Edit 10/04/16: Beta'd by becauzitswrong.
"Damn you Sophia!" - Speech
'Why Emma?' - Thought
Brockton Bay General Hospital
I hate my life.
Not something unexpected when coming from a teenager, but nonetheless not something you want to hear. Or think.
Being the girl known as Taylor Hebert for the last fifteen months sucked ass. I had wished countless times to be someone different, but nothing seemed forthcoming. I had had my best friend since before kindergarten stolen from me, turned against me somehow by the person who had been the bane of my existence ever since.
Sophia Hess. Star of the Winslow Track team. She, along with Emma Barnes, my ex-best friend, and Madison Clements, the obligatory 'cute' girl, had seemed bent upon making my life a living hell from which I could not awaken or escape.
To say I was bullied would be like saying Hurricane Katrina had made New Orleans a little wet. I had been knocked down stairs, had my homework stolen, ruined or destroyed, been hurt emotionally and, just to put the icing on the cake, had the severe displeasure of being locked inside a fucking locker full of used tampons, pads and other filth that had been left to rot and ferment over the Christmas Break.
I couldn't say for sure that it was Sophia or one of the others that had pushed me in, because everyone at the school, staff included, seemed to be jumping on the bandwagon of 'let's try and make Taylor commit suicide.'
I had been pushed inside my locker and stuck there for two entire days, thanks to a power outage at the school. Covered in filth and bugs to the point that even thinking about it now made me want to hurl. The janitor had found me and called an ambulance. Oddly enough, there had been a series of burst pipes at the school, which meant it was still closed. That had been a week ago, during which time I had been in a coma, only waking up yesterday.
My father, Daniel 'Danny' Hebert, had been relieved beyond belief when I had woken up and told him everything. Told him of Emma's betrayal, of everything that the Trio had done to me and how the staff at the school had seemed to just ignore it or accuse me of being an attention seeking brat when I complained.
Dad had wanted to sue the ones responsible, but Alan Barnes was a high-priced lawyer specializing in divorce cases, but he could and would ruin us to protect Emma from any harm my accusations would garner. I had, very reluctantly, convinced him not to do anything but instead make a deal with Principal Blackwell.
The deal was as follows: One, I was to be assigned a new locker elsewhere. Two, I was to be given a reasonable amount of recompense for what I had gone through, as well as money to replace my schoolbooks, which had been in the mess that was my locker. Three, in exchange for the above concessions, Dad wouldn't have every out of work member of the Union come down and picket the school. It wasn't an idle threat as there were probably at least a couple of hundred guys who owed him a favour. He could probably have thirty or more guys at any given time. That, plus telling Principal Blackwell he would then contact he media to see what they thought of the picket, proved too much for the woman. It seemed possibly that she wouldn't want the Board of Education taking an interest in her school if all of this triggered an investigation.
Naturally, Principal Blackwell was angry at being blackmailed, at least according to my dad, but she did give in earlier today. Dad was pretty smug about it getting everything I'd asked for. I had the feeling that he'd even asked for more money that I'd told him I needed, but I guess I couldn't begrudge him that, especially since he'd missed some work with me being in the hospital.
He had to get back to his job at the Dockworkers Union, but had promised to visit me after work, which I had tried to shoot down, given how tired he was after working all day, but he had insisted.
So here I was, getting poked and prodded physically and mentally by doctors, nurses and psychologists. I swear that one nurse took great delight in drawing my blood as often as she could. Worse, I was going to be doing physical therapy for a while before I was released, or so the nurses told me. Joy.
I was currently alone, at least for the moment, and was playing with a plastic cup that was nearly empty, having drank the rest of it. Unfortunately, I didn't even have anything to read. Hopefully, Dad would bring me some books from home before I started going mad from lack of things to do.
"Crap!" I cursed as I dropped the cup and sent the water tumbling towards the floor. I reflexively reached out to stop the water… and it stopped.
My jaw dropped as I stared at the water hanging immobile in midair. I concentrated and raised my hand, willing the water to gather into a ball in front of me.
Moving swiftly and smoothly, the water did as I wanted it to.
"Holy hell!" What the fuck had just happened?
A moment's thought later, I knew. I had somehow gotten powers. I was a Parahuman.
Intellectually, I knew that getting locked in a locker full of probably toxic materials and bugs for three days definitely counted as the worst experience in my life, but I had never guessed that it would actually result in my getting powers!
From the little I had read, whatever it was that sparked parahuman powers in those who had the potential for them was somehow linked with terrible things happening to them. They were, unquestionably, the worst thing to happen to someone and were never discussed, even on Parahumans Online, or PHO as it was usually referred to, an online forum for people who liked to discuss such things. The only discussion I had found even there just said 'worst experience of my life, the end' while the Moderator, Tin_Mother, had locked the thread after a while.
