Powerless – Episode 3
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
… EPISODE THREE…
“Kenna, my God,” Mom says, rushing into the lab and wrapping me in a hug. “Are you okay?”
I sink into her, taking the comfort while I can get it. It will only be a few minutes before she notices the state of her lab, and my bruised wrists and even more bruised ego will be forgotten. “I’m o—”
“My lab,” she interrupts with a gasp.
Or a few seconds…that’s my mom for you.
She pulls away and looks around her, jaw dropped and eyes wide. I have to admit, it’s pretty bad.
A lot of the damage is superficial, though. Broken gla*ss and spilled chemicals. All things that can be easily replaced.
I rub at my wrists. Draven clearly overestimated SHPD’s response. Maybe they a*ssumed I was a hero who would be able to take on the intruders
. Even after the computer response system knew there were villains in the lab, it took a solid twenty-five minutes before a human showed up.
That’s twenty-five minutes I spent tied to a lab table with sirens blaring and emergency lights flashing. It would test anyone’s endurance.
By minute ten I was regretting my decision to help Draven when Nitro set him on fire.
By fifteen I was wishing Nitro’s blast had hit Draven harder.
By twenty I regretted not beaning him with the extinguisher too.
Now…now I just hope I never see any of them again.
“What happened here?” Mom asks.
“Nitro happened,” I answer.
“Nitro?” she echoes. “We’re lucky there’s anything left. He has a reputation for being ruthless.”
Normally I’d agree with her. But while the guy I met was a total jerk, he wasn’t ruthless. He wasn’t…evil.
“Did he touch any of the research?” she asks.
I shrug. “No, he just blew the vault.”
“Thank God you didn’t get hurt!” She pauses but is awfully calm, considering. Then again, if any of her important research had been ruined—if my transcriptions weren’t automatically backed up to the server—she’d be in a way bigger panic.
She walks through the mess, studies the destruction. Then turns to me, frowning. “Was he alone?”
This is the part where I have to decide how much to say. Do I tell her about the villain who protected me? Do I tell her that he tried to wipe my mind?
Draven’s not on the superhero radar yet or I would have heard of him. If I tell Mom, she’ll tell the League, and he’ll be on the most-wanted list by morning.
Memory wipe is a big deal on both sides of the superpower fence.
But in the end, I decide I owe them no loyalty. Just because these three villains didn’t hurt or kill me doesn’t mean I need to protect them, protect him.
God only knows how many people they’ve hurt in the past, or will hurt in the future if the heroes don’t catch them.
“No, there were three of them,” I say.
Mom gasps again. “They could have killed you.”
Way to have faith, Mom.
“Yeah, well, it’s not like their powers actually work on me. There wasn’t much they could do.”
I might be powerless, but I do have one secret weapon. Mom does anyway.
After the way my dad died—and what happened to me—my mom dedicated her research to developing a serum that makes whoever takes it immune to superpowers.
She perfected the serum when I was eight and has been giving it to me once a week ever since. I’m her long-term test subject. Her guinea pig.
So far it seems to be working. I haven’t grown a second head or anything, and superpowers don’t affect me anymore. But she isn’t ready to share the serum with the heroes yet.
They might be the good guys, but they’re very fond of their abilities. And since her serum makes me immune to all superpowers—hero or villain—she figures they aren’t going to take the news very well.
At least not until she can refine the formula to only work against villain powers.
Until then, this research is our little secret. One that could get her in major trouble, since it’s a totally unsanctioned experiment.
And it’s a secret that makes Mom feel a little better since I’m slightly less likely to get maimed or killed because I can’t defend myself.
“Ssssh.” My mom glances around to make sure no one is listening. “You know you’re not supposed to talk about that. Besides, just because Nitro’s blast couldn’t hurt you doesn’t mean he couldn’t slit your throat or break your neck.”
The image makes me shudder. “Nice, Mom. Thanks for the visual.”
“I’m just saying.” She lowers her voice. “You act like that serum makes you invincible, but it doesn’t. You could have died in the explosion or from fire or from falling debris. He could have killed you in a million different ways that didn’t actually involve his powers.”
It’s all I can do not to roll my eyes.
I know this is her way of saying she cares about me, but all she’s doing is pointing out how weak she thinks I am.
It’s an old fight, so I don’t bother trying to explain that I’m powerless, not helpless.
Or stupid. She can’t seem to comprehend that I might actually be able to defend myself. Which is totally hypocritical, considering that if you take away that big brain of hers, she’s just as vulnerable as I am.
