Talk 4-I

If You Have to Shoot.

The man standing above me, one foot in my salad, was tall and bulky, his face hidden by a red-tinged plate of metal. Similar plates covered his body, overlapping in a manner reminiscent more of scales than of armor.

Everyone at our table was frozen, but the rest of the room seemed to have not noticed. That is, until the man reared his head back and, with a thunderous roar, sent a beam of energy streaming towards the ceiling, where it ate through the thick supports with a flash.

The room fell silent.

"Greetings, rich pigs," yelled a voice, and we all jerked our heads around to the other side of the room, where another supervillain was standing on a table. As soon as it seemed like everyone was looking, though, she disappeared. "You may be wondering what is happening,” the voice said again, this time from the opposite side of the room, causing everyone to spin around again.

I got a better glimpse of her this time, before she teleported again; she seemed to have a long, hooded green cloak, with, surprisingly, no mask, although I didn’t manage to get a glimpse of her face. “Well, it’s quite simple,” she spoke for the third time, and while a lot of heads still turned, some people, like me, were cottoning on to the fact that she was just going to keep doing it, and accordingly hadn’t turned.

"The simple answer is that we're kidnapping you." Worried murmuring swept across the room. The voice was now bouncing around between multiples points within a sentence, and I'd given up on following it, and was just staring at the desk. "The more complicated answer is that we’re holding you hostage.”

There was a beat of silence. “Well, I didn’t say it was much more complicated. Now, is anyone filming this? Of course someone is.” There was a surprised yelp. “Now is this thing… ah, there we are, broadcasting. Excellent. I’m sure a number of you have already sent messages out, so thanks for that. Hello!” she said, seemingly to the camera. “My name is- well, you don’t need to know what my name is. What you do need to know is this.” A brief silence, presumably while she showed the camera the crowd. “Yup. So, if anyone official is listening, you know what we want- oh, that reminds me.”

Suddenly, she was right in front of me, standing next to the scaled man, pointing the phone at him. “This is one of my colleagues, whose name you don’t need to know, and he is a very angry man. What is he angry at? Damn near everything, actually, so you probably shouldn’t try anything, unless you want him to do something nasty to these kids. Hell, for all I know, he might anyway.” She disappeared again, and there was suddenly a strong pull coming from the spot she’d been in, sucking up cutlery and other small items into a compact ball, which dropped the table with a clunk.

What is that? I thought, unconsciously reaching for it. Before I could touch it, though, the man stomped on my arm, hard. I cried out sharply, and suddenly the woman was there again.

“Aw, does that hurt, you little shit? Good.” She gestured, and he let my arm go. I clutched it to my body, tears pooling in the corners of my eyes. Gosh-darnit that hurt. “Was baby trying to touch the ball?” she said in a mock sing-song voice, pointing the camera at me.

I said nothing. It seemed to be my best bet.

“Hmpph,” she said disappointedly. “Well, I’m guessing you’ll find out what it does sooner or later.” She reached out and tapped the ball, and it exploded.

I shrieked and fell backwards, hands coming up to protect my face as I fell to the floor. There was a sharp burn in one of my hands, a little twinge of pain on my forehead, and then as I hit the ground, there was a twang inside my core, and suddenly I was in two places at once.

One me was lying on the ground, clutching my arm to my chest, and wincing in pain at the cuts. I gave a muffled scream as I realized that the burning in my hand was in fact a fork.

The other me had rolled to my feet, crouching low and tense, before I suddenly realized that I was invisible. So this was the real me then.

was crouched on my hands and knees. An exact copy of me was doing a pretty-damn convincing job of being me as it pulled the fork out of its hand, hissing in pain. Really convincing; there was blood dripping from the wound and everything.

"Okay, I think we can agree that this is weird.”

Now you come back?

"Sure, we're not in immediate danger now, so our brain's calmed down enough to start simulating me again. Come on, you know this."

The sad thing was that I did, otherwise she/I wouldn't be saying it.

So what the hell's going on, then? I asked as I watched my double lying on the ground. The woman had teleported away again, and the man was staring at me dispassionately. A few of the other students looked like they wanted to help me, but any time any of them moved, he stared them down until they went back to sitting again.

"Well, taking into account a whole bunch of things, I'd say that the bomb triggered a defensive reflex in our power, and it created a decoy that protected us."

Hmm. But why is it moving this time?

"What, you can't feel that? In the back of our head- oh, right, I'm supposed to tell you about that. It feels like there's a second us in the back of our head, controlling the double." The second consciousness had the same feeling as the humming, which had returned as soon as I'd fallen. I paused for a moment, the revised the metaphor. They felt more like strings now, the bottom one vibrating in a manner not dissimilar to a guitar string.

I reached down for the second string-

"Best not," I interrupted myself. "We don't want to accidentally disrupt our power, especially now."

Well, what do you think we should do?

"Wait, observe, and hold out for an opportunity to experiment safely."

...fine. I tuned back into the real world and slowly un-tensed, standing back up. The woman was still talking: "...and I notice the heroes have finally arrived. Tsk. That's some pretty shoddy response time, eh?" She nudged the student next to her, who remained frozen. She sighed, but then perked up. "Oh, hold on. Brb." No, seriously, she actually said that.

She disappeared, then reappeared a moment later holding another man, who swiftly stepped away from her and surveyed the room with cold, calculating eyes. This guy, compared to the others, was pretty understated: his costume consisted a dark blue combat fatigues and a helmet that covered his head, eyes and nose.

"My other friend here has just finished rounding up stragglers," the woman yelled. She was still teleporting every few words, and I realized with a start that it was probably a precaution against snipers. "Now, I'm sure he didn't kill anyone," he shook his head slightly, "but knowing him, there's probably a few people bleeding out there, so you're," I was confused for a second until I remembered about the camera, "probably going to want to make this quick. Remember, all you have to is give us what we want, and then we'll leave." There was a couple of seconds of silence, and then the sound of a phone ringing. "Oh-hog," she crowed, "there we go. But I'm not giving up my feed. You," she said to a boy near her, "what's your name?"

The boy cowered.

"Come on, kid, I just wanna know your name. I'm not gonna hurt you."

Still he said nothing.

She sighed. "Fine. Tell me your name or I'll throw one of my bombs in your face and blow it up." She said it so casually, like she was talking about sports or the weather, not inflicting possibly-lethal harm on someone.

"J-Jason R-r-reeves," he stammered out, obviously terrified.

"There we go. Now, give me your phone." He nearly dropped it in his rush to get it out. She snatched it and teleported away.

"You see this phone?” she said to a student holding up their phone in quivering hands. “If you want to talk-" The phone rang out, interrupting her. "Oh good," she said sounding pleased, "you guys managed that, at least."

She answered it, holding it up to her ear. "Yello."


"Nope, sorry, not happening. Frankly, I'm amazed, and a little impressed you even tried that."


"I've already said what we want."

Longer pause.

"Well, that's simple. Every ten minutes until we get it, we kill a student."