• indent]The lights in the room were dim, almost too dim to see anything in, but of course, that was the intention. There was a projector screen extended against the back wall, rather than the front, since the front wall wasn’t completely flat, it curved almost, and the slightest change in the angles could make the experiment look faulty to the audience. Ah yes, the audience. It wasn’t as if they had been completely prepped on what to expect, no, they’d only been told to expect the unexpected, and that their presence was required. Obviously, their natural curiosity got the better of them all, and they’d decided to show. Not that he had expected a different outcome from his request. He sat next to a piece of machinery that looked as if it could have done anything from heating up popcorn to powering an entire city, it was just impossible to pin to a single purpose, like the rest of the technology in the room, although the rest was strewn seemingly in random locations throughout the slightly curving walls of the room, aside from the flat back wall. That was completely bare, even the stucco found on the rest of the walls had been scraped off professionally, it was a plain wall of solid white paint.
    indent]On top of the machine was a vial holding a lavender fluid, although the shade could have been anything from it’s original color to a dye inserted to identify the liquid inside. The audience had no way of knowing, but of course he did. It was his experiment after all, he knew the ins and outs of the procedure like he knew his the back of his hand. He frowned, that was a bad metaphor. There was always new wrinkles popping up on his hands, to admit to such an overused metaphor, aside from the inaccuracy of it, would be below him. He was anything from ordinary, something so common and overused belonged as far away from him as possible. The room was completely silent as he began to slide the latex gloves over his hands, the Slap! Slap! sound they made as they struck his skin was the only noise in the room, it was cacophonous in comparison to the utter silence that came before it.
    indent]“Now, I know you’re all wondering what you’re here to see.” His voice echoed, bouncing back off of the walls. Several of those in the audience winced visibly, and a slight smirk tugged at the corners of the man’s mouth. If they reacted so vividly to such a simple action, they’d practically trip over each other when they saw the grand demonstration. Of course, if they had the patience for it. He grinned, a woman was already looking as if she were prepping to leave. It had been said that the average human had the attention span of a ferret on a double espresso, perhaps there was some truth to that. Of course there was, he’d lead the research into that very study himself.
    indent]“What is that machine? What is it’s primary function?” Someone asked from the crowd, a middle aged reporter. She wasn’t pretty now, nor homely, but he had the sense she had been gorgeous in her day. She couldn’t be much over forty or fifty, and he highly doubted she was much older than that. Her hair was only just starting to show the signs of aging, a slight graying on the sides of her head, but otherwise her hair was still a chocolate brown. He had a feeling she was only using such vocabulary to seem intelligent around her colleagues, even though he doubted she needed to, she seemed to be of above average intelligence.
    indent]He smiled, showing a row of fine, pearly, perfect teeth. “It has no name, but certainly it has a function. It has only one function, well no. It has two functions. It projects the contents of this screen here-” He tapped the screen being projected against the back wall. “-And it inserts a certain chemical into this syringe here.” He explained, holding up a sterile, unused syringe, smiling as he held it aloft. A camera went off, that would only be the first of many.
    indent]“Can we cut the suspense please? Unless this a lengthy procedure that’s already been started, I have to leave at-” The same woman glanced at her watch. “-At 3:15.”
    indent]“Who do you work for?”
    indent]“The New York Times.” She replied, almost seeming to sit taller.
    indent]He stifled a laugh. “Take all the pictures you need, I’ve yet to get it started. The machine takes eight minutes to prep, three to load the chemicals, and-”
    indent]“What chemicals?” She interrupted, an obstinate look on her face. Several others in the audience nodded their agreement with her line of questioning.
    indent]“I doubt it’s anything you’re familiar with. It’s not an ordinary chemical, it’s found in-”
    indent]Again she interrupted. “Chemical? You said chemicals a moment ago.”
    indent]“A slip of the tongue my dear. A simple human error.” He grinned, a frown creasing his face was gone so quickly it was left to the woman to decide if it was just her imagination.
    indent]“Human error. As if.” She muttered under her breath, she was fairy certain he had meant chemicals, the plural. It didn’t make sense. He had this too carefully orchestrated to make such a simple mistake.
    indent]A thought crossed her mind. “Human error? Are you sure you can perform this procedure correctly if you can’t keep your tongue in line, let alone your hands?” She didn’t attempt to hide the mistrust in her voice.
    indent]It took him a moment to compose himself, nearly snapping the syringe in anger. Who did she think she was? “I suppose I can’t blame you for that. It’s simply in your nature as a reporter to pester the professionals, it’s in the job description I find.” He smiled charmingly, and several nervous laughs filled the room. “May I continue with the demonstration ma’am?” He tilted his head slightly, hiding his grin.
