(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Carlos was written by Ryan T. Nelson.)
“Who are we waiting for again?”
“I am waiting for Miss. Blanchard. You are being a pain in my butt.”
“But true, Richard. You know there’s no reason you need to be hanging out here right?” Carlos asked and turned to look back over his shoulder at Richard.
The both of them were in their early teens, at best. Richard shook his head to get some of his unruly blond hair out of his eyes and shrugged nonchalantly. “There’s not much reason for me not to be either,” he countered.
Carlos sighed. “Dude, just, go on patrol or something, ok? It’s not like this lady can hurt me or anything. There’s rules to this interview… thing.”
“Oh I didn’t think she was gonna try to hurt you or anything.” Richard grinned. “I’m just here to watch you fall on your face.” A moment later a ceramic sink shattered against the back of his head, sending Richard tumbling to the ground from his previous perch atop a stack of wrecked cars. “Hey!” he shouted, picking himself up off the dirt. “Totally uncalled for, Dude.”
“Oh relax, it’s not like it hurt you at all.”
“Entirely beside the point, Man. That was rude.”
“Sorry, just get out of here. Interviews are supposed to be one on one.”
Richard frowned and stuck his tongue out at his friend.
“Spoil sport,” he muttered, but he didn’t sound too upset as he stood, brushed himself off, and leaped away. Literally. He crouched and leaped, shooting suddenly thirty feet into the air, over three rows of parked vehicles where he landed behind a truck. A moment later he appeared again, leaping over more stacks of debris until he was out of sight.
Carlos sighed and sat down on an overturned bucket. Wearing tennis shoes, an old pair of worn jeans and a t-shirt he didn’t look like much more than a kid. He ran his fingers back through short cut, black hair and stretched while he waited.
The Yard. Simple enough name for a simple enough place. A junk yard, a very large one, owned by Jackson’s dad. They got everything from wrecked cars to motorcycles to construction equipment in there. It mixed together the best parts of a typical scrap yard and a pick-apart. You pay a small fee to get in, bring your own tools, and you can pull any part from any vehicle you want. Then they charge you for the part on the way out.
Carlos looked up when the sound of footsteps crunching over dirt and gravel reached his ears, and he stood to his full five foot three inch height and held his hands calmly at his sides, waiting for his guests arrival.
Kelly took in her surroundings as she walked. A junkyard. Well, this was the first time she’d held an interview in such a location, but that was fine with her as she was always up for something new.
Stepping around a pile of metal and junk, Kelly saw a young man standing there waiting for her. He looked to be in his teens, and he stood a few inches shorter than her, but she gave him a gracious smile as she approached just like she always did to the kids she tutored in real life. “Hi. You must be Carlos. I’m Kelly Blanchard.” She held out her hand to shake his. “Thanks for meeting me. Unusual place for an interview,” she nodded to their surroundings before looking back at him with a smile, “But it holds some importance to you, I take it?”
Carlos accepted the offered hand, giving it a polite shake before turning, and looking around the Yard. “Yes, actually. The owner is my friend’s dad, and we come here to talk when we need some privacy. It’s pretty easy to hide in the stacks around here so it’s simple to keep people from overhearing us.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets, not exactly sure what to do with them, but he smiled politely despite an obvious case of nerves.
“Well, that’s quite fantastic—although I am tempted to look around and see what I can build with random stuff because…well, that’s just what I do.” Being an author Kelly always created new things, but she wanted to focus on the conversation. “So, shall we sit or walk around? Either is fine with me. But tell me a bit about yourself.”
“Walking is good. There’s a couple things I’d like to show you, if you don’t mind.” He gestured for Kelly to follow and started walking between the cars toward the furthest end of the property. “My name is Carlos, I’m fourteen years old in my Freshman year in High School. Year’s just about over at this point though, so I’ll be in tenth grade next September.” He scratched his chin thoughtfully for a second. “Not to be difficult but I’d rather not say what state I live in or my last name. We’ve made enemies, and I think we’ll only make more as time goes on, so I’d rather not put my family at any more risk if I can help it, does that make sense?”
