disclaimer—this fic is based off of "Worm", an original web serial 'fic by 'wildbow' and found at (parahumans. wordpress. com)
all intellectual rights to the parahumans 'verse and the characters belong to wildbow. READ HIS STUFFS!1one
A Parahumans fanfic by throwaawy
Once the alert had gone out, it had taken me close to half an hour to change into my costume, get myself over to the abandoned building that had been designated as my rendezvous point, and climb to the roof. When I reached the top, I immediately spotted another figure—a fellow cape—sitting against the guardrail whilst resting his legs on top of a shiny case. He wore a matte-green jumpsuit and helmet, with semi-reflective shells of grey armour plating covering his vitals. Pockets and pouches ran across his chest, arms, legs... everywhere that wasn't covered by his armour.
He glanced over at me briefly, then made a show of looking around, light reflecting from his gold visor. "Where's your better half?" he asked me with an amused tone.
I could see myself in his visor's reflection. My own costume was a modification on the standard outfit used by some British Special Forces. It started with a flexible jumpsuit made of tear-resistant cloth to defend against knife strikes. Flexible armour panels covered critical areas across my chest, torso, and back, with some extra padding along my joints. The two major differences that differentiated my costume from the Regiments' were colouration and headgear. Where they mostly had camouflage patterns, mine was coloured a pale blue with white highlights. I did without any helmet or berets—my headgear consisted of nothing more than a set of tinted bullet-proof glasses and a white scarf that covered the lower portion of my mouth and chin. It left the rest of my head bare, but I wasn't exactly a front-line combatant and I hated having my head covered if I could avoid it. The retired quartermaster whom my father had gotten to design it for me had protested, but I had stood firm on that point.
I shrugged whilst taking a few moments to catch my breath. "Around," I said dismissively. "What's the story?"
"Nothing much," the other teen replied. He waved his hand across the skyline, taking in the city as a whole. "There was a robbery on an antique store a little while ago; the suspects got away with a few expensive trinkets whilst the owner was calling it in. Boss-lady wants us on standby in case things go sour or for last-minute cleanup, but from what I've heard so far it should be a fairly straightforward job."
The fact that we were called in meant there was suspected cape involvement, but if Volley was right then there would likely be no reason for me to get personally involved. I tried to hide my relief, but either something in my expression gave me away or Volley knew me well enough to guess what I was thinking. He reached over to tap me with a friendly punch to the shoulder.
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say you liked not having to be out there risking life and limb. You shouldn't be so skittish, 'Glass. It's not like we've got a major supervillain on our plates tonight." His helmet tilted to the side in thought. "At least I don't think we do..."
"Flurry here, I have a possible lead on the suspects' escape vehicle," the handheld transceiver clipped to my shoulder suddenly squawked to life as our team leader spoke up. Her voice was even, with a no-nonsense tone. "Sector Three. Midsized sedan—it matches with the description we were given. Possibly four to five individuals within, judging by the silhouettes. Moving to intercept."
Another voice, this one tinged with irreverence, spoke up immediately afterwards. "Stay cool, Flurry."
"Ha... hah," came the dry response.
Volley straightened up from his slouch, all business as he used his foot to flip the catches on the box at his feet. With a whir, the box unfolded into a mass of components and machinery—extending, rearranging, and finally clicking into place until a shiny mortar stood in its place. While the case was transforming, he began quickly patting himself down and searching his pockets, pulling out a series of small objects.
As he was doing that, I formed a thought in my head and pushed it out. There was a brief pause and then a different thought was reflected back at me from a distant source. I pressed a hand to the HT's transmitter, shifting it slightly so my voice wouldn't be muffled through my scarf, "J is moving into position to verify. Volley's getting set up now."
My disappointed tone must have carried over the radio. "Cheer up, 'Glass," the same teasing voice from earlier said. "Maybe today's the day you finally get to contribute something."
I sighed and ignored him. Wu Lung wasn't saying anything I wasn't already thinking myself.
Volley wasn't about to let the comment slide, however, and he pressed a hand to his helmet. "Stay on task, Wu," he growled. "Or I'll have the Boss-lady give you my night patrols for the next week."
"Copy that," Wu replied, sounding suitably chastised.
The United Kingdom had no major organisations for our capes the way the Americans did, instead falling back on a more traditional hero-sidekick role rather than massive collections of organised teams. Capes across the land were generally of two minds about this. Some capes liked the freedom the lack of oversight gave them—it let them put their powers to effect where they decided it could best be used. Others longed for the legitimacy that could only come from having a national organisation as a backer.
