How Superpowers Work (1.12)

The Heights was not a neighborhood but a long, curving street in the Fort, a section of town full of streets with names like that. No one was quite sure why it was called the Fort. There had been a couple actual naval forts down by the harbor, but no fortification or military installation had ever sat in the hills.

The common tourist explanation was that the Fort was the part of the city north of Fortieth Street, but people had been calling the ritzy uphill part of town the Fort before the area’s boundary was recognized to stretch that far.

To the people in Fort Hills, the Fort-iest part of the Fort, it still didn’t.

The Heights ironically were not up in the hills. The street curved around them, weaving between them. The house numbering could be tricky because it actually doubled back around, crossing itself in the middle. On a map, it looked like a bit like a really sad, drunken infinity symbol.

J.J. route to work took some special consideration until she made it out of the Fort. The Heights wasn’t the only street that didn’t go straight. A lot of streets that looked like through-streets weren’t and a good number of ones that didn’t, were. There were a lot of gates and a lot of neighborhoods that might as well have been gated, the way people reacted if a stranger walked through.

It had taken J.J. lot of careful research and some trial and error to pick a relatively straightforward path where she wouldn’t offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities. Whiteness helped a bunch, there as in other areas.

The streets were pretty quiet around the Fort, though busier in the morning than they had been during her trip home the night before. With more people out strolling, jogging, and walking dogs, J.J. found herself more than a little self-conscious.

An accomplished long-distance walker, she was used to outpacing the average pedestrian by a good bit, but… yeah. She was moving really fast. Almost too fast. Her gait hadn’t changed, but her usual skip-walk was faster than a jog.

She didn’t feel any faster. The world around her just seemed like it was that much slower. It was like everything had kicked into a higher gear: body, brain, everything.

She slowed down, and the world snapped back to normal. She sped up, just a bit, just enough to catch the change as it happened, then slowed down again.

No wonder I didn’t realize how fast I got home last night, she thought. Then she wondered how fast she could really go, if she tried. What if she ran?

Better be careful, she told herself. You’ve already got one cop on your behind for suspected superpowers. Get to work, make it through the day, figure this out later.

She made it to the receiving dock a good fifteen minutes earlier than usual despite her best efforts to pace herself. She continued trying to pace herself throughout the work day, where she never seemed to run out of energy, hurt herself, or even strain herself lifting the heaviest load. She resisted the temptation to try to lift something really heavy. If someone saw her, she might get fired for a safety violation.

It was rare for her to get through a shift without pain in at least one joint or her back, but she felt as good coming out of it as she had going in.

On the way home, she took a detour. There was a hiking and biking tail that wound its way through a large part of Calvary Crossing, following an old canal that cut across the city. It was tucked out of sight of the ground level city, actually passing under most of the streets it crossed and only coming up where it intersected several parks.

Because it was out of sight and because you couldn’t exactly hop on or off it whenever you needed to, the trail wasn’t regarded as safe. J.J. knew that some stretches of it were, but she’d never taken the plunge and tried to use it as a cross-town shortcut. She passed a sign for an entrance a couple blocks from the warehouse every day on her way to work, though, and she knew that the trail ended at Rampart Hills Park, ensconced in one of the loops of The Heights.

If this works, I’m going to shave a lot of time off my commute.

J.J. secured her ski mask, double-tied her shoelaces, and pulled her hood extra tight. She thought about trying to do a proper runner’s stance, but she had no idea how those actually worked. Also, this wasn’t a sprint and she wasn’t trying to beat anyone, so getting a quick start off at the non-existent gun wasn’t important. She’d never done much running on purpose. It was probably best to start out walking, then speed up, and maybe break into a jog or a run when she hit her stride.

She hit her stride pretty quickly. J.J. had never been able to run for very far without getting a stitch in her side or a shooting pain in her shins. She’d always had some muscle, but she’d never exactly been fit. Jogging was as easy as walking, though, and it wasn’t that much harder for her to bear down and run.

