The following is a complete work of fiction.
This is my first City of Heroes Fan Fiction. If you are not a person who knows the City of Heroes MMPRPG, some of this story may not make sense. However, like my X-Universe Fan Fictions, I have written enough background into the story that I believe it is accessible to anyone who likes science fiction and comic book worlds.
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City of Heroes - Book 1
Awakenings - Chapter 2
I scrutinized my reflection again, jutting my chin forward while I ran my thumb along my jaw. Shaving used to be easy. I never had a problem with getting a smooth, clean shave when I had a dark, maturing beard. Since I woke up in the hospital, I'd skipped maturing and gone straight to ancient. White. My hair was Santa-esque and I wasn't even twenty yet. Grumbling as I found a few nearly invisible missed whiskers; I picked up the disposable razor and scraped them away. My face looked like I'd run it through a sand blaster. I'd probably taken off more skin than hair.
"Jason, we're going to the mall, not a ball, you don't have to be beautiful." Dr. Perrin sounded both amused and annoyed. I still couldn't believe my doctor was taking me clothes shopping.
"I'm trying for presentable, not miracles!" I yelled through the bathroom door. "You try shaving invisible hair and see how long it takes you!"
She laughed, and I heard the sound of her wheeling back down the hall. "Try shaving your legs when you have no sense of feeling in them, Jason, and then you can bitch at me about the color of your whiskers."
Okay, she had a point. I tugged at my hair, eyeing the quarter inch or so of pure white rising up from my scalp below my old dark brown. Being in the gang I hadn't cared much about my looks. Hell, staying less than appealing was important. The last thing I'd needed was one of the guys thinking I had a pretty mouth. I dropped my razor in the cup that held my few items from the hospital: generic tooth brush, a tube of ultra-white with fluoride, one "unbreakable" comb and the now-too-dull razor. They looked pathetic compared to the neat, orderly, clean, perfect, tools of personal grooming on the other side of the sink. Urioch's kit was all steel and black, like something out of Sharper Image. His shit was cool as hell.
Dr. Perrin shook her head as I came out of the bathroom and tossed my towel at my bed through the door. "You look beautiful, Jason. I've only got half a day here."
"I think I'm old enough to go to the store on my own." Of course, I had no clue how to find the campus book store, or half the places that had been recommended to me for safe shopping. I could read; there were signs; I'd manage.
She just smiled at me. It was the smile an older relative, maybe a big sister, would give her younger sibling. Why the fuck did she like me? Dr. Perrin started laughing. "You might as well ask those questions out loud, Jason. You're projecting them so strongly that there's just no point ignoring them."
I glared at her. I hated it when she read me. I hated it more that she was telling the truth; she hadn't been trying. "So, why do you?"
Her smile softened, and I felt a touch of sadness and regret, but mostly her smile matched the feeling of fond memories I sensed. "You remind me of Patrick." Nodding her head at the door, she wheeled out of the living room. "Let's get moving. We can talk and walk."
I didn't push for any more information until we were out of the building and heading towards the Tram Station. "Who's Patrick?"
"My brother." She smiled as she pushed her way up the sidewalk.
I eyed her ultra-light sports chair. She'd put on workout gloves as we rode down the elevator, and I was amazed at how fluidly she kept the chair moving over the uneven cement. "And what about me reminds you of your brother," I asked, hoping she wouldn't leave me hanging.
The bus pulled up and Dr. Perrin wheeled to the handicap lift. "Let's leave that for another day, Jason. I don't want to inflate your ego this soon after a hospital stay. It might hamper your recovery."
"You're not serious," I complained.
"Mostly," she replied, her eyes glinting with humor as she hit the button to make the lift go up. "And, Jason, away from the office I prefer being called Amanda. Dr. Perrin makes me feel old."
God. This was going to be a long day.
There should have been a law against letting women take guys shopping. I'd have been happy with the army surplus or Wally World. By the time Amanda was done with me, my feet were killing me. The bitch had no mercy. I could barely carry all the shit.