The end result was lots and lots of minor skirmishes across the country; small groups of capes hashing it out in their own towns and villages, in numbers ranging anywhere from one to three active combatants at any given time. In regions that were relatively quiet, capes might informally band together and share territories simply to have something to do. They weren't quite teams, but only the fact that they had no established hierarchies kept them from crossing that fine line.
The group I was part of fell into the latter category. Though we 'based' ourselves in Chepstow, I'm nearly positive none of us actually lived in the city, with our individual territories instead being one of the neighboring towns. Flurry was generally the one to call the shots, more for her analytical abilities than for actual power. She was also the most senior of our group and had been working Bristol long before any of us had gotten into the cape scene. Wu Lung had been the first to team up with her and convince her to jump across the channel to a lower density area—he acted as her backup and support.
Volley was our group's heavy-hitter and his favoured means of attack utilised long-ranged ballistics. He'd also provided us with the military-surplus transceivers we used to communicate with each other, though he'd naturally modified his to work with his costume whilst the rest of us had to make do with strapping it someplace convenient. I acted as his spotter, a position Wu considered to be nothing more than sinecure. It was a point I didn't argue with, because it was true—Volley was bright enough to calculate his own firing solutions and could hit his targets without any help from me. Still, I was willing to pull my own weight and didn't make any unnecessary demands, so they let me stay. Given what I had told them about my powers, this was the best way that Flurry could think of for me to contribute.
Volley had finished sorting through his pockets and now had several rows of metal spheres laid out on the ground before him. As I looked on, he picked one up and twisted a small dial on it, setting lights blinking across its surface as it went through a self-test. He placed it down carefully beside the others and picked up the next one in line, looking up as he caught me watching. Then his gaze focused past me and he grinned.
"Hey there, handsome!" a cheerful female voice called out from over my shoulder. I felt a chilling breeze against my cheek and saw Volley raise a hand to return the wave he'd just received.
I sighed again but kept my eyes forward, choosing to continue watching Volley at work. "Find anything?" I asked, more for his benefit than from any need to verbally ask the question.
"Yep!" came the reply. "I found the car, just like you told me. There were four guys inside. One was in costume though, looked kind of like a Batman wannabe."
Batman? "Dark colours, black cowling and cape?" I spoke to the air.
A confirming thought was placed in my head. Though I couldn't see her, I knew the newcomer was nodding.
I thumbed the transmitter again, "Confirm four individuals. Three normals, one cape... tentatively identified as Nightwalker."
"Nightwalker? You sure? It's not even close to sunset." Wu Lung protested.
"Flurry copies," the other voice on our channel said calmly. "Can Volley handle him?"
"Nightwalker, eh? Easily." Volley separated a third of his spheres away from the rest of the group then began the process of returning the larger pile into his pockets, flicking the safeties back on as he did so. He took a pair of spheres from the leftover pile and began to juggle them one-handed. "I've got flares ready, thanks a bunch, Jamie."
"Anytime!" the voice behind me chirped. I felt the chilling breeze again and watched as a figure floated past my shoulder. Her entire body was an ethereal, electric blue that glowed brightly in the daylight. She was small, just over fifty centimetres in height. Her heart-shaped face brought to mind snide remarks on my own effeminate appearance, those comments being the only reason I bothered covering up my face in the first place. Her hair was styled similarly to my own, though longer in the bangs and the back. From the shoulders up she resembled a teenage girl that could easily have been mistaken for my female twin. From chest down her body tapered to a point, resembling a ghost from those old picture books my mum used to read to me as a kid.
She wasted no time in floating over to Volley and his tinker-toy, beginning a series of questions that involved pointing towards everything that was shiny and asking, "Ooh, what's that?"
She was 'my better half': Jamie—or J in the 'official' channels, since she refused to change her name. She was my... summon, I supposed you could call her. Initially assumed to be a deeply-buried portion of my psyche, it soon became clear that she was an entity fully capable of independent thoughts distinct from mine, something that had mystified the few scientists I had interacted with. Jamie was free-spirited, with a mind of her own. She did whatever she wanted to, said whatever came to her mind, and generally was a brat. A cheerful, charismatic one, but a brat all the same. It was like having a precocious little sister. I certainly didn't feel like the master my own files said I was. I could influence her and try to order her around, but in the end she was the only one that could decide what she wanted to do.
