Always Connected

I have the best Mom in the world.

No seriously, it’s true. See I’d always dreamed of going to a “cape high school”, basically a high school for junior super heroes, because my Mom taught at one. There was just one tiny little problem standing in the way of that dream though; I have the world’s lamest super power.

I know what you’re thinking and no, it’s not “talks to fish”. I mean, that’s an awesome power when you think about it. The surface of the Earth is 70% water. There are oceanographers who would give up major body parts to be able to talk to fish. Even just being able to talk to one kind of fish would be amazing. Imagine the exploration you could do if you could talk to dolphins? Or whales? Heck if you could talk to octopi you could probably take over the world, those things are freaky!

But no, I can’t talk to fish. I can only talk to one person. My Mom. Well, I mean as a superpower. I can talk to regular people normally. When I’m not too nervous to speak. That doesn’t happen much though. Mostly just around pretty girls. Or, one pretty girl in particular.

“So do you have any classes with Becky?” Mom asked as we pulled into the Excelsior High parking lot.

Becky had been in junior high with me, and grammar school and kindergarten. I maybe, kinda, had a bit of a crush on her. Like, since we were in second grade.

“I don’t know, they just got back from vacation yesterday.” I said.

“Oh, I wonder how Mars was?”

Unlike me, Becky had gotten into Excelsior on a full Federal Powers scholarship. Her powers were amazing. Just like everyone else in her family, hence the vacation to Mars.

We parked in the faculty parking lot, just beside an experimental anti-grav car. Excelsior had a really good science curriculum.

“I’ll-catch-you-later-ok-Mom-bye!”, I called as I raced over to the milling crowd of students that were getting off one of the Sky Buses.

Excelsior High drew students from all across the tri-state area. The Sky Buses made it so the out-of-staters didn’t have a ten hour commute each day. Becky and the other flight-capable superkids didn’t need to ride them but they usually did anyways. Just because you could fly didn’t mean you wanted to forego a half hour of talking with your friends on the way in every day.

Unfortunately by the time I got to the crowd that was around the buses, Becky was nowhere to be seen. That wasn’t surprising given the size of the crowd that was funneling into the school but I still had to fight down a sting of disappointment. To be fair too, we hadn’t made any specific plans to meet up. There hadn’t been time; the vacation to Mars had been a surprise from her parents. Also, it wasn’t like waiting around was much of an option with the way the crowd was moving.

Like cattle, sheep or any other mindless herd animal, the mass of superkids flowed in through the main doors and began making their ways to lockers, homerooms or wherever else it was that super high schoolers went. For me, that meant the school auditorium for the Freshman Welcoming Lecture.

In most schools, a trip to the auditorium is a fairly simple thing. “Turn right at the main office and it’s the first door on your right” or something like that. Excelsior High however was not “most schools”. For reasons which mostly boiled down to “because we could do it”, Excelsior High’s interior was constructed as a tesseract. What that meant was that it was a great big four dimensional maze.

Mom said that the rumors that ten percent of the new freshman class was never being seen again after the first day were silly myths, but standing in the entrance hall I could see where the myths got started.

“Umm, aren’t we supposed to have a map?” I heard a worried boy behind me say.

“A map? That hallway wasn’t there a minute ago, how the heck would a map help us?” a girl next to him said.

“Maybe we should ask a teacher?” another boy said.

“Do you see any teachers?” a sarcastic girl said.

“How about an upperclassman?” said another girl.

I turned and watched the flow of students. It was pretty clear who the upperclassmen were. They knew where they were going. And they were laughing at the new kids as we all clumped up in the main foyer.

“Hey! Anyone who needs to get to the Freshman Welcome in the auditorium, follow me, I’ll show you the way!” I yelled over the bustle. A few of the passing upper class girls burst out giggling. They probably figured it was a case of the clueless leading the doomed.

The nearby batch of freshmen didn’t have any other choice though so they followed along after me. Fortunately for them, I’d been coming to Excelsior for the high school plays since I was eight. I couldn’t claim to know the whole place, but the auditorium and I were old pals.

Mr. Stonewall, the Freshman P.E. teacher was waiting for us at the door of the auditorium when we arrived. Judging from the number of students in it already, the school had clearly made some arrangements to ferry the freshmen here.

“Hey there Tommy, what happened to your guide?” Mr. Stonewall called out when he saw I was leading the remaining Freshmen in.

“Guide?” I asked.

