Never 1-I

(Note: this chapter has been rewritten as of 06/16, because the old one was kind of shitty. If you notice a drop in quality at the beginning of Chapter Two, that's why.)

oh hey i can put text here

Look Far Ahead.

For the average eighteen-year-old in New Chicago, Monday night might look something like this. Deluged in the preparations for finals in the last week before the Christmas holidays, most would be home, studying and stressing out. The more prepared, or more confident or simply more cavalier ones might be out, partying or drinking the night away, secure in either the knowledge they’d pass, or the knowledge that they didn’t care. Others still might be working, or spending time with families or significant others, or just sleeping.

And then there’s me.

Hi. My name’s Flint Perez. My Monday night looked a little something like this.

The wind whistled in my ear as I ducked underneath a blow, the sound slightly muted by my hood. The punch was clumsy and sloppy, but the man throwing it was large and muscly enough that it would still do some serious damage if it landed. If it didn’t, though, he’d be overbalanced, and I could use that.

I bobbed up as he stumbled forward, grabbing his outstretched arm with both hands. He was already moving towards me, so I just twisted, and sent that momentum past me and down. He crashed onto the tarmac, face first, and I winced. Don’t get me wrong, he deserved it, but that was still pretty nasty.

He growled in pain, and swiped aimlessly outwards. I danced backwards, out of his reach, easily avoiding the blow. Ordinarily, I'd take this opportunity to make sure he stayed down, but I had to deal with his friends too.

There were four of them, three men and a woman. They were members of the Chainbreakers, one of the nastier gangs in New Chicago. Originally a black supremacy group, back when they ran in Old Chicago (and there was still an Old Chicago to run in), somewhere along the way they’d gotten twisted into a ‘survival of the fittest' motif. Which is better than racism, I guess? As a half-black guy, I certainly wasn’t going to complain about less racism. They did still kill people for not being ‘fit’ enough, but at least it’s not, y'know, lynching or whatever.

All four of them had a single grey chain link tattooed on their left cheek, and two of them carried long, heavy steel chains with spikes welded to the end. You’ve got to admire the dedication to sticking to the theme, even when it meant using a weapon that was vastly inferior to-

One of them, the shorter of the two men still standing, pulled a gun from inside his dark jacket, and pointed it at me.

Well, okay, maybe they were smarter than I gave them credit for.

So you’re probably thinking, “wait, that’s not the normal reaction to having a gun pointed at you”. And you’d be right. Good job, you. If he’d been a little closer, I probably could’ve just taken the small semi-automatic right off him, but he was just outside the range to do that safely. That was okay, though: I have other methods at my disposal.

As he raised the piece, I mirrored the action, my right hand coming up to point at him, empty, palm out. As I did so, I summoned the well of cold power in my core, bringing it rushing up along my limb like a torrent of ice water. The world… broke down, becoming simpler. If I really squinted, I could still see the road and the gang members and the city skyline behind the buildings rising over us, but primarily, what I saw was energy. Momentum, specifically: kinetic energy. I could see the flickers of movement in their muscles, the expansion and contraction of their lungs and hearts, even the energy that propelled the air into wind. I could see it all, glowing in various shades of grey. But seeing wasn’t all I could do.

I focused on the gun, lines of shaky movement. At its core, just above the handle, was something else, a shade that didn’t seem to quite… exist. The potential energy in the bullet, or more specifically, the gunpowder at the back, waiting to be turned into heat, light, sound, and motion. I focused in on that little haze, and as soon as I saw the line that meant the hammer was coming down, I channeled cold power through my outstretched arm and flung it at that bullet.

The haze of potential solidified into grey, and the bullet shot forward, its color growing in intensity. Before it even made it out of the barrel, though, it met the rush of power I’d sent towards it. As it connected, the color abruptly switched to yellow, and all that momentum driving it forward was suddenly instead going straight up. Right into the roof of the barrel of the gun.

At least, that’s how I saw it. From the thug's perspective, I waved and his gun exploded.

There was a bang, and pieces of metal were flung outwards. He recoiled backwards, a spray of blood flying from his hand as he jerked it away. What looked like the slide slammed into the head of the other chain-wielder, right above the temple, and he yowled in pain, dropping his weapon. The woman flinched back, but the debris missed her entirely.

