I probably found out about my powers on the day where I was at the play park. I was – what – eleven, and my friends went there to sit and smoke, holding cans of Monster and talking without every ‘t’. I don’t know why they were my friends, but if I hadn’t gone that day, who knows if I would’ve discovered the earth bending.
I was under the impression that we were going to actually use the swings, so I sat on one when we arrived. None of them did. They sat on the floor by the wall, about two metres from me, and pulled out a packet of cigarettes. I remember asking how they got them – one kid bragged that his dad bought them for him, and another kid called him lucky, saying he had to steal them from his brother’s room. When they lit them, the smell hit me immediately, and whenever an adult would walk by, they’d hide them by their sides. It was all very secretive; it was like they were in a gang or something, and no one from the outside world could see what they were doing.
Sometimes, that even involved me. I remember that because I didn’t smoke, I wasn’t invited to do a lot of things with them. But it wasn’t that that made my power turn up. It was when I was swinging lightly and one of the guys – Cameron or someone – put down his Monster. He had this look in his eye, and he watched me carefully as he stood up and moved in front of me. I don’t remember his words exactly – I blocked them out pretty well – but they were calloused and rude. He spat them in my face, telling me to smoke, telling me that I’m not a man if I don’t.
I wasn’t scared of smoking or anything, I just really didn’t want to. Jackson and Liz had brought me up more than my parents had. They’d taught me not to smoke; the damage it doesn’t to the lungs, all the problems and medical issues that can come out of it. I didn’t want to let them down. I told him no, and he laughed. Then he took his lit cigarette and put it out on my neck. I recoiled, pushing him away and stamping my foot down in pain.
As my foot touched the ground, a block of concrete – it must’ve been ten centimetres squared – shot up and hit him in the stomach. He bent over, clutching his gut as he swore. His friends got up, spewing words like poison and telling me they were going to kill me. I stamped my foot down again as I backed away from the swing. This time a small wall, no higher than my knee, and two metres long rose from the ground in between me and them.
That was the end of our friendship, and the beginning of me being called a ‘freak’. It was that night, when I returned home with bruises down my face and my parents were out tending to the animals, that my brother and sister asked what happened and they told me that they’d had similar things happen to them. But it was also that night, when I was burning with rage, when I started following super villains.
The Endgame has been around for about a month. We’ve taken down some low level threats, like robbers and people like that – but there’s nothing big. No one important to take down. Sometimes I wish there really was. I would love a villain; a Syndrome, Loki – maybe even a threat like Hydra. But there wouldn’t be, because we’re the only ones with powers, and I know that because nothing else has been reported. There isn’t a secret government agency – and I would know, because Endgame hasn’t been approached.
We are the first with these type of powers. The world isn’t ready for us to have a use yet. That gets to me. I want this to have a purpose. I want to be the one with the reasoning behind the powers.
I’m out on my own today, walking through a town I took three buses to get to. It’s at least triple the size of the small town near the farm, but that still doesn’t make it very big. My feet slow down as I pass a jewellery store, and I peer through the window at the gold and silver. The prices are extortionate, but I know that I could get them on some sort of five finger discount if I tried. I consider it for a few seconds, before my mind crosses over to what would my siblings do. They wouldn’t rob a jewellery store.
Sighing, I move on. As I head through the roads with no real aim, I take short cuts through alleyways and behind buildings. The streets there are dirty, the ground covered in cans and wrappers, muddy water in small sink holes, little fires dotted in tiny patches of oil. A small part of my mind registers that if I were to find a villain, this would be the place. And as I push the thought away, I hear it.
Someone’s yelling at me.
A male voice, I can tell without turning around.
It gets louder; closer.
I turn around to see a man walking towards me. He’s a rectangle; a brick, in every sense of the word. He trudges over, a set look in his eye.
“Oi,” he goes. “You got a lighter?” I do have a lighter, and for a second I try to decide whether I should lie or not. Glancing behind him, I can see three other men by a wall, watching us. When I reply, I do it out of instinct.
“Yeah,” I tell him, producing one from my pocket. I don’t smoke – Liz and Jackson’s lessons have stood by me so far – but I think a person should have a lighter on them at all times. I hand it over, and he smiles a crooked, ugly smile.