I could, apparently, control water… Hydrokinesis. This could explain the burst pipes at school! It was also both good and bad. Good, because it was a rare power, and bad, because it was one of the abilities used by Leviathan, one of the Endbringers.
Of course, Leviathan used a far more powerful version, Macrohydrokinesis. The ability to manipulate water on a tremendously large scale, such as creating rainfall and immense tidal waves. My power seemed tiny by comparison, but people who possessed similar powers to any of the Endbringers, whether Behemoth with his dynakinesis, Leviathan with his hydrokinesis, or the Simurgh with her telepathy, were rarely treated well.
Case in point, there was a member of the international superhero team, the Protectorate, Drought, who had the ability to rip water out of the human body. He was kept under extremely close scrutiny by the Protectorate even although he had never used his power to kill.
Carefully directing the water back into the cup, I drank it slowly as I thought about what I should do. I considered joining the Wards, but they were hemmed in by regulations and were closely monitored by the Protectorate. Shaking my head, I dismissed the notion. After the last fifteen months, any ability I'd once had to trust in authority figures was pretty much gone, so the likelihood of me taking orders from the local Protectorate authorities was pretty damned close to zero. Or even below that. Was less than nothing a thing?
Also, there was no way I wanted more teen drama on top of what I already had to deal with at school. Another option, New Wave, a local team of independent heroes, was also out because they revealed their identities to the public. No way was I doing that. I rather liked living.
So, an independent cape it was then. Not a villain, though. An independent hero was what I wanted to be. I'd act as a vigilante, and maybe, just maybe, I could make a difference.
The first thing to do was to get out of hospital, get an ersatz costume together and then take a trip to the Boat Graveyard at night, so I could test my powers. Exactly how much water could I manipulate at once and what could I do with it? These were just a few of the questions I had about my new power.
Right off the top of my head, I could think of several more questions I could ask that required some form of testing, but that could wait until I had the privacy to write them down and brainstorm them.
I took a bite from the sandwich I'd made for lunch as I shuffled through the notes I had taken at the library earlier in the morning and grinned as I chewed. It had been two weeks since I'd figured out I was a parahuman, and I was finally out of the damn hospital. Better yet, I was off school for another week to allow me more time to recover. I was actually feeling pretty good considering, but I still had to use a cane to get about. Truthfully, it had been a bit of a struggle to just carry my plate to my room earlier so I could eat at my desk while I went over my notes.
As far as school went, I certainly didn't mind more time off. It wasn't like my grades could get any worse, so I ignored that part of the problem.
I was concentrating on gathering possible applications for my power. Thus far, I had Viscokinesis, Hydrokinetic Flight, Hydrokinetic Surfing, Water Purification, Hydrokinetic Combat, Water Generation, Aqua Aura (so I could fly), Water Empowerment, Atmidokinesis, Absolute Water Manipulation and a few others.
Something I thought would be cool, but couldn't seem to do was Water Transmutation, the ability to turn oneself into water. That was a Changer, or perhaps Breaker, ability, while I'd probably end up classified as more of a Blaster. I was definitely bound by something called the Manton Effect, which prevented Parahumans from affecting living things, stopping at their skins. It's what kept a telekinetic from reaching inside of someone and crushing their hearts. Me? I could use water, regular from a tap or even what was in the nearby ocean, but not what was in a person or animal's body.
I'd tried it on a piece of beef earlier on and was very glad to have that kind of worry removed from me.
Most of the other abilities required a larger amount of water than I had readily available to use, so I couldn't try them yet. I therefore had to stick with the ones that didn't need a lot of water.
I moved to the bathroom and concentrated, trying to draw water out of the air, an application of Absolute Water Control. Much to my frustration, all I earned for my trouble was a drop of water and a throbbing headache. Which seemed to mean that I couldn't create water out of nothing, while there wasn't enough humidity in the air to yield any amount of significant moisture.
Moving on, I filled the bath to the brim and tried to lift all of it into the air. It was hard, but I managed it… barely. Getting the water back in… yeah, that hadn't been as smooth. I'd let go of it too quickly and it had splashed back into the tub…and all over me.
Afterward, I quickly dried myself off, and changed clothes. Consulting my list, I decided to try altering the viscosity of the water. Emptying the bath and filling a small bowl with water from the sink, I pushed a finger into it and imagined it taking on the consistency of treacle. After a moment, I pulled my finger out with difficulty and upturned the bowl above the bath. The water in the bowl moved with a strange slowness as it plopped down out of the container and into the bathtub. It no longer acted like water, but rather like jelly or maybe syrup.
I barely withheld a squeal of joy at this. With this particular ability, taking down and immobilizing criminals would not only be easy, but I wouldn't be risking hurting them, something I knew the PRT frowned upon. Feeling almost giddy, now I just had to make sure I could turn the stuff back.