“Yeah, the Student Council is supposed to be escorting you in.”

“No idea, there wasn’t anyone waiting for us.” I told him.

“Huh, that’s odd. Oh well, you all get inside, I’ll get that sorted out later.”

The Excelsior auditorium adopted the same sort of technological excesses as the rest of the school did. Float chairs picked us up as we filtered through the door and whisked us up to enjoy the kind of seating that you might find on an amusement park ride or an acrophobic’s worst nightmare.

Two other freshmen, both boys, were in the float chairs that were joined to mine. The taller of the two boys, a thin, brown-haired kid, looked over at me and suppressed a retching motion that started in his stomach and stopped at his throat. It wasn’t hard to guess why when I noticed that he was floating lightly out of his seat.

When we’d come for the school plays, the seats, or at least my seat, had always been on lockdown so I wasn’t sure how to adjust the gravity setting on them. Yes, the chairs have internal gravity settings. Like I said, they let the mad scientists get a little out of hand at Excelsior.

“Mom,” I said putting my left thumb to my ear and my left pinky finger in front of my mouth.

”, she responded. When she spoke to me it was telepathically. Technically, it was telepathic when I spoke to her as well, but I had to actually say the words out loud for my brain to know to transmit them. Lamest. Superpower. Ever.

“Not yet, still people getting seated. It looks like some of the chairs are messed up though. The gravity setting is cranked to “orbital space module” or something.”

“There’s a panel on the left. Look for the knob with the pound symbol on it.” she replied.

“Thanks Mom!” I said and then ‘hung up’ by taking my hand away from my face.

“The controls are on the left panel there. The one with pound symbol on it will let you dial the internal gravity up.” I told the kid beside me.

“Thanks man.” he said as he settled more firmly into the seat.

“I take it you’re not a flyer either?” I asked.

“Nah. Terra firma for the win. Name’s Deegan. This is Jason over here.” he said, indicating the third member of our little pod.

“Tommy.” I replied.

Our socializing was cut off by the lights dimming and the Principal’s voice blarring out of the loudspeakers built into the float chairs.

“Welcome to Excelsior High, class of 2020.” the Principal began. He introduced the faculty to the freshmen class which I kind of tuned out. I knew most of them from the school functions my Mom had dragged me too. The only one that caught my attention was “Satori”, not “Ms. Satori” or even “Professor Satori”. Just “Satori”.

She was listed as a “Guidance Counselor/Metahuman Development”. That sounded like something I could do with a whole heck of a lot of.

After the faculty introduction, the Welcome ceremony covered a lot of basic things I, and probably everyone else, already knew. All mad science experiments were restricted to the appropriate science labs. Lingering in the halls between classes merited a day’s detention (enforced by the fact that usually you’d get lost for a day if you did so I imagined). Use of super powers, regardless of origin, was forbidden except in designated classrooms and under the supervision of a member of the faculty. And so on and so forth.

By the time they were done, half the class was excited to begin their first day and the other half was terrified. I was in the latter category due, pretty much entirely, to one class: Power Evaluation and Classification. It was the last class of the day for everyone, but I was worried it would be the last class ever for me.

There’s a screening process to get into Excelsior. In theory all of us showed “sufficient potential” to warrant our place as junior superheroes. The problem was that for a lot of kids “sufficient potential” meant they could already benchpress a tractor trailer and with training there was the chance that they’d be able to lift really big things. In my case it was more “well he scored ok on his academics and he technically does have a superpower so let’s see if we can make anything useful out of him”. To say I didn’t have a lot of faith in that occurring was a bit of an understatement.

As it turned out, I wound up having my first class, ‘Algebra 1’, with Deegan. Navigating between classes was a lot easier than getting to the auditorium thanks to the official school comm devices they distributed. They were coded to us individually and had various functions including a mapping feature that was pre-loaded with our schedules. Getting anywhere else in the school would be tricky but getting to class on time was a breeze.

Or at least it would have been if my locker hadn’t been next to Fred “Titan Ball” Gutzman. We’d gone to junior high together and we hadn’t been friends there either. Worse, where I’d gotten the world’s lamest super power, Fred had gotten one that was beyond “A” rank.

The “Titan Ball” as he called it was an camping tent sized sphere he could summon that acted as a combo forcefield and weapons platform. It even included life support functionality and could fly. Without any training he could make it big enough to protect a dozen people and, last I’d heard, the theory was he’d be able to expand it to cover a whole city if he really worked on it.