"The least you could do is hold some of this stuff in your lap while I try to get my keys." I felt like I was juggling two elephants, a hippo, and a flock of ostriches. "You made me buy all this shit."
"Jason, you are such a whiner." She pulled about three packages from my load and shook her head. "You get all new clothes, school books, a stereo, shoes, have an application in with the department for a portable computer, and you're complaining about the burden."
"You aren't the one whose arms are about to fall off," I grumbled through clenched teeth as I struggled to get my key out of my jeans pocket.
Amanda shifted her bags and rolled her eyes. "Jason, just float the damn things."
I paused, looking at her like she'd just revealed the mystery of the ages. "I hadn't thought of that."
"Obviously," she replied flatly, but her lips turned up at the corners.
The packages lifted into the air without so much as a firm thought. "That is so cool."
She laughed. "You're powers, Jason, not mine."
I got the apartment door open and floated the packages in ahead of us. "Yeah, yeah. I'm not used to having the option. Okay?"
"Okay." She looked at her watch. "My shift starts in an hour."
"Want something to drink?"
"Anything with caffeine."
Amanda wheeled in while I took my loot to my room. I could hear the shower going; Urioch was home. I came back out to the living room and crossed to the kitchen. The fridge was stocked with lots of healthy things. Not a soda in sight. "Uhm... we've got some ice tea." I pulled it out and sniffed it. "Not sure if it's sweetened."
"That's fine." She pulled up to the island and looked through the stack of paperbacks on the corner. "He certainly reads a lot, doesn't he?"
I shrugged, opening cabinets until I found the glasses. "Ice?"
"Sure." She studied the titles, sorting the books as she went.
Handing her a glass tea, I put the pitcher back in the fridge. "The guy's a book worm on speed."
Amanda nodded. "There is a wide variety of books in this stack."
"I like to keep my reading as diverse as possible," Urioch commented as he walked into the living room. "Good afternoon, Dr. Perrin." He smiled from her to me. "I see you've moved in, Jason."
"Uhm, yeah." I blinked a couple times. I hadn't imagined him being hairy. I also had to look twice as he finished toweling down his hair. He had no nipples. That was just fucking weird. Everyone had nipples, didn't they? I was also a little intimidated. I'd always kept myself in good shape, especially in the gang, but he made me look like a fucking wimp. Of course, he was also about eight inches taller than me. I frowned as I caught Amanda smiling at me. "What?"
She sipped her tea and her smile deepened. "Two attractive men. One nearly naked. Why shouldn't I smile?"
"That isn't why you're smiling," I accused. Why was I feeling flushed? There was no way I was blushing.
"Oh? Why is it I'm smiling then, Mr. Empath?" Amanda challenged me with her eyes. After a moment, I looked away.
"I don't fucking care..." I skirted around the edge of the island. "Thanks for the help. I've got shit to unpack." I didn't need to have a stare down with a crip. We both knew she was yanking my chain. "See you next week."
Amanda stayed for a little while after I went to my room. I heard her talking with Urioch. I didn't listen. I had to get my shit put away and get my stuff ready for classes on Monday. Patterson actually managed to get me into Paragon University for the summer semester. The old bitch annoyed the shit out of me, but she did what she said she would. I didn't have to like her, but I guess I didn't need to give her any grief either. We were stuck for the next five years. I'd manage to be civil if she would.
I was pulled out of my clothes-packing-induced trance by a soft knock on the doorframe. Urioch stood there, in jeans and a dark blue tee. I wasn't used to seeing him out of his metal power suit or without the alien technology monocle he wore. "Are you hungry?"
I shrugged. I felt bad for just walking out on Amanda. I'd just been so fucking uncomfortable, kind of like a trapped animal. I had to run. "Haven't eaten since lunch."
Urioch cocked his head to the side, regarding me curiously. "That was not an answer, Jason."
I groaned. It was just my luck that I picked a roommate who took everything literally. "Yeah, I'm hungry."
"Do you have any food allergies?"
I rolled my eyes. "Didn't you read my medical data?"
