want you to meet someone. This is Doctor Styles. She’s from a very special school, son.”
He could feel the star just barely out of his reach now…
Drew slipped into the room and was surprised to recognize the woman seated across from his father. By the look of her, Doctor Styles was only just closing in on her thirtieth year. She was an attractive young woman with pale, snow-white skin and long, blindingly white hair. Dull red eyes, almost pink fell on Drew and immediately began to size him up. There was no shaking that he had seen the albino somewhere before… but he couldn’t place where.
“Drew!” snapped Drew’s father. “Don’t stare, boy!”
Doctor Styles chuckled softly and Drew’s eyes fell on her heaving chest. The black, silk blouse she was wearing was snug and sucked Drew’s attention quickly. Still, it seemed that neither of the adults knew what he was truly staring at. “It’s fine,” Doctor Styles said. “Most people find my albinism unsettling at first. I don’t have a problem with it though… I mean, most albinos sunburn easily and have eye conditions. My Neo-Sapien powers protect me from that though.”
Drew’s jaw dropped then. “You—you’re a Neo-Sapien?”
Doctor Styles nodded. “My power allows me to create and manipulate light. I mean… how do people get sunburned, Drew? Ultraviolet light. I control light so… that stops being a problem. Like most albinos I have astigmatism—an irregular curvature of the lens. Since the lens’ purpose is to refract light… my powers compensate and now I don’t need corrective lenses.
“There’s so much we can do with our powers, when we learn about the possibilities.” To emphasize her point, she nodded to the kitchen table. Now, only two coffee cups hovered on an invisible surface.
Astonished, Drew reached out to feel where the table was. “I know where I know you now! You used to be one of the Vindicators!”
“When I was much younger, yes.” Doctor Styles chuckled softly as she thought back to those more innocent times. “It feels like that was ages ago…”
“You’re Halogen!” Drew exclaimed. “That is so awesome.”
Her smile was as bright as it was genuine. “Drew? Detective Long called me this evening. He told me about your manifestation. I’ve been talking to your dad, telling him about the school that I teach at.”
“They take Neo-Sapiens, Drew,” his father explained. “They live on campus with other Neo-Sapiens their age. Everyone there is a Neo-Sapien.”
“Well, almost everyone,” Doctor Styles corrected. “We have a few humans on our staff but most are married to Neo-Sapiens or are the children of Neo-Sapiens… I assure you: everyone is very tolerant.”
Drew frowned then. “You want me to go to school there.” It was as much said to his father as it was to Doctor Styles.
“I just want to give you the best, Drew! That’s all I’ve ever wanted for you…” The man paused to take off his glasses and pinch the nose as he fought to summon up the right words. “Drew, Doctor Styles says there are lots of kids your age at this school. Kids who won’t judge you… kids who are going to accept you for who you are…”
Doctor Styles shook her head then and stretched out her arms as she leaned back in the chair. “You know how Neo-Sapiens manifest their powers out of necessity? I grew up in Las Vegas. My mom, well… my mom was a dancer. I never knew my dad; for as long as I can remember it was just mom, my twin brother and me…
“Sometimes, mom couldn’t get us a babysitter so she would just take Nate and me along. We’d sit back by the dressing rooms and play our Game Boys or do homework or whatever. Well, one night these guys came in looking for this other girl. They both worked for one of the local mob families and one of them was dating one of the other dancers. Turns out she had taken a lot of money from him and that money didn’t exactly belong to him. They were trying to get her to come out and… well, Nate got scared and was able to turn invisible. When mom got shot in the scuffle, I found that I could use light to heal certain injuries.
“The thing was… those abilities only kicked in when we were panicked. Mom was a human so… we obviously got our abilities from our dad. We didn’t know what to do and we didn’t know how to use them. The Aurelius came to me a few years later, to recruit me to his team of Vindicators. The thing was... even after all that time, I still knew jack about my abilities, Drew. I had to figure it all out on the battlefield, fighting people like Brown Recluse or Mason, Nightingale or the Shadow.
