Stephanie Hernandez was a normal girl, as normal as you can get when you're in high school. Note: was. That was until The Tiger died. The last Tiger was an Italian guy named Marco Firenze. His death was all over the news. He saved a hijacked plane from crashing into Trump Tower in Chicago, but it was too late. It got stopped on the coast of Lake Michigan. The hijackers, part of a rouge military group sent from North Korea, set off the bombs they just about covered the plane with. The explosion rocked the world, both physically and metaphorically. The bodies either weren't recovered, vaporized or blown apart until unrecognizable. After that he just sorta… snapped. Marco killed himself shortly after. He had taken one of the guns left over, slipped a special kind of bullet in, nobody knew what kind, and put it to his head and pulled the trigger. The cameras caught it all. He looked peaceful, in a broken sort of sense.
The world stopped that day. Not permanently, but it did.
There were candlelight vigils for months after his death, and even now, a year and a half later, there are still people that he saved leaving flowers at the spot where he died.
The question on everyone's mind is 'Where is the new Tiger?'
"MA! WE'RE GONNA BE LATE!"
"Relax mija, it'll be fine! Besides, you need to eat."
Steph huffs a sigh and slides down in her chair, glaring at the food in front of her before eating it begrudgingly. She was running late for something very important. Her high school honors history class was going to tour downtown LA today. Specifically, they were going to tour the Zodiac Tower and actually meet some of them today! Steph has always loved the heroes and what they do. She grew up watching them on the news saving the day and wanted to be just like them when she grew up. Well, she's 17 now, and finally gets to meet her heroes today!
Too bad. Too bad she doesn't know her world is about to be flipped onto its head. Too bad that everything is about to change.
The class got to the ostentatous tower around 1 in the afternoon on a beautiful spring morning. Gotta love March, am I right? Anyways, the honors class was greeted at the door by the Ox and the Horse, aka Logan Atkinson and Kit Byrne. The team's strong man and healer are the only two that weren't out on missions this day, and are the only two that are remarkably better with civilians than the rest of the team.
"Well, hi there kids. Mah name is Logan, y'all probably know me as Ox. This here next to me is Kit, know to y'all as Horse. We're gon be y'alls guides today!" Logan says, his kind and friendly southern drawl shining through perfectly, even though its strange to see a ridiculously strong behemoth of a man this friendly. Like a biker with a kitten.
"Ahem. As my friend here said, we are your guides today. Couple rules first! Don't touch unless told you can, don't wander off, and most importantly have fun!" Kit, The Horse, said. Kit looked like the sweetest person you could've ever met. They're quite a bit older than Logan, Steph notices, now that she sees them up close and not on her collectible posters.
Logan Atkinson. 34. He wasn't always such an absolute unit of a man. Born and raised in New Orleans to a voodoo lady and a pop who ran a popular tourist shop. He was still a strong kid growing up, a football and wrestling star, with that pinch of Southern charm that makes him a favorite on the 12. The last Ox died in a rescue mission. No matter how strong you are, some things can still go wrong, like a crack in a face mask leading to smoke inhalation and eventually suffocation.
Kit Byrne. 54. The ex-military healer from Des Moines, Iowa. They just recently came out as gender fluid with they/them pronouns. Once a member of SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force, they joined the 12 at 40 when their powers blossomed, when the last Horse died of old age. Seemingly underrated, but one of the best in combat strategists ever seen.
Kit and Logan lead the rowdy group of teens through the complex, explaining what area did what while answering questions, both good and bad, about what it's like being a hero and the like. Steph loved every second of it. Due to her rapt attention, she didn't notice when Kevin, the asshole who has been bullying her since they met in 2nd grade, tripped her. Nor did she notice the flight of stairs right in front of her.
WHAM BAM BANG BAM Slaaaaaaam
Thank god the steps didn't go down too far, but damn did it hurt. Steph groaned as she sat up. Her whole class staring down at her as though she grew a second head.
Rubbing her arm where she landed she notices a weird orange otherworldly glow surrounding her. Startled, she jumps to her feet and is launched at least 10 feet into the air. Needless to say she's freaking out.
"U-UM MR. LOGAN SIR. MX KIT. WHATS HAPPENING?!" She yells, on the edge of a panic attack. Most of her peers have whipped out their phones to record what is happening at this point.
Kit, always a cool head, walks over to Stephanie and just hugs her. Just holds her tight like a parent would when their child wakes up from a nightmare until the glow fades. Kit looks at her, their face blank but still oddly warm and welcoming.
"Sweetie, you are the new Tiger."