“Thanks,” he says in a gruff voice. He pulls a cigarette out of his pocket and lights it, placing the fag straight into his mouth. As he passes the lighter back, he gives a look around. “You shouldn’t be ‘round ‘ere on your own,” he advises. “Place like this wou’n’t ‘esitate to chew you out.” I swallow, shoving my lighter back into my pocket.
“I think I’d be fine if it tried,” I tell him, showing off one of my best cocky smiles. (I practice in the mirror every morning.)
“I dunno,” the guy continues – awfully chatty, he is. “This ‘ere is a murder street. Ten of ‘em in the last year.” I raise my eyebrows, glancing around for anything suspicious. My eyes are caught on the men, still watching us.
“Yeah?” I say. “And who’s doing that?” The brick shrugs.
“I’d say the gang who lives at the end ‘ouse,” he tells me, moving his head discretely in the direction of the far end of the road. It’s the house with the three guys outside of it. “You see the three blokes?” I nod, looking away from them and back to him. “They get paid by all sorts ta’ kill, rob – wha’ever people need.”
“You one of them?” I ask, raising my eyebrows. He shakes his head.
“God no,” he takes the cigarette from out of his mouth, tapping away the ashes. “But I lived next to ‘em all ma’ life. Don’t think they wanna kill me.” He shows me a gap-toothed grin, shaking his head. “Well, thanks for the lighter.” He nods, and walks back in the direction he came from. I watch him for a few seconds, he sways from side to side as he walks; as if his legs are far too short for him. The men, leaning against the outside wall are still there, watching the two of us.
As I turn and head down the road, keeping a look out for any potential threats, my mind traces back over the brick’s words. They get paid by all sorts ta’ kill, rob – wha’ever people need. It’s funny, I think. I need a villain – but I bet that’s not a service they try out.
The rest of the day, I go around the town, spending time in different places and working out a way to get a villain. I probably shouldn’t want one, should I? Considering that they always have two aims – one is for dominance or something, and the second is to kill the good guy. And I’m the good guy. I don’t want to be killed.
As I walk back to the bus stop, my feet move by themselves, telling me to take the route back up the grimy street. I listen to my feet; I always do. Ever since I started figuring out this earth power I have, I’ve also been trying to figure out how to use the earth to my advantage. I’m getting better; I can close my eyes and feel the vibrations in the ground; when someone is getting closer. But that’s as much as I can do. I can’t tell anything other than that; just what direction they’re walking – and sometimes whether or not they’re going to tackle me.
So while I’m walking back through the street, registering how dank it is, and how slippery the ground seems to constantly be, I’m also wishing that the vibrations-in-the-ground stuff would extend to seeing if anyone’s going to pop out of the ever-darkening shadows and stab me. The sky is getting darker, and really, I should’ve gone home a couple of hours ago, but I’m here now, and I’ll have to live with it.
I can see the main road at the top of this street; the sound of cars passing quickly and the faint light through the metre space of alley between the two building that hide this place. I walk quickly and as quietly as possible – but it doesn’t stop me from being seen.
“Hey kid,” someone says. I try not to look and keep walking. The voice just gets louder, though. “Hey, kid!” It calls. I can hear their footsteps; kind of heavy, but very fast as they try to catch up with me. For a split second, I understand my parent’s warning to Liz about walking alone in the dark, but all thoughts leave my mind when there’s a hand on my shoulder and I’m spun around.
Unfortunately, it’s not the brick, coming back for another conversation. Instead, it’s a man who must be twice my height. His face - I can’t explain it, but it looks naturally evil. His dark hair is slicked back, and he has a plain mean look as he stares at me.
“You have a lighter?” He asks. I swallow and immediately shake my head, stepping back. Funny how a nicer looking man an earlier time of the day can change my answer. I try walking away, turning and not looking back, but he keeps following me. “You have a lighter,” he tells me.
“I really don’t,” I say back.
“I saw you earlier with Bernie,” he continues. “You leant him a lighter.” Although I don’t recognise him, I know this guy must be one of the ones from this afternoon. “Now pass me the lighter.” His voice gets a bit darker on these words, so I take a breath and turn, fishing the lighter out of my pocket and passing it over to him. He snatches it away from my hand and holds a fag up, using his body to block the slight breeze. After he’s lit the cigarette and popped it into his mouth, he turns back to me. “That wasn’t so hard, now was it?” He passes back the lighter and I shove it in my pocket, moving to leave.