“Things would have been a lot easier for me if I could have gone to a school like this and… I know I’m not alone. I have a friend… when his powers manifested, he almost killed a boy at his school, Drew. One of our students has the power to turn to stone; he can’t figure out how to change back though. What I’m trying to say, Drew, is that… these abilities could be dangerous in so many ways. If you don’t learn to control them, they could rage out of control and hurt those around you. They could end up destroying whatever semblance of life you’re able to cling to by hiding your status as a Neo-Sapien. I’m sure I don’t have to tell either of you but… our kind is not exactly well liked. People fear what they can’t understand and… that fear translates to hate and that becomes rage.”
Drew looked towards the living room and the silenced television waiting there. He knew that so long as he had these powers, he would be forced to live in fear of whether or not he would become a story on the news. Would it be because he used his powers to attack his tormentors or would it be because he was attacked for simply being different?
For over sixty years mankind had known of the existence of Neo-Sapiens. Some had been trying to find a cure, believing the occurrence of Neo-Sapien abilities to be akin to an epidemic. Others knew that their abilities were hereditary and believed eliminating the threat of Neo-Sapiens would come from eliminating Neo-Sapiens.
“Why me?” groaned Drew, throwing back his head and sagging in the kitchen chair.
“It’s a question I used to find myself asking quite frequently,” Doctor Styles offered sympathetically. “The operative phrase there would be ‘used to’, Drew; I used to ask that.”
“Yeah?” asked Drew as he lowered his eyes onto his guest. “What changed?”
“I did,” she offered. “Don’t get me wrong: it was hard. It was a challenge. I never got to have a normal childhood. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have a boyfriend. Still, I don’t regret following the Aurelius out of Las Vegas, you know? If I knew then what I know now… it wouldn’t change a thing.”
“No regrets, huh?”
“I always thought that the worst way to die would be to die having regrets…”
A groan left Drew’s lips as he agreed to join the New Vindicators Academy of America…
The next morning, Doctor Styles returned, a car waiting behind her back to take Drew to the New Vindicators Academy. With explanations to Doctor Jenkins that today was an induction for the new students of the school and a promise to let him tour the campus once Drew was settled, the pair were off.
It was a long drive. Drew had so many questions for the former Vindicator and Doctor Styles had said she would be content to answer anything; still, Drew rode along out of Brooklyn and into Queens in silence. The woman driving respected that silence as she careened the car through Astoria and across the Roosevelt Island Bridge. She could only imagine how intimidating this experience would be for the young man—not only had he just learned that he was a Neo-Sapien, but he was going to be plunged into a new school… and one full of super-powered teens.
“You can see the school from here,” she said softly, pointing to the lighthouse peeking up from the northern shore of the island. “The New Vindicators Academy of America… The school didn’t officially open until 2001 but the construction started over two decades prior. You know about the Vindicators IV?”
Drew nodded. “Who doesn’t? I always wanted to be like Coach Crag when I was a kid,” he admitted.
Such a statement brought a fit of laughter from Doctor Styles. “Mister Goodman is one of the teachers at the school. When you first meet him, you’ll probably wonder how you could have ever wanted to be like him.”
“He’s… well, he’s unique; we’ll put it that way. He really is a great person, once you get to know him. Anyway, the school was originally going to be a new headquarters for them. Trouble is, the Vindicators IV disbanded back in 1979. Doctor Splash became permanently trapped in his liquid form and… he didn’t want the others to share his fate. He pushed his girlfriend into the arms of her best friend; Coach Crag and Miss Mist got married, retired, started a family…
“The team fell apart and the project was scrapped. Eventually though, someone at the Department of SPB Affairs remembered all the work that went into this place and… it became a school.
“The Lighthouse is the central building: it’s a nexus for the whole school. The faculty apartments are built off of the tower and the dormitories and classrooms are wings spreading off from it. In addition, the lower levels are only accessible through the Lighthouse.”
“What’s in the lower levels?” asked Drew.