Somehow, despite having a freaking awesome super power though, “Titan Ball” was still a total jerk.

“Excuse me.” I said, tapping on the outside of the Titan Ball. He’d manifested it so that it wouldn’t block the hall as he showed it off. Unfortunately he’d also placed it such that it was protecting my locker…from me.

“Yeah, one minute, Squeaky.” he said, without looking over at me. He was too busy chatting up the two girls he was trying to impress. I don’t know why he called me Squeaky. I mean aside from the fact that it annoyed me. And that my voice tended to squeak whenever I got nervous.

“We’re going to be late for class.” I told him.

“Nah, I’m good. My next one’s just over there.” he said pointing at the classroom at the end of the hallway. He turned back to the girls and ignored me. I rapped on the forcefield pointlessly – it wasn’t like it produced any noise – and finally switched to knocking on one of the nearby lockers.

“Mine’s on the other side of the quad.” I said.

“Heh, sucks to be you then, Squeaky.”

“You can’t use your powers in the hall Freddy.” I said, my voice cracking from the emotion and sounding about a light year from anything remotely manly or threatening.

“What did you say?” The force field shifted towards me, knocking me even further from my locker.

I searched for some really amazing comeback, some awesome put down or even just a clever pun. Nothing at all came to me. My brain was locked somewhere between anger and embarrassment, which left me free falling into the pit of stupidity.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought I heard.” Freddy said before turning back to the girls, who were starting to leave for their own class. He moved to follow them and turned off the “Titan Ball” so none of the teachers would catch him as he did.

I scrambled to get the books I needed from my locker and noticed the time. I had 10 seconds to make it class. Thanks to the tesseract, my best guess was that the classroom was a little less than a hundred meters away. In theory I wouldn’t have to be superhuman to make it there. Just an Olympic caliber sprinter.

Freddy meanwhile was still sauntering towards class, apparently enjoying the “bad boy rep” of pushing it to the last second. He was almost at the door to his classroom when I called out to him.

“Hey, Freddy!” I shouted.

“What do you want now?” he growled back.

“You know they’ve got the whole school covered in cameras right?” I asked him. They hadn’t mentioned that at the Freshmen Welcome, but it seemed like a safe bet.

“What?” he asked, puzzled.

“Oh, and now we’re both late for class.” I told him. It sucked to be late on my first day, and I knew I was just going to have more trouble with him later as a result of this, but the look on his face when the tesseract morphed the hallways around was priceless! The commencement bell rang in time with the shifting of the hallways in case it wasn’t clear that we’d both failed to make it to class on time.

I looked over the new arrangement of the halls and checked with my school comm for directions to the new location for my class. As luck would have it, it was right around the corner behind me. Unless I missed my guess that meant Freddy’s classroom had shifted to the far side of the building. Sucked to be him I guess.

I was able to slip into the classroom for World History before the teacher finished taking attendance and noticed that Jason, Deegan’s friend was in the class with me. Unfortunately, Becky wasn’t.

I looked over my schedule as the instructor, Mr. Doller, passed out the syllabus and a horrible idea began to occur to me. I had a number of study periods through the day. The “advanced” students had fewer of them because some of the time slots got filled with their “advanced training”.

In theory none of us had been categorized yet, but the school had to have some inkling of the kids that were almost certainly going to be in the advanced program even before the formal evaluation.

“So…”, my awful, evil brain, asked me, “..what if they’ve already put Becky in the classes that line up with the ‘advanced powers program’, and you got stuck with the classes for the ‘remedial powers’ kids?”

That seemed way too likely for me to discount. My heart sank. My vision of sharing even one class with her might not be lost yet, but I was pretty sure it would be after Power Eval and Classification was over.

Feeling like I’d been hit by a truck, I moped my way through the next class and the study hall after it. There may have been school stuff that happened. I might have stared at a textbook for forty minutes or so, but it was all so colossally pointless.

Lunch rolled around with the promise of cheap carbs and an unhealthy sugar high to cheer me up. That’s when I finally remembered that I’d raced away from the car before my Mom had been able to give me any money for lunch! My grumbling stomach was unhappy but compared to the bleak wasteland of despair that was my soul I hardly noticed.

I saw Freddy heading into the cafeteria in the mob ahead of me and almost decided to forget the whole thing and just go back to the study hall. Or maybe home. Or Mars.