"Jamie." She ignored me. I sighed.
I hated my power.
I pushed out a thought over our shared link, the mental equivalent of a stern glare. It was enough for Jamie to pause in her game of One-Hundred and One Questions and look at me with a pouty expression.
"Focus, Jamie," I said quietly. "We've got a job to do. Get back into position."
The disappointment on her face melted away in a flash and she lifted an arm in what she clearly assumed was a salute. "Aye, sir!" With a flicker of motion, she'd zipped back the way she had come and disappeared over the edge of the roof.
A few moments after she'd disappeared from view, I settled onto the ground and closed my eyes. Thoughts and impressions flooded into my head through our link. I experienced everything Jamie did; I saw what she saw, heard what she heard, and if I concentrated I could pick up her emotions and feelings in the same way I could send my own back down to her.
She was having fun. The thought brought a smile to my face in spite of myself. The feeling of flying through the air—zooming around buildings at speeds even few birds could match—was one of pure exhilaration. She felt free, unconfined, and... whoops, she'd run into a billboard whilst she was occupied with doing barrel rolls. She passed through it easily and I felt a faint twinge as she was reminded that she couldn't touch anything in the world. Disappointment flooded both of our awarenesses and my smile twisted into a grimace as I forced determination down our bond.
Focus, I reminded her.
Fast as she was, she was back in a position to spot the speeding car just in time to watch as a large white mass coalesced in mid air and slammed into its front end. The powdery material gave way slightly as the car plowed through it, fragmenting and breaking into semi-solid chunks here and there, but it held together enough to bring the vehicle to a stop. As the car settled back onto its wheels, several more pieces broke off and dropped to the street, steam rising from deep within as the snow barrier melted against the car's engine block.
My name is James Shirakawa. I'm a parahuman, a person with extraordinary abilities. In any other time or place, this would be massive news. Headline-worthy. Today, I'm just another guy who grew up in the small town of Tutshill, UK, and the day of the week is Tuesday.
I hated my power. I believe I've mentioned that already.
Both of my parents are well aware of my abilities, but after seeing the limits of what I would do with it, they were less than enthusiastic about my chances in the cape community. Instead they encouraged me to simply register as a rogue and work towards continuing my father's business. Both of my parents had immigrated from Japan and they strongly believed in filial piety. I have relatives on both sides of the family back in 'the homeland' who strongly agreed with them.
Well, I had relatives, until 1999 came and went and Kyushu was wiped from the map. Ever since that day, they've been as supportive as any parents could possibly be. Maybe it was because they now understood what the stakes were, and that every little bit could help.
My father still wanted me to have the best education possible and the school that was chosen for me is as good as they get. The fact that it's a school where the entire student body is comprised of capes (the colloquial term for people like us)—or the children of capes—helps with that. To the outside world it is one of the most prestigious and exclusive boarding schools in Europe, with attendance by invitation only. It's almost like being in a Harry Potter book, except that the 'muggles' are fully aware that our secret community exists somewhere.
Although many of us know each other by face, the roll sheets mysteriously do not include any surnames. It was an unspoken rule to not talk about our families. Knowing each other as classmates was one thing, but even a moment's carelessness whilst waxing nostalgia could get our friends and family into trouble. Not all the capes in the world were good guys and there were even rumours of children 'from the other side' attending classes with us.
Not all of the students are locals either. Boarding school aside, Britain has a relatively high concentration of mover-class capes and it's no problem for students from all across the region to be attending a facility hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away from their homes. Teleporters in particular are some the most popular kids, especially whenever holiday breaks come around. They're always willing to assist in transporting people or belongings back and forth between the dormitories and public transportation hubs... for a price of course. It's a rather lucrative business for a teenager.
Unfortunately I'm not one of those guys. Neither am I abnormally strong or durable. I'm not capable of shooting things out of my hands or eyes. My engineering projects barely get past the chopsticks and rubber bands-stage, much less electronics or machinery. My power offers me no advantages in classes nor in my social life. I get by the hard way.
I'm intelligent, but more from a disciplined study habit than any paranormal-brain power. Students get to choose their electives, a rather subtle way of encouraging them to find ways to expand the uses of their powers. I'd devoted myself to math, physics, cartography, and to psychology. I figure that If I'm in a place of learning, I might as well make the most out of the opportunity.
