Super & Real
“You see,” Raymond explained, “after I was brought back here, I got set up with a lab. The first thing I was going to figure out was how powers worked.” He led them out of the room and across the hall into another. Even with her enhanced intellect, Jennifer could barely grasp what some of the metallic shapes and panels were for. He saw her gaping stare. “I built most of these myself. You see, we’re dealing with types of detection that don’t involve anything we’re aware of.”
“Not electromagnetic?” she asked.
“It affects electromagnetic radiation,” he explained, “but not directly, and not in the same way each time.”
“How is that possible?”
“Like this,” he said, pulling down the whiteboard. He grabbed a marker. “Imagine for a moment that you had an alien race who somehow couldn’t tell that fire existed.” He drew a campfire and a pig roasting over it. “They know if they strike certain rocks together over dry wood soaked in accelerant, it allows them to cook the meat somehow, they just can’t tell the fire is there.”
“Ok,” Jericho said, arms folded.
“They can look at the meat and see it’s cooking,” Raymond said, pointing at the drawing of the pig. “So, they know something is happening, but they can’t tell there is a fire there.”
“Couldn’t they just put their hand in the fire and find out?” Jennifer asked.
“They could,” Raymond said, “but that would only be more indirect evidence, because they still can’t detect it directly.”
“I see,” Jericho interjected. “We’re blind to this…stuff…whatever it is, and we can only tell it’s there by looking at what it does to stuff we can see.”
“Right!” Raymond said, snapping his fingers. “Anyway, what that means is, I firmly believe we’re swimming in a sea of either new particles around us, or even new things besides particles and waves. I believe I can build a device capable of detecting it directly, but the problem is, how do you build something to find something utterly unlike anything in our universe?”
“It’d be like an alien race that can’t see fire building a machine to detect the presence of fire,” Jennifer said.
“So,” Jericho commented, “how do you do it?”
“I’ve been worrying about that for a while now,” Raymond said. “Honestly, it’s incredibly complicated.”
Davis Wilson stepped forward. “Anyway, explain the whole ‘powers are real now’ thing to us,” he said.
Raymond took a deep breath and let it out. “Alright, if I lose you, please stop me and ask questions,” he said. “Okay?” They nodded. “Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together, based on the incomplete information available to me from my partially working new technology.” He activated the overhead display screen and attached a laptop to it. The screen showed a graph of various colors streaking out of a point high above the Earth and spreading all over the globe. “This is an image I got a number of radio telescopes to take. It’s based on these particles having effects in our reality even if we can’t perceive them directly. Sort of like the aliens that see the meat cooking but can’t see the fire.”
“What’s that?” Jennifer said, pointing to the position on the screen where the colored streaks originated.
“I would presume that is where the Lights came from,” Raymond explained. “You see, I believe that a hole in our universe opened up and some other reality, and something is pouring out that causes specific changes to the laws of physics. How this works,” he shrugged with his hands, “I hope to find out. Right now, though, I can only speculate.”
“So,” Sam said, “magic.”
“It may seem that way,” Raymond replied, “and it might be, from a practical point of view, but it is remarkably like a science. Powers follow rules. For example, Jericho, when you copy a power, explain how it works.”
Jericho blinked a moment at being put on the spot. “Ok, um,” he said, “well, I touch someone, and if I activate my power at that moment, I see the moment they first tested their power and can copy their knowledge of how to use it along with the power itself. It appears in my mind as a separate trigger next to all the others.”
“See?” Raymond said, gesturing. “It works the same way every time. Very predictable. If it were truly supernatural, it wouldn’t be possible to get a predictable result. The fact that it obeys rules tells me a lot about what we’re witnessing. It may be beyond our current ability to understand—maybe—but it isn’t unexplainable.”
“I get it,” Jennifer said. “These things can’t just up and do anything at any time, because they’re not random.”
“In other words,” Davis added, “it’s not just hand-wavy nonsense. There’s a mechanism behind it.”
