Last time on Far from Normal:
In Episode 3, the Rage Brigade visited the Brighthall’s warehouse, learning a possible origin for their powers. Giant centipedes on the move.
Early Sunday morning
The Brighthall’s warehouse, Portland
“Oh, no, what did you do?” Ollie’s Aunt Kate asks.
“I just had to kick a bunch of … normals out of the office. What …?” The muscular, buzzcut man stares at all of us. “Who. Let. These. People. Into. The. Warehouse?”
Who is he calling people in that tone of voice? I bristle and … Oh boy. St. Rage almost shot quills at him, if that’s even a thing. I have to remember I’m not in charge here. My phone vibrates in my pocket: a text from Carol Anne.
Angry man threw us out and locked the door. Dark and creepy out here. Help?
Dee stares at what I assume is a saltier version of the same message. Whitney hates being ordered around.
“Dan, thanks for coming over on short notice.” Kate smoothly steps between him and us, calm and deliberate like she’s dealt with this before. “These people may well be descendants of the lost families. And the normals are their friends.”
Aunt Liz sidles past Dan. “I’ll just go let the kids back in, shall I? I can wait with them in the office if that will help.”
“Please do,” Kate says. “An adult presence might help.”
“Your equipment will be safer, too,” Liz says. “I have an effect on electronics when I’m stressed.”
We all follow her out of the monster jail. Darrin casts a fond glance back at the clubtail before Kate locks the door behind us. While Aunt Liz heads to the office, the rest of us gather in the middle of the warehouse, near the command center.
Dan strokes his chin and studies us. “Descendants of the lost families? Supernormals we’ve somehow never heard of? How did they find us?”
“Funny story,” Zoe says. “We dragged Kevin to a show at the Hawthorne Theatre. Barbara’s band was playing, and …”
“And there was a troll in the audience!” Ollie exclaims. “It was pretty obvious at least some of the people onstage could see it, so we talked to them afterward. And bought their tape.”
Dan stares at them in disbelief. “You went to a concert?”
“Zoe and Olivia wanted to cheer me up.” Kevin gives his cousins a slight smile. “Something normal for a change. The troll was a bonus.” Ollie returns his smile, deflating when his expression changes back to the blank one that seems to be his default.
Dan scowls. “Well, that’s very kumbaya, but can we get back to the part where there was a troll in the audience? A crowd of the normals we are sworn to protect?”
“It lost control and grew huge,” Ollie says. “None of the normals in the crowd noticed, but they all saw it.” She waves a hand toward us. “So we brought them here.”
“But not the troll?” Dan makes an exaggerated show of looking around. “If you had contained it already, it would be roaring in protest if I know anything about the species. And unless this is the tiniest troll known to supernormalkind, it’s not anywhere in the warehouse, either. So where is it?”
“The troll … got away.” Ollie blushes. “Not like it was attacking anyone. And I’m sure it talked.” She mutters the last sentence, but her uncle either doesn’t hear her or chooses to ignore the comment.
“Do better next time,” Dan says. “So all these kids can see through the glamour? What about powers?”
“They have an unusual assortment of significant abilities,” Kate says. “The basic powers seem to have been lost, and the significant abilities showed up later than age thirteen.”
Dan points at Dee. “What can you do, kid? And since when?”
“I punch people through the internet. It showed up last summer, around when I turned fourteen.” Ollie’s Aunt Kate leans towards Dee with a fascinated expression, her fingers rapidly typing on her keyboard.
We go through the whole intro spiel again. As we sound off, Dan shows the most interest in Travis’s nearly untested power-outage ability while dismissing Jimi and Rachel out of hand. Everybody works to remember when this weird shit started. At fourteen, Dee’s on the young end, with Rachel not far behind at fifteen. For most of us, it was sixteen or older.
Darrin is the second to last to report. “I, um, communicate with arthropods, since I was what, like, seventeen? Yeah, seventeen, after the concussion.”