Looking at the odd mound of water jelly, I willed it to return to the normal consistency of water, which it did with a splash. Repeating the experiment a couple more times just made the smile on my face grow larger. Now I just had to find out if the effect was permanent or would revert after a couple of minutes. An hour later, I finally gave up, as it didn't seem to want to change back on its own.
I sat there on the closed toilet seat in the bathroom and considered things. It was just sinking in to me now. I was a Parahuman. I couldn't have that taken away by Sophia or Emma or anyone else.
Checking the time, I decided to get started on dinner for me and my dad. I'd use my mom's lasagne recipe as this was the first time I'd been home in over a week. A celebration was called for.
As I headed for the kitchen, I mentally catalogued what I could do thus far. I could control water, lifting it and moving it as I pleased. I could also make water turn into a poor man's Control Foam, albeit not nearly as secure. I'd have to experiment to see how high I could raise the viscosity of water before I could judge exactly how useful it could be.
What I couldn't seem to do was draw water out of the air around me, which sucked ass. At least not enough to use or justify the throbbing headache that the process caused me. That meant I had to work with what water was around me or that I could carry with me. On the plus side, when it was raining, I was set.
I timed everything so perfectly that when Dad finally walked through the door, I was dishing up a hearty serving of Mom's lasagne onto his plate.
"Hey kiddo." He smiled at me as he came into the dining room, "Annette's lasagne, eh? What's the occasion?"
"Me getting out of hospital at last," I replied. "How was work?"
"Alright," Dad replied as he shucked his coat and sat down at his place at the table. "Managed to get the mayor to agree to a contract to replace pipes with Tinker-made plastic in the Docks area around the Union's offices and buildings, so there's work for most of the guys for a while."
"That's great!" I told him as I put his plate in front of him and went to grab my own. Ever since the ferry had been shut down and the majority of the Bay had been turned into the Ship Graveyard, the Dockworker's Union had been struggling to maintain itself and not dissolve.
The numerous gangs that had arisen as the city's economy had declined didn't help matters. The Azn Bad Boys, or ABB for short, were led by Lung, the Dragon of Kyushu. Empire 88 was led by Kaiser, a neo-Nazi white supremacist. Finally, there were the Merchants, led by Skidmark, who was exactly as disgusting as his name sounded. Those three were the biggest and baddest and regularly tried to poach workers from the Union, succeeding far too often.
Seeing Dad actually get his workers a job that would pay the bills made me so happy for him. He worked hard for little gain and he deserved some success.
We chatted about a lot of safe topics, things that didn't involve my bullies or Winslow. It felt like how things had been before Sophia had entered the picture, before Emma had become my greatest tormentor. When my dad and I had finally began recovering from my mom's death.
"Taylor…I'm not so certain that I want you to go back there," Dad said uncomfortably once we'd finished eating. "They almost killed you."
"I can't exactly transfer to Arcadia, Dad," I pointed out. "My grades are not good enough. Not anymore, anyway."
"What about home schooling yourself?" he suggested. "You have your mother's work ethic and I think you'd do better without having… anything hanging over your head."
I stared at my dad in astonishment. Why the hell hadn't I thought of that?
"Dad… who gave you this idea?" I asked curiously. "It isn't the kind of thing you'd normally think of."
"Kurt and Lacey," Dad replied. "They…weren't happy with the school after what happened. Everyone we know in the Union is pretty pissed because of what happened to you."
Taking this in, I felt… happy. It was nice to have people on your side for a change. Kurt and Lacey were my godparents, so it wasn't that much of a surprise, true, but still…
I forced my mind out of its happy place and focused on this new paradigm. As he said, home schooling myself would be way easier than forcing myself to go to school just to be bullied…again. I was, no false modesty here, smart. Smart enough to actually graduate from High School sooner than expected if allowed to go at my own pace rather that of my teachers.
"Would Winslow allow it?" I asked. "I mean, we did get them to give me a new locker and everything."
"Screw what they think," Dad said bluntly. "They lost the right to quibble when you had to endure fifteen months of hell."
Wow. Dad wasn't taking any prisoners here. Still…
"Two weeks," I said at last. "If things aren't better after two weeks back at Winslow, we'll go with home schooling."
I doubted that they would improve significantly enough to avoid home schooling. If nothing else, Sophia, Emma and Madison were persistent. They wouldn't stop until I was either dead or not in Winslow anymore. I hated the idea of losing to them, but I was so damn tired of fighting impossible odds.
"Okay." Dad nodded.
We spent the rest of the evening watching a movie from Earth Aleph before dad went to bed. I sat up thinking about the way things were in Brockton Bay. The skinheads, druggies and Asian gangsters were tearing the city apart and even the Parahuman Response Team and the Protectorate was helpless to do anything.
I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to make a difference, and now I could. I would fight the gangs and try to make my hometown a better place. Just like Mom and Dad.
Settling down under my covers, I smiled before I went to sleep.