    indent]She was flustered, she hadn’t expected him to call her out like that in front of everyone. Her eyes roamed the audience, half of which was focused on her, the other half on the man holding the syringe. “Y-yes.” Her cheeks were turning a rosy hue.
    indent]“Thank you ma’am. I’ll answer all of your questions after the demonstration.” He didn’t hide the crooked smile this time.
    indent]He slid the syringe into an indentation on the side of the machine, just the cartridge part of it. The actual needle he set off to the side, it wasn’t needed yet. “Bring them in.” He nodded to a woman standing off to the side, who drew in breath sharply, before leaving the room.
    indent]“Bring who in? Assistants?” The woman couldn’t restrain the question.
    indent]“Assistants… Yes. I suppose that’s one way of looking at them.” He frowned as if he hadn’t considered the thought before.
    indent]“What do you mean? Are you assisting you involuntarily?”
    indent]“No. They’re here with parental cons-”
    indent]She couldn’t hide the outrage in her voice. “Parental consent? Are they minors? What are they-” Her voice was rising in pitch before ‘they’ finally entered the room.
    indent] As she had assumed, they were minors. A boy and a girl, the girl looked to be about nine, the boy, six. The girl’s hair was chocolate brown and just passed her shoulders, the boy’s was a very light brown shade, and was styled in untidy spikes.
    indent]“They’re children!” She yelled.
    indent]“Of course they are. Did you mean minors with an ‘e‘?” He scowled.
    indent]The boy smiled, a bright, childish smile that seemed to warm up the room. “Hi Lady!” He said cheerfully, but the girl hushed him, pulling him into her arms. The woman guessed they were siblings.
    indent]“Why did you bring kids to this… demonstration?” She seemed as if she had a different word in mind, but substituted ‘demonstration’ in a seeming attempt to avoid offending him.
    indent]“They’re a part of it, a very important part. Well, the boy is.” He grinned.
    indent]Grumbling, she sat down again, casting wary glances at him, and soothing ones towards the children.
    indent]“What is your name ma’am?” He asked, a hand on his chin.
    indent]“Lois McAllister.” She growled.
    indent]“May I continue with the demonstration Ms. McAllister?” He cocked his head to the side.
    indent]“By all means…”
    indent]“Thank you.” He motioned for the siblings to come to him. “I’d like to introduce you all to Hanna, and her brother Cameron. Say hello everyone!” He smiled almost cruelly.
    indent]Several murmured hello’s filled the room, which made Hanna scowl, and Cameron smiled brightly. “Hi people!” He cupped his hands against the sides of his face and yelled his greeting, and Lois could almost hear hearts melting.
    indent]“Hanna, Cameron, over here please.” He called to them, and they obliged, Hanna cautiously following behind a happy, jogging Seth.
    indent]He glanced at the needle, it was ready. “Your arm Cameron.” He grabbed the boy’s arm, yanking him forward.
    indent]“Stop!” Lois was on her feet. “What are you going to inject him with?”
    indent]He slapped a hand against his face, and slowly let it slide down. “The chemicals, of course. You think I prepped the machine for nothing? Now watch.” He jabbed the needle into the boy’s vein, no anesthetic. He gave a short yelp, and tears came to his eyes.
    indent]“Hey! He obviously didn’t agree to this!” Lois was irate.
    indent]Cameron squirmed uncomfortably, and he removed the needle, it was done. “See? No harm done.”
    indent]“What’s it going to do to him?”
    indent]“You’ll see. Hanna? Care to demonstrate what it did to you?” He gestured to the girl.
    indent]She stepped forward, putting her arms around Cameron, and closed her eyes, shaking her head slightly. “No.”
    indent]“Stop it!” Lois yelled, everyone staring now. She wondered why no one else had even said a word in protest. “What is it you want her to show us?”
    indent]He felt his fingernails digging into his palm, he’d have to remember to clip them later, when he had the time. “Something life-changing.”
    indent]Lois snorted indignantly. “Really.”
    indent]Hanna’s eyes were wet. He answered at the same time she did. “Yes.”
    indent]Lois furrowed her eyebrows. “Then show us dear.” She sat down again, seething.
    indent]“O-okay…” She said, and Cameron wiped her eyes. She hugged her brother tightly, and closed her eyes, a look of deep concentration crossing over her face. She laced her fingers in his thin brown spikes, and a faint hum escaped her lips. For a moment, nothing happened. Then Lois gasped.
