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Necrovore, part 2
doctordidj suggested the title "Necrovore", which, while not exactly fitting (in my mind), is at least a title, and better than the nothing I had before. I don't really think of Chris as "eating" death, per se, and it probably would be a good idea for him (yes, in my mind, Chris is a "he", so might as well go with it to avoid thinking of gender references as mistakes to be fixed) to keep the death-related aspects of his talents to be secret, so it wouldn't work as his code-name.

I still don't have a gender fixed for Riley.

First lj-cut will be a "dramatis personae" of people introduced so far
Second lj-cut will be "part 1", so it's not buried in a comment thread.

  • Chris: 20 year old college student from Northern California. Has superability to gain "energy" from deaths near him, and pass that energy along to others. Has come to Super University (get a better name, quick) to find out how to deal with this death-power without being evil or a villain.

  • Riley: 20 year old architecture student from Northern California. Romantic partner of Chris. Has followed him to SU to see that he gets the help he needs.

  • Shirley Jones (aka "Liftoff"): Dean of Admissions at SU,and member of SU's in-house superhero team. Unfortunately named after mother on The Partridge Family (should I change her name?). Has the superability of telekinesis, perhaps others. I am desperately trying to keep her from being an expy of Jean Grey, and failing.

  • Triage: Superhero who works at SU, has the superability of healing.

  • Kathyrn A. Bergeron (aka "Hardcase"): Dean of Student Affairs at SU.

  • Thomas A. Wainwright: Staff of SU Admissions office.

Shirley Jones looked at the two twenty-year-olds sitting across her desk from her. "Your situation is unique, Chris, but that's not unusual here. Most of our applicants are unique in their own way. You just present a more interesting challenge than most. I believe we can begin the admissions process. It will take some time; we have to test you and your powers -- and I don't envy the ones who have to devise the tests -- and we have to get your records from your old school."

She took a stack of papers off the printer and handed them to Chris. "If you'll read over these forms and sign them, we can begin the process." She then turned to Riley. "You are a bit more of a challenge. We do accept partners of our 'special' students, but not all want to stay. What are your plans? Are you here to drop Chris off, or are you two coming together?"

Riley looked stunned. "I...I don't know. I hadn't thought that far ahead..."

"Do you love Chris? Would you two have remained a couple if this hadn't come up?"

"Y...Yes, I guess...I mean, I brought Chris here because it was the only, the best, thing I could think to help...I didn't think of what it would mean for me."

She looked at Riley for a minute. "What is your major?"

"Architectural Engineering"

"Do you love it?"

"Yes. I've been designing buildings since I was a kid. It's the only career I've wanted. I worked hard to get into the best architecture school I could afford. It's my life."

"We are accredited in many subjects, and leaders in a few. Unfortunately we don't have an architecture department. If you transfer here, you'll have to--"

A loud crackle came from Chris. "Oh shit...". Riley and Ms. Jones looked at Chris, whose hair was virtually standing on end. Chris was suffused with a slight glow.

Ms. Jones looked at Chris for a few seconds, then picked up the phone and punched three buttons, then the speakerphone. "Liftoff here, what's going on."

A mans voice replied, over the sounds of muted chaos in the background "There was an accident in Chem Lab 3. It's on fire and collapsed. Almost everyone got out, but 10 students are unaccounted for and are trapped. We are trying to get them out now."

"I've reason to believe that one is dead--"
"Three" interrupted Chris
"--three are dead. I'll let you get back to work."
She hung up the phone.

Liftoff looked at the two before her. "Riley, when you ate that oyster, did you feel Chris's power, too?" "Yeah, it was--" "And when Chris hugged you after your classmate died?" "Yeah..."

Liftoff came around the desk. "Chris, give me your hand". When she took it, her eyes turned a solid lavender -- no pupil, no iris, no whites, just solid lavender. She quickly pulled away.

She strode to the door and opened it. "Follow me". Trailing the two, she quickly hurried down the halls.

Chris asked "How far are we going?"

Liftoff replied "Three buildings over, about a quarter of a mile. How did you know it was three?"

Chris struggled to keep up with the fast-moving administrator. "I felt each one, like three successive waves battering me into the sand. This is worse than when Jim died next to me. Each one was worse than when Jim died next to me. I feel like I'm going to explode."

"Well, don't. We're almost there"

They turned a corner and walked into chaos. halfway down the hall the left side wall had collapsed, and half a dozen students, staff, and faculty were lifting pieces out of the way with their bare hands, pieces bigger than Riley would have thought possible.

"Chris, see the man in the yellow shirt? The one who looks like he's straining and tiring? Go up and lay your hands on him."