Doctor Styles could hardly keep from beaming. “On the surface, the New Vindicators Academy is a normal school with normal classes. I teach biology, for instance. Missus Goodman teaches literature while Missus Dressel handles algebra. We ensure that every student gets the same education they otherwise would in a normal school…
“At the same time, every student in this school is a Neo-Sapien and our purpose is to train them in the use of their powers. Amongst other things, the lower levels house the Wreck Room. Think of it as a gymnasium but with holograms. The Wreck Room is where we’ll train you in the use of your powers and in basic self-defense.”
“You’re going to teach me how to fight?”
“No, we’re going to teach you how to protect
… Drew, you’re a senior in high school; you’re going to be graduating. The New Vindicators Academy is designed to give young people the tools they need to assimilate into a culture that fears and hates them for being born different. If ever your cover is exposed, you’ll know how best to defend and protect yourself and your loved ones. Remember that even though your dad may not be a Neo-Sapien, you are and that makes him a potential target. If anything, some may see him as a way to get to you.”
As the car landed on Roosevelt Island, Drew watched nervously as they snuck under the watchful gaze of numerous high-rise apartments. He listened to the tires revolve and knew that they were only taking him closer and closer to the school…
In the back of his mind he could feel the school pulling to him. He closed his eyes and was astonished to see a great cluster of stars snaking closer and closer to him. They were still far out of his reach though Doctor Styles now stood with him on the surface of that dark, calm ocean.
Neither Drew nor Doctor Styles said anything else until the car passed through the gates and onto the grounds of the New Vindicators Academy. Doctor Styles drove around a long path, taking them around the front quad and letting Drew gaze upon the majestic buildings spanning out before him. Eventually their trail led to a long garage and inside Drew’s eyes fell on numerous vehicles: cars and SUVs, passenger vans and motorcycles stood before him. Even a rusted old pickup trick rested here; Drew’s eyes ran over the license plate, LEX 1, before turning to fix his escort with a curious look. “There may not be much traffic on Roosevelt Island,” Doctor Styles said, “but it doesn’t mean we’re without transportation.”
“It’s not that,” Drew said, a hint of embarrassment in his tone. “It’s just… this garage? You could probably fit my whole house in here.”
A warm smile conquered Doctor Styles face then. She said nothing; she knew that the splendor of the rest of the campus would force the scope of the garage to pale in comparison. She merely strode through a side door, pausing to usher Drew into a hallway that would lead him to his destiny.
“We’re running a bit late,” she said apologetically, watching as Drew dragged his heavy bag down the hall. She could never understand why people packed more than they could humanly carry. “I don’t think formal introductions have been made but… well, most of the students are probably already in the common room.”
The nearer they got, the louder the cacophony became. Soon, the twisting hallway gave up on its attempts to mislead the doctor and plunged her and her young companion into a room bursting with young people mingling amongst each other. “I have to talk with the headmasters,” Doctor Styles said, “but I’ll be back soon enough. For now… just go ahead and get to know everyone.”
As Doctor Styles left Drew’s side, he stood paralyzed by the sight of so many young people and the knowledge that all of them were Neo-Sapiens. He had grown up hearing that they were dangerous beings—capable of disintegrating matter with their eyes or rearranging a person’s very bone structure with nothing more than a thought. Neo-Sapiens were the bane of existence; still no matter how uncomfortable being around so many at once made him, the realization that he might indeed be one himself was all the more unsettling.
Drew’s eyes scanned the room. Typical of his raging hormones, his eyes popped on a few of the girls in the room. Though many of the youths gathered here seemed near his age, one appeared slightly older. She seemed more mature and sophisticated. Something else slithered along that experience… something that ensnared his senses and left him feeling wobbly.
Her long, brown hair ran down her back, leading Drew’s eyes up and down her curvaceous form. She laughed softly as she talked to two of the other girls. As she listened her hand came up to hold her cheek. It was like a summoning to Drew, pulling him in closer to her face and towards her full lips and almond-shaped eyes. Another world was reflected deep in those emerald pools. “That’s Cassandra Goodman,” a girl’s voice said from beside him; her accent pronouncing her as a native to Canada. Drew spun to face the speaker and his expression betrayed his thoughts.