He glanced at me, his smile slipping to a neutral expression. "I was not given your medical information. Were you provided mine before the room assignment?"
"No," I sighed, closing the last drawer. "I just thought because you're my parole officer that you'd have that kind of info."
"I am not your parole officer, Jason. I am your roommate. You will meet your Parole Officer at your program orientation. " He pulled his hand from the doorframe and stepped back into the hall. "I intend to go out for a meal and hoped that you would join me."
Ok, I felt like a shit. Why was it so hard to accept he was just that fucking nice? "Shellfish," I blurted out before he could turn away. "I'm allergic to shellfish. An iodine allergy."
Urioch smiled again. It was warm, sincere, and made me wish I could just be that cool. "Did you obtain all your school and training texts?"
Groaning, I sat on the edge of my bed. "No. Finding the fucking things is like being on a scavenger hunt. I have my school books, but a couple of the texts for my training are just weird."
"Do you have the list?"
He stepped in as I nodded. I handed him the list and he looked it over briefly. "We can obtain the majority of these books at Ceridwyn's Cauldron or Pandora's." He handed the sheet back. "We can enjoy a meal at Ceridwyn's as well. Kill two birds with one stone, as you humans say." He raised an eyebrow at me. "Do you drink coffee?"
I grinned; he looked like a muscle bound Spock, but better looking. "Yeah, I love double-espressos."
"Then we will try Ceridwyn's. If Jonathan does not have your texts, then we will stop at Pandora's before returning home."
I followed on his heels. I'd never heard of either of those places. "So, where are these stores?"
Pulling open the door, Urioch smiled. "Steel Canyon."
For people who had never been to the structured chaos known as Paragon City, there were a few traveling tips any visitor had to know. First, the city was broken into zones that were separated by security walls. Yes, it sounded militant and it was, but Paragon wasn't a normal place. Sure, there were super heroes and places of power all over the world, but Paragon was a weirdness magnet. If the world was going to be invaded by space aliens, like the Rikti, Paragon would be, without fail, the place they would invade. Supernatural events, giant nuclear fire breathing monsters, and the return of ancient gods were all just part of the local history. In the movies, Tokyo was always the target for big, ugly monsters and alien invasions. In the real world, it was Paragon. As such, the city was segregated into walled zones. Each zone was broken into districts. Each zone had its own look, personality and economy. Until the Rikti Invasion, I'd lived with my parents in Atlas Park. After the world went to shit, I'd spent the last few years in Kings Row. Now that I was a "Cape in Training," I lived with a weird alien in Galaxy City. Even for a local, Paragon City was confusing.
I hadn't been in Steel Canyon in nearly seven years. My parents had been city employees, not millionaires. We'd come for the dedication of one of the statues, or parks, or something. I hadn't paid attention. I was twelve. My attention had been captured by the sky scrapers, taller than anything I'd ever seen, which seemed to reach for miles into the sky. Of course, they didn't reach miles, not even a half mile, but as Urioch and I got off the tram and stepped out of the station, none of that mattered. I was caught, again, by a sense of wonder I hadn't realized I could still feel. The place was awe inspiring.
Urioch nudged me out of my open mouthed amazement before heading for the ramps. "Impressive sight, is it not?"
"Yeah," I breathed, as I followed him down the ramps. In Kings Row there weren't any buildings over ten stories. Okay, there were, but not in my neighborhood, the Gish. The smallest buildings here were at least a hundred stories tall, or taller. "Is Ceridwyn's Cauldron in one of those?"
Urioch chuckled. "No, Jonathan is a man of more modest means." He gestured to the West as we got down to the sidewalk. "Ceridwyn's is across Ginry Ridge Park from Steel Canyon Medical. Pandora's is North of that, just above the Independence Port tunnel."
"Good thing I bought new sneakers," I laughed, looking passed the towering buildings to the West Wall in the distance, "that's going to be a long walk."
Urioch frowned. "I usually fly." As quickly as the frown appeared, it was gone. "The walk will be a pleasant change."