Chris, looking dubious, went to him, and touched him. A flash of glow suffused over both of them. The rubble he was lifting jumped as his strength increased. "Thanks kid, I think Triage needs your help now".

Chris looked over at the far wall, where four injured students were slumped. A man wearing nursing scrubs was working on them, touching their injuries with a slight glow. Chris went to him and put his hand on his back. The glow brightened, and the girl he was healing opened her eyes. The two of them moved to the next injured boy. By the time they had finished working on the first three, a pair of rescuers were carrying out a fifth injured student. Chris briefly touched them with his glow, and they ran back to the chaos reinvigorated.

Riley watched from the side for 15 minutes as everyone at hand helped clear rubble, put out fires, and rescued the trapped students. Chris spent the time with Triage, and soon everyone was coming to him when they felt worn down. Liftoff had moved into the role of directing people and apparently moving some of the rubble with her mind. By the time things slowed down, even the people injured in the accident were up and helping out -- except for the three laid out under sheets on the floor.

After everything was over, Liftoff went over to Chris. "How do you feel? Are you doing OK?"

"Yeah, a little tired, a little drained, but OK. What happened?"

"We don't know yet, they are just starting the investigation into the accident now. Something blew up in class, three students were killed, and you helped save 10 others. Congratulations, you are a hero."

Liftoff stood up, looked at Riley and Chris. "Let's get back to my office. Chris still has some paperwork to fill out, and Riley, you need to make some decisions about what you are going to do."

Riley looked at Chris, then back at Shirley. "About that. I think I want to stay. I know it means giving up architecture, but I saw what Chris did, and what all of you did, and I want to be a part of it. I love Chris even more now."

Liftoff said "Good. I was hoping you might. You have paperwork to fill out, too. We'll get you transferred to Purdue University's Architectural Engineering program; it's only an hour's commute from here. You'll be covered by our scholarship funds. Will that work for you?"

Riley was stunned. "But you said you didn't have an archi...I mean, Yes! Yes! That will work for me!".

Liftoff smiled. "We don't have an architecture department, but we know who does. Besides, we wanted to be sure you weren't staying because it was the easy thing to do, we wanted to be sure you were staying despite it being a hard thing to do."

And now, Part 2

The next morning, Chris and Riley had just finished getting dressed in their temporary dorm room when there was a knock on the door, and two people entered, a man and a woman.

The woman stepped forward to shake hands with Chris. "Hi, I'm Dean Bergeron, and this is Mr. Wainwright. We will be guiding the two of you through the admissions process here at SU."

She stepped back, and looked at the two of them. "Normally I wouldn't be involved, but last night Freefall discussed your case with the rest of the deans, and we decided until we know more, it would be best to keep the exact nature of your powers a secret. Please don't talk about them to anyone who isn't a dean, including Mr. Wainwright." She glanced at the two of them and they processed this, and nodded their assent.

Mr Wainwright spoke "Riley, Freefall would like to know if you are a latent super yourself. We have tests to find that out. If you are, it will change your classification in the school, probably for the better. If you'll come along with me?" Mr Wainwright led Riley out of the room.

"Where are they going?" Chris asked.

"Probably first to breakfast, then to testing. There's more to it than Mr Wainwright said. We know you can give energy to supers, but you also gave energy to Riley. We don't know if you can give energy to anyone, or if Riley is a super and doesn't know it."

"Does Mr Wainwright know that?"

"No. We are serious about compartmentalizing knowledge of your powers. Some of the rescuers from last night might resent feeding off their friends' deaths. Some of the Deans were uncomfortable with it, even with Freefall's explanation. Until we know more, and know how to better handle the situation, we don't want it getting out.

"Anyway, let's get going. We've a long drive ahead of us today, and we should get started".

They headed out to a plain-looking late-model sedan, and Dean Bergeron started driving north, towards Lake Michigan. Soon, they were on the highway.

After about a half hour, Chris's stomach rumbled. "You mentioned Riley was getting breakfast. Can we do the same?"

"I know just the place" Ms Bergeron took the next exit and soon they were travelling through a small western Indiana town. The car turned into the parking lot for a roadside restaurant, and the two of them went in.

Over eggs, bacon, and homefries, Chris and the Dean talked, mostly about Chris's background: where he grew up, his hobbies, his friends, his family, etc.