She didn’t feel like she was running in slow motion. She was moving at regular speed, but again, everything else was moving slow. She saw a great big black bird, startled by her approach, beat its wings to vault out of her way. She could see every detail of its too-slow movement, could see well ahead of time that it wasn’t going to make it, and so she pushed off the ground, lifting her legs, and barreled over it.

The bouncing roll she achieved when she landed on the pavement on the far side of the crow and kept going didn’t feel very graceful, but she had an inkling that it would have looked amazing, and it certainly didn’t hurt. She was afraid she’d totaled her jacket or her jeans or her bodysuit or all of them, but she didn’t want to stop and check.

She had never felt so alive, so powerful.

When she made it to Rampart Hills, she checked the stopwatch on her phone. It had just turned over to nine minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Time was still running slow, even though she’d stopped moving. She tried to count one-Mississippi in her head. As near as she could tell, her personal clock was somewhere between three and four times faster than actual life. It took a moment of standing still and doing nothing for her perception of time to slip back to normal.

Whatever “normal” even meant.

She’d gone almost five miles on the hiking trail according to the mile markers. It had taken her about a sixth of an hour, so that was… thirty miles an hour. Give or take.

If she was seeing things three times as fast, that meant she’d been running about ten miles an hour from her point of view. Not exactly super speed, at least until you got into the weird time dilation thingy, and even then…

J.J. wasn’t a sports hound, but she had an inkling the fastest non-enhanced runners in the world fell somewhere shy of thirty miles per hour. And that was for stuff like the hundred-meter dash. She’d ran for miles and felt like she could run a marathon at the same speed.

If nothing else, this would simplify getting around. The three or four hours she spent on her round-trip commute every workday could be cut to about half an hour, easy, with padding. That was like getting more than two hours of her life back, every work day. She’d been worried about she would do when the winter weather really rolled in, when the biting wind blew between the buildings and piled snow made some of her sidewalks impassable.

Well, the snow might still make things interesting, but she had a feeling she’d be able to cope with it.

At least the cold’ll never bother me, anyway, she thought, and then lost it, just started laughing out loud there in the park.

Superpowers! She had superpowers. Or something close enough to superpowers, anyway.

She hadn’t had them before the thing with the statue. It stood to reason that whatever she’d been exposed to from inside the statue had done something to her. Was it permanent? Had it changed her, or just sort of… super charged her? If it was a charge, would it run out with time or use, or both?

She was about to bring up a browser and do a search for “how superpowers work” when something else occurred to her. She hadn’t seen a single person during her cross-town jaunt, and if anyone else had seen her, it probably would have been a fleeting glimpse.

Still, thirty miles per hour wasn’t exactly faster than the eye could follow, and her clothing was kind of distinctive, and exactly what she had been wearing the night before.

She dug the detective’s card out of her pocket. It was probably better for her if he found out from her before someone saw her doing something and it was all over the news or something.

She started punching in the number when her phone suddenly lost all signal.

“Dang it!” J.J. said. “Don’t tell me that interfering with phone communications is one of my powers.”

“No,” a woman’s voice said. “It’s one of mine.”

J.J. turned around. There was a woman, white with very short, slicked-back blonde hair in a sharply tailored black suit and a pair of wraparound shades. She leaned against a black SUV.

“You drove past my house this morning,” J.J. said.

“It’s not your house.”

“It’s a co-op. I’m a member. I have equity in it.”

“That isn’t all you have,” the woman said. “My name is Cassandra Davies. Department 4B is very interested in people like you, Ms. Masterson.”

“Aw, crullers.”

 


SUGAR SNAP PEAS, BATFANS! This concludes issue #1 of Secret Sisterhood of Superheroes. Issue #2 begins July 16th! Subscribe via the form in the sidebar to receive alerts every time a new chapter is posted!