“You got it!” Raymond said, snapping his fingers again. “That’s the point. I believe, contrary to our pastor who’s going around causing all sorts of harm with his fake Jesus, this isn’t a miracle; in other words, they might not follow our laws of physics, but there are laws of physics that do govern them.”
“So,” Jericho said, “let’s get to the point. What can we do against this fake Jesus? Jack Hurst is clearly, in some way, responsible for this being’s existence.”
“I believe he’s got the power to summon things into being,” Raymond said. “Powers have been around for months now, and we haven’t seen anyone able to turn into something they imagine, the way you can.” He motioned at Jennifer. “I think certain powers are hierarchical. Otherwise, such a powerful ability would be more common. With over a billion Christians in the world, how is this random pastor from a nowhere church in Oklahoma the first one to have Jesus with him? I’d imagine he’s the first to gain summoning powers of this level.”
“Bastard was able not only to negate my abilities,” Jericho commented, “but I almost died from this heat and light attack he hit me with.”
“Exactly,” Raymond pointed out. “Any other details?”
Jericho thought about it. “He was able to stop me from copying his ability or even seeing him test it.”
“Fascinating,” Raymond acknowledged. “So, I think it’s safe to say that there is some kind of hierarchy because he interfered with you. Jennifer, what about you?”
“I have a better idea,” Jennifer said, turning to Jericho. “Let’s all combine experiences.” She held out her hands. “Everyone. Come on.” On her right, Davis and his supervisor formed a half circle, and Raymond and Jericho completed it.
“Ready?” Jericho said. “This may seem a bit weird.”
“These experiences won’t interfere with each other?” Sam asked.
“No,” Jericho said, shaking his head. “With a bit of intelligence enhancement, you’ll be able to process all of them separately in seconds. Ready?”
Nervously, everyone nodded. Jericho pulled the triggers for enhanced intellect as well as empathic projection. Instantly, all five of them plunged into the memories of all the other members of the circle. A lifetime of experiences for each flashed before their eyes. Each one had an intricate understanding of all the others.
“There we go,” Jericho said. “I’m getting more and more used to it. I figured out how to exclude personal details like credit card numbers, social security numbers, et cetera, pretty early, and now I’m working on how to seamlessly transition more effectively.”
“Wow,” Sam said, stepping back, brushing white hair out of his eyes from his startled head jerking as he stepped. “Was I really that much of a hard-ass when you were in academy?”
“Eh, well,” Davis said, sheepishly, “I think you know I got used to it.”
“So,” Raymond cut in, “I think I got a huge amount of important info just from you two.” He stepped back and took a deep breath, brushing his hands over his face. A thought startled him. “Oh, Jericho! I know you’ve got a ‘make people smarter’ power that you used on us just now, but based on what I’ve seen, it’s a bit lesser than the ‘super-intelligence’ power I’ve got. So copy that one, and give it to everyone here, if you would.”
“Whoa, there,” Davis cut in, “don’t you think that’s a bit risky?”
“I think we can trust each other,” Jennifer said. “After all, Jericho here is a billionaire. If anyone was going to turn evil, it would be him. Besides, he used to be an Objectivist.”
He shot her a look. “Come on,” he protested. “I’ve spent the better part of months getting inside other people’s memories. I’ve got less a reason to ‘turn evil,’ as you put it, than anyone here.”
She gently knuckled him in the shoulder. “I’m just teasing you,” she admitted.
Jericho rolled his eyes and shook Raymond’s hand, copying his mind power. One by one, he touched the other three, and gave them the ability. “Good lord,” Sam said. He didn’t have to say anything else. He felt smarter.
“I think I know how to help you get your technology off the ground,” Jennifer said. “We’re going to have to be combine my energy manipulation with several others. Jericho, do you have any kind of technology manipulation?”
He quickly went through his collection of abilities. “Not directly,” he admitted. “I do have the ability to manipulate things on a microscopic scale.”
“That might work,” Davis said, cutting in. “I think I can see what you’re going for. We have to be able to see what we’re being powered by; the aliens have to be able to see the fire.”