Chris was from Mendocino, California. His grandfather and grandmother, in the late 1960's, had moved to the area to join one of the hippie communes, where they stayed and raised their children. His mother left the commune in 1985, attracted by the exciting "big city" life of nearby U&kiah. She ended up getting into Humboldt State University, where she met his father. After they graduated in 1992, they married and moved to Mendocino and started a small software company with just the two of them -- and a bed-and-breakfast to capture the tourist dollars. Chris was born in 1993, and spent his first 18 years three blocks from the beach and two blocks from the school. He spent a lot of time at both, surfing and learning. He had good friends in Mendocino, but after they all went to college, he has heard very little of them -- even of Facebook, he found he changed (and so had they), so he no longer had much interest in the new them, compared to the new people he was meeting in college. It was at UC Berkeley that he met Riley. Riley was in the highly competitive architecture program, he was in the computer science program (taking after his parents). They'd been together about a year when Jim died in class next to Chris.

"I learned a lot living with a family business. For instance, I learned that commercial egg suppliers store their eggs in refrigerators, which kills even fertilized, free-range eggs like they serve here. This was a test, right?"

Dean Bergeron smiled. "Yes, I guess it was. How did you know the eggs here were free-range?"

"It says so in the menu. But I have had farm-fresh eggs before; my grandparents still live on the commune and I've visited them. But I haven't been back since I...well, knew. To answer your test, I don't know if I really liked their eggs, or if there was more going on."

"Got it," said the Dean with a smile. "I'll try to be more subtle with my testing in the future." She reached into her bag, and pulled out what looked like a bulky watch. "Could you put this on? It won't hurt, and I'll tell you about it in the car." Chris put it on; it felt comfortable against his skin, and not only a clock face, but a ring of lights around the edge, and what looked like a data port on the side.

They finished their breakfast, and Dean Bergeron left the bill on the table, including a sizable tip.

Once they got back on the road, they continued north. "So, what's the watch?" Chris asked.

"It's an energy sensor and recorder -- as well as a watch. So far, we have your subjective assessment of what's happening to you: a death happens nearby, you get buzzed. It fades over time. Closer deaths give bigger buzzes, 'bigger' deaths, for some not-fully-specified definition of 'bigger', give bigger buzzes. What we'd like to know is how does this work, quantitatively. That watch measures your energy levels. If you get a charge, it should tell us how big it is. As it fades, it should tell us how it fades."

Chris looked at her carefully. "Where are we going?"


"What's in DeKalb?"

"An industrial slaughterhouse. Lots of animal deaths going on, and we don't have to cause anything that isn't happening already."

"I'm not sure I like this plan".

"Neither do I, but it was much better than any alternatives the Deans could think of last night."

They drove on in silence, wending their way north to Gary and then west on I-80.

"So, what's your story? How did you get involved with SU?"

The Dean glanced at him from behind the steering wheel. After a long pause, she said "In some ways, it's similar to yours. In some ways a lot different. Like you, I was raised in a small town, but my parents weren't well-off, or well-educated. We weren't treated well in town, and it made life hard growing up.

"It wasn't until I was in high-school that my abilities became more than just latent. It came as a surprise. I was sitting in my room at home, thinking about Brooke Shield, how pretty she looked, and how much I'd like to look like her. Suddenly, she appeared in the mirror. Not perfectly, mind you, but the straight brunette hair, the green eyes, the pale skin, they were clearly more like Brooke than poor old Katy Bergeron.

"When I went down to show my mother, she said she didn't want a white girl in her house or as a daughter, and kicked me out."

Chris looked over at the Dean, who, while looking nothing like Brooke Shields, was clearly an attractive white woman. "But... So... this look, it's not the real you?"

She smiled. "I get that from everyone I tell this to. Tell me Chris, do you look the same as you did in high school?"

"No, of course not".
(to be continued)


It's late, and I should go to bed. How do you like the new bits?

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Chris' superhero name could be Recycle - he recycles the life-energy of creatures that die near him. And how about Pluripotent Academy? :-)

Edited at 2013-07-20 09:34 am (UTC)

I like the new bits. I think you have a very interesting story going on. There’s only one sentence that felt a little jarring or unclear.

“Some of the rescuers from last night might resent feeding off their friends' deaths.”

Might resent who? Chris or themselves from benefiting? Would survivors be a better word than rescuers? Or maybe “The family and friends of those who dies may have great difficulty with the idea for your being empowered, feeding if you will, by the death of their loved ones.”

Death, grief and survivor guilt are very complicated and not rational. Yesterday when I was working on the laptop that belonged to my brother I mentioned that I was glad to have it and immediately felt guilty. I wouldn’t have it if he hadn’t died. How can I be glad?

What makes your story so intriguing is the conflicting feelings this power has for both the wielder and those affected by the deaths. Even the word wielder implies some choice, whereas in reality Chris has none.

This is a rich vein. I look forward to reading more.

Edited at 2013-07-22 03:44 pm (UTC)

I am likeing this very much. Two little notes - you have an ampersand in the middle of 'Ukiah', and I-80 does not (thankfully) pass through Gary.


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