Deegan and Jason corralled me before I could execute any of those boneheaded plans fortunately and we continued the slow plod to get to the food.

As we trudged onward I brightened a bit as a happy thought occurred to me. Even if we didn’t share any classes together, Becky and I might at least have the same lunch period. I felt some new some spring in my step at the possibility of that.

As we filtered in through the door, I saw an unexpected but familiar face.

“Hey, Tommy.” said Officer Julius Tucker. He was the leader of my old scouting troop and a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Metahuman Affairs.

“Sir? What are you doing here?” I asked, holding up the line behind me for a second.

“Keeping pizza safe for all.” he said with a smile. Or in other words, he was part of school security.

“Oh, here. This is yours.” he added, handing me an envelope from his coat.

It had my name on it and a ten dollar bill inside. I was going to ask how I’d won the lottery but the way my name was written was too distinctive for me to need to.

Mom had remembered!

“Thanks!” I said with a nod and then moved on to keep up with Deegan and Jason.

Seating in the lunchroom was somewhat random, what with it being the first day of school and all, but I could see the natural groups starting to emerge already. The football team at one table. Mad scientists on another. Cheerleaders sitting with the mad scientists (I mentioned Excelsior was a little weird right?).

Freddy sat with the other “A-list Supers” who’d been assigned to lunch for this period. That figured. I looked over the rest of the “A-Lister” group to see if I recognized anyone else there. Sadly I didn’t.

Part of me trudged back to the bleak wasteland of despair when I confirmed Becky’s absence, but another, smaller, part was happy with the notion that at least she wouldn’t be sitting with Freddy.

Not particularly caring where we sat other than “not near Freddy”, I followed along in Deegan and Jason’s wake after we grabbed our food. Right to the villains table.

Ok, yes, technically they’re not villains. No one with a criminal record is allowed to go to Excelsior High. But even villains have kids who need an education too right? Kids whose sense of fashion runs towards “outfits that aren’t technically lethal weapons but contain enough metal and spiky bits to assemble an armored porcupine tank”.

“Hey, bro!” one of the bigger and scarier kids said to Deegan as he sat down. I shot Deegan a glance. Not much family resemblance there. Deegan’s skin didn’t look like glowing magma for one thing.

“Uh, hi.” I said sitting down beside Jason.

“Oh, hey, Tommy!” another villain kid said. I looked over and recognized him immediately. It’s hard to forget someone with gold skin and natural silver spikey in place of hair.

“You guys know each other?” Deegan’s brother said.

“Yeah, his Mom tutored me in Geometry last year.” Jeff “Sporkupine” Reagan said.

I braced, wondering how the villains would react. Teacher’s pets weren’t generally the most popular kids among the ruffians, and being related to a teacher seemed even more perilous than that given the present company.

“Oh my god! She is so awesome man! I was like one test away from flunking out and she totally made everything make sense.” said Deegan’s brother.

“Yeah, thank god she took over our class. My old man was going to kill me if I brought home another bad report card. ‘The money I pay to send you to that place..blah blah.’ You’d think he’d actually earned it or something?” Jeff complained.

I smiled, relieved to see they had a sense of humor about things. During his tutoring sessions Jeff had always been very quiet so it hadn’t even occurred to me that he was a villain’s son.

The other people at the table introduced themselves using a mix of real names and code names, none of which I could keep straight but that was ok since it distracted me from the fact that Becky was apparently avoiding me like the plague that I was.

The rest of the day went by in a sort of repetitive blur. Navigate the hallways, help someone find their way, go to class, get syllabus, pretend to take notes, go to study hall, pretend to read random text book, rinse and repeat. The only noticeable difference was the way my blood pressure rose ever higher with each end of class bell. Each class I got through was one period closer to the Powers Eval at the end of the day.

I wasn’t the only one feeling that way either.

“Do we seriously have to do it in front of everyone?” one of the boys ahead of me said to his friend.

“Yeah, public use of powers is one of the measuring points. If you can’t work your mojo in front of a crowd they kind of need to know that right away.” his friend pointed out.

“I don’t know if I can man, I just don’t!” the first boy said.

“Don’t worry. There’s always someone with a lamer power; you’ll look fine.” I told him, joining the conversation uninvited.

“I don’t know. I barely scraped in here. People are gonna laugh.” he said.

“What do you do?” I asked.

“Light control…I…I make things dimmer.”