It’s a fight I can’t win though, so I change the subject. “One of them tried to wipe my mind to make me forget I saw them.”
Mom’s eyes widen. “You didn’t tell him?”
Does she even have to ask? “Of course not. I pretended it worked.”
“Good,” she says, sagging with relief. “That’s good.”
“What am I supposed to tell the SHPD?” I ask.
I managed to avoid talking to the officers when they arrived on the scene, insisting that I had to speak with my mom first.
They gave in because I might have hinted that there was top secret intel at stake.
And in a way, there is.
Even if I never cross paths with the villain trio again, if it gets out that I spilled information that Draven supposedly erased, my secret immunity will be blown. Mom would totally flip.
“I don’t want you talking to the SHPD at all, if we can avoid it,” she says. “But I need you to tell me everything that happened so I know what Rex Malone needs to hear.”
Mom worries constantly that I’ll slip up, though I a*ssure her I won’t. I’ve spent more than half my life keeping this secret.
I give her the rundown, everything from when I ran into Draven at the vending machine to when he tied me to the faucet and walked out the door. Well, almost everything. I don’t tell her what they said about a hidden level in the lab.
That’s too crazy to repeat if I want her to take me seriously.
Mom nods. “Okay, good. Follow my lead, and don’t offer anything more than—”
“I don’t care if he is in Tokyo,” a male voice booms before Mr. Malone—my best friend’s dad and president of the League—steps into the lab. “You tell him to get his a*ss back to Boulder before I send Dash to bring him back.”
He ends the call abruptly and snaps the phone back into the holster on his belt.
Even if he weren’t a superhero, Mr. Malone would still command attention.
He’s big and tall, with short, dark, perfectly-in-place hair and piercing blue eyes. Almost like a real-life Superman. Rebel doesn’t think so, but then she’s his daughter. It’s kind of her job to give him grief.
Tonight—or I should say this morning—he looks a little less-than-perfect in a wrinkled shirt and faded jeans.
Half a step behind him, as always, is Rebel’s brother, Riley. He’s only two years older than her, but blond hair and blue eyes are pretty much the only things the siblings have in common.
Riley is tall, like their dad, and impeccably groomed.
Plus he has the stiffest, straightest posture of anyone I’ve ever met. I can’t imagine anyone more likely to remind the teacher when she forgets to a*ssign homework. Or, as Rebel says, to act like a bigger douche nozzle.
She would disown him if she could.
Riley trails Mr. Malone with his smartphone in hand, flash-typing everything his father says.
No surprise there. The boy eats, sleeps, and breathes to be a superhero, and today he’s wearing a coat that, honestly, looks a little bit like a cape. I’m sure, in his opinion, it’s just truth in advertising.
Mom confronts Mr. Malone at the blown-out door.
“What the hell happened?” she demands. “This facility is supposed to be secure, Rex. How did villains get in and tie up my daughter?”
He turns his attention to me. “Kenna, sweetheart, are you okay?”
“Yes, Mr. Malone,” I answer obediently. “I’m fine.”
Riley pauses typing for a split second to look up at me. I can’t tell if that’s his way of saying hello or if he’s evaluating me for his report.
I swear, if he tries to take a picture of me for the files, I’ll go Rebel on him with her signature karate chop.Recommend you to download Topster Stories App for Exclusive Access To Erotic and Romantic stories (Join Group) https://t.me/topsterstories
I’ve taken enough crap from the male of the species today. I’m so totally over all of them.
“Can you tell me what happened?” Mr. Malone asks, like I’m a child.
I got used to his patronizing tone a long time ago. As an ordinary and a teenager, I get a double dose of let-the-grown-up-superheroes-take-care-of-everything.
I stopped letting it make me gag when I was twelve, but it’s still frustrating.
“I’ll tell you what happened,” Mom says before I can answer. “She went to get a candy bar, and next thing she knows, she’s tied to a lab table with the sirens blaring. It took the SHPD almost an hour to get here.”
“Unacceptable.” Mr. Malone nods to Riley, who—if possible—types even faster. “Can you describe them?”
“She doesn’t remember.” Mom steps closer to my side. “Has no memory of anything after the vending machine.”
“Damn it!” Mr. Malone rests his fists on his hips in a perfect superhero stance. “One of them must have had a psy power. I hate those mental freaks.”
“Freaks,” Riley agrees.
“And one of them must have been Nitro,” Mom suggests.
Mr. Malone surveys the room. “You’re right. No one else has this kind of explosive power.”
