Takar, aka Volt, the Nova
Takar hated Wednesdays. Not that school was great on the best of days. He’d already fried someone’s cell phone this week, and lost his Biology homework. But Wednesdays were always the worst. It started with cheerleading practice.
The Titan Academy cheerleaders met on the square of grass between the dorms and the school. Several cheerleaders who were far too perky for this time of morning were jumping in sync and shouting. Every Wednesday morning Takar had to walk past them on the way to the main school building. And every Wednesday morning Becky, the head cheerleader, said something.
“Hi Takar!” Today it was more of a chorus. Becky and some of her friends stopped and waved.
“Coming to the game on Saturday?” Becky continued on her own. “We’ll save you a seat on the sidelines.”
Takar ignored her, like he always did, and hurried into the school. He slumped down in his chair in Biology class when it was time to hand in his homework. The next period was gym, which he only had on Wednesdays. Jack, the one whose phone he’d fried, had gym at the same time. Takar strutted past him on the way to where the other sophomores were gathered. Jack scowled as he passed, but Jack’s friends moved away from Takar. Jack’s phone hadn’t been the only thing to get shocked on Monday.
Takar tried to line up with the others waiting to be picked for teams in dodgeball, but the gym teacher pulled him out of line, pointing to the bleachers. Takar grudgingly took a seat and watched the others for the whole class.
Third period, most days, was homeroom. But not on Wednesdays. When the bell rang, he hurried out of the gym, and headed toward the side doors of the school, hoping to slip out into the yard.
“Takar! Hey, wait up!” Ryan was shouting at him from the other end of the hall. Takar pretended he didn’t hear him. Just as Takar reached the top of the stairs that led down and out of the school building, Ryan materialized in front of him, phasing out of the wall.
“I hate when you do that,” Takar mumbled.
“Hey, don’t you have your mentorship class now?” Ryan tried to make it sound casual, like he was genuinely curious. Takar scowled at him.
“So, just because your name’s on the school gym, you think you can order me to class?”
Ryan’s face immediately grew serious, and he pulled himself up to his full height, a good three inches taller than Takar. “I’m trying to remind you that you have a responsibility.”
“Responsibility? More like a leash.”
“The team would hate to lose you,” Ryan said, quietly. Takar sighed.
“Yah. I’d hate to have to explain to mom that I got sent home for skipping class.” Takar shrugged. “Fine, I’ll go. Are we meeting at the bunker after school?”
“That’s the plan. Hiro has some new gadget he wants to show us.”
“Fine. See you then.” Takar hurried back down the hall and into the one classroom in Titan Academy that had no windows. It was made of some smooth, nearly indestructible white material. Olivia Brown, their mentor for the year, was standing at the front of the room, her arms folded.
“I’m glad you finally decided to join us, Takar. Join your classmates please?” Cindy and Mask were already standing near the middle of the room, looking bored. Takar took his place beside them. Cindy greeted him with a sly smile. Mask looked like a dark shadow given human shape, so their face was a bit difficult to read.
“Do I really have to give you another lecture on the importance of this mentorship?” Ms. Brown asked. “Or can we get on with the class.”
Cindy stopped smiling, and Mask even solidified into a more person-like appearance.
“Right. Let’s get started then. Cindy, you’re up first.”
Cindy sighed, rolled her eyes, and stepped towards Ms. Brown. Mask turned their back to Ms. Brown, and changed their face to make a shadowy imitation of her face.
“A Level Five mentorship ensures that AEGIS will not require constant monitoring after a super comes of age,” Mask said, mimicking Ms. Brown’s voice perfectly.
“Don’t want them installing a switch in your neck,” Takar replied, not doing as good a job as Mask at the impression, but Mask giggled anyway.
And then Cindy raised her hands and sent a stream of fire at Ms. Brown. Ms. Brown unfolded her arms, and her skin changed from its usual deep brown to something bright white and stringy. The fire washed over her, completely enveloping her in a cloud of flame and smoke, and blasted past her to slam into the far wall. When it dissipated, Ms. Brown had returned to her normal appearance. The wall behind her was scorched black, outlining a vaguely Ms. Brown sized shape.
“Well, your aim has certainly improved,” Ms. Brown said, glancing at the wall behind her. “Try it again, but this time try not to take the wall down too.” After a few more shots from Cindy, it was Mask’s turn.
Mask floated across the room, and then disappeared into the floor. Ms. Brown tapped her finger against her arm and sighed. Then from the wall behind her Mask appeared as a giant set of claws, one on either side of her. She changed quickly into something pink and soft. When Mask grabbed hold of her her body stretched and bent with the claws, and then slipped through.