The girl was used to people not looking at her the way they did her classmate. By no means was the young woman hideous; she was a down-to-earth girl who believed in simplicity. A short-cropped cap of red curls topped her freckled-head, polished with one of the most sincere smiles Drew had ever been treated to. “Hi, I’m Alicia Gladstone.”
“Drew Jenkins,” he said, shaking the hand extended to him.
“It’s great to meet you, Drew.” Her smile conveyed to him that she truly meant what she said. It was an odd sight; he wasn’t used to someone smiling so much. Part of him was unnerved by her. “What year are you?”
“Senior,” he managed.
“Me too,” Alicia offered energetically. She flashed him another smile. “Welcome to the New Vindicators Academy of America, Drew.”
“Yeah… there are three institutes. The New Vindicators Academy is a school for Neo-Sapiens… one of three in all.”
“So… Miss Goodman… she’s a teacher here?”
Alicia could barely stifle back the laugh that erupted out of her. “No… Cassie’s one of the students. She’s actually one of my roommates. Her and her twin are both seniors-”
“She has a twin?”
“Down boy! Sandy has a twin brother
. His name is Cloud.” Alicia scanned the room, looking for any sign of the youth. Finally, she pointed out a pale, freckled young man with a mop of mouse-brown hair, horned rimmed glasses and a sickly appearance. “I’ve known them for years. I’ve been at this school just about as long as they have. I don’t know most of these rookies but… Um…” She pointed out another young woman: a bobbed cap of blonde hair went unnoticed as Drew set eyes on the pair of angelic wings protruding from her back. “That’s Addison Truman. She, uh… well, she flies. I betcha didn’t see that one coming. Well, she’s also got really good eyesight and her feet and hands can morph into talons.”
“What about Cassie? What does she do?”
“She turns to sand. You ever hear of the Vindicators IV?” Drew’s nod was unneeded; everyone had heard of the Vindicators IV. “Coach Crag and Miss Mist? Cassandra and Cloud are their kids. Cloud said they have an older brother named Norman but I guess he doesn’t have any powers and doesn’t have much to do with the family. Anyway, they’re metamorphs like their parents—they have another form they can take in addition to the normal bag of flesh and bones. Cloud’s most like his mom—turning into a living fog. Cassandra can’t do full rock like her dad… she just becomes sand. More useful if you ask me.”
“So what do you do?”
“You haven’t even told me what you do yet, Drew!”
Drew began to blush. Alicia said she’d been with these kids for a while. How many years had she attended the New Vindicators Academy? How many years had she been learning about her abilities? “I… I’m not really sure,” he admitted. “I… yesterday I just… I turned into light. I guess I’m a… what did you call them?”
“You only just manifested yesterday?”
Drew nodded, embarrassed.
“And you’re a metamorph?”
“Yeah. Those. Are you one too?”
Alicia shook her head. “No. I, um, I control cold.”
“What? Like freezing stuff?”
“Actually… no. My powers don’t have anything to do with ice, but cold. Generating arctic winds and bringing on a blizzard. It’s a very limited form of weather manipulation. Still… you see that guy over there?” She pointed out a shy youth in the corner, anxiously watching the others through long, greasy bangs of white hair.
“The creepy guy eye-ballin’ my
“His name is Ben Altair. He’s new to the school, same as you are. He actually creates and manipulates ice. Some of the teachers want me to start tutoring him, since our powers are similar in theory and I have a little more understanding of their nature. It’s kind of scary but… I dunno. I sort of always wanted to be a teacher. Part-time, mind you. I wanted to be a super-hero too.” She seemed to shake her way out of her digression and continued to introduce Drew from a distance. “Over there is Alexander Sway and his girlfriend Jacquelyn Webber. Lex is a metamorph of unlimited proportions; whatever he touches, he becomes. Jacquelyn has this barrier… we call it the Trip Field. Be careful not to surprise her… you could end up laying flat on your back.”
“Weird… what about the fat kid they’re talking to?”
“That’s Lucus Howell… he’s actually not a Neo-Sapien. He’s an Esper.”
