Disclaimer: I do not own Sky High or its characters, settings etc, all of which belong to Disney.
Chapter 1: Inheritance
It could be said, from a certain point of view, that this story began that night at the Paper Lantern when Layla befriended Warren and set in motion certain well-known events, including the anti-social pyro's inclusion into the group of so-called misfits. But everybody knows all that, so let's fast forward to the following year, to another evening at everyone-except-Will's favorite restaurant (he still hates Chinese food, poor guy).
It was Friday evening, and almost closing time. The group, minus Warren who was still working but was around somewhere, had just finished eating and the place was nearly empty.
"So, Magenta, why did it take so long asking Mr. Boy about your extra credit?" Will asked, "You almost missed the bus."
"Oh, he had to go and find out from the Principal's office or something," replied Maj, "But you'll never guess what I found on his computer while he was gone."
Layla was appalled. "You looked at Mr. Boy's personal files!"
"No, gross! It was open on Sky High Past Alumni." They regarded her with varying degrees of interest and disapproval. "I was bored stiff, okay?"
"Hey, why didn't you hack into our grades while you were at it?" asked Zach.
"Zach!" scolded Layla and Ethan in unison. Will just chuckled at his girlfriend's reaction to that suggestion.
Magenta rolled her eyes. "It's called Read Only, doofus, and besides, Alumni was the only database that was open."
"So what did you find out?" asked Zach, unfazed by her criticism, "Did Boomer flunk PE or something?"
"No, wishful thinking. But Layla, your mom once got into a lot of trouble for releasing the frogs that were part of an experiment in Mutant Biology."
Will grinned. "Yeah, I can just see that."
"Well, can you blame her?" protested Layla, fiddling with her fortune cookie, "The poor things probably told her all about what was being done to them."
"What else did you find out?" Ethan asked.
Maj paused for effect, looking around at her audience, "Well, Ethan, you know how you were so impressed that Will is a third generation super? Anybody ever asked Warren how far back his power goes?"
Zach was almost shocked at that suggestion. "Uh, last time I checked, even mentioning Warren's father is like saying 'Fry me!'. Even if he has, like, mellowed quite a lot the past year."
"Yeah, I'd still rather ask the Past Alumni database than him," Ethan commented as he finished his soda.
"Well, I ran out of time so I didn't get the full scoop," admitted Magenta, "But I can tell you that most of them on his dad's side come from both parents, not just one. And every single one is a pyro."
"So?" said Will, "My powers come straight from my parents."
"Yeah, but it's not automatic," Ethan replied, "It's much more likely to be something similar, like the way my mom melts inanimate objects instead of herself, and Layla and her mom both have nature powers."
"Same with me and my dad," said Maj, whose father could shapeshift into a horse with a blue streak in his mane and tail. "But what about Zach? His dad's power has nothing to do with glowing." His father had microscopic vision.
"What about your grandparents then?" asked Layla, turning to Zach who was trying to fold his napkin into a swan, "Uncles, aunts?"
"Well, my dad's sister can make light bulbs come on by looking at them funny, so I guess that's related," Zach shrugged. He let go of his napkin origami and it unraveled onto Maj's empty plate.
"There you go," said Will as Zach tried to reclaim his failed artwork, "What's the big deal about Warren then?"
Magenta smacked Zach's hand and placed the napkin out of his reach before turning to Will. "I don't think you were paying attention, Will," she replied seriously, "I said every single one of his Battle relatives – uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents – have exactly the same power. Plus we know his mother was a pyro too."
"That's totally fascinating," raved Ethan, "I mean, it completely defies the odds."
Zach was less enthusiastic. "Yeah, whatever man, but I don't suggest asking Warren about it."
"Ask me what?" Warren appeared at the table suddenly. They looked at one another, uncomfortable.
Zach had a moment of inspiration. "Uh, dude, you got any ideas about what I should do for the talent show?"
"Talent show?" Warren was clearly skeptical.
Zach improvised in a hurry. "Um, at the Maxville Community Center next month. So, what do you think?"
"Please don't sing," was Warren's advice.
"That's a bit harsh, man," Zach said, while the others tried not to laugh, their dilemma briefly forgotten, "I thought you were my friend."
"I said 'Please', didn't I?"
That was definitely their cue to laugh, much to Zach's chagrin. But he cheered up a moment later like he usually did, while Warren began to clear their plates and cutlery. Although he'd moved up from busboy to waiter a few months ago, he preferred to do the whole deal for his friends, knowing their unfortunate tendency to talk about superhero stuff in public. Besides, it gave him more chances to butt into their conversations, which was always fun.
Warren left for the kitchen and they started to relax, thinking he'd bought the act. But then he came straight back and leant his hands on the table, giving them a serious look.
"Okay kids, nice try. What don't you suggest asking me about?"
"Uh, Ethan wanted to know, uh…" started Zach, and trailed off under Warren's questioning gaze. Warren then looked at Will, who just shrugged.
Ethan jumped in, and babbled very quickly, "Well, we were discussing how Will's powers are exactly like his parents' and his strength comes from his grandfather too, but the rest of us have only similar ones to our parents, and I was wondering if one of your mom's parents was a pyro too?"
"Both of them," replied Warren, unfazed.
"Cool, so you're third generation too."
Warren shrugged it off. "Fifth on my father's side, but who cares really."
No one had a clue what to say to that.
Warren started to leave, and then turned back and added in a low mock-conspiratorial tone, "Oh, and it comes from generations of marriages arranged by the Battle godfather." They looked confused so he rolled his eyes and explained, "The reason why pyrokinesis is so concentrated in the family."