Not all of our time is taken up by schoolwork. A good majority of the students are either solo heroes or members of an informal group for their respective cities. It's almost a requirement that the students join a team before they graduate and go out on their own; nothing like the Wards program, just a strong encouragement to get hands-on experience whilst they can. I'm absolutely certain we have the highest incidence of bathroom breaks over any other school in the nation. It's just another one of those things that's well-known, but never publicly acknowledged.
I was in the middle of math class when my wristwatch began to vibrate. I silenced it with a quick squeeze against the edges and raised my hand patiently, waiting until the professor noticed me and was able to find a pause in his lecture. In the meantime, I decided to sort through the ready-made list of excuses that had actually been assigned to us in the first few weeks of the semester.
Maybe I'll have a stomach ache today. Mix things up a little.
"Interception at Sector Three, grid Aye-Fourteen," I told Volley. Out the corner of my eye, I saw him nod and begin twisting a dial at the mortar's base.
Through Jamie's eyes, I kept careful watch over the vehicle, looking for any signs of movement. The driver and passenger doors were fully embedded, but the rear of the car was still free from any obstructions. I saw movement through the window, but before I could pass along a warning one of the rear doors slammed open and a figure dressed in a dark jumpsuit and elaborate hood and cloak leapt free. Nightwalker.
He was met by an innumerable amount of white projectiles, a snow flurry that disrupted his vision and began to adhere themselves to his body. The first few particles melted against him at first, both from his body heat and the summer day, but more and more streamed onto him until his legs were neatly pinned in place from the sheer weight of the snow.
The villain glared down at his legs, then across the street as a figure appeared amidst a swirl of snowflakes and began steadily walking towards him. "You think this will stop me? I am Nightwalker! I am the shadows!"
I am the shadow that flaps in the night...
The approaching cape, a female figure in a white bodysuit and hood, ignored him and flicked her hand towards the car. A clump of snow detached itself from the barrier surrounding the car and whipped around to catch another robber trying to exit through the open doors. The snow impacted his chest and he fell back into the seat. "Nightwalker, you and your associates are under arrest for grand larceny and assault with a deadly weapon," she said in a clear voice. "Local authorities have been contacted and are en route, please come quietly."
Nightwalker's response was to dive back towards the car. His movement was hampered by the ever-accumulating snow at first, but he exerted himself and managed to break free, seeking cover. Flurry generated another wave and flung it towards the car to intercept him, but she realised the mistake that it was a split second before I did.
As a large shadow fell across the car she tried to break up the solid wave into smaller chunks and allow the sunlight through, but the damage was already done. The moment the shadow cast itself over Nightwalker he twisted in midair, his profile shrinking down to a line, then vanishing completely. He reappeared in a nearby alleyway in much the same way, except in reverse. This was why Nightwalker, for all of his melodrama and seeming ineptitude, had been such a successful criminal. So long as there were groups of shadows around, he could teleport himself between them at-will. It made him a very difficult cape to catch, especially at night.
Which was why it was a bit confusing for us to see him breaking from his modus operandi, but since the daylight could only hamper his effectiveness and improve our own, we weren't going to complain too much. His range wasn't unlimited and with fewer shadows around it made it easier to predict the places he'd jump to.
Almost as soon as Nightwalker had settled down, lights filled the alleyway he had taken refuge in. He shouted in dismay and backpedaled away from the brightness, which soon resolved themselves into a shopping cart that had been extended in length. It snaked its way towards him on its own, hissing and spitting out colourful sparks towards the villain.
Nightwalker scrambled away, crab-walking back towards a nearby parked car on the street to place it between himself and the new attack. A cape dressed in an eye-hurting combination of reflective reds and golds followed him out at a run. He gave one final push to the shopping cart and shoved his way past it, slamming his hands against the car's door panels.
The car shuddered, then suddenly lit up and stretched. The cab and hood elongated and then the whole front end rose into the air like a demented dragon rearing back, twisting around until it was pointed back at the cape cowering beneath it. The headlights flared into brightness and the grill began spitting hot sparks just as the shopping cart had been previously. The cart, I noticed, had become inert the moment the red cape had transferred his power to the new medium, although it retained its extended and warped form. Still, it was enough to distract Nightwalker as he tried to keep himself from getting crushed or set on fire, denying him the opportunity to look for a new shadow to jump to.
The new cape glanced at the car-dragon with a critical eye. "Not my best work," Wu Lung complained. "But, well, garbage in... garbage out I guess."