You could hear a pin drop. Everyone heard what Kit said but nobody could believe it. I don't think anyone wanted to believe it.
Kevin is the first person to snap out of the shock and just started laughing. Like, a fully belly laugh. Like, the kind you have when something is so unbelievably funny that you can't help but laugh.
"Her?! She's the new Tiger?! Wow you're nuts lady. Thats Steph! Theres nothing special about her!" He cackles between lines, saying what he believes everyone else is thinking.
Sadly, that's what her entire class thought. She is a smart girl, yeah, but she's an outcast. She didn't belong in any specific group. She was a floater. Nobody wants a entire class, the students not the teacher, just start laughing, assuming its all a prank. You can hear it echo all throughout the tower. Needless to say, Steph wanted to throw herself off a bridge or just hide.
"Would you horrible HOOLIGANS SHUT YA TRAPS!" Ox yells, having enough of the mistreatment of this young lady before turning to his teammate and quietly asking, "Kit, honey, woulda mind leadin this lil lady somewhere private? We gotta find out if this is tha real deal or not. I'll handle everythang over here."
Steph was escorted by Kit to the med bay, where she was sat on a waiting bed. They ran a check up on her to be certain that what happened was in fact what was assumed to have happened. It was silent, except for the sounds of machines whirring and beeping. It wasn't awkward, so to speak, but definitely tense. Like someone just dropped a bomb and everyone was trying to ignore it, which is actually pretty accurate.
"….. so ahh *ahem* Mx. Kit?" Steph asks, clearing her throat as if it'll clear her anxiety.
"Um, say if I am the new Tiger, what does that mean?"
"Well kiddo, it'd mean you're one of us now. Not only would you be immediately inducted into the team, but the media will know as well. Probably sooner seeing as your classmates videoed it all." Kit trails off staring into space for a moment as if thinking. "But from there, we'd train you to use your powers and finish your schooling here and fight crime along the way. You will be moved into the tower, your family too if you'd like, but you'd become the Tiger. Now be a dear and take off your jacket and pull your shirt down enough just past your heart? I need to check if the Mark formed."
"What Mark?" Steph asks as she complies with the Horse's wishes, albeit slowly.
"Well, each and every one of us gets a Mark when we receive our powers. Its location is dependent on which power we receive. Like Logan, the Ox? His is on his fists. Mine is on my back, and it goes on and on. Think of it as a tattoo but without the pain." Kit explains with their hands while waiting before finally seeing it. There, on Stephanie's chest, is a tattoo. Tribal in design but no doubt about it. It is the Mark of the Tiger. "Well kid. Good news and bad news." Kit states, once again blank in expression but still warm. It doesn't sooth Stephanie's nerves one bit.
"Uhhh lets go g-good news first th-then bad news?" Steph stutters out, afraid and nervous for what's to come.
Kit pauses for a second before bluntly stating, "Well good news is that you're a superhero now. Bad news is you're now the most powerful hero of us all but also the most sought after, as a target."
After a few beats of silence, Kit got up and left after murmuring something about Steph needing to call her parents. She was not looking forward to it. At all. I mean, how do you tell someone about this? Like, "Oh hey mom, so I just found out that apparently I have superpowers now and a lot of people are going to want to murder me now! Anyways, love you have a great day!". I mean really, who does that? Omniscient narrator, reader or otherwise, I think we can all agree that this sucks.
"¿Hola? ¿Hija? ¿Qué pasa, cariño?" Mom, Emelda Hernandez, answers the phone, worry already entering her voice.
"Hola mamá. I have some news." Steph states, holding her breath without realizing it.
"Mija? What's wrong? Is it that Kevin boy again? Dios Mio, I swear if I ever see him-"
"Mamí! Relax! It's not Kevin. It's me."
"What's wrong mija? What happened?"
Steph lets out the breath she was holding and steals her nerves best she can before continuing. "So, do you remember when Señor Firenze died? How there wasn't a new Tiger?"
"Sí, I remember. What does it have to do with you though?"
"Well, um, mamí… The new Tiger was chosen. Its.. uh… its me."
"Ay, mija, I'm sorry, I dropped the phone. I-I-I'm just in shock! My baby? My dear sweet child is a superhero?! I'm sorry but I'm just…. wow."
"Will you please tell papí when he gets home from work?"
"Sí, I will tell him. Please be safe hija, I love you."
"I love you too mamá."
Steph lets out a sigh and after a minute flips through her phone, purposefully checking the news for once. There, plastered all over the front page, is her face. Great. Just great.
AN: Hey everyone! Thanks for reading! Hope you guys keep reading and please leave reviews! Let me know what you think! -HB