I pause for a minute, on the landing. It’s almost on the roof, but shielded a little from wind chill, and it’s a nice spot to survey the city. I mean, I guess it would have to be. It’s supposed to be a vantage point to do your superheroing from, isn’t it? Not that the wind is that important, anyway, because it’s actually nice and warm in my fancy new suit.
It’s probably weird that the outside clothes are made from some sort of futuristic spacefabric when they just look like normal clothes. It’s probably also pretty weird that I’m almost entirely certain my socks are just normal socks – the thick kind, like for hiking – which are nice and warm inside my boots.
For some reason, Sal thinks I need boots instead of running shoes.
“Sal?” I say.
“Yeah?” she says, inside my ear, which surprises me, because I thought she could mostly only talk to me through text.
“You can talk?” I ask.
“I’ve always been able to talk,” she says.
“No,” I say, “that’s not what I meant.”
“I know what you meant,” she says, “I’m fucking with you. Yes. I can talk. There’s a speaker in your mask. That’s not soundproofed, though, so anyone could hear me.”
“Is it loud?” I ask, “it doesn’t seem that loud.”
“It’s not that loud,” she says, “but neither are earbuds, and that’s even disregarding acutes and probably some perceptives.”
“Oh,” I say.
“What did you want, anyway?” she asks, “I thought you were going on patrol.”
“I’m looking for anything suspicious,” I say.
“Well, I’ll let you know if I hear anything,” she says. “Was that all?”
“No,” I say, “why do you want me to wear boots?”
“Sneakers don’t real strike fear into the heart of a villain,” she says.
“Well,” I tell her, “neither does a touristy sweatshirt, what’s your point?”
“I don’t know,” she says, “that’s got a kind of local color charm to it.”
“They were just shoes,” I say.
“They have logos on them,” she tells me. “You’ve got to be careful about wearing what might be an advertisement. And, anyway, they aren’t the right shade of blue.”
“They’re not even blue,” I say.
“They have blue accents,” she says, “and they’re the wrong blue. And they have a whole bunch of other accents, too, and they clash. Your shoes are ugly.”
“Yeah,” I say, “I figured that’s why they were barely worn.”
“Well, they’re worn out now,” she says. “You should get new ones.”
“I’ll get right on that,” I tell her.
“You don’t like the boots?” she asks.
“What’s not to like?” I say, “they’re just boots.”
“I didn’t want to oversell the design,” she says.
“I don’t know what that means,” I tell her.
“Your look,” she says, “it’s sort of plain. Straightforward. I like it. Fancy boots would kind of ruin it.”
“Oh,” I say.
“That’s why I’ve been worried about your weapons,” she says.
“I don’t have any weapons,” I tell her.
“I know,” she says, “that’s why I’ve been worrying about them.”
“I don’t need any weapons,” I tell her.
“Sure,” she says. “When do you want to look through the armory?”
“What weapons could I possibly need?” I ask her.
“I don’t know,” she says, “that depends on what kind of crimefighting you’re going to get into, and also what your powers are.”
“Strength,” I say. “I haven’t tested it, but it’s going to chart pretty high, I think.”
“No,” she says, “not that. Your offensive powers.”
“Strength is offensive?” I ask.
“Not at range,” she says, “unless you were planning on pelting people with rocks or something? In which case you should carry a bunch of rocks.”
“I,” I say, “don’t think I’ll be doing that.”
“What range powers do you have?” she asks.
“I don’t know if I have any, actually,” I tell her.
“None?” she says, “white hats usually get at least one.”
“I know,” I say.
“Try it out,” she says, pulling a target out of the wall a ways away, which looks pretty cool, although maybe a little flimsy.
“Okay,” I say, and point my hands at it, and concentrate.
“Maybe you need to be a little more dramatic?” she suggests.
I put one foot back, and bring my hands together, and sort of shove them at the target again. It feels silly, and I can’t imagine that helps.
“Are you even trying to hit the target?” Sal asks.
“For fuck’s sake, Sal, I’m doing the best I can,” I say.
“That’s not what I mean,” Sal says.
“Fine,” I say, “what do you mean?”
“I mean,” she says, “that for safety reasons, and the mechanism absolutely would not work if it weren’t safe for you to use, you have to concentrate pretty hard.”
“On what?” I ask.
“It depends on what your power is,” she says. “Sorry. For most white hats, it’s intuitive what they can do.”
“Well, shit,” I say.
“I mean, you can send out a request,” she says, “I’m sure it won’t take that long to get someone with an analysis power to show up.”
“I kind of don’t want to do that,” I say.
“It doesn’t hurt or anything,” Sal reassures me. “They’ll just write it down in a list for you. They won’t even show anyone but you.”
“It’s weird though,” I say. Then I think about that for a minute, and think maybe I have an idea what all my classmates are on about, with empaths and whatever. Not to the point where it’s reasonable for them to feel the way they do, but I think it might come from the same place, and I take a minute to process that. Maybe I should get someone in.