“Well, it’s theorized that most people don’t use their full brain potential. Espers are normal humans who just happen to be able to realize their full potential. They’re able to move things with their mind or control people’s thoughts. In Lucas’ case, his trick is telepathy. Mostly he just uses it to find out a few dirty little secrets and then proceeds to taunt without mercy… He’s also used it to get answers for homework and tests. I say his power is a crutch… a license to be lazy. He claims it’s just his way of honing his skill. Um, the girl eyeing Cloud is Donna-Anne Manther… she’s the third Manther to manifest the power of unstoppable flight.” Drew’s eyes widened at the notion that there were students at this school capable of flying. Having wings like Addison was one thing but how did this girl fly without them?
The newest recruit gazed over what was about to become his classmates. Suddenly Drew’s eyes popped on a face he recognized. “I know him! He’s been all over the news! Didn’t his parents get killed before summer started?” Alicia frowned as she turned her attention to the beautiful young man, sitting in a depressive slump on chair pulled far away from the others.
“By the Church of Genetic Purity? Yeah. His name is Adonis Skraag. He’s a rookie… blessed with unearthly beauty and a way with women… I’m okay at this distance but any closer and I’d start babbling like an idiot. Something about him… he has this aura that just… drains women of their ability to rationalize. We don’t exactly think straight around him.”
“That’s… a weird power.”
“There’s more. All it takes is for him to run his fingers through that long, red hair-” Drew eyed Alicia oddly and looked back to Adonis; the young man was a blonde, not a redhead. “-or a wink from those baby blues… then wham. Women would be willing to do whatever he asked. Well, not just women. I hear his power works on attraction—heterosexual women, homosexual men…”
“Small dogs?” offered Drew.
Alicia rolled her eyes. “Anyone who would find him attractive becomes a fanatical follower in the cult of Adonis. He’s a lot like you in that his powers only recently manifested too. Like you said, it was just before the summer started. His abilities triggered on this girl he’d been crushing on since grade school. I guess one thing led to another and he woke up in her bed.”
“She was the daughter of Forrest N. Bedford, leader of the Church of Genetic Purity? Daddy walked in and… well, Adonis’ power slipped. Apparently nobody can remember what happened while under his influence. Big Daddy must have put two and two together and realized a Neo-Sapien had used his powers on his baby girl. He rallied his congregation and… well… Adonis is suddenly an orphan.”
“I heard that guy got off too…” Drew uttered a curse as he focused his all on Adonis.
“Yeah,” Alicia said sadly, watching Adonis with sympathetic eyes. “I feel really sorry for him. I mean, I can’t imagine how he must feel. Weirder still, he volunteered for the Unification.”
Alicia looked at Drew sideways and then realized he hadn’t yet been told. “Sorry,” she offered. “Project Unification is this… I dunno, social experiment. It’s pretty much only open to the seniors. Basically, you have to be eighteen or turn eighteen during the project to even be considered.”
“What is it?”
“There’s this school in Manhattan: Eleanor Roosevelt High School. Basically, the New Vindicators Academy is going to plant some of us in the student body and record how we spend a year amongst normal humans. They’re planning to publish their findings and demonstrate that we can coexist peacefully. It’s supposed to show how… well, I guess even though there’s a lot of pressure on us to use our powers, we don’t.” She pointed out one of the Freshman, a scrawny boy with a messy mop of brown hair. “His name is Steve Potter, I think. He has super-speed. Now, it’d be pretty easy for him to blow everyone away on the track, so long as he regulates his speed so that it doesn’t become obvious that he’s cheating. Or, take Lex; Lex has been planning to join the football team—probably wrestling too. If he assimilated metal or stone, he’d be impossible to take down. Still, Lex’s goal is to prove that Neo-Sapiens can compete with normal humans and do it without resorting to their abilities.”
Before Alicia could say any more, a door opened and small procession entered the room. A man in a decorated military uniform led the group in. Their age was not the only thing that denoted them as the administration; the collective hush that fell over the other teens surrendered everyone’s attention to these people. The veterans to this institution recognized the former Vindicators who composed the majority of the faculty.
To Be Continued... wrote:Roomies.