I was tired and hot. Summer does that to you. What also does that is a classroom with no open windows because they are held down with – I shit you not – zipties. Apparently the hinges are loose enough that breaking them would cause the whole window to fall off. I honestly believed my teacher, because a building with flood warnings for a hallway after a bought of rain and walls enough concrete and drywall removed you can see the steel supports usually came with other glorious defects. Thank god I don’t have to use the elevator.
My teacher, Mr Craig was droning on and on about political studies. A new class in the school. Considering the political changes the last five years, it’s overdue. I stared out the window aimlessly. I didn’t care about politics at all.
“Anderson,” I was brought back to reality. “I repeat, how many nations are there after the Kingmaker incident?”
“300-ish,” I said. “I wasn’t listening properly, sir.”
Mr Craig sighed. “Ryan Anderson, answer me properly. Are there more or less nations now than before the Kingmaker incident?”
I didn’t know. Honestly, I didn’t know much because most things weren’t in my interest. How I get the marks I do on tests, I’m clueless. I must by lucky. I tried to answer his question, even while I didn’t know what he was on about.
“Less?” I said, unsure.
Damn. No luck today. Mr Craig walked back to the front of the class to repeat what he was probably saying.
“As you all know, apart from Mr Anderson over there,” he said, pointing to me, “The Kingmaker incident is the result of the metahuman known as Kingmaker using his power to rampage through Asia into Europe. Even after his death, there are still people affected by the Kingmaker aura, including the King of Texas and the Queen of Wales.” He finished writing a bunch of nations on the board. Most of them were monarchies, which is what Kingmaker caused. “Due to this, rather than having just under 200 nations and sovereign states, there are roughly under 300 of them. Oddly enough, there are only fifteen Kingmaker states. Many of the other nations are either former kingmaker states or states recognized because of the push towards the recognition of former self-governing communities like Zululand, Scotland and Xinjiang. The answer is 600, Ryan. Write that down.”
I wrote down ‘asshole’ on my notebook. He continued on and on, about how developed nations disproportionately have had history of being ruled, governed or somehow given access to knowledge based metahumans and their produce and more boring shit like the scrapping of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.
It’s not my problem.
* * *
Class finally ended and I sat down to eat with the only two people who can tolerate me. Michael and Ellen. Micheal finished his mean in record time, and took it upon himself to lecture me about the previous class.
“Ryan, you shouldn’t go and piss the teachers off all the time,” he said while adjusting his glasses and closing a tupperware box filled with crusts. “He’s getting paid to teach you, and it is your problem. The world changes. Accept it.”
I ran my hands through my black hair and leaned back on the bench. I’ve already had this conversation before. I’m not getting myself invested in the world of lunatics. I don’t want to hear about heat vision, teleportation, invisibility or all that other crap. Superheroes and supervillains are not on my list of issues, nor they ever shall be. I glanced over at Ellen. She was as intent as Micheal to get me to pay attention.
“…and it’s not just about superpowers or politics. You don’t do math, you litter, you don’t write down notes or keep to times without help…” Micheal was still talking? Damn. I’ll write down a little more next week and hand in a piece of homework or two. That always works.
“What about tomorrow?” Ellen asked him after he was done.
“Yeah, aren’t we all going out with Maxine and Derek to Newton Cafe?” Ellen replied. “It’s at 3 pm, Mick.”
Micheal turned to look at Ellen quickly then back to me. “Okay, I remember that. I think.”
“Maxine and Derek should call later on if they still want to go.” I said.
Ellen shook her head. “They are fine. They just decided to not come in.”
“Really?” I asked. “Unfair. I have nobody to talk to now.”
Lunch passed by uneventfully with our topics of discussion alternating randomly from why fast food for breakfast is gross to why burning down a house isn’t a good way to distract a mugging. I got up and walked to my English class early as Derek and Maxine are not here and neither Ellen nor Micheal have any reason to be in class with me.
I sat in class and wondered about how the day tomorrow would go. It was difficult balancing what everybody liked and hated enough to avoid causing disaster.
Micheal was the easiest to manage. He’d do anything me and Maxine were doing anyway. Ellen needed her parents permission to do anything, but Micheal and Maxine was able to convince them for tomorrow. Maxine seemed to have similar tastes as me, but she’s a lot more brazen about them, and has her own friends she talks to. It was lucky that I was able to invite her for tomorrow. Derek is hated by everybody who isn’t us for some reason. He has a few issues, but severe bullying does that to a person who’s first friends are in high school. He’ll just tag along.
I already had an idea of what to do. There was a nice event happening in a restaurant nearby. One of the bands Maxine likes was playing tomorrow at about 3:15. Maxine would say yes, and Micheal and Derek would tag along easy. Ellen wouldn’t need much to convince her, she likes to rebel from her mother every now and again.
A slam of a book on my desk. “Ryan, pay attention.”
It was 2:59. Derek, Ellen and I were sitting at Newton Cafe. I couldn’t wait to tell them about the band. Ellen was twirling her blond hair, and Derek was telling Ellen about how his neighbor’s dog jumps over his fence every day for no reason. I checked my phone again and started playing some small app I downloaded.