A new wave of snow fluttered across the street and suddenly Flurry was positioned right behind Nightwalker, just in time for him to bump to a stop against her legs. I couldn't help but smirk at the sight; as much as she tried to pass herself off as a quiet and serious girl, our Boss-lady really liked her entrances.
Events were clearly drawing to a close. I impressed upon Jamie to spin in a circle, which she did happily. I used the visual input do do a quick sweep of the surroundings and compared it to where our link was telling me she was. "Area looks clear to one-hundred metres around," I informed Volley.
Ooh! What is that?!
Oh, bollocks... she'd spotted the car. And it was most definitely shiny.
Flurry held up a loop of plastic cuffs where the villain could see them. "Final warning, Nightwalker," she said. "Come with us quietly, you have nowhere to run."
"Go to hell," the villain sneered back at her.
Volley made a few final adjustments to one of his spheres and held it over the launch tube of his mortar. "Es-three, aye-fourteen," he repeated to himself, dropping it down the pipe. "Fifty metre spread... Fire in the hole!" An electronic whine built up for a moment before the sphere was hurled into the air with a sharp crack, launched into a ballistic arc towards the downtown area.
As soon as Nightwalker had realised he'd been surrounded, he frantically looked around one last time for any nearby shadows that he could make use of. Even as he did so, Volley's flare round disintegrated into a cluster of smaller pieces several dozen metres above the ground and scattered themselves across the area. Within moments, the streets were flooded with a harsh light, banishing any and all shadows for several blocks around for several critical seconds.
Although I tried to keep a rein on her, I had to dampen down the link between myself and Jamie, lest I be blinded myself. I could still feel her excitement as she rushed for the super cool car that was shooting shiny-looking sparks, heedless of anything that was in her way. I felt the twinge that came whenever she flew through a solid object and I lowered my head in frustration... and sympathy.
Volley had specifically designed these flares with Nightwalker in mind, ready to flush him out of the darkness and deny him any teleportation mediums. He'd anticipated using them at night and the strength of their charges reflected that. Used in the daylight, they were overkill, blinding.
When the light finally cleared, Flurry had Nightwalker's arms cuffed, although it didn't look like he'd needed any restraining. He had keeled over onto his side, his eyes wide and his breath coming out in short gasps.
My power made traveling public streets a challenge. I couldn't keep Jamie by my side because of the risk that she would touch somebody. I couldn't send her away because we were more or less tethered to each other, with a maximum range of roughly one kilometre in any given direction. I could tell her to hide above me in the open air, but even that posed a few problems. She couldn't become invisible, although she could turn transparent for close to the same effect as long as nobody looked too closely. She also couldn't change forms to something more innocuous; her resemblance to me was one reason as to why I didn't fully disguise my features as much as some other capes did. There was no point when she was as unique as she was.
Most importantly, I could not 'turn her off'. I was stuck with her twenty-four/seven.
At one point I'd tried to completely abandon ever having a social life, but I found fully removing myself from public to be extremely difficult. Jamie liked seeing the world and I discovered that I couldn't resist her when she put on her version of a tearful puppy face. Combined with my absolute failure to keep her hidden, it was no surprise I couldn't keep her a secret from my parents for very long.
Once they had gotten over their surprise—and after Leviathan had pretty much killed off the rest of my extended family—my parents were surprisingly accepting of her. She was cheerful to the point of bubbliness and she so obviously adored my parents they couldn't help but return her affections. My mother had grown particularly fond of her—calling her the daughter she'd never had.
She had no idea how much that comment twisted my insides.
"...So in summary, all stolen property has been recovered. Three suspects have been remanded to the local police custody. Nightwalker is currently in a secure holding cell; I've contacted the King's Men to see if they wish to handle him. Representatives of both the Guild and the Protectorate have been notified in case extradition is required. No team casualties reported. If no one objects, the bounty for Nightwalker's capture will be split equally between us."
Our debriefing took place in a small conference room the police station had set aside for cape use, which meant it had no windows or surveillance equipment of any kind. Most of us were on a first-name basis with the officers there, although Flurry made a point to refer to them in a more formal manner. The location gave us a place to fill out the paperwork that always resulted from our activities—ranging from incident reports, to damage claims, to the proverbial 'doctor's notes' for our missed classes.
Flurry's hood was lowered and her mask set aside, revealing a short mop of light-brown hair, sharp features and half-lidded eyes. It normally gave her a permanent expression of apathy, but the flashing in her eyes as she lowered her tablet and glared at the figure across the table suggested anything but. "However, one civilian claim for property damages has been filed."
