By Richard Frantz Jr. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: September 2008
Summary: When a descendant of Superman claims to possess no powers, something must be wrong. Right?
"He's got no powers," wailed the coach.
As a guidance counselor for a school training future superheroes, that is not a complaint I often get. I get complaints about kids misusing their powers, lacking control or showing off. Not having powers usually results in kids not being admitted, not in the coach complaining to me.
"He's a Kent. A full blood Kent. They don't get full power until they're grown. At his age you expect CJ to be low powered," I responded, trying to keep things calm.
"Low power? Sure! That's good. It gives them a chance to learn. But he keeps going around saying he doesn't have ANY powers, not just low powers, he says he has none."
"Which is odd," I said, picking up a folder. I looked in the folder. It was the boy in question's report. And according to the medical department, he had quite extensive powers. "According to this, he's probably the most powerful student we have." I considered. "Actually, he's also one of the favorite students with the faculty, he doesn't cause trouble. Does excellent in his ethics class. Great control. Hasn't broken anything."
"But he says he has no powers," persisted the coach, who after all was responsible for power training.
"Which is why I'm going to look into it," I said, with a big smile.
"Look into it?" sneered the coach. "That's what you're going to do?"
"Look," I snapped, "I got an invitation to visit the Kent compound to discuss this. Do you think there's anything you can say that would cause me to do something to mess that up?!"
My eyes were wide. I had stood up without even realizing it. It's silly, but I was so excited about getting to visit. The compound is a secret. The Kent clan guards its privacy carefully. All I knew about the compound was that it was somewhere in or near the state of Kansas. In spite of the top security clearance I had to work at the school I wasn't even sure which state it was in yet. (Most people say it is in Kansas, but a number of people say it is hidden by putting it in one of the adjoining states so people can't find it. I can't decide which theory to believe.) Very few non-members of the family were ever invited. Only superpowered members of the family and those closely allied by marriage knew where it was. It was as secret as the civilian identity of the heroes who visited. And I desperately wanted to see it. You'd think that six years of working at a school for superpowered children, counseling the new heroes, meeting with their famous families, would have made me used to it. But all it had done was make me more fascinated.
The coach smiled in a friendly, "have fun. We'll discuss it when you get back. But we've got to figure out what's going on. I don't know how much to push him. I could actually get him injured if I can't gauge his abilities!" the coach said, looking scared.
"We'll discuss it as soon as I get back," I promised.
Two days later, I was in the compound being shown around by CJ. It was every bit as fascinating as I'd dreamed. I'd even been introduced to a number of heroes, and it was done casually. Famous heroes. Heroes I'd heard of. Heroes whose exploits were taught as case studies at the school. I was meeting legends and they acted like it was normal.
The compound was a couple of buildings, surrounded by fields that looked like parks, in the middle of a large area that kept outsiders at a distance. It gives the superheroes a place to be themselves without having to worry about protecting their secret identities. Only people who were completely trusted were ever brought here. I shivered and almost pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming this.
But it was time to get to work. "CJ, I need to talk to you about your powers. Coach is worried about your humble remark."
"What can I say, ma'am, I have no superpowers."
"That's what we need to talk about. I've seen your test scores and medical reports and you are developing substantial strength and invulnerability." We were walking past a building with an open door and I looked inside. Inside I saw an antique ground vehicle, an ancient silver jeep.
"These things take time. In their own time I'll get them."
I stepped into the building and beckoned him after me. "CJ, do something for me. Bend your knees and put your hands under the bumper of this vehicle."
He raised an eyebrow but was much too polite to refuse.
"Get a good grip, close your eyes, take a deep breath..."
He did these things in order, like a good student.
"Now straighten your legs."
He looked confused and opened his eyes. "Do you just want this out of your way?" he asked. And then he casually stood up while holding the bumper and the rear wheels came off the ground.
"See! CJ, you have superpowers!"
Now he looked really confused. He put down the vehicle. "Superpowers? This isn't superpowers," he reached down with one hand and lifted the wheels off the ground again.
"Sure it is," I insisted.
"No, this is having powers. I've got powers, I just don't have superpowers...yet." He considered. Then he looked way from the car and said, "hang on a sec." He went over to the door and called someone in. Soon, we were joined by a young, brown haired girl in her late teens or early twenties. "This is my cousin Cheri," he introduced us. "Cheri, could you show Ms. Black how to lift a jeep with superpowers?"
"You just want the jeep lifted? You can do that!" she objected.
"No, no," he corrected, "do it with superpowers."
"Oh," she said, with dawning comprehension, which I wished I had. She squatted and where he'd lifted casually with one hand she put both hands on the bumper, getting a firm grip and taking a breath, then she stood up, lifting.
But where he'd lifted with one hand and raised two wheels off the ground, she used both hands and lifted all four wheels off the ground. The entire car was a shoulder height for her, still completely horizontal.
I stared. Finally I found my voice (my throat had gone dry) and asked, "how come the metal doesn't rip off in her hand?"
"She reinforces the metal of the bumper and frame with her aura. That's a 'superpower'. I can't do that yet."
"You can put it down now, Cheri. Thank you," he told the young woman.
She gently lowered it back down and then dusted her hands. "Think she gets the difference?" she asked him.
"Yes. I think so."
She smiled, mussed CJ's hair, and walked out.
"You see, Ms. Black? When I say I don't have any superpowers yet, I mean I only have powers so far. It's the difference between being able to lift three anvils, which I can do, and being able to compete in the anvil juggling contest at a family reunion."
"It's a popular trick when we want to show off at family reunions. It's how we younger members are taught. We're shown how to lift cars with superpowers," he pointed at the car, "or juggle anvils and get a grip without embedding our fingers in the metal, and catch them on our head without denting the anvil. Things like that."
"Are you going to do those things?" I asked
He smiled. "Someday. Our family has people with powers so extensive that we have to distinguish between powers and superpowers. Someday I'll have superpowers and be able to help people. Until then I'll just keep studying and practice for simple contests, like the anvil throw. ...We do that for accuracy you know."
"Sure. That's what we do instead of playing horseshoes."
"Maybe when you get back you could talk to the coach and instead of telling him you have no superpowers you could say 'I only have powers so far'. It would cause less confusion for him."
CJ looked at me quizzically, but politely agreed to do it my way. We went back to the tour and I went back to wanting to pinch myself to make sure I was awake.