“Hey,” Maxine said to everybody. “What’s up?” Micheal was with her.
“Hey,” Derek replied. “Waiting on you two.”
Maxine sat down at the table while Micheal took a chair from the table nearby and dragged it along the floor. “So are we just gonna drink coffee and hog wi-fi?”
“Nope.” I said. “The Open Doors are playing in Basil’s coffee-house.”
“Why didn’t you tell us to meet up there?” Maxine huffed.
“It’s in March street. Ellen’s mother wouldn’t agree to let us take her to that.” I said. “Right, Ellen?”
Ellen shrugged her shoulders and took a sip of mocha. “Yeah.”
I looked over at Maxine. She wanted to go there so bad she started figiting with the ring on her finger.
“Who’s coming with me?” I asked everyone.
Maxine smiled. “I would have dragged you all down anyway now I know they are in town. You lot need to listen to them.”
Derek stuck a hand up for a second.
Micheal shrugged. “Whatever, sure.”
Ellen looked at the ground. “Um, okay?”
I smiled. Unanimous agreement. Perfect. I got out my seat and took my coffee with me. “I know the way, we’ll be there for the band if we walk over right now.”
We left the coffee shop and left the mall. We reached the high street when the bells rung. Ellen screamed out a little. Micheal looked up at the speakers. Derek sighed and muttered something under his breath. Maxine looked at Micheal, and then me.
A screech as the speakers blared out a feedback loop and blared a message. “Warning, please return to your homes,” I gulped. “The Hunting Party has been sighted in the city center. I repeat, the Hunting Party has been sighted in the city center. Everyone is advised to return to your homes. The National Hero Network will lend aid shortly.”
Ellen looked like a puppy died in her hands. Michael wrapped his arm around her. “I’ll call Susan,” he said to her. “We’ll head to your house, and call our parents and stuff from there.” Everybody looked grim.
“Yeah, we’ll do that.” I said.
We jogged the way we came. There was slight panic, as traffic built up and the warnings still blared out, but faintly enough we could talk. I swallowed my pride.
“I’ll be honest. I don’t know about the Hunting Party.” I said.
Maxine shot me a look. “Ryan, the Hunting Party are a group of supervillains who specialize in creating other superhumans. The problem is that people who get powers from them usually can’t stop using them, because they are passive powers.” We reached the end of the high street and jogged on to the suburbs.
“Although, we don’t actually do it the normal way.” a voice said behind us. I turned around to see a naked woman wearing a goat’s mask over her head. Ellen screamed. Maxine and I jumped back. Micheal held on to Ellen tighter. Derek nearly turned tail and ran.
“Congrats, kiddos!” the goat headed woman boasted like a gameshow host. “You’ve been chosen!” She cocked her head at us, watching our terrified reactions. I realized that the mask she was wearing was a real goat’s head from the smell.
“Sacrifice. Her name is Sacrifice.” Micheal whispered in my ear.
Sacrifice looked at Micheal. “Yes?”
“I wasn’t talking to you, I was telling Ryan your name.”
“Really? Does this Ryan not know a celebrity like me?”
I gulped down my fear and looked her in the eye. “I don’t pay attention to things that don’t effect me.”
I regretted acting tough immediately. Her head arched back as she held onto her stomach and she laughed repeatedly with a cartoonish exaggeration.
“You hear that, Fractal? This kid thinks we aren’t his problem!” She yelled to nobody in particular. Derek elbowed me hard in the side.
I turned to face the others and Maxine shot me another angry look while laughing came from all around. We all huddled closer. “We are going to effect you. You won’t forget this day, any of you.”
Sacrifice put her hand on Micheal’s head and he fainted. Ellen began screaming. Derek ran away. A man appeared out of nowhere in a yellow jacket and hit Derek in the stomach. I pulled on Maxine and Ellen, but Sacrifice caught her and she fainted too. Maxine and I ran into the main street.
I turned back and Sacrifice was just standing there, waving goodbye. She was mocking us. We ran into the mall which was thankfully empty, and we hid in a nearby toystore. Maxine punched me in the face and I fell over.
“You fucking asshole!” she yelled at me. “Why would you piss her off like that?”
“I was being honest!” I protested. She kicked me and I grunted. It was a weak kick, as we had both ran half way across the city.
“You don’t know what they do to people!” She was fuming at me. “You don’t pay an ounce of attention and now they are going to… FUCK!” She swiped all the toys off an isle and kicked a box across the store.
I lay down from when she punched me. “Tell me then.” I said.
It took Maxine five minutes to calm down. The Hunting Party was still nowhere in sight. You’d think they would have found us already.
“The hunting party create people with powers, but they can’t turn them off,” she said. I nodded in confirmation. “So people either have to kill them or lock them up before they do something really dangerous. You know Buffalo? They caused that. They also caused Pittsburgh, and Morgantown.”
I didn’t know what she was talking about. I opened my mouth to ask another question.
“And it looks like we’ll cause Norfolk too.” Maxine let out a small squeak. I didn’t bother turning around.
Everything went pitch black.