“To have compassion for a character is no different from having compassion for another human being.”
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
-Spiderman, dir. Sam Raimi
My parents didn’t meet until long after they were placed in special schools. There were schools all over the world, disguised as hidden laboratories, where poor families couldn’t keep their children until they surrendered them to these institutions. Some of these children were taken because their families could afford sending their kids to boarding school, like what my grandparents did for my father, for they were nice people whom were easily tricked by this program someone informed them of, offering a better future for their son. Unfortunately, both my mom and dad went to different schools, different labs, where scientists experimented on them. Tortured them. This was not a pleasant time.
It wasn’t until the 1990s when an evil government organization, Chronos, started locating these schools and found that these labs had been experimenting on children illegally, and they started closing them down. But there was a terrible fight between the government and the enhanced teenagers. They were quite intelligent, yes, but they had superhuman capabilities from their scientific and genetic enhancements. My dad had super strength like Superman. My mom could read minds. Her sister Betsy could freeze things in ice. They fought in class as they fought in real life. The cost was great. In the end, the labs were shut down and each one of those kids were placed under the government’s protection. Even though they went home or were placed in foster care, they remained under close watch by the government organization. No matter what, they were watched carefully, until each one of them graduated from high school or college, learning how to adjust to their capabilities along the way. Some of them went on to defend the world, others went on to save the environment, and some became the enemies to destroy our world.
But no matter if anything happened with those enemies, my dad would always be there to save the day.
My mom, not so much.
It was 2003 when my mom was ordered by Chronos to kill my dad. She had the power to read minds and kill people, due to her genetic enhancements that she would soon give to her children (a.k.a. me). She thought the perfect way to kill a super strong superhero was to kill him at sea. After all, there would be no witnesses and no cameras. It would be quick and effortless. So she took off on a ferry and put a car in reverse from the docking bay, sending the car into the ocean. When my dad was called to help someone who had lost their car, he took the bait. So, my dad arrived on the ferry, either by helicopter or another speedboat, and found my mom doing her evil plan to bring him out on the water.
When he found her, she said, “Well, it’s about time. I was starting to get worried that you were going to forget the whole thing, being the stupid giga person that you are.”
My dad started attacking her. But with her hand to hand combat and her telepathy, she could figure out my dad’s every move and she blocked him every time. Every time he punched her with his massive arms and his hands the size of big catcher’s mitts, mom would deflect them. But back then, dad was only pulling his punches because he would never dare hit a woman. He also told me he thought she had a pretty face and she was terrific, so he didn’t want to hit her. He just wanted her number. He really didn’t think she meant it when she called him stupid.
It was the time mom stopped playing nice by growling and pulling out a pipe to attack him when he stopped toying with her. When she took a swing at him, he caught the pipe in midair and started pushing it away. Mom struggled to push it further toward him, but my dad had the upper hand. With his strength, he pushed harder as mom’s grip weakened, and he hit her in the head with his forehead, then kicked her in the abs, sending her flying to the other end of the boat.
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to hit a girl?” she said, getting up slow from the dent in the steel rails.
“You wouldn’t be the first,” dad said.
By the time the fight was over, my mom had hauled my dad over the edge of the boat, holding him by the collar of his suit, and nearly throwing him over to drown him. That was when she heard his voice loud and clear, the thoughts running through his mind. He was thinking, She is the most perfect woman I’ve ever had to fight. It’s a shame she has to kill me now. I would love to at least know her name before I die. Or at least go out with her.
In that moment, mom felt really guilty. She wanted to punch him across the face, her fist pulled back and inches away from his cheek, but something stopped her. She looked into his eyes and saw it. She saw something in his eyes that made her feel for him. So she put her arm down and said, “I can’t do it. I can’t kill you.”
She let him go and he got back on his feet, away from the edge.
“So, will you come with me and switch sides to do something better for yourself?” my dad said.
“In exchange for what?” mom said.
“Dinner? With me?” he said.
Mom blushed and said, “How about just a cup of coffee? I really don’t care for the romantic dinner thing with random men who swear they are the best.”
“But I’m really not like those guys,” dad said. “I’m a hero in Jersey.”
Mom giggled. She thought this was ridiculous and my dad was being a huge dork.
“Ok, if it’s just a cup of coffee, that’s fine with me,” dad said. “Tomorrow morning too soon?”
Mom turned her head up at the sky and looked back at dad before she said, “Just one coffee. That’s it. And we’re just friends.”
“Sounds like you want to marry me,” dad said, relentlessly flirting with her.
Mom laughed again and reiterated, “For god’s sake, we’re just friends!”
Dad never really let that go. He kept saying that mom was going to marry him in a few years the entire time they were dating. Pretty soon, as the years went by, my parents fell in love while my mom was in my dad’s program to become the next superhero of Metrocosma. And it wasn’t long before dad proposed to her. They got married in 2004. It also took them a while until mom said she was ready to have kids because she and dad were so busy saving the city and saving the world. But a year later, in 2005, they had their firstborn, with a second child on the way about six and a half years later. One of them, the younger child, a boy, developed his dad’s super strength while he was in elementary school. Though he was too young for a high school for super humans, his dad showed him how to stay out of trouble by hiding his powers. He would soon get a first class ticket to a new high school, started by the government organization that found my family, along with countless other kids in those labs, to train them and their children how to use those powers effectively.