He stops me, again.
“Not so fast, kid.” I turn again, keeping my jaw set, and my hands in my jacket pockets. “Bernie told me you were pretty interested in the gang and our… activities,” he says. I swallow again, shaking my head.
“Not really, it was just a general conversation.” The man smiles knowingly, and I wonder where my confidence has gone. Usually, I can talk to strangers easily; I can stand up in front of people; I can battle robbers and one rapist in alleyways with limited breathing because of those bandanas. But this feels different.
“Well I was thinking,” he said, reaching his hand into his pocket and pulling out a rectangle of card. “If you ever need any jobs done…” He doesn’t finish the sentence and forces the card into my hand. It doesn’t have an address or a phone number – but I know where they live. It just says a single word: Omega. I’m guessing that’s the name of their gang, so I look up at him questioningly. “The end,” he tells me, and I understand immediately.
The end of a life, of security; privacy; happiness. They’ll put an end to anything, and it gets me thinking. He starts to turn away, and part of me decides to stop him.
“Wait,” I say. He looks back to me, an evil glint in his eye. I flick the card between my fingers, chewing on my lower lip before deciding to speak. “Have you heard of The Endgame?” I ask. He nods.
“That ‘superhero’ group?” He replies, holding up his fingers to make air quotes. I nod.
“What about them?” I shrug, looking back at the word, and I think that they’re probably not all that dangerous. It’ll be better than robbers, though.
“I think you should try and take them out,” I tell him. He raises a single eyebrow, shoving a hand in his back pocket. I notice for the first time how slim and hollow this man looks, and I chose to think that it’s drugs, and not the side effects of being a plain bad guy.
“You know that they have some freaky witch craft sh-“
“I know,” I say, cutting him off. “But I’ve also heard about the ten deaths in the past year,” I tell him. “And shouldn’t every ‘superhero’ group have an opponent?” I ask him, putting the air quotes up just like he did. The guy pauses before nodding.
“Okay, I’m interested. I’ll see what I can do. But this is a no refund policy,” he warns me. I nod.
“And this is three kills you’re looking for.”
“Fine, you’ll hear about it on the news,” he tells me. “And then I’ll be coming for the money.”
Nothing happens for a week. We go out on two missions; one because we heard a scream, and discovered a rapist; and two, when we just walked over roofs, looking for anything to happen. Nothing happened. Omega didn’t get back to me, and they haven’t found me. Nothing about them as been on the news either.
I haven’t told my brother and sister about it, and I don’t really plan to. But the idea still seems like a good one to me; I want a challenge; competition; someone to really use these powers up against. There aren’t anyone else like us; no super naturals walking around outside, nothing but the three of us. And I really think it’s unfair to give people such amazing gifts, and not give them anyone to try them out on.
Finally, though, something happens.
Its two Fridays later, while Jackson, Liz and I are walking through the small town, our bandanas covering half of our faces. We try to stick to the shadows, but I know that people see us. I notice the camera phones, the flashes and the people in the buildings. I wish they knew that. Maybe they wouldn’t be so obvious.
We head down the street, only a few roads from our first real mission as The Endgame, where we fought against the two robbers. We were going to be bad guys that night; we had it planned out. But when a gun was involved, I must’ve lost all of the confidence I walked into it with. We were caught off-guard, and I was suddenly unsure of the plan, or who I was supposed to be fighting for. I missed half of the battle, and came in at the last minute to knock one of the guys out. I’m glad I joined the fight, but part of me wishes I hadn’t been so afraid; so shocked.
“We can’t stay out too long,” Liz says, breaking the silence with her quiet voice. She glances between Jackson and me to check we’re listening, and we give her a few in return to confirm it. “We’ve got to be over at the farm by nine; apparently one of the cows finally gave birth?”
“Oh, you mean Moorissa?” Jackson replies and I can tell by the crow’s feet at his eyes that he’s grinning. He named that cow when he was a child; so young, so happy, so excited to use every pun in his arsenal.