“Wow, that doesn’t sound bad! Can you do like a total blackout?”

“No. I can just make a space around me about as bright as a single candle.”

“In broad daylight even?”

“Well yeah, but so what?”

“Can you do that to any light?”

“I guess so, why?”

“How about a laser?”

“I don’t know.”

“They tested you before you came in right?”

“Yeah.”

“Bet ya ten bucks there’s a block of steel when they bring you up on stage.” I told him.

“A block of steel?”

“Yep. They like make the power demonstrations flashy if they can and still be safe.”

“But a block of steel?”

“Yeah, trust me, one way or another you’re going to look awesome.”

“Thanks, I guess. What about you though? What can you do.”

“Uh, make you look good.” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“There’s gotta be one guy with the lamest power out there right?” We’d reached the turn for my class so I parted from them and sunk a little lower. I could picture a laser burning through a steel block and Dimmer-boy’s power shutting it right down. That was kind of epic in its own way. For me though? There wasn’t really any way to make my power flashy. Pretty much every student there could do the same thing using a magic device called a “cell phone”. And they could get internet and apps downloaded too.

I was sitting in the second to last class of the day when the alert sirens went off.

“All Students: This Is Not a Drill. Hostile Alien Forces Are Assaulting the City. Excelsior High is now on lockdown. Stay in your classes and follow all faculty directives.” a metallic but also female voice told us from the loudspeakers.

As one, we all looked up to the front of our classroom, to the training droid that had been enumerating the various foreign language options we had available.

“This unit is not equipped for emergency response protocols. Powering down.” it stated. It slumped into a seated posture and the lights of its eyes turned off. Then our desk monitors turned off. Then the school lights turned off.

“I’m pretty sure that’s not supposed to happen is it?”, Marcia, the girl next to me asked.

A gentle small light returned to the classroom. Dimmer-boy, or Kevin (assuming I remembered the roll call correctly), was holding up a glowing hand.

“I don’t think so. There’s supposed to be emergency lighting at least.” he said.

We heard a distant explosion and felt the classroom shake around us. Some books fell from the shelves but otherwise the classroom remained intact.

“There’s fighting out there. Someone’s attacking the school itself.” Marcia said, her eyes closed.

“Can you see it?” I asked.

“Yeah. I had to leave my gremlins outside there but I can still peek through their eyes.” she said.

“How’s it look?”

“Woah, that is a big ship!” she said.

“Mind if I show everyone else?”, Jason said, lifting a hand toward’s Marcia’s head.

“How?” she asked.

“I can make holograms from what people are thinking. I, uh, I don’t control what they show though so, like, don’t imagine us in our underwear or anything ok?”

“Yeah, fine, whatever.” Marcia agreed.

Jason touched her head and a 3D image appears on Marcia’s desk. It was the outside of the school as seen from ground level. The view panned up to show an enormous metal ring hovering over the school. Plasma beams and missiles were shooting everywhere from it as hexagonal metal pods rained down from it delivering troops for the ground assault.

A stray plasma bolt smashed into the “camera” and the image immediately winked out.

“Oww!”, Marcia yelped, “Always stings when one of the gremlins gets squished.”

“Where’d these guys come from?” Kevin asked.

“Better question is where are they going?” Marcia said.

I looked up as a shadow passed over the window in the door to the classroom.

“Oh hell, I think I know. Everybody get down!” I yelled.

There was the sound of rapid fire plasma bolts battering through the blast resistant doors and then the tink of something metal hitting the floor. Intense cold and darkness followed.

When I woke up my first thought was that I’d overslept through the Power Eval class and that I was going to automatically flunk out as a result. Because being attacked and cryo-frozen by aliens apparently rated #2 on the list of things that my brain considered important to worry about.

“Ugh, my head feels like a dinosaur stepped on it.” I whined as I opened my blinking eyes and struggled to sit up.

“Sorry!” said the velociraptor that was standing beside me.

“Eyah!! What the!” I eloquently articulated as I scrambled backwards on my butt.

“Sorry man! They cut off our powers!” the velociraptor said in a familiar voice.

“Deegan?” I asked.

“Yeah.” he responded. I hadn’t known that a velociraptor could look depressed before. It was kind of surreal in way.

“Sorry man, just wasn’t expecting that.”

“It’s cool.”

“You’re a shapeshifter I take it?” I asked feeling like a heel for wigging out on him.