And then it’s my turn. I’m the most brute powerful and the most experienced, but my power is still hard to describe in a way that makes sense. I don’t think a demonstration would be a great idea, though. “OK. Strong emotion transforms my meaningless gestures into … meaning. Like, if I flip the bird in anger, the target of the anger will be splatted with bird … doo.” There are adults in the room, so …
Dan huffs an impatient breath. “I don’t see much value in that ability.”
“Oh, I agree! It’s very cathartic to punish bad drivers and misogynist jerks, but yeah, not actually useful.” I smile and try to look harmless. “I was sixteen when that showed up, after I stopped being invisible.”
“Back up. Invisible?”
“Yeah, interesting story, maybe. My response to elementary-school bullying was to go invisible. Like for the next eight years. Then I started wearing a hat and—”
“The glamour!” Dan barks out the words, spinning around to point at Kate. “She instinctively knew how to use a glamour, without any training or supernormal family!” He starts to pace up and down really fast. “That tells me they do have the basic powerset, but it’s still latent. Training should bring it out. Intensive training.” He swings around and points at Darrin. “You, you’re big and strong. Let’s get in the ring for a training fight.”
“Oh, I don’t really—” Darrin protests.
“Sure you do, you’re a big athletic guy. You don’t know what your potential might be, but you understand training. Let’s bring out that superstrength!”
“No, sorry, I have to protect—”
“Exactly! You’re a protector. Come on, let’s go!”
Did Dan not hear the word concussion? I step in to separate them. “Darrin can’t risk—”
“Is she the boss of you?” Dan asks. “You can make your own decisions, can’t you?”
“I am a legal adult and can make my own decisions.” Darrin looks at me like he half expects me to lose it. I take a step back, hands out and non-threatening. “I’m deciding not to fight. Like I said, I had a —”
“Oh, come on!” Dan tries to suckerpunch Darrin, who is just barely quick enough to avoid it.
“Hey!” I let loose with a no-contact shove that flings Dan about fifteen feet across the warehouse. “Darrin said no.” My supervoice echoes and everybody else goes silent, their eyes following Dan’s flight. This guy … I flip both birds.
Ollie’s eyes widen and she stifles a laugh as two white splats hit the floor harmlessly behind Dan. No one else seems to notice. Probably just as well. I’m trying to be less immature.
Meanwhile, Dan gets his feet under him and lands in a powerful crouch. Combat training, OK. And now I have his full attention. “Who are you again?”
I continue in normal tones, though my heart is hammering. “We are the Rage Brigade. I am St. Rage, and for reasons I do not understand, I am the leader of this ragtag outfit. I didn’t ask for it, but here we are. Any super business, you start with me.”
“Well, maybe you’re the one I want to talk to, anyway. Ready to go a few rounds?”
I close my eyes and take several calming breaths, which don’t help much. This guy is tightly wound, holding something in, and I don’t want to be the one to set it loose.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited by the idea of maybe having more powers,” I say. “Superspeed? That would be cool. But we’ve had a really long day. We were on the road for ten hours, counting the breakdown. We played a kickass show and then we had our minds blown several times over. This isn’t the time to make such an important decision.” I rub my eyes. “I don’t even know what time it is.”
“It’s 12:05 a.m.,” Jimi pipes up. “Forty-three degrees. And I’m picking up a definite Adversarial Ally vibe. Like the coach or drill sergeant who demands a hundred and ten percent but only wants the best for you.”
Dan focuses on Jimi. “Which one are you again?”
“Tempus. Time, temp, and soundtrack.”
Dan smirks, more fierce than happy. “Adversarial Ally, huh? Nice. Still a useless power, but …”
A beep sounds from Kate’s bank of computers. She checks the display and turns back to the group. “Based on information from the clubtail, trouble is heading up the river in the form of Chilopoda on a feeding frenzy. If we want to do any good, we need to be in place ASAP. I propose we table this discussion and make a plan.”
“Tell me you don’t plan to involve our untrained guests.”
Kate’s smile seems a little forced. “Dan, this isn’t an attack. It’s a natural event that we need to manage so it doesn’t endanger normals. And we’ll need the bug guy for sure.” She turns to us. “We would usually use something like this as a training exercise to give the kids experience. The rest of you want to be part of this?”