Wu Lung, an ethnic Chinese teen who could look incredibly furious at times, though his face mostly defaulted towards expressions of amusement, lifted his hands placatingly. "Hey, I made an improvement to that guy's ride. Now he'll have the best stretch-limo on the block and be the envy of all his..." His voice trailed off as Flurry's expression sharpened and he dropped his hands with a sigh too loud to be sincere. "Is this coming out of my paycheck again?"
"Fortunately for you, his insurance will be covering it. But I have been told to give you a warning," she informed him, "and a reminder: do not modify private property. This is the third incident in this year alone."
"Well, I liked it..." The comment earned a grin from Wu.
"You like anything that spits fire, Jamie." My retort earned me a glare.
"The Guild... is Nightwalker going to the Bird Cage?" Volley piped up. His helmet was off, revealing sandy blond hair and glasses perched awkwardly on his nose. "He's as annoying and hammy as they come, but this is only... what, his second offense?"
"His first, actually," Flurry said after quickly looking up the relevant file. "He has never actually been apprehended until now and all of his documented crimes have been against property. He will most likely be placed in a mid-level prison."
"Until he 'escapes'... well, good," Volley said. "I'd hate to think I wasted all that time building those flare bombs for nothing."
"Good work on those," she said, ignoring his casual prediction. "Last item: a final curiosity," Flurry scanned the room, looking each person in the eye. "The police who took Nightwalker into custody said he was nearly catatonic. He was unable to make any statements on his own behalf, simply repeating 'too dark, so alone'. I don't suppose any of you know what might have caused that?"
I kept my thoughts still and pointedly did not look at Jamie. I didn't want her getting even a hint of what I was thinking.
Volley coughed in embarrassment. "It might have been my fault. He seemed to react pretty strongly to Wu's light show; my own flares might have sent him into a relapse of whatever his trigger event was. We know it deals with darkness."
"Sounds reasonable," Flurry agreed. "But next time try to have lower yields available for future use. Aside from this... relapse, there were one or two medical claims of temporary blindness from the surrounding community."
"Glass, Jamie, thank you for your hard work as well."
"Such as it was," Wu coughed. He studiously ignored the glare both Flurry and Volley were giving him.
"No problem!" That was Jamie.
I simply nodded, not trusting myself to speak.
Night times were easily one of my least favourite parts of the day. I mechanically went through my nighttime rituals, brushing my teeth, changing into my sleeping clothes, all that stuff. I had to keep Jamie distracted by the telly I had set up in my room, or else she would throw a fit with what was coming. I'd learned that the hard way and it'd led to a sleepless night or two. Finally, after several minutes of simply staring at the mirror, I steeled myself and marched back into my room to deliver the bad news.
"Jamie, it's time for me to sleep."
Her expression went from mindlessly happy to terrified in a blink. "No," she said quietly.
"I'm sorry," I said. I really meant it too. "I have to sleep. You know this."
"I don't want you to." She was shaking now, as much as a ghostly apparition could. "You could stay up. I've seen you do it before, for homework and stuff."
"I can't do that every night, Jamie." I hated seeing her like this, but there was nothing I could do. If somebody had found a way for the human body to completely ignore sleep, I would use it in a heartbeat.
...Well there was Sphere, or whatever he called himself now. Rephrase: if I could ignore sleep and still remain sane, I would do so.
She was against the far wall, backing up towards the ceiling as if the distance could prevent what was about to happen. "No. No no nonononononono!"
I flicked off the telly and climbed underneath my covers. She rushed over and tried to grab at them, to pull them off, anything she could think of to delay what was about to happen. Her hands simply fell through the material and I felt chills as they briefly passed through me as well.
It was one of the hardest things I'd ever had to do, but unfortunately I'd had years of practice. I closed my eyes against her quiet pleading and tried to ignore her as best as I could. It wasn't easy, but I managed.
Minutes later, hours later, I'm not sure. I fell asleep.
A party at Bobby's/Roberta's it was going to be so much fun we'd show all of the guys/girls the new toys that we had they were all going to be so jealous so jealous I can't wait to see the look on that brat Tony's/Tori's face this is gonna be so awesome Mummy/Mama are we there yet are we there yet?
I opened my eyes to two noises. One was purely all in my head, like a feeling impressed upon me. The other was an actual sense, what I was hearing. What I could feel was Jamie sobbing and ranting quietly. What I heard was the rhythmic beeping of an EKG.