The reason why these enhanced people had to send their kids off to special “superhero” schools was because the government agency Superhuman-Mortal Alliance of America (SM Double A) made rules about what heroes and mere civilians could and could not do. At first, civilians and superhuman people couldn’t date each other or get married, but soon enough, that rule was overturned. The SMAA founded schools for superhumans, including Falcon High, to help teenagers deal with puberty and their ever growing powers. Then again, my brother could lift his whole bed to find his Hot Wheels by the time he was five. The government thought it was bad to suppress people’s powers and abilities for they thought it would result in terrible consequences, such as children creating mass hysteria by destroying large cities with something they can’t control. They also thought it was a good idea to enforce laws for humans to pay some respect to superhumans, like the equality laws involving women, people of race, and people in the LGBT community.
The government also introduced a few laws about how the superheroes had to play nice with their environment. If there was any destruction the superhumans had caused to save civilians, they had to help the government, the fire department, and the police to return the favor and help rebuild cities. I can’t tell you how many stupid times a week my dad had to go to Metrocosma and help with disaster efforts after everything he helped, or helped cause.
Unfortunately, for the firstborn daughter of that family, the Harrises, she had no idea when she’d get her powers or what they were going to be like. She always hoped she would get the power to fly, but that never came true for her. She thought she could become invisible or read minds like her mom, or develop frost powers like her aunt, but none of them came. Years went by, and nothing. She went through day care, preschool, elementary school, and middle school, without getting any of her powers at all. By the time her fourteenth year came around, she never got the chance to develop any kind of powers at all. She almost thought she would be ditched at a normal high school instead of going to the super school, living the rest of her life as an average citizen from a suburb in New Jersey. She thought she might as well go running into another catastrophe in the middle of the city, and get so close to getting smashed by a super villain until some superhero in a red cape comes flying to her and saves her life, wrapping her up in his arms and carrying her to safety. Just like Lois Lane. Just like Mary Jane Watson. Just like Christine Palmer, Pepper Potts, Jane Foster, and Gwen Stacy. The average citizens of the world who remain powerless.
I’ll give you a hint. That powerless daughter is me.
But I’ll tell you another thing: I’m not giving up on finding my super ability.
When my parents put me up for Falcon High School that summer, I found out that in July before school started there was a summer camp thing in Metrocosma where the school would test subjects (kids just out of middle school) for combat before getting accepted into high school. I decided that might be good for me because I didn’t know what my power was, so I signed up. What I didn’t expect was the summer camp being like boot camp for the most part.
“Fall in line!” the camp adviser shouted. Girls were running in their gym uniforms, running in a circle around the basketball court where some college basketball teams came to practice before the big March Madness games. There was a college in Metrocosma, Metro Community College, but it wasn’t a very big school for real university courses. That school was mainly for getting an online degree or getting a certificate before transferring to a bigger school. So we were there, running in circles and getting ready for battle.
“Go! Go! Go!” she shrieked, blowing her whistle. The girls were almost exhausted from running, me especially. My lungs were running out of air as I was trudging behind. I was nearly wiped out. I stopped for a moment and bent my knees, putting my hands on my legs and taking deep breaths. I got up after I caught my breath and started running again. I knew I’d never get out of here alive.
The next thing I knew the following week, we started climbing ropes hanging from a wall. I found out I was not good at that. I jumped on one of the ropes, clung to it with my hands, and I forgot what the next step was. I tried pulling on the rope to get higher, but my arm muscles strained. I couldn’t pull myself up.
“Use your legs like scissors!” one of the girls shouted.
“Come on, Violet, you can do it!” another girl cried.
If only they stopped calling me by my first name. “My name’s Jennifer,” I said to them before I muttered to myself. “God, help me.”
I twisted my legs around the rope and tried pushing myself up, but nothing. I was stuck, clinging to the rope, not going up or down. My hands burned against the rope as I twisted it and tried pulling myself up. I was going nowhere. My arms were getting tired. I was losing my grip.
“Oh crap!” I yelped, and I fell onto the mat.
The girls laughed. The camp adviser blew her whistle and said, “Harris! Get back in line! Dangerous, show the ladies how it’s done.”
Our upperclassman volunteer, a sophomore named Fiona, had pink hair and much stronger arms. She jumped on the rope and climbed it without a problem. When she reached the top of the wall, she grabbed the blue flag on the other side and waved it before climbing back down.
When she landed, the adviser said, “Nice job, Dangerous. Now little girls, it’s time that you start building your upper arm strength! Get down on the ground and give me forty!”
And we all had to do forty push ups. I strained myself before pushing down, but I couldn’t raise my arms off the ground. I was weak in my arms. There was no way I could do even one push up. Instead, I just left myself on the ground, face down, and sighed. No wonder most of the girls told me that nobody ever passes the freshman test over the summer, not a single powerless student. This was getting ridiculous.