Jennifer gave her the thumbs-up. “Right!” she cheered.
“So, we should probably start with the edge of what quantum physics knows,” Jericho cut in. “Once we know how the powers are able to manipulate the laws of physics, we should be better equipped to take on Jack Hurst and his fake Jesus.”
“Let’s get to work,” Jennifer said.
Jack Hurst had spent days in New York, tending to the sick and injured, as well as preaching to those who would accept. One by one, the law enforcement had accepted their lord and savior.
“We found another sinner, oh Lord,” an officer said, bringing a young man up to the pedestal.
The man had scuff marks on his arms and legs where he’d put up a fight. Dried scabs marked the struggles. The Lord stepped forward and placed his hands on the man’s shoulders, and the wounds healed. “My son,” He spoke, “we both know why you’ve been brought here.”
The man lifted his left forearm and wiped red, soaked eyes. “Please don’t kill me,” he pleaded.
“My son, I want nothing more than your salvation,” He replied. “The problem is, I need you to renounce your sin and accept the will of the Father.”
“But,” the man begged, “my boyfriend…”
The Lord shook his head. “No, my child,” he chided, “you will not lie with another man in lust. Thus is not the way of the Father. You will sin no more. If you choose the sin over the love of the Father…” He held his right hand to the side, which began to glow white hot, “then the path that sin leads to is clear.”
“Oh, no, no…” the man begged, nearly choking on his tears.
“Your time is up,” He replied. “You must choose.”
Forgive me, my love, he thought. I want to live. He lifted his head, and dropped to one knee. “I submit my soul to the Lord and Savior,” he said. “I beg for my forgiveness.”
The Lord held his hands to the man’s head. “Do you choose to serve Our Father with all the love in your heart?” He asked.
“Yes, I do,” the man replied.
“Then, you are forgiven,” the Lord spoke. “Take your place among the faithful.”
One officer turned to his Lord. “But, my Lord!” he argued. “I thought…!”
“You thought he would refuse me," The Lord answered. “What you thought was that you would see a homosexual killed before your very eyes. I warn you, child, though I do not hesitate to cast the sinners into the lake of fire, I do not do so blindly. And I offer redemption first.”
The officer quickly bowed. “Yes, my Lord!” he shouted. “Forgive me!”
“You are forgiven,” The Lord said. He hovered high above the huge congregation. “All of you! Go forth and spread the word! If you have faith, you too can perform any of the miracles I do!” A glow passed from him gently over the heads of everyone in the crowd. “But be warned: I can see each of your hearts. Misuse will not be tolerated. Punishment will be swift.”
“My Lord, what is your will?” Jack said.
“Come,” He spoke to his servant. “We have other places to go to.” He lifted his servant up into the sky next to him. He addressed the crowd. “Any who will submit to the Father’s will, accept into our ranks. Any who defies, cast them out as I have done to the sinners.” The two of them flew away.
“My Lord,” Jack said, as his Lord pulled him along, “why do so many choose to die when confronted with the possibility of eternal life and eternal love, from the Father, God in Heaven?”
The Lord pondered this. “I would say,” He said, “that they are so set in their ways that they cannot contemplate the possibility presented before their very eyes. True love has been denied them so long they think it ill."
“What of the ones that call us evil for taking lives?”
The Lord gave a slight chuckle. “My child,” He replied, “the power of the Deceiver, Satan, is such that any who refuse the love of God the Father at this stage cannot be trusted. There is no other course of action.”
“Truly, you are wise, my Lord,” Jack said.
“No,” The Lord corrected. “Only God is wise. I am merely repeating His wisdom here on Earth.”
Jack seemed to accept this. “Where are we headed now?”
The Lord looked east a moment. “Quick, down here,” he ordered.
They landed in a wide-open area of plains. Other than the occasional tree, and a lot of grass, there was nothing around for miles. Jack looked around in confusion. “Where are we?”
“Somewhere far away from people, just like they want it,” The Lord said. An angry sneer came across his face. “The foolish kings believe they are taking good and decisive action.” He pointed.