“Very good,” Ms. Brown said, when she’d changed back again. “I think you’re improving. You didn’t leave a hole in reality this time. All right Takar, your turn.”
Takar took a deep breath. Cindy and Mask backed up towards the door of the room, and Ms. Brown changed back into her rubbery form. Cindy could burn buildings down, and Mask could alter reality, but he was the one they were all afraid of. He wasn’t allowed to play for the school sports team. He wasn’t allowed to take part in gym class. And for this hour he wasn’t allowed to show his full strength. It was all about control, Ms. Brown had old them, control over the immense power they had.
Takar looked down and saw the lightning crackling around his fists, felt the raw power of it burning through every part of him, and when he looked up he could see the worry on Ms. Brown’s face. How was he supposed to keep things under control? All they ever did was push him down, hide him away, tell him to try harder. There was a blinding flash, and everything went dark.
He woke on the floor of the white room, with Ms. Brown and Mask looking down at him. He tried to sit up but got incredibly dizzy.
“Is Cindy OK?”
“She’s fine,” Ms. Brown said, her voice soothing. “She got a bit of a jolt, so they’re checking her over. But she’s fine.”
Takar grimaced. There were reasons he wasn’t allowed to do anything. No matter what he tried, he always hurt himself, and someone else.
“Right. Well, I guess I’ll see you in detention,” Takar groaned, trying to sit up again and succeeding this time.
“No,” Ms. Brown said. “No, it’s all right. I’ll see you next week.”
After school, Takar headed to the library. It occupied the oldest section of Titan Academy, and the hallways beyond it were no longer open to students. For Ryan getting down to the bunker was easy, he just phased through the floor and was there. For Takar and Hiro, things were a bit more complicated. They had to be sure no one was following them, pretend to be entering the library, duck behind the plastic sheets hanging in the hallway, trip the fake fire alarm, and slip into the hidden panel in the wall.
Once through, Takar sighed in relief, and trotted down the metal stairs into a wide concrete bunker created some time in the 50s. Hiro and Ryan were already there, fussing over a device on a table.
“Hey, Takar, you really gotta see this,” Ryan said, waving him over.
“Hang on,” Hiro said, holding his hand up. “Stay right there.” Takar froze at the bottom of the steps. Hiro grabbed something, then turned and rolled it out on the floor. “Stand there,” he said, pointing to the rubber mat. It had two footprints on it the exact size of Takar’s sneakers. “I haven’t made this one Takar proof yet.”
Takar sighed and stepped onto the mat. “So what have you got?” Takar asked. Hiro turned back to the table. There were a few snapping sounds as he put a few things into place, then turned around to reveal something that looked like a thermos with an arm strap.
“He thinks he’s discovered how to mimic my powers,” Ryan said, a little skeptically.
Hiro strapped the thermos to his arm, and pushed a button. There was a click, and then a low hum, and a strange greenish glow enveloped Hiro. He gave Ryan a self-satisfied look, and headed for the nearest wall. With complete confidence he kept walking, and stepped through it, disappearing from the room. When he came back in he was grinning wildly.
“See, I told you. Phasing Field is a success.”
Ryan still didn’t look that impressed, but Takar was excited.
“No more sneaking into the bunker,” he said, rushing over to Hiro. Hiro quickly stopped the device and turned away from Takar.
“Not yet! I told you, I haven’t got it protected yet. But don’t worry I’ll make you one as soon as I can.”
Takar stopped, and slumped a little. “Fine.” Something in his pocket beeped, and he pulled out his phone. It was not the prettiest thing around, but Hiro had assured that he couldn’t accidentally fry it, and that’s all Takar was concerned about. He had gotten a text from Liv.
Lost Boys in danger. Come now.
“Time to go, guys. It’s Liv.”
Ryan headed for his suit, a long coat and heavy goggles his dad had commissioned for him. Ryan went by Aether, but everyone knew his father, Dark Matter, and his grandfather, Dr. Quintessence, one of Halcyon City’s big three.
Hiro tapped a button on his belt, and from the far side of the bunker a massive robotic form came hulking towards them. It stopped in front of Hiro, and it’s back opened to allow him to climb inside. Hiro had no powers of his own, other than his brilliant brain, so he had built Count Zero, an amazing robot that could work remotely, or allow Hiro to pilot it from inside.