The next morning, I woke up at 5 a.m. to have a flashlight shining in my face. I got up from my sleeping bag, going, “What the he-?!”
“Get up, Violet!” another camp adviser barked at me. This time it was a tall guy. “Time you start your combat training!”
We went for a long run that morning, followed by more rope climbing and more push ups, where I couldn’t do anything but just lie on my belly. Then we started partnering up and testing out our punches. I punched as hard as I could into her hand, but the girl in front of me said, “Pitiful.”
“I’m punching as hard as I can!” I said. “That’s my best one.”
She punched me hard in the face. It was so hard that I spun and fell to the floor. I could have sworn that was enough to make my nose bleed. “That’s how you punch,” she said.
I screamed in pain.
“Get up, Harris!” the guy camp adviser yelled. “Fight!”
The next thing that happened after our punching skills, we were practicing wrestling or some kind of combined martial arts. Our first task was to pull the person over our shoulders and throw them on the ground when they sneaked from behind. And we had to do this blindfolded. I had the biggest issue with being blind-sighted, but I felt like we had to do this blind because our attackers may come at us by surprise when we’re not looking. We had to be prepared.
So I was blindfolded, standing on the mat and not doing anything, when a pair of arms seized me. I grabbed hold of the person almost strangling me and tried to pull them over my shoulder, but I didn’t have the strength. I pulled as hard as I could, then the unthinkable happened. I was being lifted off the ground and the person behind me threw me over their head and I fell to the ground on my back. Ow. I took off the blindfold and saw the girl about to hit me in the face, but I blocked her arm and slapped her in the face. I pushed her over until she grabbed my arm and twisted it behind me. She did not want to give up. I patted my other hand on the mat, telling her my surrender.
The female camp adviser sighed and said, “Sloppy. If you did that in battle class, you’d be dead.”
This was not my best day ever. Things were like this for seven weeks. The week of my fourteenth birthday, each one of us girls had to use our powers along with our combat skills to start getting ready for battle class in the fall. Since I had no powers yet, they had to go easy on me. My camp counselor Steven Crow said that I was probably a late bloomer when it came to inheriting abilities from my parents, especially since they were genetically enhanced later in life. So I had to go easy on myself, he said. I wasn’t sure about going easy on myself as far as my powers. I wanted them sooner rather than later in the year.
So in the middle of August, when it came time for people to be placed in the right position for power placement, the guy at the desk looked at my whole file, determining whether or not I would go on to high school, provided that my powers will kick in the very first day.
He looked at me, then back at the folder. Then looked at me again. “You’re Giga Man and Silent Wave’s daughter?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Look, my powers are soon to kick in any day now, so could you cut me a little slack?”
“You think you’ll be able to get your powers next week when school starts?” he said.
“Absolutely,” I said.
He looked back down at my folder. He gave a disappointed look before coming back to me. “I’m sorry, Miss Harris, but you’re not cut out for combat at this time,” he said.
I put my hand on the folder and said, “Look, just give me a chance. I’ll get my powers soon, will you give me time?”
“We’ve given you enough time,” he said. “I’m saving your life by not letting you go to Falcon at all. You’re a civilian.”
“Please, just give me time!” I yelped. “I’ll get my powers in just days! I’m only a late bloomer, just give me a chance! I want to do some good for the world!”
He took off his glasses and set my folder aside. “Look, if you just go to a normal school for the next few weeks and then you get your powers, then you can reapply for next year. But until then, you won’t be able to come to our school until you start developing your abilities. I’m really sorry, but that’s the rules.”
It was time for me to bargain. “What if I made things that got me into school? Scientific things? Contraptions? Suits? Jet packs? Could I get into Falcon then?”
“No civilian has ever gotten into Falcon High School on combat and technology alone,” he said. “It can be possible, but it’s very difficult.”
“Difficult, but not impossible, right?” I said.
“Miss Harris, I’m doing you a favor. You should go home and go to Generic High School with the normal civilians until you get your powers, then reapply next year.”
“But next year, I’ll be fifteen! I’ll be a sophomore! Do you really expect me to wait that long to get into high school? I can’t even get into a magnet school to save my life because my grades aren’t good enough. Please, all I’m asking is that you give me time. Please, just one week. One week!”
He sighed and took a moment to think. He then put his glasses back on, got a pen, and started writing something at the bottom of the page in my folder.
Then he said, “Fine, one week. Now get out.”
He closed up the folder and set it aside. I jumped up and squealed. “You won’t be sorry, I promise!” I yelped. Then I walked off with an extra bounce to my step.
Unfortunately, one week wasn’t enough time because I waited and waited for my powers to come, and nothing happened. I tried sneaking up on my brother, hoping that I’d turn invisible, but he turned around and saw me, saying, “What are you doing here, birth defect?” So yeah, there was no chance of me getting into a superhero high school. But that didn’t stop me completely.