Jack looked in the direction, squinted, and used his hands to block the sun from his eyes. He saw a glint off in the distance. The Lord placed a hand on him, and allowed him to see with divine eyes. Jack’s jaw dropped and his heart raced. “Oh, my God,” he swore. Sweat began to bead on his brow. He put a hand to his mouth. “Is that, a nuclear missile!”
“Do not fear,” The Lord said, “for you will now witness the power of the Father at play.”
“Is that why you took me away from the crowd?” Jack asked.
“Shh,” The Lord said. “Just watch.”
The sky lit up with a flash. Jack threw his head to the right and shielded his face with his arms. He began to scream, but the pain never came. He risked a glance, and saw the light didn’t blind or scorch, as it should have. The explosion had been contained within an orb. It shrank as the Lord closed his fists and popped out of existence with no dramatic moment whatsoever. “That’s the power of God!” Jack announced, pumping his fist.
“That means the nations of man have taken up arms against us,” The Lord said. “What we do next will be the turning point of our conquest of evil.”
“What will we do, my Lord?” Jack asked.
“We show the power of God to the would-be kings of the world,” The Lord said.
After a short flight, the two of them landed at the entrance to the United Nations building. Two security guards drew their firearms and were ash before they could get the first shot off. Jack walked slightly to the left of his Lord and savior, and the entrance flew open as they walked past screaming people in business suits. More security came running and men in S.W.A.T. gear filled the hallways. The two came to a stop.
“Freeze!” a man at the front of the riot gear announced, drawing his semi-automatic rifle at them. “You won’t get any further! Surrender now!”
“Any who lays down his arms shall be forgiven for taking up arms against the Lord,” He announced.
“You won’t be given another chance,” Jack added.
“Open fire!” the man at the front shouted.
“Fools,” Jack said. The Lord simply gestured forward and a light engulfed the S.W.A.T. commander and reduced him to a pile of ash instantly. The hall became a cacophony of shots fired and explosions. The bullets simply stopped in midair and fell harmlessly to the ground before hitting. Pulses of light emerged from the ground, and one by one, the men burnt to nothing.
At last, there were two. “My children,” the Lord said, “I do not wish for any more of you to die. If you persist in opposing me, you will leave me with no choice.”
One of the two officers threw his weapon aside. “I won’t help you, murderer,” he said.
“Then stand aside,” Jack said, “and no harm will come to you.” The officer stepped aside.
“I can’t let you walk on,” his coworker said, lifting his rifle.
The Lord stepped forth and placed the barrel against his chest. “This is your last chance to be forgiven,” He advised. “Do not pull that trigger if you want to receive the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The officer pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
The Lord closed his eyes a moment. “Father, they know not what they do,” He said. When he opened his eyes, the man vanished in a burst of light. “Come, Jack. Our opposition is gone.”
They stepped forward, down a series of elaborate hallways, decorated with all manner of national flags and pictures of world leaders. The last two security guards at the entrance to the large hall posed no threat whatsoever. The door burst open and the clamor of shouts and cries went dead silent in an instant. As Jack walked, trailing behind his Lord, whose bright robes moved with each step, they took in the sight of the men who ruled the world.
“Normally,” Jack said, stepping up to the podium as the President of the United States stepped aside. “I’d be giving a grand speech. However, I believe my Lord—your Lord—can say it better than I can.”
The Lord walked, his voice amplified by power and magically translated for all to understand. He took in the sights as he glared at specific individuals. “The time of Judgment is at hand,” He explained. “I was willing to be slow and methodical in my approach of bringing about the end of the forces of Satan and evil. Unfortunately, your rash call to action has forced my hand.”
He paced in front of the European nations. “My Father, your God on high, has tasked me with bringing about the final victory against evil. What has transpired has been the appearance of supernatural abilities into the world. These are not the works of either my Father, or of the Deceiver. Thus, I have been attempting to gather them in service of goodness on high. What I have seen transpire, however, has been the forces of secularism and a drive towards individual rebellion against the Father, push men to believe these are instruments they should use for their own ends. This ends now.”