I’m doing my best to keep my mouth shut. Mom’s rules. Never answer when I don’t have to. It reduces the odds that I’ll say something that would betray my immunity.
Wouldn’t want that.
I start mentally sketching the chemical structure of my latest test formula. Saves me from paying attention and wanting to answer when I shouldn’t.
“We have to move the lab.” Mom spins around and storms toward the back of the room. “This facility isn’t secure.”
This is how Mom always reacts to danger. She overreacts.
Take immunity serum.
Move the lab.
For a woman who chooses to work in the world of heroes and villains—and who was married to one of the greatest superheroes of his generation—she doesn’t deal well with violence and conflict.
At all. Then again, having your husband wiped off the face of the earth by villains will do that to a woman.
She crosses to the far corner, where one of Nitro’s fireballs did a number on the file cabinets. There are papers strewn everywhere.
Mr. Malone goes after her and I follow.
“Jeanine, stop,” he says, moving to her side as she starts grabbing folders off the floor. “You don’t have to leave the lab.”
She whirls around to face him. “Villains broke in here tonight,” she says, her voice bordering on a shriek. “Nitro broke in here. He blew up my lab and tied up my daughter. Someone mind-wiped her. It’s not safe here anymore.”
“It is,” he insists. When she glares at him, he amends, “It will be. I’ve already called the Cleaners. By morning it’ll be like villains were never here.”
Mom shoves the stack of folders into my hands. “The mess isn’t the problem. The security breach is unacceptable.”
“That will be dealt with.” He takes the files from me and places them on the nearest counter. “I’ve called an emergency meeting of the Superhero Collective. We will institute new protections to make the facility more secure than ever.”
When Mom reaches for the files Mr. Malone just put down, he gently but firmly puts his hand on hers. “I promise, Jeanine. You and Kenna will be safer here than anywhere else on the planet.”
Mom looks like she’s going to argue. Then she crumbles. Head in her hands, she starts sobbing.
I rush to her side and wrap my arms around her. I can’t stand to see her cry. She might not be perfect, but we’re a team. “It’s okay, Mom,” I promise. “Everything will be okay.”
“I can’t lose you too,” she says. “I can’t.”
“I’m fine.” I rub my hands up and down her back like she used to do for me when I was little.
I feel Mr. Malone’s rea*ssuring hand on my shoulder.
“You two go on home,” he says in that authoritative tone that sounds like he was born to be in charge. “I’ll coordinate the cleanup efforts and get those extra protections in place. The whole incident will be a bad memory by morning.”
“No, no, I’m fine,” Mom says, wiping away her tears. She straightens and I can tell that in-charge Mom is back. “Kenna, can you come with me to my office? I want to check on the damage in there.”
That’s Mom code for It’s time for your immunity shot.
As I follow her out of the lab, I really hope Mr. Malone is right.
Between everything that happened with Draven, Dante, and Nitro, plus being tied to a table and then lying by omission to both my mom and the president of the League, this is pretty much a night I would love to forget.
Too bad there’s never a memory wipe around when you need one
Maybe I can pretend that Draven’s power worked on me.
After my shot, I’ll go home, get a good night’s—or day’s—sleep, and then come back to the lab to finish my work as if nothing happened.
Villains may have stolen one night of research time from me. I won’t let them take any more.
• • •
To the uninitiated, Mom’s office would appear to have been hit by one of Nitro’s fireballs.
There are stacks of papers and boxes everywhere. It’s amazing the door even opens with all the stuff packed inside.
But there’s been no villain destruction in here. This is how it always looks— everyday, disaster chic. She swears she knows where everything is. I don’t believe her.
I’ve volunteered to sort and organize everything a million times, but she loves the chaos. I, however, can barely think in here. A grizzly bear could be hiding in this clutter forest and you’d never know.
“I swear, sometimes that man just—” Mom drops into her desk chair and shakes her head.
She and Mr. Malone have had their conflicts over the years. I often wonder why she keeps working for him.
Any genetics lab in the country would be thrilled to have her, even if she can’t include all of her work at ESH on her resume. For whatever reason, though, she stays on. Her research drives her, and I don’t think she could walk away from it before she’s finished.
I suppose I understand. I feel the same way about my research. It’s my pa*ssion and it’s personal.
I remove the half-empty box of petri dishes from the stool next to her desk and sit down.
“Do you believe him?” I ask. “Do you think the new security measures will keep the lab safe?”
