Excerpts from So Your Cat Is on Fire: A Layman’s Guide to Being a Metahuman, by Josh Manson

So! Congratulations on the random twist of fate that's caused you to become better than 99% of everyone else. Or, more unique, at least. You've got superpowers. Or magic, or the gift of god, or whatever you want to call it. I don't care; sticking a different label on something doesn't change what it is. What matters is you can do something that no-one else can. Unless you're a first-generation. Or a Jack. Or-

I digress. Point is, you're not quite human anymore, and this guide will help you deal with all the issues that come with that.

Chapter 1: Oh god, what the fu**.

You've just blown up your cat. Or maybe you turned your water main into diesel. Or maybe you woke up to find that your genitals have rotted off, and you suddenly have a few more limbs than you remember (if that last one happened to you, what the hell are you doing?! Get your ass into the emergency room, you idiot! (but once you're there, turn to chapter 18: WHY DOES EVERYTHING HURT?!)).

The important thing to remember is that it's okay. Almost every metahuman has a story like this, and only the luckiest or the ones with extremely benign powers get away without doing some damage. Most insurance providers will generally cover these incidents under most plans, because the odds are long enough for it. If they don't, turn to Chapter 10: Civil War for information on how to register with the DoM and get some recompense.


Chapter 8: So What Exactly Am I?

You're calm, the fires are out, the giant mutant chinchilla has been dealt with, and now that you've had time to think, you're probably starting to puzzle over the nature of these strange new abilities. If you've gotten powers, you're probably young enough that your high school education covered this, but you might be older or younger, so I'll go over it anyway.

Superhumans are divided into two loose categories: first and second generations, also known as superhumans and paranormals, respectively. Superhumans first appeared 30 years ago, in what is now known as the first Supercharge (I actually coined the term myself 15 years ago on Oprah). The first known superhuman was Jay Bradbury, the Unkillable Man (great guy, but can't hold his liquor worth a damn, oddly enough). Jay was in a fatal car crash, and was completely dead when the paramedics found him. So you can imagine their surprise when, by the time they got to the hospital, he was conscious, lucid, and flirting with the driver (they got married three years later, in case you care). 

Like many of the very first superhumans, he became an international celebrity, and the notion of fighting crime was a laughable idea to him, despite the legions of comic book fans desperate for them to do so. Why would they fight crime? They were just ordinary people with unusual gifts, what made them qualified to punch lowlifes in the face? Of course, that all changed with Clockbreaker, the insane redneck from Texas who...


...Paranormals are metahumans that came arrived during the second Supercharge, so if you're reading this now, that means you're one of them. I am too; I got my powers on that infamous day, like so many others. Unlike the superhumans, who came in a steady trickle that died out in the last few years of the Golden Age, at least half of the paranormals currently alive got their powers on the same day, February 4th, [REDACTED]...


It can be fairly hard to distinguish between paranormals and superhumans, but there are a few signs to look for. The first and most obvious one is that superhumans can't directly affect other people, period. That means no psychics, no healers, no life-stealers; you see any of those, they're a 2nd gen, who don't have the same limitation. The easiest way to illustrate this, if you're confused, is with telekinesis, often considered the simplest metahuman ability. A superhuman telekinetic could pick up a rock and throw it at a person, but couldn't pick up a person and throw them at a rock. A paranormal telekinetic, on the other hand, could theoretically do either of those things, but would probably not, due to the second difference between the two types: paranormals have weirder powers.

Let's go back to the telekinetics again. The superhuman, while he can't affect people, otherwise has fairly standard power, basically a giant invisible hand that he can move with his mind. The paranormal, on the other hand, would probably have some form of limitation or quirk. In this case, (I'm just spitballing here) her telekinesis manifests as invisible arms that have the same limitations as her real arms, i.e. they can only do what her real arms can do, and no more. You might think this would make her weaker than her superhuman counterpart, and in some ways, you'd be right. But, like most paranormals, what she lacks in raw strength, she makes up for in versatility. Because she can generate as many of those 'arms' as she wants, she can multitask in a way the superhuman never could. She can also surround herself with arms to create a makeshift shield, and if she's come up with any new tricks by the next time I see her, I'll include them in the next edition (she can also cheat amazingly well at card games, but she could do that before she got her powers too). Point is, the odd nature of paranormal powers doesn't make them any weaker, just different.