Every member of the Rage Brigade looks at me. I guess my little speech was true. “I at least want to observe. We’ve never seen other supers in action.” I lock eyes with Dan. “And maybe we can help.”
Very early Sunday morning
The Brighthall’s Warehouse
I rub my nose to hide my grin at Barbara’s ballsy response to Uncle Dan’s behavior. When Uncle Dan first marched into the warehouse, my gut tightened because I knew he could be an asshat at the best of times. And since the horrible fight, he’s been on a tear. And he’s gotten worse since Aunt Susannah left him. Barbara is clearly up to handling jerks, though.
Aunt Kate is also accustomed to redirecting Uncle Dan. “Let’s focus on the mission ahead.” The ’rents call our monster hunts missions since they are how we train to fill our families’ role as protectors of normals. “OK, everyone, here’s what I’ve been able to find out. The creatures are called Chilopoda. And they do indeed resemble centipedes, though they are much larger, often between six and twelve feet in length.”
She flashes a picture of a huge, ugly wormlike Chilopoda on the center monitor. I suppress a shiver at the mandibles, multitude of legs, and long antennae. Darrin mutters, “I wonder what it would tell me?” No one answers.
Aunt Kate continues, her eyes on the monitor. “It normally hunts on the coast near Astoria, but it periodically roams to other areas. In this case, the attraction is these.” The picture of the Chilopoda switches to show a bug with a carrot-shaped body. It has two antennae and three tails.
“Hey, those look like the silverfish I found in the bookcase in my crappy apartment,” Rachel comments.
Aunt Kate smiles at her with approval. “They are a form of silverfish, called Lepisma.” My aunt’s voice takes on her lecture mode tone…again.. “They are attracted to sugar. Lepisma swarm every seventeen years as a part of their breeding cycle near Sauvie Island, which has many fruit fields and farms. A fair amount of natural sugar gets into the water near a small cider plant. The Lepisma hatch in the mud on the river bottom in the middle of the river and swim to the banks to get close to the plant.” She glances at the screen in front of her. “Emily observed them last time this happened, and she took good notes. She mentions the event occurred after midnight.”
My stomach jumps when Aunt Kate says my mother’s name so casually. Mom’s death seven years ago was the reason I checked out of supernormal life until I had no choice but to come back in order to manage my growing powers.
“Kate,” Uncle Dan says, impatiently tapping his fingers on his thigh. “Get to the point. Why is this an issue now when it wasn’t seventeen years ago?”
My aunt pulls up a map of the island, using her laser pointer to indicate a group of floating homes strung out over a mile or so near the cider plant. “These weren’t here seventeen years ago. I’m concerned that the Chilopodas’ path takes them too close to the boats. According to Emily’s notes the lights at the plant help guide them.” She runs the red dot of the pointer along the map, showing the probable path the monsters would take to get to their savory treat. They would go right under the boats.
“Yeah, that looks like maximum disruption,” Dee comments. Aunt Kate smiles at him in a way that tells me she’s preparing an extensive round of questions for him about his ability.
“So we need to redirect them away from that path?” Barbara asks. “That’s all, right? You don’t, um, kill them, do you?”
Zoe shakes her head. “No, not unless they’re a threat.” She points over her shoulder at the containment room. “If we can capture them, we have them taken to safe refuges where they live comfortably and in secret. My brother Lange is working at one down near Death Valley right now; it’s where a lot of monsters who need to live in hot areas are taken.”
“Yeah, but we don’t really have anywhere to put anything that size that lives underwater, do we?” The words are out before I remember the large tank that used to be in the middle of the warehouse. The one that Kevin’s brother Hugh used to practice his breath-holding until he could hold his breath for almost twenty minutes. Not that it helped last fall. Hugh was still killed during the fight. Uncle Dan ripped out the tank a week after the battle and no one has mentioned it since.