Kelly nodded as she followed him. “Makes sense, and I won’t press it. However, you’re quite young to already have enemies. I do know you’re one of the…gifted, I suppose you could say. I’m not sure what you call yourself, and I’m assuming that has something to do with you having enemies?”
Carlos nodded, a sense of gratitude washing through him that Kelly understood his concerns. “Yes, that’s right. Richard made up the term Human+.” He pronounced the word ‘plus’ when he said it. “We’re still human,” he hastened to assure Kelly. “But since a few weeks ago… well, we’re a little more now. So Human+ seemed like an appropriate term.”
They rounded a corner in the rows of cars and trucks, and Carlos led her to the right along the back wall until they came to a half circle of cleared space, the high wall running along their left and a strange-looking firing range was set up with targets consisting of car parts, soda bottles and cans, and even a large washing machine with several circles painted on it like an archery target. The machine was dented and scratched from numerous impacts. “Mark set this up about a week after it happened so we could practice. Well, mostly me. Richard isn’t much good with range.”
“Ah this is awesome!” Kelly took it all in with a grin. “Better than my own archery target setup back at home.” She glanced back at Carlos. “So what’s your ability?”
“I can manipulate gravity fields.” He smiled brightly. “It’s actually way more useful than it sounds at first.” Stooping down he scooped up a handful of rocks and juggled them for a moment, shifting them from one hand to the next before he selected one and held it up, centered on the palm of his right hand. “Watch this.” He turned, faced the washing machine and held his hand out. A moment later the rock, about the size of his thumb, floated an inch above his hand and hung there suspended in the air. He lowered his hand, leaving the rock where it was and turned back to Kelly. “I changed the pull of gravity acting on that rock so it’s in a neutral state. It’ll hang there pretty much forever, i think. I’m not sure what would happen if I walked away and just left it.”
“Now, if I rotate its gravitational orientation, say 90 degrees, and give it two G’s worth of added push…” he held his hand out toward the rock and a moment later it shot away from them like a bullet and with a loud crack slammed right into the side of the washer, putting another dent in the metal. “I can do more than just that though. if I touch something really large I can negate its gravity and pick it up, like a car or a truck. Kinda makes it look like I’m super strong even though I’m not really. It’s all in manipulating the force of gravity on the object itself.”
“That’s awesome!” Kelly’s eyes lit with her grin. “I’ve always wondered how a superpower based on gravity would work, and you explained it quite well. That is just cool. So, how many are there of you who have these special abilities?” She raised her brows. “And your…enemies—do they possess any unique gifts or are the more like people hunting those of you with gifts or something like that?”
“Umm…” Carlos thought for a moment, counting on his fingers as he went. “Well, there were ten of us there that night. Maybe eleven, that’s been a question that’s been bugging me.”
“So far only four of us have shown any powers, including me. Me, Richard, and Jackson have powers. Largent got abilities too but he hurt people. He killed a few too.” Carlos frowned. Something dark passed across his expression. Guilt, and pain, perhaps.
A moment later the expression was gone and Carlos forced a smile. “Largent wasn’t a good guy even before he got powers, so afterwards, he was worse. Richard and I stopped him though. He attacked our school a few weeks ago, and we got into a big fight with him right in the middle of the campus.”
Kelly winced. “I bet that was a bit epic. What powers do Largent and Richard have?”
“Largent can manipulate electricity, and he can absorb it from outside sources. When he does it makes him bigger. Like, he literally grows larger the more power he sucks up.”
“Richard’s is called Tactile Telekinesis. He’s got this… shield or aura of telekinetic energy that surrounds his body all the time. It protects him from getting hurt. Like he could take a sledgehammer to the face and not even feel it. But if he touches something he can extend the aura around that object and use his mind to manipulate it. So he can fake super strength too by doing that.” He grinned again, one corner of his mouth turning up into a smirk. “When we first started to figure things out he accidentally threw a car about thirty feet here in the Yard. Made a huge mess too. And yeah, the fight was kind of nuts. We ended up hitting Largent with a cement truck in order to stop him.”