If only it had been that simple. Though the Skulls and Hellions primarily fought over territory in Kings Row, Atlas Park, Galaxy City and Perez Park, Steel Canyon, for all it's shine and shimmer, wasn't any safer. Steel had its own problems with crime; hell, all of Paragon did. Dusk wasn't the best time in the world to walk the streets anywhere in Paragon City.
"Hey, skin head!"
Urioch stopped as four figures stepped out of the elongating shadows of the buildings. The guy who'd called out wasn't a bruiser, but something about him felt powerful. Maybe it was because I could feel his confidence and his contempt, but he made me nervous.
"Hand over your wallets and we won't have to mess up your boy-toy's pretty face."
I flinched, but Urioch didn't even blink. He just shifted, ever so slightly, into a more solid stance as he spoke. "You should reconsider your life choices, Outcast. You will come to regret your illegal activities."
Outcasts. The Outcasts boasted that they were Nature's Fury, because they had the powers of the elements at their command. The average Outcast made a Skull or Hellion look like a chump. A group of Outcasts offered a buffet selection of ways to die; electrocution, incineration, being frozen, or simply smashed into the pavement were all equally unappealing ends.
"What are you, a bleeding heart social worker? We gave the last social bitch who tried to tell us what to do something to remember us by." His chuckle was echoed by the others and met with a few nods. I could think of a half dozen very unpleasant remembrances that he might have meant.
"How unfortunate you didn't listen to her." Urioch's voice deepened. It went from his normal, musically undertoned voice to something with a darker, harsher undercurrent "Leave." Lifting his hand, blue white light erupted from it, swirling like a living thing that cast aside the ever lengthening shadows on the street.
The Outcast boss stepped back, surprised. "Fuck, a cape."
I grinned. "Missed the pointed ears huh?"
"Smart mouthed boy-toy," he snarled, his hands crackling with power of his own. "I'm gonna put your lips to good use after we drop your daddy."
Okay, he was a Shocker. Joy. I barely had enough time to roll before he unleashed a bolt of lightning at me. Thank God for Coach Jensen in High School. He'd always made us do back rolls, falls and such. I looked back up in time to see Urioch unleash an energy torrent that threw Shocker and two of his cronies about ten yards back and onto their asses. The fourth Outcast, however, distorted in a mystical aura as his hands shifted into what looked like living rock. He swung, hitting Urioch square across the face, and sent him staggering back, stunned. Was that blood? My mind reeled at the sight of Urioch wiping away something dark from his lip.
"Jason, run." Urioch swung at the Brick, ducking under the rock-fisted Outcast's punch, and energy flared as he hit the man square in the chest. The Brick flew back, smashing into the wall of the nearest building, and sank to his knees.
The Shocker was back on his feet, and raised his hands. "I always get a charge out of a good fight."
God! Why did all the super powered bad guys have to come up with corny lines like that? The Bone Daddies did, the Damned did, and apparently the boss Outcasts did too. I groaned, furrowing my brow as I tried something of my own. "Oh, shut up!"
Electricity arched wide as my thoughts wrapped around the Shocker's wrists and I yanked him skyward. He wasn't anything close to as big as a two hundred and twenty pound orderly. The Shocker struggled against the invisible restraints I held him in, his feet kicking against the air; the strain was giving me a headache. I'd never had to hold onto something with my psychokinesis that was struggling.
Urioch took full advantage of the confusion. He was precise, efficient, and effective; in less than a minute, the fight was over. Urioch pulled out his Freedom Corps communicator and hit the crime-call button. After we heard the acknowledgement signal, he turned to me with a frown. I didn't like when he frowned at me. "I told you to run."
That pissed me off. I looked up at him and frowned right back. "I'm not a limp wristed fag, Urioch. I've been dealing with assholes like these for years."
His hand came up at my face, and I flinched. Instead of hitting me, he cupped my jaw with his palm and his thumb ran gently under my nose, along my upper lip. His eyes held mine for a moment before they dropped to where his thumb traced. Pulling his hand back, he rubbed the smear of blood between his thumb and forefinger as he let out a soft exhale. "You're eyes look clear, but you gave yourself a nose bleed."