“Look,” Sal says, “you’re probably going to destroy the target. That’s fine. They’re meant to be destroyed. Just go ahead and think really hard about it.”
“Okay,” I say, and stare at the target harder, holding my hands up.
“You look kind of silly when you do that,” Sal says.
“I’m well aware, Sal,” I tell her.
“I just mean,” Sal says, “maybe just relax. Put your arms down. Stick them in your pockets or something. Just think about the target.”
I do. I stick my hands in my pockets, and watch the target for a while. I’m not really sure what’s supposed to happen, but I don’t figure just waiting for it will actually work. I glare at it, hoping for it to blow up or something.
It’s kind of anticlimactic.
“That’s great,” Sal says, “just like that.”
“What did I do?” I ask.
“I don’t know yet,” Sal says, “give me a while to analyze. It was pretty great, though. I bet you could do it again.”
“Probably,” I say, because I can at least grasp what concentrating means now, although I don’t think I like the feeling. Also, does that mean I can want it to do something other than explode and it’ll do that, or is it only an explosion power?
“Go fight someone,” Sal says.
“With explosions?” I say.
“No,” Sal says, “I mean, whatever. If you need to. Just to get your face out there, I meant. For publicity.”
“Publicity?” I repeat.
“Sure,” she says, “a lot of the good you can do in this city is people knowing you protect this city. And a lot of what you can get done involves knowing the right people.”
“I kind of thought,” I say, “punching people was about it.”
“Yeah,” she agrees, “most white hats do.”
“If it was something other than fighting, couldn’t other people just do it?” I ask.
“You’d think so,” she says. “In practice, figureheads are quite beneficial.”
“Huh,” I say.
“This isn’t specifically in regards to Villain,” she says. “We’re trying to deter lesser criminals from putting on a super-persona.”
“Um,” I say, “okay.”
“Go fight some crime,” she repeats.
“There isn’t any,” I say.
“What the hell do you mean there isn’t any?” she asks me.
“I mean, I’m sure people are evading taxes or something,” I tell her, “but I can’t see anyone doing anything, like, overtly violent right now?”
“Go find some people robbing a house,” she suggests.
“And do what?” I ask, “tell them nicely not to rob houses?”
“What, are you only going to hit people who are hitting other people already?” she says.
“I was kind of planning on,” I tell her.
“Well,” Sal says, and then pauses for a while. “You could always fly around and make sure drunk people aren’t trying to drive home.”
“Okay,” I say, and fly off.
It takes a while, because it’s not late enough that a lot of people are leaving bars in a haze yet, but I find someone stumbling towards a car. I land. It takes a minute to get his attention, but once I do, he flips me off.
“What the hell do you want?” he asks.
“I want you not to drive drunk,” I tell him.
He flips me off again. He fumbles with his keys for a while, and eventually I just fly off with them, leaving them at the nearest police station. They give me a funny look, but apparently the tower’s sent them a notice or something, because they don’t stare too long. I give them his license plate number, so they’ll know who he is when he comes to claim them.
What? If he’d lost his keys, people would probably turn them in to the police.
Anyway, he was a dick.
The next couple of people argue with me a little, but eventually call cabs or friends to pick them up. One of them has me point her to the bus, and I show her where the nearest stop is. She thanks me, and promptly pukes all over the ground. She barely misses my new boots, even though she was practically aiming at them. Secondary power, right? I get a cup of water for her from the nearest coffee shop, and wait for her bus with her. The last guy – he seems so fucking happy I reminded him not to drink and drive – is bad enough I walk him all the way back home. I almost walk him to health services instead of his room.
I sort of wonder whether I should be talking to the bars about obviously not carding.
Of course, then I’m on campus, and once I’m on campus, there’s no shortage of shit to deal with, because there’s a lot of people who have never lived with anyone before and for some reason think that excuses fighting, and a lot of people deciding to do stupid dangerous things because they have no more adult supervision. Well, maybe I’m giving them too much credit. They’re definitely not all freshmen.
Also, there are a lot of people who have apparently never previously heard the word no.
Those don’t take a long time to deal with (individually), because it’s basically shoving them into a wall while the other party runs the fuck away. Maybe I should get Sal to make me some kind of alien ink so I can write ‘don’t rape people’ on their foreheads, and it’ll stick there for the next couple of days. Maybe the school can have a class. Like, fuck, how hard is it to teach people ‘I don’t know’ doesn’t mean to climb onto the couch and lie on them?
Well, it seems pretty hard to teach people that forcibly performing major surgery on random people is Not Okay, let alone registries and stuff, so I guess it’s probably pretty hard to teach people anything at all.
Then a couple of people have apparently read about me in the newspaper, so I take a couple of photos with people.
I kind of don’t want to hang around campus too long, in case people think I live here or something. I wave at the gathered crowd, and fly off.