I've finally finished something that isn't another new group and/or hero and/or villain!
Unfortunately, City of Heroes has inspired another one from me. :P I'm sorry. I'll try to finish somehting else before I introduce it...
Essentially, all this bit is is a brief(...ish) origin story, mostly focusing on Val, with a little more about Bikey. And, also, you learn the dog's name. XP
“We have no money.”
“We’ve been beat by the villains more often than we’ve beaten them.”
Greg put his head on the table.
“We live in a shack.”
Greg lifted his head and dropped it down again, hard.
“We’re the laughing stock of The City.”
Greg put his hands on the back of his head.
“And now, we’re stealing junk food just to get by.”
Greg made a sound like a moan of pain. He was more than aware of all of this; when they weren’t sleeping or fighting some villain just as bad off as they were, it was all he thought about. And yet Val, sitting across the table from him in their only other chair, insisted on reminding him of it all.
“We suck.” Val shook her head. “We really suck.”
“I know, Val, I—” He was cut off by the sound of fast footsteps, too fast to be those of any normal human. He tensed for a moment, and then relaxed as he heard Bikey greet Zach with a cheerful “hello”.
“Food!” Zach declared, speeding in and dropping bags of pretzels, potato chips, and other cholesterol-filled non-perishables on the table before them. He immediately ripped open a bag of Sour Cream and Onion chips, dropping heavily into the beanbag chair in the corner. Through a mouthful of half-chewed food, he asked, “You guys look down. What’s up?”
“Val was just reminding me of how much we suck,” Greg answered grumpily, grabbing a bag of licorice and brushing his hair out of his eyes. “And I was just about to remind her that this is all her fault.”
“My fault?” Val asked, scandalized. “How is the fact that we suck my fault?”
“You started all of this.” Greg made a sweeping gesture that encompassed the entire shack. “You brought us together. Convinced us to leave our families, our potential future careers, and school for Zach.”
“And her,” Zach said, pointing at Val. “She’s only fifteen.”
Val blushed and turned away from him. Greg snorted. “Val’s a God damn genius, Zach. She skipped two grades.
Zach’s mouth fell open, and he sputtered helplessly, but Val refused to look at him.
“Of course,” Greg continued bitterly, “you’d have to be a genius to come up with an idea like ‘Let’s run away and become superheroes!’ Yeah, heroes. We’re heroes, all right. That’s why we have to steal food.”
“Shut up!” Val shouted suddenly, face heating up. “Like you wouldn’t have done it even if I never suggested it, Pummel Junior! ‘Oh, I’m going to be a big fucking hero, just like Dad was!’ Good luck with that. No one remembers Pummel, Greg. He was a failure.”
Without a word, Greg reached across the table and shoved Val, forgetting to check his strength. She was thrown from her chair and into the wall behind her, causing part of it to collapse. They could see the bed in the other room through the wood. As her breath was knocked out of her, she let out a gasp of smoke, filling the room and causing the other two to cough, their eyes stinging.
Greg’s eyes, although watering, filled with worry. He rushed to Val, helping her up. “Oh, God, Val, I’m so sorry – I—I didn’t mean to – I forgot—”
Coughing out a few more puffs of smoke, Val put a hand on Greg’s shoulder and leaned in, catching her breath. Zach blinked and looked away, blushing and unable to figure out why he suddenly felt so indecent. “It’s okay,” Val wheezed. “I’m sorry – I shouldn’t have said that.”
She sat back in her chair after a moment, and Greg did the same. Zach set aside the chips, appetite lost. They were silent for a moment, until Val’s dog, Romper, scratched at the door. As she let him in, Zach cleared his throat.
“Er, so. How did you even come up with the idea, anyway?”
Val sat down with a sigh. “Well, it was pretty simple. I had my powers, and I was graduating, and everyone was trying to tell me what I should do with my life. What I wanted to do, though, was to use my powers.” She looked at her hands, palm up on the table. “I wanted to make something good out of all the crap that happened to me.
“So I thought, ‘Hey, there’s gotta be other kids out there like me.’ I mean, for a private school, Herman J. Lomb’s a pretty damn big school, and in a pretty populated area, which is where the metahumans always seem to be. And what was the worst that could happen? Someone didn’t take us seriously and came when they didn’t have powers? We could’ve been ratted out by another student, too, but no one who saw the flyers told. And even if they had, I thought I might get some idea of who the others were out there that were… you know, like me.”
There was another pause. Zach cleared his throat again, not wanting them to lull into another uncomfortable silence. If they were going to be a team, there couldn’t be that uncomfortable tension between them. “So – er – how did you get your powers, anyway?”
Val smiled, but it was a bitter smile, almost an archaic grimace. “That’s a much longer story.”
Zach shrugged and looked at Greg. “We’re not going anywhere,” Greg said, nodding.