“Yeah, her I think,” Liz responds with a shrug. “Either way, it’s another mouth to feed, and another butt to make a mess all over the floor.” Jackson and I chuckle as we walk along, looking around for any signs of trouble.
That’s when trouble comes to us.
We’re surrounded within a second; barely seeing the bodies shoot out from the shadows, doorways, alleys, from behind bins. There was no stopping them; no way we could’ve seen it coming; and no way that we could’ve avoided it. I don’t recognise any of the men; but just like us, they’ve got bandanas pulled up to cover their faces. Theirs, though, are all matching, while ours are different colours.
In each of their hands is a gun, and in a few of their jeans, seems to be hidden holsters at the sides, each with a gun. I’m impressed – I probably should’ve expected such efficient work for a gang that specialises in ending things.
The three of us are immediately in our stances, ready for combat, when the first approaches. Jackson warns them off with a burst of fire that disappears into the area. Then another and their feet are frozen to the ground. Another burst of fire. The earth pulls up from the ground and captures a man in its grip. Ice. Fire. Earth. Our movements have never been so solid, or so swift; finally working as a well-oiled machine, as we turn, firing volleys of whatever’s in our arsenal at the closest enemy. It’s got to be the fact that this is a real threat that’s doing it. It has to be.
We only have a few slip ups; Liz’s arm gets caught with a knife, before the man is crushed into a wall between that and a slab of pavement. Jackson sets fire to the ground, meaning that although those enemies have to find another way around, the three of us are a little more boxed in. I pull up the wrong bit of ground once or twice, sending Liz or Jackson off balance.
Otherwise, though, we’re doing well – not killing, just injuring and trapping in earth and ice. It gets to a point where the gang decides that enough is enough with the blades. Not all of them seem to have guns, but the ones that do – five or six of them, maybe – pull them out. For a moment, my siblings and I freeze, then without a second thought for how tired I suddenly feel, nor what the gunmen are going to do, I raise my hands and walls of concrete raise out of the ground suddenly, boxing us in, and tilting at the top to touch each other.
Through the darkness, I can hear yelling from outside and a few shots, trying to break down the wall. But mainly, I can hear heavy breathing. All of a sudden, there’s light, as Jackson clicks and flames appear at his fingertips. He and Liz look as worn down as I feel.
“That took too much power,” he told me. “You shouldn’t have done that.” Before I can protest about saving lives, Liz interrupts.
“What’s done is done,” she says. “Now we need an escape plan.”
“Why were they even out there?” Jackson asks. I keep my mouth shut.
“We’re in the news – we’ve got a following. I expected some people might get jealous, but I didn’t think they’d go this far. Now about the escape plan?”
“Yeah, but this is Halcombra,” Jackson continues. “Bad people don’t live in this town. They live outside of it, and do bad things there.”
“Well it’s happening here – so let’s escape?” Liz urges, trying to pull the conversation back. Jackson wants to continue, but Liz’s glare stops him.
“Fine,” he says. Over the next thirty seconds, the yelling gets out, and so do the gun shots of the people who think they’ll break concrete with bullets. Jackson also lays out a plan for us.
When he nods I push my hands out sideways, using the remainder of my energy as the walls slide down the road, pushing and trapping some people in different places. There are cries and yelps coming from all over the place, but a few men are up quicker than others. They shoot bullets, which are deflected and encased in blocks of ice. Fire is shot out at every direction, lighting up jeans and rubble on the ground. I stay back, feeling woozy as the world starts to spin in circles.
I can only hear an echoed voice nearby, but it’s not my brother’s. It sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t place it.
“We have to take out at least one,” the voice says. Whoever it is, is angry; rushing their words and making it harder for me to understand. “Kill that one and we’ll leave. I’m not wasting men on something I’m not being paid for.” I don’t know what’s happening around me, and the edges of my vision are turning black. I can feel that it’s not like the games that I played; there isn’t a bit of dizziness and then a re-spawn, somewhere else. There’s just darkness, and then a pain in my back; splitting and stopping me from breathing. There’s a sound like metal, but I can’t make it out, and then more pain. It’s the centre of my back, and it feels like something is taken out of it, which doesn’t make sense to me.
And then collapse; falling face-first to the ground, without hearing any more sounds, and without seeing anything but darkness.
Mistake: an act or judgement that is misguided or wrong.