Chapter 20: What Now?

Good question, dear reader. The answer is, whatever you want. Well, not whatever: I can't and don't endorse becoming a supervillain. But aside from that, it's up to you. In case you're indecisive, though, here are some options.

The Tower Conglomerate

The superheroes, in classic form. If you loved comic books and superhero tales as a kid, well, so did the founders, and with the help of some clever legal work by Jennifer Ford, the only non-super of the three founders, they became the world's largest superpowered NGO. In most countries, they are considered a pseudo-law enforcement agency, with all the heroes being licensed officers of the law.

If you join Watchtower, or rather, if they let you join, you'll be playing the part of superhero to a T: you get to pick a costume and codename, and get to choose, after a grace period, between working with a team or on your own.

Watchtower is pretty much the standard option for metahumans, and it's easy to understand why. I actually was part of the D.C. Triumphant for a year under the name Blastzone. The pay was... okay, but I got to use my power and punch criminals in the face, so I definitely considered it worthwhile. But it's not for everyone.

The Department of Miscellany

Government work, basically. As I said earlier, all metahumans have to register with the DoM, but this is taking that a step further. The DoM is basically a cross between an intelligence agency, a scientific lab and an R&D department. Because of its unique nature, working for the DoM often means travelling the globe, although you'll probably be behind a desk most of the time. It's a quieter life than being a superhero, but some people want that. Of course, there are the ever persistent rumors about government super-soldiers and clandestine testing, but I shouldn't and won't comment on those.


MERIT is technically a subset of the DoM, but say that to anyone there and you'll probably have your block knocked off (and yes, I'm speaking from experience there). MERIT stands for Metahumans Emergency Response and Intelligence Taskforce, an acronym that worked out remarkably well for them. Part emergency services, part armed response team, MERIT gets called more to deal with the aftermath of fights than with the fights themselves. Consider a job with MERIT to be an emergency service position on steroids, and think long and hard about whether that's what you want to do. Long hours, plenty of stress, and I'm told that more often than not, you have to deal with some pretty horrific crime scenes. But, on the other hand, MERIT has one of the best Forges around, and that means that all responders are equipped with a pretty bitching suit of powered armor, which I must admit is one hell of an incentive.


I'm just going to refer to all the options as Blacklight Services, because they're already pretty damn close to having the market cornered. Blacklight Services were founded by a mysterious paranormal known as Blink. Blink, whoever they are, seems like a rather average paranormal, a line-of-sight teleporter who creates a power disruption effect in the area between their starting point and the destination. The power disruption is small, a mild tremor at best, and as such Blink would be unexceptionable if not for the fact that they can also gift a weaker version to others. This ability, and the fact that the power disruption can stack, is what has made Blacklight the world's foremost service for dealing with dangerous metahumans of all types. There are even unsubstantiated rumors of enough layers being able to affect a Scalebreaker, although this seems highly unlikely.

Working for Blacklight is legal only in the most technical sense, and in effect, you'd be becoming a superpowered soldier cum armed response officer. They'll take you, train you, and pay you very well, but they have a strict non-competition clause, so be wary of signing anything.


Riding solo. Working on your own, in the industry, following in the footsteps of the likes of Rebar and Steelsilk. This one's a bit dicy, and depends on your power. For example, I might do okay in the mining business, but I can't really imagine I'd be doing anything dynamite couldn't. But if you can make it work, industry is a safe, profitable choice.


People don't like talking about this one, and some refuse to even acknowledge its existence. But it is an option. You can just do... nothing.

Nothing different, that is. It's perfectly okay to get powers, and then just get on with your life. You might have a career you enjoy, kids to take care of, or simply no interest in using your power. And that's fine. Look at me: I got the power to blow things up, but I'm still working as an author just like I was as an average Joe, and the only use my power gets these days is entertaining kids and stopping the odd bar fight. Some people may not like your choice, but it is your choice. And that's the beauty of most powers: Who says they have to know?