Val bit her lip, and then let out another puff of smoke. “Okay. Well, my mom was really young when she had me – just sixteen – and she gave me up for adoption – except I didn’t get adopted. I went from foster home to foster home, and they called me a ‘difficult child,’ so eventually they put me in this experiment school for girls without families – the Ella Mayberry School…”
“You will be in your rooms by nine each night,” Ella Mayberry, the headmistress of her own School for Abandoned and Troublesome Girls, said in a sharp, strict tone, walking back and forth along the line of twenty uniformed girls. “Lights out is at ten, and we immediately begin a bed check. There is a second bed check an hour later. Breakfast is from seven to eight, and if you aren’t in an out in that time, you can go hungry. Classes start at eight thirty, break at noon for lunch, and then finish from one to three thirty. You will be given a bathing schedule so that there will be no fighting over shower rights. Half an hour for everything you need on your own. Supper is at six, and is absolutely over by seven thirty. If any work is not done on time, you will be given detention. You must show up for classes unless you are in the nurse’s care. Those who put down a practicing religion will be escorted to their appropriate places of worship on the weekends.” She stopped, standing in the middle of the girls, eyes traveling along them all. “I think that covers the preliminaries. Oh – and, of course, uniforms must be well-kept and are expected to be on for every class. Absolutely no adjustments or alterations may be made to them.”
Valerie Walsh quickly put a hand on her sleeve, where she had sown on a patch that read “My Pet Zombie Hates You, But Loves Your Brains”. The girl next to her caught the movement out of the corner of her eye and giggle before leaning over slightly. “I’m Juana,” she said, her voice slightly tinted by an accent. “Juana Castillo.”
“Val,” she replied, not bothering to give her full name. Val didn’t plan on opening up to anyone at her ridiculous excuse for a school. If they actually expected her to wear a skirt all the time, they were in for a surprise.
“Quiet!” the headmistress shouted, house snapping towards the two like a spring-loaded toy. The girls both straightened their postures, but Val’s hand didn’t fall from her arm.
“I’m in room three,” Val added, more interested in spiting Ella Mayberry than brushing off the other girls. “Stop by at midnight and we’ll see what mayhem we can cause.”
Juana grinned broadly at her. Reluctantly, Val smiled back.
“Is Juana coming by again?” Val’s roommate, Heather, asked in annoyance. “Almost every night she comes in, now, and she’s always waking me up. Do you two have to break the rules so much?”
“Absolutely,” Val said, rolling over and looking their alarm clock. Juana would be there in ten minutes – fifteen tops. She was reliable. “I hate this place.”
She sat up quickly when she felt a weight at the foot of her bed. She could just make out Heather’s shape, the light of the alarm clock reflecting off of her cat-eye glasses. “Well, yeah. I think that’s the point. They’re so strict because they’ve convinced themselves we’re terrible little girls.”
“I am a terrible little girl,” Val said, folding her legs in front of her. “No foster family wanted to keep me, so here I am.”
Heather shrugged slightly, and moved a little closer. “I just got one that hated me. They didn’t get rid of me, though – until…” She swallowed thickly. “Until they found out I was a lesbian.”
It wasn’t a revelation. She’d mentioned it before to Val, late at night, just before she and Juana snuck out. “Heather, they were just prejudiced jerks. Don’t—”
She couldn’t finish giving her advice, though, because Heather suddenly reached across the bed and kissed her. He her hands, clamped onto her shoulders, and Val could have sworn she felt electricity coming through her fingertips. It was quick and chaste, but it left Val too shocked to move. Heather moved away quickly, scrambling back to her own bed. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it’s just – I really like you, and—”
The door opened then, and Juana came in, moving slowly. “You’re early,” Val said.
Heather didn’t speak to her much more after that. Val only noticed the burns on her shoulders briefly.
“Hey,” Val said at one dinner, nudging Juana in the side. “Did you ever notice that about the food?”
“Notice what about the food?” Juana asked, pushing the potatoes around her plate and frowning.
“That it’s crap,” Val answered, grinning. It was true, though – none of the girls liked the food, and they all whispered that that was just another part of their punishment – especially when they noticed that Ella Mayberry and the rest of the staff always had separate meals.
Juana laughed, stabbing a bit of potato with her fork. “Yeah, I noticed.” She grimaced for a moment, and then popped the potato into her mouth. She swallowed it quickly, then coughed, and coughed again.
Val’s smile faded. “Juana? You okay?”
The Mexican girl shook her head, hands going to her throat.
Val grabbed a glass of water. “Are you choking?”
Juana shook her head again.
“Juana, what’s wrong? Say something!” She shoved the glass of water at her friend as she continued to choke. “Drink this!”
Juana reached for the glass, but before she could grab it, she collapse.
There were bruises on her throat in the shape of hands.
Val didn’t bother knocking on the door to the nurse’s office. Juana was inside, she had declared time and again, and she wasn’t going to ask for permission to see her.
