September 16, 2011

Sam Wilton checked the time on his watch. 8:27. That left him a half-hour until his guests arrived.

He sat deep in thought. He considered if he was making the right choice. He still had time to change his mind, to cancel on the youths and send them home.

Where their unique talents would put them at risk, make them targets for those who would exploit them.

But wasn't that what Sam was doing? Wasn't he exploiting them? Using their talents for his own purposes? He believed he was doing it with the best of intentions, that his cause was just. But was he simply deluding himself? How could he be sure what he was doing was right? There were children he was talking about.

Not children, he corrected himself. The girl was still a child, but the rest were all at least 18. They were adults. Old enough to serve. As old as he was when he signed up for the military. He hoped they wouldn't be exposed to war.

But others were bound to find them. Others with more sinister motives and ambitions. He couldn't let these youths be used by them.

No. He had to go through with it. He had no choice. He only hoped he could teach them right from wrong, to use their abilities responsibly.

There was a knock on the door. He looked at the time again: Only 8:50. One of them must have been early. He got up and opened the hotel room door. Four of his guests were actually there. A blond boy of 19, a black-haired boy of 18, a tall blond woman of 23, and a brown-haired boy of 19.

"Come in, all of you," Sam invited them. "Please, take a seat. I made sure the hotel gave me plenty."

The four youths entered and each sat on one of the three couches. The blond and brunette boys shared a couch. Sam sat back down on his large chair.

"If you don't mind," he said to the group, "we'll wait for everyone else to arrive before we begin."

"How many more people are there?" the blond man asked.

"Just two more," Sam told him. "Another young man, and a young woman."

"Is she cute?" the brown-haired boy asked with a smile.

"I think she might be a bit too young for you," Sam replied with his own smile.

"Ah well," the boy shrugged. He turned to the blond woman and held out his hand. "By the way, I'm Alvin."

"Like the Chipmunk?" she said with a French accent, shaking his hand.

Alvin chuckled. "Yeah, exactly."

"How many times have you heard that?" the black-haired boy said with a smirk.

"A lot," Alvin admitted. "But it's a lot funnier coming from a pretty girl. Especially one with a French accent."

"It's a sexy accent," the blond boy said, "no question about that."

They engaged in idle chit-chat for 5 minutes, until there was another knock on the door. Arthur opened it to a massive black man of 21. "Hey," the man greeted Sam. "Sorry if I'm a little early."

"Not at all," Sam assured him. "Some of the others have already arrived. Have a seat."

"Aw, so I'm late? Sorry about that, then." He sat down next to the black-haired boy. "So what's the deal?"

"I'm still expecting one more guest," Sam explained. "A young woman."

"She cute?" the giant asked.

"Too young," Alvin told him. Then, "I already asked."

"Oh. OK."

At precisely 9:00, there was another knock on the door. Sam opened it to a grey-haired girl of 13. "Come in, sit down," Sam invited her. She sat next to the other girl. Sam took his seat again and took a moment to gather his thoughts.

"I want to thank you all for coming tonight," he began. "I met with you all individually, soon after you discovered your talents, but this is the first time you've met each other, so we'll start with introductions. Alvin, if you'd start."

"Sure," Alvin agreed. "I'm Alvin Perkliss," he winked at the blond woman, "love machine." She rolled her eyes. Alvin was a good-looking guy of 19, wearing blue jeans and a Cartman t-shirt. He had short, light brown hair, brown eyes, and a fantastic smile.

"I'm Eddie Evans," the blond boy introduced himself. "And I don't use terrible lines like that." He had short blond hair gelled back, and blue eyes, and wore khakis and a blue polo shirt.

"Dude, that was gold," Alvin nudged him.

"Victor Burling," the black man continued, raising his hand. Victor was 7'2", and 310 lbs of muscle. His light brown hair was in a buzzcut, and he had brown eyes. He wore black jeans and a plain white t-shirt.

"Martin Spektor," the black-haired boy said. Martin was an incredibly handsome boy of 18, with a very lithe body. He had black hair, and hazel eyes, and was wearing blue jeans and a tight black t-shirt.

"My name is Julienne Bourbannais," the French girl said. Julienne was unusually tall at 5'9", and extremely toned. She kept her blond hair in a ponytail, and was dressed in a white blouse and long white skirt.

"Janet Lawrence," the young girl finished. In addition to her grey hair, she also had grey eyes. She wore grey dress pants and a grey sweater.

"Very good," Sam continued. "Now that we've all been introduced, let me tell you all why you're here. I'm sure some of you have already guessed it, based on when I first spoke to you. Each of you has a special gift, a unique talent that sets you apart. These abilities will make you a target for those who might wish to exploit you. My hope is that you'll agree to let me train you in the use of your powers, so that you can use them for the betterment of mankind."

"So you want us to be the X-Men?" Alvin joked.

"Basically correct," Sam replied. "In short, I do want to train you to be superheroes."

"Sweet!" Alvin said.

Victor pointed to Janet. "Isn't she a little young to be playing superhero? What's her power?"

"I am a supergenius," Janet answered. "I am quite probably the most intelligent individual on Earth. My understanding of various scientific fields shall make me an invaluable addition."

"So your power," Martin remarked, "is being brainy?"

"A blunt, if superficial, assessment," Janet replied flatly.

"I wasn't planning on sending her into combat," Sam explained.

"Admirable intentions," Janet told him. "But I shall not be able to acquiesce. I shall not remain behind when it is necessary for the team to venture into danger."