Why the fuck was I short of breath? All he'd done was check if I'd burned out a brain cell or fifty. He must have had some residual energy wicking from his hands because I could still feel a tingle where his palm had pressed against my jaw. Why had I assumed he was going to hit me? Mumbling, I looked away, "Gave myself a headache too, but that isn't anything new."
Incarceration units soared over head and hit the fallen gang members with transit beams. They faded away in a loud hum and crackling of power. Urioch watched the bots fly off, probably on their way to another crime-call, and then looked back at me. "Do you feel well enough to continue to the Cauldron, or would you prefer to return home?"
"Headache won't feel any better at the apartment than at the Cauldron. I'd hate to come all this way for nothing."
"Very practical of you, Jason." Urioch nodded, and continued on our way to the coffee shop. "Fortunately, the Cauldron is close enough to the hospital that, if your discomfort becomes too great, we can get you some medical attention quickly."
"Worry wart," I grunted, rolling my eyes as I fell into step beside him. My legs weren't feeling as stable as my bravado, but I wasn't going to tell him that.
"Would you prefer I did not care?" He asked in such a neutral, non-judgmental tone that I actually stopped in my tracks.
"Why would you think that?"
Pausing, he turned to look at me again. "I only desire to keep from making you uncomfortable, Jason. The best way to know what someone wants or does not want is to ask."
Fuck. I looked away. He actually thought I wanted him not to care? He was still waiting for an answer when I finally met his eyes. "No... I'm just not used to it."
Nodding, he continued on down the sidewalk. "I will strive not to be unnecessarily concerned, Jason. In return, I ask that you strive to accept the fact that my concern is sincere and do not discount it."
He couldn't be more direct than that. Why the hell was it so hard just to say yes? I shrugged, trying not to look like I gave a shit. "Okay."
I could see the trees and the rise of Gimry Ridge Park when Urioch stopped and gestured to his right. "Ceridwyn's Cauldron."
I looked at the two story building, so similar to those in Atlas or Galaxy, and saw nothing of any interest. It looked like a plain old building to me, no coffee shop or stores worth investigating. I frowned. "Oh, joy."
Urioch looked puzzled by my dry, flat response. "You seem unimpressed."
I snorted. "Well, a nondescript building with no signs, no brightly lit cafe windows with happy customers inside, and no foot traffic isn't very inspiring."
Cocking his head, Urioch moved behind me, crouched down and stared at the building. If I didn't know that he had no sense of humor, I'd have sworn he was trying to pull my leg. But the guy had no sense of humor. None. Zilch. So he definitely wasn't joking. "You can not see it?"
I rolled my eyes. "I see the building just fine, Urioch. There isn't anything there that looks like a coffee shop or book store."
Shaking his head, he stood back up and put his hand on my shoulder. "We will have to determine whether my senses or yours have been deceived." With that, he walked us up to the plain, wooden door and pulled it open. I was surprised that the door was unlocked, but not as surprised as I was when he walked me in ahead of him and the room changed before my eyes. A closed, empty shop dissolved like smoke, and I stood inside a lively, well lit, well patroned coffee shop.
"What the fuck?" I looked about, trying to get my bearings. It was dizzying to have reality shift so quickly.
The man behind the counter looked our way and smiled. "Urioch!" Coming to our end of the counter, he stuck out his hand as we approached. Urioch grasped it. "I was beginning to despair that you'd run out of books to read in my humble shop."
Urioch smiled. "You rotate your stock fairly frequently, Jonathan, but I give many stores my patronage; it is better economics."
Shaking his head, Jonathan let go of Urioch's hand and smiled at me. "I take it you couldn't see the shop."
I blinked. "Uh, yeah."
Sitting down at the counter, Urioch cocked his head at Jonathan. "Would you care to explain that? It does not seem to be a surprise to you."
Jonathan shrugged. "The wards." He looked back at me, raising an eyebrow. "Ex-gang?"