For a beat, there’s an uncomfortable silence among my family, before Aunt Kate says briskly, “It won’t be necessary to capture them. As Barbara said, we simply need to divert them away from the plant.”
“Oh!” Barbara turns to Travis, who’s standing at the back of the group. He seems like a quiet guy who blinks deliberately every so often. Barbara waves him forward. She looks at Aunt Kate. “You said the Chilopoda things were attracted to the light?” At Aunt Kate’s nod, Barbara continues. “Travis can knock out the power at the plant.”
Travis looks startled but says, “Yeah, I can do that. I mean, I’ve sort of been practicing.” He gives Barbara a shrug.
“OK, good.” Barbara smiles at him encouragingly. “It doesn’t damage the equipment, right? We don’t want to be destructive.”
“No, I think I just temporarily break the circuit,” Travis explains. “The power comes back on when I calm down or leave the area.”
I get where she’s going by using her friend’s ability. “So if there’s nothing to attract the Chilopodas to the plant, then where will they go?” I turn to my family for an answer.
They exchange glances before Uncle Dan spreads his hands wide. “I expect they will go back to their regular hunting ground in Astoria.” He looks at Travis thoughtfully. “It could work.”
‘It could work’ is a ringing endorsement from Uncle Dan. I figure we’re about to head out so I go to my locker to retrieve my sword in its sheath, strapping the sheath on my back. Zoe follows my lead, pulling her whip from her locker, giving it a snap before rolling it up and hooking it on her belt. She does the same with her backup whip. Uncle Dan picks up his quarterstaff.
“Cool weapons,” Dee comments as he strolls over with Travis following. I hold out my sword for them to examine. Dee glances in Barbara’s direction. “We should look into getting weapons.”
Barbara tugs at her hat. “I can’t imagine running around Seattle holding swords.” She frowns at me thoughtfully. “This glamour thing you mentioned. Does it help hide your weapons?”
Zoe answers. “Yeah, except for guns.” She hands Kevin his sword and he buckles on the belt sheath. “It’s one of the reasons we don’t use guns. Not that we really need them.”
Travis murmurs, “Good, I don’t like guns.” He draws a deep breath while looking at me unblinkingly. “Um, you said you have fire and ice skills?”
“Yes.” I demonstrate by holding out both hands, letting flame bloom on my right palm and a ball of ice form on my left. I’d worked hard to be able to use both powers at the same time but it’s still difficult, so I grip my right palm over the flame to extinguish it, while tossing the ball of ice at Zoe.
She catches it easily, saying, “I have hyper-speed.” Her body blurs and she’s on the other side of the warehouse shouting “Catch!” as she lobs the ice at Kevin who mutters, “I can bounce really high.”
There’s a pause as we wait for him to bounce but he doesn’t move.
Zoe says, “Don’t you want to show them?”
“Nah,” Kevin says, “what’s the point?”
“Do you go to a regular school?” Dee asks after a moment. “Or is there a Hogwarts for supernormal kids?”
“Like in Sky High?” I grin at Dee, wishing he went to my school, since he seems cool. Zoe goes to the technical high school but Kevin goes to Grover High like me. Not that I see him at school anymore. He’s like a ghost now, drifting through each day and leaving immediately after his last class.
Zoe sighs. “Yeah, no Hogwarts or Sky High. We have to go to regular high school like every other kid.” She rolls her eyes at her mom. “Most supernormal kids get to be homeschooled but our parents think we need to connect to the world. Or whatever.”
“OK, we need to get going,” Uncle Dan announces. “Remember, this is not a fight, we’re going to the scene with the intent of redirecting the Chilopodas so they retreat without hurting anyone.” He nods at Aunt Kate. “Kate will stay here in case we need any data.”
“And I think I’ll start researching some of the lost lines of families; supernormal ones, that is,” Aunt Kate murmurs, sitting down at her keyboard.
The rest of us follow Uncle Dan out the door. I glance at the Rage Brigade, hoping they can handle the mission.
Next on Far from Normal:
When Plan A goes horribly sideways, Plan B will require an unusual ingredient. Will they find it in time?
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