He slammed a hand on the desk of France. “A demonstration of the fact that God the Father reigns supreme over any supernatural power must be made to rally the faithful. Who was the first to raise their hand and authorize a nuclear strike on my servant and I?”
The room went deathly quiet. He stomped his foot and the sound of thunder clapped throughout the room. “WHO?” His voice boomed and everyone felt it in their chest. He scanned the room. No hands went up, no faces nodded. “Very well, then. I shall pick someone at random and they shall experience what it means to suffer.” He held up a hand in the direction of the delegate from Hungary.
Everyone turned in the direction of the voice. It was the delegate from India. He stood up and held his hand high. “Please,” he begged. “Spare everyone else here. Punish me.”
The Lord approached. “My child,” he said, holding out welcoming hands. “I will not punish you. Unfortunately, your kingdom has a great many heathens in it, and I fear a demonstration must be made.”
“NO! PLEASE!” he shouted, collapsing to his knees.
A bodyguard for the Italian delegate attempted to rush the Lord as he strolled down the aisle. The Lord, however, merely lifted his left hand and an invisible force threw the guard into and over several tables, to collapse in a broken heap against the far wall. “There are tens of millions of loyal faithful in your nation,” The Lord spoke. “They shall be spared.” He stepped into the center of the room, placed his hands together, and looked skyward.
Thousands of miles away, at the Pakistani border with India, a blue light travelled along the ground, heading in both directions, marking the boundary between the two nations. The Pakistani guard stared in confusion as the light snaked in different directions.
Millions of people across India saw a blue glow overtake certain people and engulf them like a raincoat made of semi-translucent light. The people not covered reacted with panic and confusion as they discovered they could not touch their comrades through the light. The engulfed found they were unimpeded by their surrounding glow. They could breathe and move about, and the confusion only grew.
An airplane flying over India caught a glimpse of an impossibility. From the horizon on one side to the other, a blue light travelled upwards from the ground to connect in the shape of a dome. Just a few hundred feet below the plane’s cruising altitude, the passengers could see the translucent blue light form a bubble over the entire nation, as far as they could see.
Many millions of animals didn’t even notice as a glow engulfed them. The plants, even less so. All the greenery and waterways of the country got surrounded by the light. The trees and grass all went about its business as if nothing had happened. People inside the protected wilderness areas found the barrier protecting the plants on the ground to be an impenetrable carpet they could not step into, marveling at or worrying about the semi-translucent floor they walked on.
A bright sphere of red appeared in the center of the dome’s ceiling. People all across the nation looked up to see the faint red dot of light shining almost as bright as the sun. They stared in a mixture of disbelief and fear.
It exploded, and the resulting inferno raced like a solar flare from one corner of the nation to another. Anyone caught in its path died with the scream still caught in their throat. Buildings became a fine vapor. The blast raced forward in all directions at hypersonic velocity, until every part of the interior not protected by barrier had been utterly destroyed. Ten minutes later, the commotion died down, replaced by utter silence.
A magical light touched the ground, cooling its heat, as the barrier dropped, and millions of Christians emerged to an utter silence. Except for the sounds of the occasional footstep, and voice of a grieving person, no sound greeted them. There were no cars or buildings anymore. Tens of millions of survivors moved around in an utter daze as they took in the inhuman sight of barren countryside as far as they could see. Plants and animals were the only indication life existed at all. All industry, all trace of human civilization, and all culture had been eradicated. Much of the unprotected ground had been leveled by the force of the explosion.
Despite the containment, the shockwave, unbounded by the dome, travelled invisibly through the Earth and was picked up on every major seismic reading device on the planet. Military satellites of several nations scrambled to get photos of the source of the disturbance.
The CIA were the first to register the magnitude of the disaster. Anything not a plant or animal life, or any person not a Christian, had been reduced to atoms by the destructive wave. No electric lights lit up the sky there. India, as the world knew it, had been erased. The news made itself known to the world within minutes.