It took some time before my vision swam into focus, but I already knew what I would see. Sterile walls. Machinery filling the entire room. A solitary bed with a tiny figure safely nestled underneath the sheets. An oxygen mask was fitted over her face, diodes and needles were attached to various parts of her body. It was a sight I had seen every night for the last several years.
Disgust and self-loathing filled me, but I dampened it down as I felt the sobbing die away.
...James? Her voice was small and scared.
"I'm here," I said softly. I tried to fill the link with assurance, but I knew I wasn't doing a good enough job of it.
It's dark, James. I don't like it.
"I'm not happy with it either."
I can't see anything.
It's because I don't want you to. It took an effort of will, but I managed to keep the thought to myself. It was always difficult to keep her from reading my thoughts and feelings over the link. But I was extremely motivated to do so in this particular case.
I made my way to Jamie's bedside. As I stared down at her physical body, I couldn't help but remember the situation that had placed her... had placed us here nearly seven years ago.
Loud noise crash clunk tinkle tinkle rolling rolling is my seatbelt on like Mummy told me pain pain ow why does it hurt so much Mummy where's Mummy where's my MUMMY it hurts it hurts why does it hurt so much I don't wanna die I don't wanna die I want my Mummy it's so dark why am I alone why is it so dark is anyone there is anyone there IS ANYONE THERE ISANYONETHERE HELPMETALKTOME SAYSOMETHINGTOME—
—ames!... James! Are you there?! Say something!
I shook my head to clear my thoughts. "Sorry..." I said, both to myself and to the little voice inside my head. The EKG was shrieking, Jamie's heart rate had spiked with the anxiety—hers or mine, I've never been sure—and a nurse would soon be checking on it. I shouldn't be here, not in plain sight, or there might be awkward questions asked.
I glanced down at my hands, at my body. Electric blue, transparent, I had no legs, just a torso that tapered away to a wispy tail of sorts. I didn't have a ruler, but I knew I couldn't be more than fifty centimetres in height. Everything around me looked so big. I floated over to the top of a nearby bookshelf and made myself as invisible as I could, out of the way.
Just in time, I had just barely settled in before the nurse arrived. She reset the machine and did a quick check of the rest of the monitoring equipment. She leaned down and pressed her fingers against Jamie's neck and wrist, checking her pulse. Her movements were habitual, like she'd performed these checks hundreds of times. Which she had. She and other nurses like her, checking on Jamie night after night.
The nurse shook her head as she checked her watch. "Always around this time," she mused. "I wonder what sort of dreams you're experiencing in there..." I watched as she scribbled a note onto the clipboard at the foot of her bed and left the room shortly afterwards. As much as I tried to look away, I couldn't keep my eyes from straying towards that piece of paper at the top. At the line that identified her.
Patient: Jamie Shirakawa.
It was quiet for several minutes.
It's dark, James.
When will we get to play again?
"Soon," I assured her.
How soon is soon?
I closed my eyes and tried to settle down so I was comfortable, as much as a ghostly apparition could be.
Seven years ago I—we—had been in a terrible car accident. In the aftermath I had been alone, so alone and afraid. I had reached out in my fear and loneliness, and somehow I had bridged two worlds together.
And I had found Jamie.
It was several days before I had realised what was going on. At first neither of us were able to manifest ourselves in the others' world. We were both locked in the blackness, neither of us able to see or feel anything, both of us using the other to keep ourselves sane. Looking back, I knew I had been in a coma as deep as the one she was in now.
Ever since a mad-tinker had torn the first hole through dimensions, the existence of alternate realities had become commonly known. Everyone knew of Earth Aleph and Earth Bet, parallel worlds that had near-identical environments, cities, people. I didn't know the specifics, but I knew enough that the Americans forbade any further research into dimensional travel and came down hard on any cape or scientist foolish enough to try to circumvent the edict.
I glanced around the room uneasily. I didn't know if this was Earth Aleph, but I understood that I was currently in an alternate universe where James had been born Jamie. Where the two of us had gotten into identical car accidents at the exact same time. Where the both of us had reached out into the metaphysical realm or whatever and found each other.
But in my world, I had woken up. In this world, she hadn't.
Day after day, year after year, our consciences were involved in a constant tug-of-war with each other. Jamie still had all of the fear and loneliness locked away inside her from the time we had both been lost, whereas I had been able to recover and move on with my life. It was only when awake that I was able to impose my will over hers and pull her to my side. At night, while I was asleep, her fear overpowered my will and I was pulled into her world.
