The smell was the worst.
If I hadn't known that I could get out any time I wanted, this probably would have been just as horrifying as the Trio had planned. As it was I'd created a force field immediately after being locked in but I was still stuck with the stink of the air trapped inside of the force field with me.
Oxygen was paramagnetic; I knew that from chemistry class. However I'd never worked out how to control oxygen with my powers, something that I was obviously going to have to rectify.
I sighed as I heard the bell ring and the footsteps retreating. It stung that no one had thought to help me or even tell a teacher. There was a time when I would have been furious, railed against the cowardice of people who should have had more courage.
My expectations had been lowered over time to the point that I was hardly surprised.
The hardest thing was keeping my temper under control. I was fully capable of making the locker explode, and the fact that it would have undoubtedly turned some of the students outside into a paste was not bothering it as much as it should have.
It was good that they were gone.
I waited until I felt the iron in everyone's blood moving out of sight. It felt like it took forever even though it was a matter of only a couple of minutes. Without my powers I'd have been kicking and screaming. I might even have been stuck in here for hours.
If the Trio had known what I could do they'd have never locked me in a metal locker.
A quick use of my power and the lock spun outside. A moment later the lock slipped off the locker and I was outside of the locker.
I wasn't going to be able to stay at school, not with the filth that was covering me. Hopefully the Trio would assume that the school janitor came to let me out, or even that some member of the student body had helped. I crushed the lock into a tiny ball and slipped it into my pocket.
Something was going to have to be done about Emma and Sophia. They were escalating at an alarming rate and without any consequences it wouldn't be long before I was forced to do things to them that I didn't want to do.
If I could have gone to the authorities it would be easier, but long experience had shown me that was closed off to me. Emma and Sophia had some kind of mysterious hold on the school administration.
The fact that I didn't react to anything they did only made them escalate further, and it fueled a rage that I'd been trying to keep myself from expressing, because if I did it could end badly.
Maybe it was time for me to stop practicing and planning and actually do the thing me and Emma had talked about when we'd been friends.
Maybe it was time for me to become a hero. If I waited much longer I suspected I'd end up as a villain; it ran in the family after all.
As I left the school I scowled. Learning that my grandfather had been one of the greatest villains of his world should have horrified me. Yet the more I learned from my father and from things my mother had written, the more intrigued I became.
My grandfather had been called a terrorist, a villain on a scale that rarely was seen on Earth Bet. He'd been incredibly strong, with powers to put entire super teams down. He'd had a philosophy, one which I wasn't sure I entirely agreed with.
I stepped outside the school. There was no guard to stop me, no lanyard on my neck to reassure everyone that this was a place where I belonged. Those were for schools that the city cared about.
Winslow was where the forgotten were left to die.
"So you mean I'm actually Jewish?" I asked. I was twelve and my powers had just manifested. They weren't much, just seeing magnetic fields and moving small objects, but they were enough that the first person I told was Dad. Emma had been curiously cold recently so I hadn't told her.
Strangely, learning that Mom wasn't actually from Earth Bet wasn't the thing that shocked me the most. Even knowing that her father had been a villain didn't phase me.
Yet I'd been telling Empire 88 kids for years that just because my last name was Hebert didn't mean that I was a Jew. I hadn't disliked Jews, but I hadn't wanted to be bullied by even more of the school's populace.
"Your grandmother wasn't Jewish, and it's passed through the mother's side," Dad said. "So...no? Your mom was raised as a Methodist and she never considered herself Jewish."
"So what was granddad like?" I asked.
"Disappointed in your mom for not being a parahuman. They had different words for it in their world, some of them ugly." Dad stared at me, then looked down at his hands. "He'd have been pleased to know that you were a mutant."
Mutant. It didn't sound like a particularly pleasant word. I rolled it around in my mind.
"It happens at puberty on their world," Dad said. "They don't just...trigger like people do here. There are other people who do, of course, but they aren't considered the same as mutants."
At my look her held up his hand and shook his head. "Don't ask me to explain it; I don't really understand it myself. Your mother seemed adamant that they were different somehow."
"So why was granddad a villain?" I asked.
"People persecuted mutants and he felt he had to protect them," Dad said. "Some of the things he did to do that turned out to be pretty dark."
"I don't understand," I said. "How can protecting people be bad?"
"He was a holocaust survivor, and that warped him, at least according to your mother," Dad said. "It haunted him and in some ways he ended up almost as bad as the people who'd murdered his entire family. Yet there were times when he was a hero too, when he saved their world."
He'd have hated Brockton Bay, I supposed. I saw a dozen swastikas every day on my way to school. The Empire claimed that it had refuted the old school Nazi ideologies, that it was simply about protecting the little guy from the scum who was ruining the city, but everyone knew the truth.
They were Nazis who were pretending to be something new, but they weren't.
Well, it wasn't like I was going to be a hero, not with the ability to see magnetic fields and move a pencil. It was a cute parlor trick, nothing that would be able to stop the most incompetent of villains.
Little had I known.
My power had never stopped growing. Over the past three years it had kept getting stronger, reaching the point where I was no longer sure just how strong I really was. There was only so much testing you could do before people started to notice.
Dad had taken me camping once, and I was easily able to lift the car, but beyond that I had no idea. It was something I was going to have to test out, and it wouldn't be smart to do it in the field when I was fighting.
After all, learning I couldn't do something would probably get me killed.
It was why I'd been working on a costume for weeks. It was mostly made of metal, of course. My powers gave me an intuitive understanding of some kinds of sciences; I'd have thought I was a low level tinker except that designs didn't automatically come to me. I had to study hard and learn, something the trio hadn't been making easy.
Most of my studying had been done at the library. I'd discovered that taking advanced classes had actually been a blessing in disguise; none of my tormentors were bright enough to get in, and those classes had become a haven for me.
I'd started early enough that the bullies hadn't been able to sabotage my grades enough to keep me out of those classes. I could only imagine the kind of hell my life would have been otherwise.
It wasn't even as though the advanced classes at Winslow were all that advanced. It was just that the teachers were a little more interested when faced with students who were slightly more interested in learning than the rest of their classmates.
Unfortunately, only three of my classes were advanced. That was all Winslow had to offer, and I'd taken all I could. Computer class was a haven simply by chance. The other three classes were open season.
Every day was a challenge.
If I'd wanted, I could murder every student in the school without moving from my seat, and there were times I'd fantasized about it. Simply pull the nails from the building and turn them into projectiles. I'd gotten really good at moving more and more objects, and I suspected that no one would be able to even run.
It had always been a simple daydream, something that I knew I'd never do no matter what the provocation. What worried me was the fact that I was having that daydream more often.
I needed an outlet for my rage, or Sophia and Emma would end up as chunky salsa and I'd have a kill order from the Protectorate for using my powers to murder a pair of norms.
Walking home covered in filth wasn't the best of ideas, but I doubted any bus driver would let me on board in this condition. I took control of a water hose and washed myself off as well as I could but I was still reeking and covered in filth.
As I walked home I decided. Tonight was the night. I'd go out and I'd work out some of my anger on people who deserved whatever I had to give them.
After all, what could go wrong?