Takar didn’t have a costume. Nothing distinctive anyway. He was here as a ward of the city, and as such had a standard Halcyon City issue costume. The only thing that stood out about it was the red stripe down the arm, marking him as a Level Five strength super. Instead of gearing up, he double checked the location they would be going to. Liv always encoded it in the texts as a series of emojis.
“It’s the Walnut Street bridge,” Takar called out as the others finished getting ready. “Let’s go!”
They landed on the bridge. Takar hopped down from Count Zero’s back and Aether appeared from whatever dimension he slipped into. Below them, on the old railroad tracks that led out of Halcyon City, Liv and several Lost Boys were facing off against four armed and uniformed people who were barking orders.
“Are those AEGIS agents?” Hiro asked. Count Zero’s mask made his voice lower and mechanical.
“Can’t be,” Aether said. “Why would AEGIS agents be after a bunch of kids?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Takar said, climbing up onto the railing. “Liv’s in trouble.”
“I’ll get the kids,” Aether offered. “You guys keep them busy.”
Takar nodded, and he and Count Zero jumped down between the kids and the agents.
“Subject has called in reinforcements,” one of the agents said, turning his head toward the mike on his collar. “Repeat, subject has reinforcements.”
Count Zero stretched his hand toward Takar, and Takar put his hand over the large metal gauntlet. Then he reached deep into himself and brought on the burn. He felt the charge rise through him, one of the few things he had learned in his time mentoring with Ms Brown, he could call it when he wanted, and sometimes he could channel it. It flowed through him, through his arm, and into Count Zero, surrounding them both in crackling blue energy.
He could hear Hiro laughing inside Count Zero, and he couldn’t help smiling. Hiro had no powers of his own, but when Takar shared his charge, he felt like he did. Count Zero crouched down, and he nodded toward the rail below them. Takar nodded back, and crouched down as well.
Count Zero jumped into the air, heading for two of the agents. Takar released his powers into the rails and sent a surge of electricity at the other two. Some of the agents managed to dodge the attack, rolling off the track into the brush on the sides. But one got plowed down by Count Zero, and the other was jolted upright, and then fell over unconscious into the gravel.
“Thanks guys, I’ve got it from here,” Liv said from behind them. Takar turned to see Liv in her standard issue Halcyon suit pull a large section of train rail up from the ground, and start striding towards the agents, holding it over her shoulder like a baseball bat. It reminded him of the first time they had met Oblivion 9, when they had been trying to save the Halcyon suspension bridge from Vortex. She had shown up in that one size fits all black jumpsuit, and held up part of the bridge while they fought off the villain.
Behind her, Aether had phased the last of the kids to safety, and was waving them off. “Come on, we got them out, let’s go.”
“Not just yet,” Liv said, and with one wide sweep pushed the remaining agents into a heap on the side of the tracks.
Count Zero rushed forward to the one lying unconscious, and ripped something off of his uniform.
“Ok, now we can go,” he said, stopping to let Takar and Liv hop onto his back before they took off.
Back at the bunker, Liv went into the tale of what had happened.
“We got a message from Arthur to meet him at the bridge, but it was an ambush. Those agents were waiting for us there.” She was doing her best to stay calm, but she was squeezing the arm of the couch she was on tight enough for some of the stuffing to pop out at the seams.
“I have a feeling they weren’t really AEGIS,” Hiro said. He was busy feeding information into the old supercomputer they had discovered when they had found the bunker. He’d managed to get a modern interface wired into it, but it still took a while to get information into it. “There’s something strange about this patch from their uniform.”
“Apparently they’ve been in the neighborhood before,” Liv said, letting up on the couch. “The Lost Boys tried to tell me about them before all that went down.”
“Has Ms. Brown said anything to you guys about this?” Ryan asked Takar.
“What? No. Why would she? I’m not roaming the streets with my powers blazing.” Takar looked pointedly at Oblivion. She looked back with a defiant expression, daring him to go on. “Maybe the Lost Boys have been up to something that got AEGIS’s attention.”
“Like what? They’re just kids,” Liv said, getting up from the couch and moving to face off with Takar. “They’re just trying to get by on their own. Not everyone gets a free ride to Titan Academy.”
Just then, the computer began beeping, and started printing something out. Hiro hurried across the room to catch the pages. He looked them over, twice, and then whistled.
“You guys gotta see this.” They all gathered around to read over Hiro’s shoulder. The patch had returned a sheet from the old AEGIS database.
Divisions: Winter, Gamma, Oblivion, Sentinel
“Oblivion?” Liv backed away, shaking her head. “An AEGIS project?”
“A former AEGIS project,” Aether said. “I wonder who’s in charge of it now.”