I opened my eyes and stared down at her lifeless body. I didn't—I couldn't—share my viewpoint with her the way she could with me. I didn't want her to know what she had become. While she was here, she was bedridden and broken, she was unable to move or see the world around her and she was stuck in the darkness.
In my world she was free. She was able to move without any limits at all, tethering range aside. She was happy in her dreamland. But even there, I was scared for her. She had no clue of the effect she had on people who she touched. I had worked hard to impress upon her that she wasn't able to interact with the physical world, had allowed her to fly through inanimate objects like walls and cars to give her the impression that there was no point in her trying to touch things or people. While she was flying, I never let her see the various insects and small birds she'd sent plummeting from the sky as she accidentally flew through them and sent them into catatonia.
As the months and years had passed after our accident, I had noticed that while I was able to grow up, somehow her emotional and mental maturity was stunted, remaining close to the level of our adolescent selves. She was an innocent, but where the capes around me saw that as being cute and adorable, I found it terrifying.
I couldn't help but think that it was my own fault. I had done this to her. I somehow kept her from waking up. I had trapped her in a world that wasn't her own. I might even have a time limit. It was only the fact that Jamie consistently showed brain activity that had kept her body alive this long. I had no idea if or when her parents would finally abandon hope and pull the plug on her. I didn't even know of any discussions that were being made, because I only visited this world for the few hours that I was asleep. Still, I didn't exactly know how, but I had promised myself that I would fix this.
I had thrown myself into my studies. She was unable to go to school on her own, so I would have to learn enough for the both of us. After we'd seen a TV documentary on parahumans, she'd decided they were the coolest people ever and that I was a superhero and she was my sidekick. That notion had directly resulted in me joining the local group of heroes. She'd never commented on the relative lack of participation on our missions, but I feared it was only a matter of time before she asked me to let her loose and do something super awesome. Except... I couldn't even think of using my powers in a direct combat situation, because I was afraid of the results. It wasn't just some abstract ability I'd be hurting people with, it was Jamie.
The American Protectorate took a hard line against parallel worlds. I could never relax at home, not knowing if they would someday find out what my power really was and shove me in some prison. Or worse, a science lab. I especially could not relax here in this alternate world, because what if there was a Protectorate on this side? What if an alternate Alexandria came and took Jamie away?
It was why I'd allowed them to classify myself as a master, with 'J' simply being an extension of my powers. The bigshots in charge had probably wondered why I hadn't chosen a codename like Poltergeist or Eye Spy or something like that. Instead I had registered as Looking Glass. In hindsight that may have probably been a mistake; I could only hope they took it at face value, as if I saw my power as a reflection of myself. They wouldn't have been entirely wrong.
My mother treated her as her own child, but she had no idea she really was her daughter in a different life.
Jamie was her daughter, in every way that mattered. She was my sister. She was me. If she knew what she really was, it would break her. I had... I had to protect her. But I didn't want her to realise what I had done, what secrets I had kept from her. Maybe I'd tell her...
...someday. Maybe someday she'd forgive me.
I pulled myself away from my thoughts with another force of will. "I—I'm here," I hurriedly said. I frantically tried to recall the last few moments. Minutes? Had I been shielding my thoughts properly... or... had she...?
You've been quiet.
"I uh, I was... thinking."
Ah... Her own thoughts were quiet, almost contemplative. It almost sent me into another panic. She didn't normally act so... subdued.
There was a pause.
How soon is soon? she repeated, her mental voice regaining that childish, curious tone.
I relaxed slightly and glanced at the clock. My own bedside alarm was set for six a.m., it was only one a.m. right now. "Soon. Don't worry, I'm here with you."
You always are.
I smiled bitterly and settled myself into a half-asleep/half-awake daze, ready to wait out the next several hours floating against the bookcase. If I'd had knees I would have hugged them to my chest, resting my chin against my arms.
It's not your fault.
That was too quiet to have been a conscious message. More like a thought she'd been trying to hide from me. I dropped my face into my arms.
I absolutely loathed my power.
a/n—portions of this may not mesh exactly with the canon!wormverse. i'm making up my own powers and certain aspects of the setting for storytelling purposes based on what i've read and some helpful notes from wildbow (but it still doesn't make it canon... sad). just consider this an AU that isn't really an AU because there are already AU's because of the whole 'wormhole' and... well you get the idea.
hope you enjoyed! and wildbow don't kill me o_o;