“Sounds like you guys have a lot of fun…and, of course, moments of not-so-much fun.” Kelly shook her head but with a smile. Finally though, she brought her hand up to her chin in a thoughtful pose and furrowed her brows. “So, since that fight was in the middle of campus, I’m assuming everyone saw, so everyone knows you have powers—not like you’re hiding? And answer me this, because it’s always perplexed me, who pays for all the damage of the fights you may get into?” Kelly briefly wondered if there was a ‘Superhero Insurance’ company, and if there wasn’t, then there should be because in stories like this one, it might be a good business.
“Oh, we wore masks. Me and Richard did, at least. Largent didn’t much care about people knowing who he was. Just Ski masks.” He shrugged one shoulder, hands shoved in his pockets again. “I think they make us look like we’re going to rob someone, but they hide our faces so it works, I guess.” He suddenly pulled his legs up, sitting cross legged almost two and a half feet off the ground, floating calmly and rested one elbow on his knee, his chin coming to rest on his upturned palm. “I don’t know about the damages, honestly. So far there hasn’t been a lot, we’ve only had a few fights and only the one big one with Largent. Richard does have a habit of grabbing things that are bolted to the ground and tearing them loose to use as a weapon though. I keep telling him he shouldn’t do that but it’s been working so far.” He shrugged.
“Well, if you can find someone to sponsor you and pay for any such expenses, you might be better off because I have the feeling only bigger fights are ahead of you.” Kelly nodded but watched as Carlos floated in the air, and that made her smile—too cool.
She began to meander around the homemade range then glanced back at him. “So these enemies of yours–I’m assuming it’s more than just Largent, right?” She arched her brows.
He nodded, eyes following Kelly as she poked around the range. “Yeah, Largent was always the biggest bully in our school, and you know bullies, they travel in packs. He had his friends Carter, Cassidy, and Hall. Those three haven’t shown any signs of powers yet, but we’re keeping an eye on them.” He frowned and started floating along, following beside Kelly.
“There’s an unknown element I’m not fond of either.” Carlos demeanor changed slightly, going from fourteen-year-old kid, to something more mature and concerned. “Like I said earlier there were ten of us there the night we saw the ship that gave us these powers. Me, Richard, Carter, Cassidy, Largent, Hall, Jackson, Mark, Taylor, and Amy. But the ships computer said something about there being eleven people on the ship.” He caught Kelly’s eyes with a steady gaze of his own. “None of us remembers an eleventh person there with us. But uber advanced space ships don’t strike me as the type to not now how to count to ten. So as far as we know there’s another person out there with the possibility of developing powers and we don’t have any idea if they’re good or bad or what.”
“Okay, backtrack! Space ship?” Kelly snapped her gaze around to him. She tried to remember what his Author had told her about the story, but she couldn’t remember all the details. She furrowed her brows. “Just how exactly did you get your powers?”
“I didn’t mentioned already?” Carlos thought about it for a second before realizing that he indeed had not explained. “Oops, sorry about that. Well, a few weeks ago my friends and I were having lunch at school when Richard saw Largent and his goons messing with some little kid. Long story short Richard got involved and got Largent pissed so he decided there should be a fight that night at a nearby park.” He leaned back so he was reclining in the air, legs stretched out and his fingers laced together behind his head. “I wasn’t going to go. No reason to get beat up over something stupid. But Richard went. We live next door to each other so I could tell he was gone. Anyway, I went to try and stop him. The rest of our friends showed up and the fight got started anyway. In the middle of that I saw this weird ship floating across the sky. It was shaped like an arrow head and it flew totally silent and landed behind some trees. Like a bunch of idiots we all scrambled to check it out and Largent and I were the first ones on board. The thing was empty. I mean not a thing in there. No chairs, no monitors or controls. Just floor walls and ceiling.”
“After a few minutes Jackson went to leave and he discovered the ramp we’d walked up was gone. These weird spikes started growing down from the ceiling and we were pretty much all freaking out when this computer voice said something like ‘Eleven biological targets for modification. Mutagenic Radiation Array will fire in four…three…two…one…’.” He paused and glanced over at her. “There was this really bright flash of light and the next thing I know I woke up in bed, at home. No idea how I got there. No clue what happened after the bright light. No one else remembers anything either.”