So he did overhear their conversation. Oops.
He continued, "And you guys really shouldn't be discussing this sort of thing in public, even if it's late and the place is about to close."
With that Warren left the others to just stare at each other in astounded silence.
Zach was the first to break it. "Ooookay, was I abducted by aliens or did Warren just say something about his dad without, like, incinerating anything?"
"Not only that, but talking about his father's family," put in Ethan, "I mean, everybody knows the Battle family is like the super villain mafia."
"Like Zach said earlier, he's mellowed a lot," said Layla, remembering that even at last year's Homecoming Warren had been able to make a wry comment about his father's incarceration.
Will nodded in agreement. It did seem that Warren had come to terms with the fact that he couldn't exactly blame the Commander for putting his father in prison. Barron Battle had certainly deserved that maximum sentence for treason that he'd received when it was revealed that he had actually been an undercover agent for the super villain family all along. Betrayed by his father and abandoned by his mother – albeit unintentionally – when she died a few years later, who could blame Warren for nursing a bit of a grudge? Will was privately quite impressed about the way Warren had dealt with a lot of his issues on that score over the past year, not to mention being relieved that there weren't problems between his father and his best friend anymore. The group of friends were still working on Warren's anti-social tendencies, though.
"Yeah," Magenta also agreed with Layla's statement, "Like, how was that little discussion the other day about who'd caused the most destruction of school property during the infamous cafeteria fight?"
The others all grinned, remembering that particular conversation. Anybody who didn't know Warren would probably have thought he was being absolutely serious when he told Will off for having taken all the credit. His friends, however, were getting more used to his dry sense of humor by now.
Will decided it was about time to change the subject. "So, guys, shall we go or shall we stick around until Warren has to kick us out?"
"Like usual," put in Zach.
"Or like that lady over there," Ethan commented. They all looked over at the only other remaining patron who was parked in the back of a corner booth. The woman, who was probably in her 30s, was twisting some napkins between the tense fingers of one hand. The other one was toying with the stem of her wine glass which was the focus of her somewhat glazed stare.
"She looks a little attached to her wine glass," Magenta observed. The woman drained her glass and set it down next to her purse and jacket on the table, before going back to torturing the napkins.
"Maybe she got stood up," said Warren, appearing from nowhere yet again. "It's a tradition in this place, you know." He smirked at Will who hit him (lightly, thank goodness, but he still almost lost his balance) while Layla gave him a supposedly menacing look that had no effect whatsoever. "Not that I'd blame the guy; she's been pretty unpleasant all evening," he added.
The woman in question seemed to decide it was time to leave. She threw the napkins on the table and started to slide out of the booth, but her purse strap was looped around the candle. She gave her purse a tug and the candle toppled, still lit. Things probably wouldn't have gotten out of hand if she hadn't panicked and tried to pull harder on her purse, bringing the candle flame into contact with the bundled napkins on the table.
She screamed as the fire spread from the napkins to her jacket on the table, which effectively cornered her in the booth.
By this stage Warren had reached the table.
Mr. and Mrs. Wu came out from the back just in time to witness something incredible.
Warren reached out and touched the burning jacket. Eight pairs of eyes watched in disbelief as the fire seemed to just disappear into his hand. Then he stretched his other hand to the napkins and purse, and once again simply absorbed the flames. The fire was completely extinguished in less than five seconds.
"I didn't know he could do that, man!" whispered Zach.
Will was just as stunned. "I don't think he knew he could do that!"
The woman stared at Warren, equally flabbergasted. The pyro stepped back a few paces and sat down hard at the next table. He was staring at his hands.
"That's-That's not his power, you know," Ethan stammered, "That has to be something else."
"Maybe Will's not the only person around here with two powers," suggested Layla as they finally managed to get over the shock that had immobilized them, and hurried over to where Warren was sitting.
They could now see what he was staring at. Tendrils of red were spreading from his pulse points in a pattern that looked a lot like the pyro tattoos on his outer wrists. As the fire designs etched themselves into his skin with a painful hiss, Warren muttered something in Chinese that was evidently less than polite considering the stern look it earned him from Mr. Wu.
It was probably the only time in his life that Warren had felt the pain of getting burnt, Layla thought sympathetically. Apart from when he'd gotten his first set of tattoos to accompany his original powers, of course.
Mrs. Wu, in the meantime, had enough practical sense to be concerned about dealing with their little security breach.
"I must be more drunk than I thought," said the woman dazedly as Mrs. Wu helped her to her feet carefully. She was still staring at Warren. "I could swear…"
"Let me call you a cab, ma'am," offered the Chinese woman.
"Yeah, that would be nice…" the woman trailed off even more vaguely as Mrs. Wu led her out to the reception area of the restaurant. Hopefully, the shaken and somewhat inebriated witness wouldn't have too much trouble buying some sort of cover story.
Meanwhile Warren was running his fingers lightly over the completed fire tattoos on his inner wrists.
"You okay, Warren?" asked Will.
But the pyro's attention was far away. What had happened to the fire he had just absorbed? He could feel his temperature was higher than usual, similar to when he powered up. Maybe…
He held up one hand and concentrated. A moment later it ignited, and he knew that this was not fire he'd generated himself, even if it looked exactly the same.
The others didn't quite follow the significance of what he'd just done. Mr. Wu, however, seemed to catch on. He said something in Chinese and Warren nodded in agreement.
"Yeah, it looks like I got a bit of my mom's powers too."