So yeah. I have superpowers. Well, a superpower. Really, it’s not even that super. 'Alright', maybe. ‘Decent enough', perhaps, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it. I can redirect kinetic energy - momentum- 90 degrees. Exactly 90 degrees: I’ve checked. I can also see said energy – sometimes. It doesn’t work all the time, and there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to the times it does. I was lucky that this was one of those times; doing the trick with the bullet is a lot harder without it. Then, you have to watch their finger and/or their face, because most people give off pretty obvious cues when they’re about to fire, and it becomes this whole mess and-

Bleh. Anyway, it's an alright power. It’s definitely got its uses, but compared to some others I know, it’s a bit shit. I don’t mind too much, though. I can handle myself just fine without it.

The woman had no obvious weapons, and the gunman was still reeling, so the other one with the chain was first. He was down on the ground, picking up his weapon, scrambling and scrabbling a little desperately. I closed the distance between us in a few strides, hoping to catch him by surprise, but he glanced up just in time, eyes widening. He flung the chain out in a wide arc, panicky and frightened. He was still on the ground, though, so it was low enough for me to easily hop over it. It swung underneath my feet as I jumped, curling back around towards him. Rushing the strike had cost him control, and now he had no way of stopping it from swinging those spikes right into his chest. I came down with both feet on the chain, arresting its movement. The spiked tip was still swinging, albeit with less momentum than before. It probably wouldn’t do lethal damage anymore, but I can’t really trust ‘probably’. With an internal sigh, I focused on the arc of its movement, changing it to be downwards instead. It clattered onto the tarmac, and he whipped his head over to look at it, confused. Which was a mistake, as he probably realized when I kicked him full-force in the gut.

His breath burst out of him in a surprised whuff, and he tumbled backwards. That should keep him down, if he knew what was good for him. He almost certainly didn’t: gangs don’t tend to recruit from the sharper side of the drawer. Still, I always hoped that this time someone would exceed my expectations.

He growled weakly, propping himself up. Apparently not. Ah well.

I took a step towards him, but something pulled me from behind, stopping me. It was my cape; one of these little shits thought they were clever. The pressure quickly turned into a yank, and I was pulled backwards. Only for a moment, though, because almost immediately, there were four rapid pops, and the pressure was gone. I turned to find the large man, the one who’d eaten gravel before, sitting on his ass, holding my now-detached cape in one hand and looking like a little lost puppy.

They always think they’re being so clever. They watched some cartoon as a kid, and think that they’re the first person to have thought of it. They're not. My cape, a half-length piece of grey fabric, attaches at the shoulders with snap buttons. Put a decent amount of pressure on it and it comes right off, usually overbalancing the person pulling on it. At first it was funny, but I’ve been doing this for a year and half, and now it’s just annoying.

So these guys weren't going to go down easily. Fine. I'd just have to figure out how to make them. The big man was still on the ground, I could see the gunman trying to sneak around behind me in the corner of my eye, and the growl from behind me meant that the third one was probably going to try and tackle me or jump on me. They were finally wising up, trying for three on one. Props to them for that at least.

The growling grew louder, and I spun around to catch the chain-weilder leaping at me. I stepped out of the way, and as he passed, I used my power to turn his momentum sideways, towards the gunman. He yelped as he suddenly changed direction, tumbling through the air and clipping his compatriot, knocking out one of his legs and sending them both to the ground. I hopped back a few steps to where the chain was still lying on the ground and picked it up, swinging it around a few times and testing the weight. To his credit, the big man didn't hesitate: he charged straight at me, bellowing in anger. I let him get close, then sidestepped again, and ducked underneath his outstretched arm. As I did so, I flicked the chain out to my side, occupying the space I'd just left, directly in front of his legs. His forward momentum did the rest. The chain wrapped around him, the spikes digging in and binding his legs together. He let out a cry of raw pain as he fell, eating tarmac for what would hopefully be the last time.

The other two were just getting up, obviously tired and sore. I charged towards them, not wanting to give them any time to collect themselves. The one closer to me, the gunman, threw a wild punch with his off-hand as I approached. I caught his arm with both hands, still moving forward, using my motion and his to flip him completely over and slam him onto the ground. Without looking, I immediately kicked out backwards, and was rewarded with a solid impact. Someone trying to sneak up on you is always a safe bet in these situations. I spun low into a punch, a rising uppercut into the other thug's core. Still off-balance from the kick, it knocked him clean off his feet, sending him flying backwards. That was the second time now I'd hit him there: if he didn't stay down this time he'd probably do some serious damage to himself. I looked back to check on the gunman, and found him exactly as I'd left him. Alright then. Three down, one to go...

Hold on. Why hadn't the woman done anything to help these three? She'd been here the whole time, why wouldn't she-

I spun around just in time to see her face, teeth bared and lips pulled back. I couldn't see the rest of her because it was obscured by the giant column of white flame bearing down on me.