Kelly just stared at him. “I bet that was horrifying!” But then she paused and thought about the ‘eleven’ that he mentioned. “What if the eleventh was just some animal that happened to get onboard the ship too?” But then she mused on this more, “A cat, a dog, or a bird with superpowers–that would be positively terrifying.” Then she shook her head. “Doubt that’s the case though, so it’s all quite mysterious.”
She gave Carlos a quizzical look as he lounged in mid-air. For a brief moment, she wondered how quickly he’d spin in the air if she shoved his feet, but she refrained and went on to her next question, “So when did you first discover your power?”
“Uh…lets see. The fight was Wednesday night. Thursday we went to school and Largent was missing. Friday I woke up feeling like something Death brought with him in his suitcase. Sick as a dog. Slept all day and when I woke up at like three in the morning on Saturday I was floating three feet above my bed. We’ve discovered that’s the determining factor. Those of us that have show powers got really sick the day before, felt awful, slept it off and woke up feeling fine the next day.”
“The rest of my friends all got sick the same day we fought with Largent, that night Richard told me they were sick. But so far none of them have shown any powers. I’m pretty sure they’ve got them, they just haven’t discovered what it is yet, and these things didn’t exactly come with a training manual, ya know?”
“Yeah, totally understandable.” Kelly then sat on a heap of metal and looked at Carlos as she leaned forward. “So, does your family know about your powers?”
“Oh not on a bet.” He laughed quietly. “I mean…I kind of want to tell them. I think it’s exciting. But my parents would be worried sick. My little sister would love it, I’m sure. But I don’t want to worry them.” He sat up and rest his elbows on his knees again, shoulders hunched in. “It’s not easy. I mean, it’s amazing what we can do, right? But eventually, you know some government types are gonna start poking around here. If we get caught, the less my parents know, they better it’ll be for them.”
“Mark had a term for it that he used I can’t quite remember…” He snapped the fingers of his right hand several times while he tried to think of the phrase he was looking for. “Plausible deniability,” he said finally. “The less they know, the less they can tell someone. And the less trouble they’ll be in if it comes to that.”
“How old are you, Carlos?” Kelly tilted her head to a side.
“I’m fourteen. So are most of my friends. Mark just turned fifteen last week.”
“Well, considering your age then, you have raging hormones, and I’m willing to bet your powers are going to respond to all of that, and there’s a high chance of you not being able to control your powers when you want to, and as you said, there is no training manual. And at your age, you may see the girl you have a crush on in the hall, and that alone might trigger your powers in unpredictable ways.” Kelly then shrugged. “Of course, it might not work this way, but I know teenagers, and I have a pretty good idea how powers work. So are you ready for that if that were to happen? Because in the long run, I don’t see how you can keep your powers a secret especially from your family forever.”
Carlos blushed, the color appearing on his cheeks even with his darker skin. “I don’t have a crush on anyone,” he mumbled, unconvincingly. “And you’re right, I probably can’t hide it forever. But I’m scared what’ll happen if I talk to them. I mean. I can’t see my parents being happy with the idea that I’m fighting criminals and even getting into a fight with a full on super villain.” He sighed and leaned his chin on his hand again. “The other problem is that damned ship. Where’d it come from? Why’d it do this? Are there others?” he shook his head. “Until I can answer some of those questions I think I need to keep it under wraps as much as I can.
“Let me just say that, yes, your parents will likely be terrified of the idea of you going out and fighting crime. However, if they get used to the idea of you now doing Martial Arts classes or even learning how to use a gun—even though you don’t need it—it probably won’t be a huge shock to them when you finally reveal the truth.” Kelly then shrugged. “At least, that’s what I would do. Now though, looking into that ship is a good idea. I’m assuming there was no trace at it where you had found it originally though, right?” She tilted her head. “How are you going about investigating it?”