I narrowed my eyes. He wasn't a telepath, or empath, but something about him was hard to read. I could tell he wasn't worried about whether or not I was ex-gang. "Yeah, you could say that." I sat down beside Urioch and tried not to look uncomfortable.
Jonathan just grinned, looking back at Urioch. "New roommate?"
Nodding again, Urioch gestured from me to Jonathan. "Jason Kilroy, meet Jonathan Gaelnym. Jonathan, this is Jason my roommate."
Jonathan extended his hand, and I took it. I felt something cold, almost sinister, before I could get my hand free. Something about it felt very familiar. Scrutinizing me for a moment, he asked, "Empathy?"
I nodded, rubbing my hand on my jeans. My palm itched. "Right again. You must be killer at cards."
Jonathan laughed. "Most empaths react like you did when they first shake my hand." With that, he pulled up his pad; no elaboration, no nothing. "What can I get for you?"
"Double espresso? Cream, no sugar."
He marked his pad. "Anything to eat?"
"Uhm..." I looked around. There wasn't a menu board, but there was a deserts case. I couldn't imagine that mister healthy foods came here just to eat pastries and sugar. "You have sandwiches?"
"BLT, heavy on the bacon and mayo?"
Nodding, he scribbled again and then looked at Urioch. "Your usual?"
Urioch nodded. "Yes, please." Then he looked at me and added. "Jason has a couple books he needs to find for school."
Tucking his pad away, Jonathan looked at me. "Oh?"
Frowning, I pulled out my list. "For training, actually." Handing it over, I waited as Jonathan skimmed the list.
"Ah, the basics. Yes, I have a couple copies of these. New and used."
"Used, please." My budget was already stretched thin. Amanda was a shop-aholic; I was just her enabler.
Gesturing absently, Jonathan held up the paper and something shadowy and translucent materialized and took the list. As the page floated away in a swirl of shadow-smoke, Jonathan smiled. "Your books will probably be back before the food is."
I nodded, not really paying attention to what he said. I watched the shadow-smoke-thing as it glided up the stairs and out of sight. That was probably the freakiest thing I'd ever seen. It took me a moment to realize I'd been staring, and I cast my gaze about uncomfortably. No one paid any attention to the weirdness that just happened. In fact, several of the people in the shop were wearing hero costumes. I looked back at Urioch. "Superhero coffee shop?"
He nodded. "Paragon has numerous businesses that cater to the city's heroes. A few thousand registered heroes in the city, several hundred of whom are full time members of Freedom Corps or employed in the private sector by companies like Hero Corps, is a small but important population with unusual needs. We are a significant subculture."
I shrugged. "Never thought about it."
"The average person does not think about the support systems necessary to attract and maintain a population of paranormal beings. Paragon City is unique, and has developed unique solutions for the challenges we face."
I snorted as Jonathan set our drinks on the counter. "Yeah, like the Paranormal Parole Program."
Jonathan smiled. "I have several friends in that program. Most people didn't choose to become criminals out of some dark desire to harm others. Most became victims of circumstance, or their own sense of helplessness, and simply took the only option they could recognize."
I rolled my eyes. I was so tired of lectures about choices and options. I hadn't had any choices, and I was still stuck in a situation where the options weren't anything but to take the only exit out. "Yeah, what ever. Not much of a choice when your options are Paranormal Prison or Paranormal Parole."
"Someone must think you are something more than you do, Jason. If they didn't, you wouldn't have had the option." Jonathan slid my cup towards me before moving to refill another customer's mug.
"He's right, Jason," Urioch pointed out in his melodic, calm, reasonable voice. He sipped his tea before adding, "Dr. Perrin at least believes that you deserve a chance to become something other than an unfortunate statistic."
I sipped my espresso and tried to still my trembling fingers. I didn't want to sit through more lectures. I'd just survived my first paranormal combat, I was in a shop where the proprietor summoned shadow-things to do his bidding, and I was drinking coffee next to an alien who tossed around bolts of energy as easily as a human could spit. What I wanted was a few moments of quiet solitude to let it all sink in. An empath never had quiet solitude if there was anyone within range of his senses; I had way too many senses.