Mom scoffs. “He doesn’t even know how they got in. How can he know what will keep them out?”
I shrug as I roll up my sleeve.
Getting immunity shots is routine.
Mom doesn’t even use a syringe anymore. She has this futuristic injection gun that does all the hard work. She just pops in a vial, holds it up to my arm, and pulls the trigger.
But when she opens her bottom desk drawer and pulls out a vial from the box she keeps hidden in the back, she curses.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“It’s clouded.” She flings herself back in her chair. “And I haven’t started a new batch. I was going to do that tomorrow.”
I don’t know much about the immunity serum besides what it does, but I do know that when it goes cloudy, the chemical bonds have broken and it’s on its way to becoming toxic.
“It’s no big deal,” I tell her, even though I know she thinks it is. “A couple of days won’t make much of a difference.”
She turns her scientist glare on me. I can already hear the speech in my head.
The dose is carefully calculated to match your metabolism. Immunity only lasts a week at full strength.
After that, it gradually wears off.
Sometimes I wonder if she even notices me—Kenna—anymore, or if all she really sees is the powerless girl she’s desperate to protect.
I throw up my hands. “Hey, I’m not responsible for it going bad.”
“I know.” She tugs me into her lap for a hug. “I’m just shaken up after the break-in. When I first heard…”
I give her a tight squeeze before pushing back to my feet. On the one hand it’s annoying how overprotective she can be.
On the other…I totally understand. I already lost my dad, and now I’d do anything to keep her safe.
“What time is it?” I ask.
Mom checks the clock on her computer. “Almost two in the morning.”
“No wonder I’m so beat,” I say, stifling a yawn.
I’m usually good for another couple hours of my own work, but I guess the villain situation took a toll on me. Besides, it’s not like I can get anything done in the lab now.
“You go on home and get some rest.” She squeezes my shoulder.
“Sure you don’t want to come with me?”
She shakes her head. “I need to make sure those idiots don’t mess with any of my research while they’re cleaning up.”
“And you need to start the new batch of immunity serum.”
“And that,” she says with a smile.
“You’re sure you don’t want me to help?”
I’m always offering, but she always refuses. I’m not even allowed to observe the process.
“I just need a little catnap. I’ll be good as new.”
I give her a quick kiss on the cheek before heading back to the lab. I want to grab my things and then go straight home to bed. As I walk down the hall, I have a flashback to when Draven appeared around the corner.
All I had seen was a gorgeous guy, tall and dark and way too hot to be hanging out at a lab.
I wasn’t wrong. He is too hot to work in a lab. He’s also too dark, too dangerous, and too twisted.
Draven is a villain, and I can’t afford to forget that.
He didn’t kill me this time, but that’s no guarantee he won’t if we ever run into each other again.
Forgetting that, even for a second, is like signing my own death warrant.
With that thought in mind, I round the corner into a world of chaos.
At least a dozen heroes—most of whom I don’t even recognize—are working to restore the lab.
The Cleaners. Definitely the Cleaners.
A woman with frizzy blond hair—who looks more like an escapee from a hippie commune than a hero—waves her hand over the shards of gla*ss littering the hallway, sending them swirling through the air toward the empty window frame. Another swish of her hand and the shards coalesce like the most complicated jigsaw puzzle ever, filling the space with a cracked version of the pre-Nitro window.
A tall, skinny guy with white-blond hair and a nose like a rat flicks his fingers at the gla*ss, and in one melty swirl, the cracks disappear.
The window looks good as new.
Bet Nitro would be pissed to know how easily we fixed his handiwork.
Inside the lab proper, heroes clear scorch marks off the walls and ceilings, air-sweep spilled chemicals into a containment bin, and repair the half-melted tabletops closest to where Nitro had been standing. A telekinetic hero swoops up a stack of papers and folders from the floor, floating them into growing piles on one of the unmelted tables.
Must be nice. Seeing all these different powers at work could make a girl crazy if she was the type to dwell on what she doesn’t have. Which I so totally am not.
Except…I cast another look over my shoulder. That melty-gla*ss power is pretty cool. I’ve never seen that one before. Vending machines wouldn’t stand a chance against that.
A team of lab a*ssistants goes from cabinet to cabinet, making a list of all the supplies that need to be replaced. When they head back toward my station, I’m jolted out of stunned observation.
“No,” I shout, blocking the path. “This is mine. I’ll handle the inventory.”
They look at each other and shrug before moving on to the next cabinet. Mom may be okay with other people touching her research, but mine is off limits.