“Yeah, nothing was there when we went to look the next day. The grass wasn’t even crushed from where it landed. It’s like it was never there. And so far we haven’t been able to find anything. I mean, the only options we’ve got at the moment are just checking online, looking at the conspiracy boards and all that. I know, not exactly hard facts. But so far no one has mentioned anything like what we saw.” He spread his hands helplessly. “I don’t really know what to do in looking for the ship, or number eleven. The gang has all kinda looked to me to be in charge of us and I’m just floundering around. But we’re keeping our eyes and ears open. Richard is tracking every sighting he can find, he’s our expert on that kinda stuff.”
“That’s good. At least you have someone like that.” Kelly rose to her feet. She knew their time was almost up, but she still have some time left to ask a few more questions.
She went to the target that had been set up and examined it before turning back to Carlos with furrowed brows. “So what will you do in the meantime?”
He shrugged again. “Go to school. Classes were canceled after the fight with Largent. He killed the school’s principal and did some damage so the last couple weeks we’ve been out. Class starts back up tomorrow so that’s the plan. Go to school, hang out with my friends and try to learn what their powers are. Richard and I take turns with the police scanner and try to help when we can. But other than that, just keep on like we have and look for answers where we can.”
Kelly stared at him. “He killed the school principal??” Her eyes widened before narrowing with anger, and she thinned her lips. “You said Largent doesn’t care if people know about his powers and his identity. You know he’ll likely attract attention of the government, who may try to take him in, and I’m assuming he knows about you. Who’s to say he weren’t tell them about you just because?”
Carlos gave her a sad smile. “That very thing keeps me up at night, Miss. Blanchard. He disappeared after we stopped him. No one know’s where he is and he know’s who we are. It wouldn’t be hard for him to find us if he really wanted to. The very idea terrifies me.”
He lowered his feet and stood on the ground again, lanky and thin and not particularly imposing to look at. “But I can’t live in fear, can I? I can’t threaten him, or hurt him to keep him silent. I’m supposed to be one of the good guys, right? And the good guy has to have a higher moral code, doesn’t he?”
“It’s going to get out. I’m not deluding myself into thinking I can really keep things a secret forever. But if I spend every day too scared to do anything the bad guys have already one. What’s that phrase? ‘The only thing Evil needs to win, is for a good man to stand by and do nothing’. Well, I can’t just do nothing, Miss. Blanchard. I might be too young for all this. I might not be mature enough or experienced enough. But i have these powers. My friends have these powers. I can’t stand by and just do nothing.”
“I’m glad you’re not allowing fear to control you. However, I will say this: rarely is it as simply as good and evil, right and wrong. Do what you know is right—not because of what others may think or so, but rather so your conscience remains clear.” Kelly walked up to him and considered him as a young man with a rough road ahead of him. “You have difficult times ahead of you. I wish I could give you some words of encouragement or something you can hang onto in those dark times, but all I can say is, be careful, be alert, and never assume anything.” With that, she gave him a smile. “Now though, I must get going. Thanks for having me! I hope you the best.” With a gesture, she opened a portal that led her back to her own world, and she passed through, waving once more at Carlos before the portal closed.
Carlos watched the portal open, naked fascination written across his face, and gave a small wave as she stepped through and disappeared.
“That was interesting.”
“You suck at listening, Richard,” Carlos sighed and turned to face his friend. “Didn’t I tell you to go on patrol or something?”
Richard grinned. “I chose the ‘or something’.” Carlos just rolled his eyes but smiled and held a fist up. Richard jumped down off the pile of debris he had been standing on and walked up, bumping Carlos’ closed fist with his own.
“We don’t stand by and do nothing, right?” he said and Carlos nodded. Richard threw an arm around his shoulder and the two started walking away.
“Come on, Man. Movie marathon at my house, the whole gang is coming. We’re bingeing Jackie Chan films tonight.”
They walked away, leaving the practice range behind and taking a night to just be kids, having fun with their friends.
The first of book Ryan T. Nelson’s ‘The Human+’ series, ‘Gravity+’ can be found on Amazon here:
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