In the U.N. conference room, a display screen hung behind them, and one of the aides, upon request, turned it to a news station covering the breaking news. Gasps, shouts, and swears echoed through the chamber as a torrent of noise shot back and forth between various members of the group. The Lord smacked his hands together and a sound of thunder roared through the chamber, rendering it silent. “As you can see,” he said, “the works of man have been laid to waste. Those who would not love my Father, your God in heaven, have been destroyed. Those who worshipped their God and kept his commandments have been spared the fate of the nonbeliever.”
He stepped out from behind the podium. “For the love of god, what the fuck do you want?” the delegate from Ireland shouted.
“I thought that was obvious,” The Lord replied. “Stop this pointless struggle against your Lord. Agree to serve your God on high and agree to place your military might behind the forces of good.” He motioned to his human ally. “Jack Hurst will provide assistance in this regard.”
The camera crews that usually recorded these events zoomed in on the pastor standing behind the podium as the Lord gestured towards him. “There are a number of individuals that have been working in the name of the Deceiver,” he began. “Your orders are simple: locate anyone who has powers and determine if they will or will not serve the Lord. If not, they must be dealt with. If so, they join the ranks of the holy warriors tasked with defeating Satan.” He pulled up photos on his cell phone. He showed it to the assistant trembling by the computer, and she pulled up the Google image search on the screen. “This woman the media has been calling ‘Capacitor’ after the comic character she resembles, has been working with the enemy. Any who know her whereabouts and refuse to cooperate are to be destroyed. This man, the billionaire Jericho Torvalds, has actively attempted to sabotage our mission. Any allies they have must be destroyed. They even kidnapped my wife and children.”
He gestured away from the screen and back to the Lord. “Do not underestimate Satan’s power,” he continued.
“We are in the final stages of war against the Deceiver,” the Lord spoke. “Do not entertain foolish notions of opposing your God on high.” He motioned to the President of the United States, who he kept attached to a chair to prevent escape. “You will come with us.”
“What do you want with me?” The President asked.
“You are the leader of the most powerful kingdom,” The Lord spoke. “We need you for this to proceed.”
“Guys,” Davis Wilson said, running into the lab. “You’ve gotta see this.”
He pulled up the news on a laptop. The top story was an invasion of the United Nations by their two most popular enemies. “Approximately an hour and forty-five minutes ago,” the female news anchor said, her voice audibly shaken, “the Mad Reverend and his Fake Jesus broke into the United Nations building and took the entire collection of delegates hostage after killing a number of armed guards.”
“Oh, goddammit,” Jennifer said, clutching her fists.
“Wait,” Davis added, “it gets worse.”
“This came in response to a vote by the U.N. Security Council to launch a nuclear attack on the pair,” the newscaster said. “Utilizing an aerial bomber, the pair was tracked outside major metropolitan areas and attacked. It failed, however, as the being was able to defuse the bomb with powers.” The news anchor paused and swallowed hard, hand momentarily cupped over her mouth in shock. “Then…” She had to pause again. “Then, the Fake Jesus unleashed a superpowered attack that…has destroyed the nation of India.”
Jericho gripped the table so hard the metal surface buckled under his powered grip. “Mother…fucker…” he uttered through teeth clenched.
Jennifer blinked tears away. “We have to attack now,” she said.
“A scan of the area has determined that, out of the over one billion people of India,” the anchor said, pausing to collect herself. “It seems less than thirty million survived. Speculation abounds that only the Christians were spared.”
“We have to plan our attack,” Raymond said. “Let’s get this done and then you can be better equipped!”
“As much as I’d love to fly over there,” Jericho said, “we’ve seen this before.” He clenched his fists. “Goddammit.”
The news then played the statement Jack Hurst made before the delegation and the display of their pictures. “Well, he’s made a formal declaration of war,” Jennifer said. “We’re public enemy number one.”
“So, what are y’all going to do next?” Sam asked.
“What we’re going to do,” Jennifer said, “is get allies.”
Jericho turned to her. “Your friends?”
She nodded. “It’s a start.”