"We'll . . . we'll deal with that later," Sam said. "Getting back on topic, I need to know if you're all willing. It will be dangerous. Even in training, accidents can happen. And you'd be fighting superhuman threats. Your very lives would be on the line. Every mission you go out on, there will be a chance it'll be your last. You could get seriously injured, or killed. So I don't want you to make this decision lightly. So I'd like you all to sleep on it, and decide if you're willing to put yourself at such risks."

"I'm up for it," Victor spoke up.

"Excuse me?" Sam was startled at how quickly he agreed.

"I'm in," Victor repeated. "I've got this power, I may as well use it."

"Well, uh," Sam stumbled a bit, "thank you."

"Yeah, count me in, too," Eddie added. "I always wanted to be a hero."

"I already asserted my determination to join," Janet said.

"I already put my life on the line as a stunt actor," Julienne said. "I will put it on the line to help people."

"I'm gonna be a superhero!" Alvin shouted enthusiastically.

Only Martin was left. He thought about it. "Ah, what the hell," he decided. "I'm a thrill-seeker, so why not steer it towards the 'greater good' and that crap."

"Wow," Sam said. "I must confess, I didn't expect you to all agree so quickly. I'm grateful that you did, though. Thank you."

"So when do we get our costumes?" Alvin asked excitedly.

Sam laughed. "I'll have some costumes made up when we get back to our headquarters."

"Where's that?" Martin inquired.

"Upstate New York, about 50 miles from Albany. A town called Lucastown. I bought an old, unused boarding school there that I've been renovating."

"X-Men!" Alvin laughed.

"A good idea's a good idea," Sam said defensively. "Why don't we go over our powers? I'll start. My power allows me to disorient people. In those with superpowers, it disrupts their ability to use those powers. It's ineffective against passive abilities like, say, super strength. But it is strong enough to force someone who can alter their body to revert to normal. Alvin?"

"I can fly!" Alvin told everyone. "I can generate a force field, too. And I can fly!"

"I teleport," Eddie said.

"I can turn to stone," Victor said. He gave a demonstration, gaining six inches on his already great height as his body transformed into a hard, rock-like form. "I get pretty strong like this. I'm also really tough." He turned back to normal.

"Fuck," Martin swore. "All I can do is go invisible." He demonstrated. "It's great for peeking on women in the shower, but nowhere near as cool as what you guys do."

"Used properly," Janet jumped in, "invisibility can be a potent asset. Reconnaissance is an obvious use, but it could also be useful in a combat situation, allowing you to attack a target while minimizing your own risk. I'm curious, can you turn other people invisible?"

"I don't think so," Martin said with a shake of his head. "I've tried a couple times, but nothing happened."

"Something for us to work on," Sam told him. "Julienne, I believe it was your turn."

"I am super strong," she said. "And when I get hit, I absorb the impact, and it makes me stronger."

"OK," Sam said. "So we all know what everyone else can do. When we get to the school, we'll begin testing the limits of your abilities. For now, why don't we get some rest."

"Shouldn't we pick code names?" Alvin suggested.

Sam thought about it. "Well, there's no rush, but if you have something in mind . . ."

"I'm going to be Valour," Alvin proclaimed.

"Not bad," Eddie complimented him. "I think I might actually like it."

"I shall call myself Savant," Janet decided.

"I'll go with . . ." Victor thought about it. "Uhhh . . . Granite, I guess."

"I can't think of a good one," Eddie complained.

"How about Extreme?" Alvin suggested.

"Because it's a terrible name," Eddie replied. "What are you, 12?"

"Come on, what's wrong with Extreme?" Alvin asked.

"The only people who use that word are ad execs trying to appeal to young people. I have never in my life heard someone our age use that word to sound cool."

"But it's such a cool word!" Alvin insisted.

Eddie stared at him for a long moment, then laughed. "I can't think of anything better, so . . . Extreme it is."

"Yes!" Alvin popped up with his arms raised. "Victory!"

"I am so going to regret this," Eddie shook his head, but he had a smile on his face.

"Do you have a suggestion for me?" Julienne asked Alvin.

"Cute French Girl?" Alvin suggested.

"I think not," Julienne declined.

"Kinetique," Savant provided a name. "You stated earlier you absorb kinetic energy. 'Cinétique' would be the French translation, but switching to a hard 'K' would provide a catchier name."

"Kinetique," Julienne repeated it. "It does have a certain ring to it. I accept."

"So now we just have Martin," Eddie pointed out. "You could go with the classic 'Invisible Man'."

"A little too obvious," Martin rejected it. He thought about it. "Fuck it," he finally decided, "I'll just go with Invisiboy, at least for now. I'll think of something better later."

"Now that that's all settled," Sam chimed in, "we have a big day ahead of us. So you should all get some sleep."

"He just wants to get rid of us," Martin joked, "so he can watch some porn."

Alvin turned to Julienne. "You know, we could-"

"No!" Eddie interrupted him. "I have a feeling I know what you were about to say. And no! Bad superhero!"

Alvin opened his mouth to object, then nodded his head. "Yeah, it was gonna be pretty bad." Everyone stood up and started towards the door. "I'm not even tired yet. Anyone feel like hanging out?"

"Cool," Eddie said. "What do you want to do?"

"I don't know. Raid the mini-bars in our rooms?"

"You two are underage, right?" Victor asked.

"Yeah," they both replied at the same time.

"Well, as the adult here," Victor smirked, "I suppose it's my duty to keep you from violating the law. No drinking, children."

"Weak, man," Eddie grumbled. "Really weak."

The door shut, leaving Sam alone in the room. Talking to the kids, seeing their enthusiasm, he knew he'd made the right decision.