    indent]Hanna and Cameron were completely encased in something that reminded Lois of a hamster’s running ball. It was see-through, amorphous, but slightly orange tinted. He smiled, and hurled the empty needle at Hanna and Seth.
    indent]Lois snarled, “Watch out!” but there was no need, the empty needle bounced off of the amorphous encasing, breaking into three broken pieces. Hanna bit her lip, and the encasing vanished.
    indent]He stared at the dead quiet audience, his hands spread wide and perpendicular to his body. “Is this not grand? Is it not life-changing?” there was a slight hint of hysteria in his voice.
    indent]For once, even Lois was silent. No one made a single sound, until Cameron’s stomach growled. “I’m hungry!” He complained. Someone laughed, but almost choked on it. Lois was not the first to speak up, a balding man with a baseball cap beat her to it. “What was that?”
    indent]Lois would not be outdone. “What does this mean? Her… talent implicates that she’s developed a… super-power, if you will. I have no proper term.”
    indent]His smile widened. “Ma’am, that is exactly the right term.”
    indent]Her scowl returned. “You’re saying-”
    indent]“Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying.” He sighed, seeming bored now. “Now… Cameron? Are you ready to-” He inhaled sharply. “No, actually let’s not. Not after the mess Fran and Aiden left me…” His eyes seemed to almost show fear. Cameron on the other hand, seemed to smile at the mention of names.
    indent]“Well, my lovely audience! It’s too bad you can’t see Cameron’s encore, but I don’t want to risk him incinerating us all if his ‘Gift’ isn’t as friendly as Hanna’s.”
    indent]Hanna frowned. “Incinerate? That’s Aiden’s-”
    indent]He sighed. “Hanna, Cameron, you’re excused.” He waved his hand, sighing, and expectantly turning so the siblings were out of his view, they had already left the room in his mentality.
    indent]This time, Lois would not allow someone to beat her to the punch. “What was in that syringe?” She was soon drowned out by a chorus of voices shouting out similar questions, and he almost threw something into the crowd to shut them up.
    indent]“My associates and I have-”
    indent]“What kind of technology is required for such a feat?”
    indent]“-developed a manufactured virus that-”
    indent]“A virus? Like Influenza?”
    indent]“-seems to bestow ‘powers’ to the injected.” He finished, seeming almost bored now that his demonstration was done, this was not the publicity he’d imagined. All they’d done was question him, criticize, and generally follow Lois’ lead like lemmings.
    indent]Hanna had taken Cameron out into the hallway, and now came back into the room, keeping her head down in almost embarrassed manner. She crossed over to his side, and said, “He’s with Sara now. How long until he can figure out-”
    indent]“Sara? You go help her, it could be explosive. You know he has no control yet.”
    indent]Lois frowned. “How can you do this!? You have no authority to commit such crimes!”
    indent]“What crimes? I had their parents’ consent. Both parents. Think of it like you would a chicken pox vaccination; if their parents want them to get it…” He raised a single eyebrow at Lois.
    indent]Hanna left the room now, smiling at her brother and a girl who looked to be about Hanna’s age. They walked down the hallway, towards the entrance. The architecture of the building was simple, the large circular room was bisected by a long hallway leading straight to a set of revolving doors, which Hanna, Sara, and Cameron passed right through, Hanna’s hands on her brother’s shoulders, Sara holding the boy’s hand.
    indent]“So any idea what you think you’ll be able to do?” Sara giggled, smiling sweetly at Cameron.
    indent]“Nope…” He sighed, disappointed. He held out his hands, slipping out of Sara’s grasp, and shaking Hanna’s hands off his shoulders. He tried mimicking the way he remembered seeing Aiden use his powers, but nothing happened. “Nothing…” He pouted, sticking out his bottom lip.
    indent]“Aw… Well, you can watch me.” She smiled, and Cameron brightened up. Sara glanced over at a deli across the street, an arrangement of floral bouquets placed on the windowsill, the window propped open letting out a delicious aroma. She held out her hand towards the window, her hand clenched into a fist. She slowly uncurled one of her fingers, almost as if she were inviting someone to join them. The petals on a carnation settled in the deli snapped off, floating into the air, wafting over to them, settling into her palm. She clenched her fist again, and opened it again. The petals were ground into fine shards, each about the size of a tack. She let them float off in the breeze, before she dropped her hand swiftly, and the shards sliced through a nearby telephone pole. The sliced pole fell to the ground in several pieces, taking most of the cables with it. The lights inside the buildings along the entire street shut off, leaving them in near total darkness.
    indent]“Oops.” She giggled, the model of innocence.