She had been hoping, as she had hoped every day of the last week, that Juana would look better when she came to visit. She was paler than ever, though, and could barely sit up. Val took the seat beside her, putting down the tray of food she had brought for her. “Wonderful slop today. Pork and beans.”
Juana’s eyes were glazed. “No,” she whispered.
“No food,” she rasped, pushing the tray away. It fell over the edge of the small table, crashing to the floor. “Val – they poisoned it.”
Val furrowed her brow. “They – the school? They’re making you sick?”
“You, too.” Juana forced herself up, with effort, and looked around before laying down again. “I overheard the nurse talking to Ms. Mayberry and this guy, and they said they didn’t expect it to make us sick, but they won’t stop putting it in the food.”
“What did they want it to do, then?”
“They wanted to make us soldiers,” Juana said, looking at her hands. “I can hurt people with my hands, Val.”
Val looked at her own palms. “But I – nothing’s happened to me.”
“It will, Val.” Juana coughed, her whole body shaking. “I – they said I’m dying.”
Val’s eyes widened. “No, no. You aren’t dying – you just won’t eat their food anymore, that’s all. I’ll sneak out and get you something, and you’ll get better—”
“It’s too late, Val.” Val noticed that Juana’s eyes were red, as though she’d been crying, and new tears ran down her cheeks. “I can’t be saved.”
“Horrible, terrible, awful girl,” Ella Mayberry said, her claw-like hands gripping Val’s arm as she dragged her away from the police station. “Stupid, disgusting, ugly buck-toothed girl. How dare you run away from my school!”
“Help me!” Val begged, pleading with the officer, whose face remained impassive. “They’re poisoning us! They’re killing my best friend!”
“She’s horrendously stubborn,” Ms. Mayberry explained, giving the officer a ‘you know the kind’ look. He nodded in response.
“Help! Please!” Val clapped her hands down on the desk, and it burst into fire, flames spreading from under her fingers.
The officer’s face wasn’t impassive anymore.
“…and then they put my with the Daniels family. I never heard about what happened to Juana, and that was two years ago. Romper was kept at the school, too, so that’s why he’s got his powers.”
Zach was slumped down in the beanbag chair, eyes empty. That hadn’t been the distraction he was hoping for.
Sensing his discomfort, she nodded towards Greg and Zach in turn. “What about you too?”
Greg heaved out a breath. “My mom never hid from me who my father was,” he said. “So, obviously, he’s the source of my powers. Until four years ago, though, I didn’t even know I’d gotten anything, and my strength ahs just been increasing since then.”
“I’ve always had mine,” Zach said. “My parents don’t have any idea where they came from. It’s just been one more thing to make me different – I’m super-fast, Jewish, and the big, rich, dumb kid who only got into Lomb ‘cause my parents could actually afford it without a scholarship.”
“Aren’t you forgetting someone?” All three jumped, and Romper looked up and barked from his position at Val’s feet, bits of ice spraying out of his mouth. There was Bikey, nudging open the door, which hadn’t been properly closed when Romper came in. “Or do I not merit an origin story just because I don’t look human?”
The Astonishing Brother blushed. Their embarrassment increased every time they had to be reminded that Bikey was a sentient being and not just an amusing toy. “Sorry,” Greg said, offering an apologetic smile. “Go on.”
“Thank you, Greg.” He paused, his motor rumbling slightly. “I don’t remember a lot…”
“Wha…?” A voice asked. David was surprised to find it was his own.
I am David Wong.
All right, then. What else do I know?
David tried to open his eyes, but it wasn’t his eyes that opened. He heard a clanking noise as he found himself able to see again, but was unable to turn his head or move his eyes. A set of legs passed in front of him, followed by the end of a white, sweeping coat.
“Where am I?”
David was shocked to hear his own voice; it sounded metallic and whirring, like it wasn’t human at all.
He tried to take a step forward, but his attempt ended with an unpleasant jolt that he could just feel. He concentrated, and tried again, but wobbled unsteadily. He wasn’t sure where most of his body was, or even if he could move it. It was hard to feel anything. He opted to try to crawl instead, noticing that he seemed rather close to the ground. He moved forward smoothly, but could see no hands reaching out, and the movement almost seemed too smooth…
Just as he heard a deep, rough, tired voice exclaim, “Dr. Peters! We’ve done it!” he managed to “crawl” his way around what seemed to be a doorway, and there, in front of him, was a mirror that took up the entire expanse of a wall.
He saw no human reflected – only a motorcycle.
“…and I was out of there faster than you could say ‘oil change,’” Bikey said, resting against a wall. “I wandered about a year before Greg here found me with a flat tire.”
Greg nodded. “It was just before I saw your notice, Val. And then, before Zach showed us this shack, I went to get him – though he’d be an appropriate member for our little group.”
“Our little ragtag group,” Bikey agreed.
“Misfit group,” Val corrected.
“Unprepared,” Zach added.
“Together,” Greg concluded. “We’re still together.”