I make a quick sign that reads KENNA’S STUFF DON’T TOUCH in big red letters, and then draw a giant skull and crossbones on it before taping it to the door.
With the kind of chemicals around here, the Cleaners should take the warning seriously.
“Excuse me,” a woman says.
She points at the floor beneath my stool where an ooze of green liquid is seeping out in an ever-growing circle. It looks like Mom’s Dissolve All—an acid formula that will liquefy any nonorganic material, so it’s safe to touch but incredibly difficult to contain.
My stool starts sinking as the acid melts the legs.
I move away and let the woman do her job. I watch as she uses her hands to sweep the goo into a special organic container. Gross.
“Ooof.” Someone knocks into me, sending me stumbling.
“Sorry,” the guy says without taking his gaze off the ceiling.
I need to grab my stuff and get out of here. I’m in the way, and if I’m not careful, I’ll get hurt. Or worse, not hurt—as in my immunity will show, and then where will I be? Grounded for life, that’s where.
Avoiding situations that might reveal my immunity is an art.
On my way out, I collide with another person. God, could I be more useless? I start to apologize, then realize I’ve crashed into Riley. Damn.
He clutches his smartphone to his chest. “Kenna. Hi, hello.”
“Hey, Riley,” I answer.
“Terrible business here tonight,” he says, gesturing at the lab around us. “And you? Having to face down villains, um, face-to-face. That must have been awful.”
And without a single power to help you. He doesn’t have to say the words out loud for me to hear them. They’re written all over his face. As if he could outfly one of Nitro’s fireballs.
I’ve always felt like a powerless little goldfish in the big superpowers pond when I’m around him.
He watches me. Studies me. I can tell he doesn’t understand how Rebel and I are friends.
Then again, Rebel is pretty much beyond everyone’s understanding most of the time.
“Not an experience I want to repeat, no.” I cover my mouth to hide a yawn.
Riley doesn’t take the hint.
“Well, it won’t happen again. The new security measures will be unparalleled,” he explains. “Retinal scans on the elevators. Freeze rays aimed at every entrance ready to stop any intruders in their tracks. An electromagnetic shield around the entire campus, configured to allow only authorized personnel signatures.
It should all be up and operational within a week.”
I nod absently, wondering how long I have to stand here listening to him. Riley has a tendency to ramble. If he goes on much longer, I might pa*ss out right here.
“The IT crew will also be installing security cameras in every hallway this afternoon,” he continues magnanimously. “Dad can ask them to add a camera in the lab too, if you’d like.”
“No,” I blurt out. “That won’t be necessary.”
Mom and Mr. Malone have had this argument before. Mr. Malone thinks we need cameras—for security and so we have a record of the research in case of an accident or another problem. Mom doesn’t want to feel like she’s being watched.
“It’s no problem,” Riley insists. “If it will make you feel safer—”
Something connects with my head. Hard. “Ouch.”
I rub at the sore spot and move out of the way of the guy hovering five and a half feet off the ground as he works on a sprinkler head in the ceiling above me.
Only I could get kicked in the head by a flying superhero. I don’t actually have the power of invisibility, but some days it’s hard to remember that.
Recommend you to download Topster Stories App for Exclusive Access To Erotic and Romantic stories (Join Group) https://t.me/topsterstories
Especially around here. To the superheroes of the League, an ordinary like me might as well be nonexistent.
The powerless are pretty much beneath their notice, unless they have a useful skill like Mom’s super brain.
When my research is complete, I’ll be invaluable to the heroes. They’ll have to notice me.
The collision draws Mr. Malone’s attention. “Kenna, sweetheart, I thought you were heading home.”
“I am, Mr. Malone.” I gesture at the flurry of activity around us.
“Just wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help.”
“Our team has the cleanup under control,” he says with his standard patronizing smile. He exchanges a look with Riley, who resumes typing on his smartphone.
“You go on home. Everything will be good as new by morning.”
Before I can respond, he wraps an arm around Riley’s shoulder and guides him away.
And just like that, I’m dismissed. I get it. I’m not a super, so there’s nothing I can do to help. I’m in the way.
That’s the problem with being an ordinary in the world of heroes—it’s impossible not to feel less all of the time.
It won’t always be like this, I promise myself. Mom might be working on a way to neutralize villain powers and amplify hero ones, but I’m working on a way to create them.
If my research is successful, if I can get the chemical sequencing right, then I won’t be ordinary forever.
I’ll be powerful, and more important, I’ll matter.
….. Posted by uc beverly…..