“Yeah, kinda sucks doesn’t it?”

“Sucks? Are you insane? You can turn into a freaking dinosaur! That’s ridiculously cool!”

“No man, I can’t turn into a dinosaur, I can turn into a human. This is how I really look.” he shook a leg at me and I saw a metal cuff had been fastened to it. Power suppressor. I looked around the room. It was lit as though by a dim candle. Kevin was already up too.

Slowly the other figures from the floor started to wake up too. Most had the metal cuffs on, including me, but a dozen or so of the kids didn’t.

“I woke up while they were putting the cuffs on. They said they only needed to lock down ‘the dangerous ones’.” Kevin explained.

“How’d they know what we could do?” I asked.

“They had some kind of scanner.” he said.

“How could you understand them?”. Deegan asked.

“They were Rikens and Voxmolls, so they were using universal translators to take to one another.” Kevin said.

That put a chill on everyone who’d woken up. Both Rikens and Voxmolls were humanoid races that the Earth had encountered in the past. Humanity has beaten them when they’d come to conquer us but they still sent the occasional raiders out way. If the two species were teaming up it could mean another war.

“Why kidnap us though?” Marcia asked, joining our growing group.

“Genetic experimentation. They’re close enough to human that they we’ll make good lab rats to help them develop superpowers too.” Becky said.

My jaw dropped open. I couldn’t decide if this was the Worst Thing Ever or the Best Thing Ever.

“Uh…” I managed to stammer out.

“Tommy? Where the heck have you been hiding!? I’ve been looking for you all day you dummy!”, she yelled.

“I..looking all over for you!” I said and my voice bravely held together for a change. The rest of me? Eh, it was kind of good I had a wall to lean on. “Why did you want to see me?”

“Well, you know, we just got back, and I thought you’d like to know how the trip went.” she said. “Plus you’re like fifty times better than me at math, so I was figuring we’d setup a study group.”

I suddenly loved the Rikens and Voxmolls with the bright fiery passion of a thousand suns.

“Yeah, uh, maybe for World History too, right. I mean you did that trip to Ancient Rome last year.” I agreed. I felt like my heart was wedged between my ears in place of my brain given how loudly it was pounding in my ears.

“Uh, guys, we kind of have more important things to worry about.” Deegan said, waving a dino-paw in between us.

“Oh, yeah. Evil aliens. Right.” I said. I pictured my beleaguered brain trying to kick my heart back down into my chest. It was very cartoony and funny. I didn’t laugh though because that would be weird.

“With our powers locked down we can’t get out of here.” Marcia said.

“Think anyone can rescue us?” Kevin asked.

“How would they know where we were?” Deegan asked.

“Marcia, those gremlins you have; are they independent creatures you summon or do you create them with your power?” I asked.

“I kind of make them, why?” she said.

“Can you pick where they appear?”

“Sure, except I’m locked down.”

“Ok, then we need to get you unlocked down. All of you.” I said.

“We don’t have any tools. I can’t even bite through the cuffs with my teeth.” Deegan said.

“Don’t need to – there’s a combo-lock on them right?” I said.

“Yeah, but we don’t know the combo.” Deegan objected.

“Your brother can figure it out though can’t he?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“He came to my Mom for tutoring. I remember them talking about his powers. He sees numbers in a whole different way than the rest of us. Its why he was having trouble in geometry. There’s a time component to how he sees things. He’ll be able to see which numbers will work as we’re typing them in.” I said, feeling really excited.

“One problem…they only took the freshmen.” Becky said. “Something about cataloging us before we were exposed to the tesseract for too long.”

“Well that explains why they attacked on the first day of school I guess.” Kevin said.

“Hmm…” I replied.

“What are you thinking?”, Becky asked.

“Well, power suppressors just reduce the amount of juice we have to draw on right? I mean you could probably still beat me in an arm wrestle, you just can’t lift a SUV at the moment.” I said.

“So we’re still powered just not all that super? How does that help?” Becky asked.

“It…it gives me an idea. Let me try something.” I said.

Keenly aware that this might make me look like the biggest idiot who ever lived in front of one of the coolest girls who’d ever lived, I rested my left thumb against my left ear and put my left pinky in front of my mouth.

“Umm…Mom? You there?” I said outloud.

“Tommy? Where are you? Are you ok?” my Mom replied immediately. I’d expected the “reception” to be terrible but she came through as clear as ever.

