My name is Thomas Calvert and I am a parahuman.
It's been a week since I bought my powers. Yes, bought. The lovely Doctor has given me a second chance in more ways in one.
I am researching known Thinkers in a small coffee shop right now. I am also learning about investment at home. I am in two places at once, but it's so much more than that.
My power is timelines. I can be in two at once. I am aware of both of them. I can close one of timelines at any time.
I can't shoot fireballs. I can't fly. I can't throw a building. My power is so much less, and yet so much more than that.
I wasted no time in quitting my job. I had no need for meetings and could afford a few months of leisure.
I played around some, these past few days. I punched a man in the face. I yelled "FIRE" in a full theatre. I insulted and assaulted people left and right. It was very fun and even a bit of a learning experience. I played tricks on people, approaching them in different ways until they thought I might've been a forgotten friend.
I tried exploiting others for a time. I played a few dozen games of poker. I was kicked out of a casino in short order. I approached women I was interested in and suffered no rejection.
I came up with a simple money solution. I'd trade on the stock market. First I'd figure out how insider trading or other Thinkers were discovered and then I'd go through a proxy and only make small gains. Enough to keep me from worrying about money, but not enough to cause interest.
After I had a few things in order, I thought about trying a few things. I made a list of all my short-term desires and went about getting them. Sex. Money. Drugs. Everything was easy to obtain. I rushed into everything and just stopped things when they didn't work out.
I didn't drink coffee due to physical dependence, but I tried drinking some and doing the same tasks in two timelines multiple times. Each time I ended the timeline where I drank coffee so I wouldn't get physical dependence. It ended up being worse than the other things I could do with multiple timelines, even if I used Adderall or other drugs instead, but it was still an interesting experience.
I quickly found I could stay up late in one timeline and get a good night's sleep in another every day without any problems. I had loads of time and didn't know what to do with it.
I started looking to my friends. I spent a little while just getting to know them better. Asking them about themselves; taking them on adventures. If things got too personal or the adventure ended up boring or accidents happened along the way, I just stopped the timeline and navigated around any obstacles I discovered.
I quickly realized there were many bad things that happened that I could avoid if I added some randomness and picked the best from whatever happened. However, this was hard to predict and prevented me from trying other, possibly more effective things.
A week into this Contessa showed up at my door.
"You've had some time to get familiar with your power," she said. "If you're not busy, Cauldron could use your help with power manufacturing."
As it turned out, I wasn't busy. I had a few ideas for things to try next, but things were going pretty well and the drugs had caused me to rethink a few things, for better or worse. Contessa led me through a portal back to the white rooms where a bunch of vials much like the one I'd ingested were laid out.
"We have a client in the next room and we're going to give her superpowers," the Doctor explained. "We'd like to see if your power gives us better chances."
I was familiar with the riskiness spiel from when I went through this. I nodded, stopped the timeline with me at the coffeeshop, and split timelines again in the same heartbeat.
"Ok," I said in one timeline. "Go ahead. Give her the vial."
"Hold on," I said in the other.
It took five minutes to find out the result of the test with sufficient detail.
"Brute 2. Mover 3," said the Doctor.
I stopped the timeline and split again.
"She was a Brute 2, Mover 3," I said. "Write that down and let's try it again. Same vial."
We continued five more times. Each time the Doctor gave the same vial. Each time the client gained different powers. They all had the same theme, though, which was something. One time, she gained a few physical features. The Doctor decided to go with the last powerset, and I made it the main timeline.
"I was hoping it would be the same each time," confessed the Doctor. "We could give many more people powers and just keep the good ones. This isn't as good, but I suppose it solves the Case 53 problem and gives us a few shots with important jobs."
"Case 50 what-now?" I asked.
"We keep accidentally making monsters," she explained. "That's what we call it when things go wrong and we get tentacles instead of capes. If you're willing, I'd like to set up a schedule with you so we can give clients superpowers without this issue being a problem. We'd contact you online and pass messages to ourselves for when things go wrong. It wouldn't take more than an hour a day, at worst. You can consider this payment for our service."
That seemed quite the deal. I wouldn't have to worry as much about potential debt to Cauldron and I'd be able to save potentially quite a few people from being horrible monsters from the rest of their lives.
"Sure, I'm in," I replied. "and I'd like to go over a few ideas of mine and ask for some help with security and ideas for applications of my power."
We negotiated for an hour and sketched out a rough schedule that involved an hour of my time in the afternoon each day for power testing. I split the timelines a few times, but with Contessa in the room things seemed a little one-sided. She'd occasionally step in and point out a caveat or something I or the Doctor had missed that somehow always ended with me giving them a little more benefit of the doubt than I'd been planning to.
In the end, they gave me a number to call whenever I needed something and gave me the contact info of a few Thinkers in their employ and potentially useful known Thinkers or tinker devices. I ended our meeting early in one timeline and went home, but kept talking to the Doctor in the other as Contessa's stare intensified over time. I fished a bit for Cauldron's motives but called it quits after an hour when I wasn't getting anywhere and ended the timeline.
Back at home, I looked through the list and decided to try contacting Accord first. He was renowned for having a very powerful Thinker power but being quite mentally unstable. I called him up and quickly regretted it.
"It's 2:53 in the afternoon. I am in a meeting. I do not have time for arbitrary interruptions of any variety! What do you mean, you're a cape without a cape name!?" *click*
I ended the timeline and sent him an email with a brief introduction.
After splitting the timelines again, I researched Thinkers and high risk, short timeframe opportunities on one hand and drove to the coffee shop to think of a cape name.
"Chessmaster?" I asked the barista. "How about Coil?"
"Wow, no," Sheila replied. "Those are terrible. You want something which tells a bit about your power, but that people read the wrong thing into or is just not the right information. You also don't want it to be sinister. Legend is like, a legend, but he flies and shoots laser beams."
"I wish I could just use my real name," I complained. "Thomas Calvert. How hard is that to say?"
"Oh my god," Sheila gasped. "Did you just tell me your secret identity? Do you want, like, compensation sex or something? Because you're so not getting it."
"I guess I want to be known as a Thinker," I wondered. "One that people can consult for trying something quick that they don't know if it works or not."
"Ugh just look up synonyms for testing or something," Sheila sighed, rolling her eyes.
I whipped out my smartphone and in a few minutes decided on Tryout.
"Great," Sheila smiled. "I'm so going to tell my friends all about this."
I ended the timeline.