“I’m fine. We all are. But we’re kind of captured by aliens.”

“We know. One of their ring sections managed to reach orbit and engage their warp drive before we could stop them. We’re trying to track down where they took you now.” she replied.

“I think we can help there.” I told her.

I noticed that the others were looking at me like I was going mental. I also felt my leg beginning to get warm. A second later a spark and a puff of smoke belched out of the power suppressor cuff.

“You broke the suppressor?” Deegan said, velociraptor jaw agape.

“That’s not possible. Only ‘S’ rank and above powers can do that.”, Marcia said.

“Guys, it’s probably just a defective model. No big deal.” I said. There was no way I could have an ‘S rank’ power right? Those were cosmic things, not something simple like making a phone call. On the other hand, how far away from home were we?

“What’s that Tommy?” my Mom asked.

“Oh, they put power suppressors on us but mine just smoked itself. They must be using a bad batch.” I said.

My power does an admirable job distinguishing between not transmitting information and transmitting silence. Mom was silent for a moment thinking about something.

“Ok, how can you help us?”

I laid out the plan I had in mind.

It was about two hours later that we exited hyperspace and entered real space around Vector Station Erandi Seven. Erandi Seven was a multi-species habitat and one of the closer trade stations to Earth. As a rendezvous point for the raiders it held the benefit of being unaligned and outside the Galactic Commonwealth’s administered zone.

It hadn’t been particularly hard to work out that we were headed there. Deegan’s brother provided the hacking skills that we needed via a telepathically assisted “conference call” between my Mom and I. Basically he told Mom was to have us punch in, she told me and then I told one of the kids I was with. It was a little slow at first but it let us free Marcia and the rest of the freshmen who’d been captured.

With Marcia providing scouting intel via her Gremlins and Jason sharing it with us via his hologram projections we had control of the ship’s computers in under an hour. We could have just turned around at that point but none of us were hyper-jump navigation qualified. Plus who were we to turn down a free field trip?

We arrived at the station and turned the ship over to the assembled Earth superheroes who had beaten us there by direct Warp Gate travel. The heroes also picked up the other raider ships that had gotten away without any captives.

From what I heard later, it was a huge diplomatic black eye for both the Rikens and the Voxmolls that we’d managed to take their ships intact. There were all kinds of “fight to the death” orders in place, but that’s hard to do when you’re locked in your bunks by Gremlins. A whole trail of alien corruption and political backstabbing came to light since the Earth had living defendants to bring before the Galactic Commonwealth and detailed ship’s logs on how the attack was executed.

As for us freshmen?

Well it turns out that we were prime picking for the aliens because the tesseract hadn’t had a chance to quantum entangle our DNA yet and make it unreadable. I’m not sure how I feel about the school encrypting my genes, but I’m sure stranger things will happen.

Becky made the Advanced Powers roster as expected. She’s also taken on some student tutoring in math to help the remedial students.

Deegan actually met this really nice Tyranasoid girl while we were on the station. Turns out she’s the daughter of an ambassador who’s being sent to Earth, so he’s hopeful he’ll get to see her again.

Marcia and Jason weren’t put on the Advanced Powers roster but they did wind up getting a “Special Services” designation. I don’t know exactly what that means and apparently I don’t want to or they’d have to kill me. Or something like that.

Kevin’s power turned out to be as versatile as I thought it was. He’s being groomed for “City Protector” status. With some training, they think he can neutralize not only just light, but also any high energy attacks.

Freddy on the other hand did not make the cut for Advanced Powers training. Turns out the “Titan Ball” has one significant weakness. It’s keyed to his emotions. The harder it gets pressed or the more scared he is, the weaker it gets. Apparently he put it up when the aliens came in and they popped it like a soap bubble.

Oh and our student councilor, the one that was supposed to lead us through the school to the auditorum? Voxmoll agent. Who’da figured right? They caught her at a bus stop in Jersey. Poor girl. No one deserves to get sent to New Jersey.

And as for me? Well, I didn’t make Advanced Powers, but I did get a special commendation for my part in the rescue. Also Guidance Counselor Satori has scheduled me for a session of power development work each week. That changed up my class schedule a little so that, as it turns out, I’m in Algebra 1, World History and a study hall with the Advanced Powers students!

Satori says that my power may be able to grow to include a lot of other people too, but for now I’m ok with it. I’ve got the Best Mom in the World after all and it’s nice to know that she’s always there.

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