Apr 07 2011

Crystal’s Review Forum

Published by at 5:32 pm under Review Forums

Crystal is writing a novel about the daily life of a superhero.

56 responses so far

56 Responses to “Crystal’s Review Forum”

  1. Crystalon 15 Apr 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Hi! I’m Crystal, and I’m writing a book about a thirteen-year-old girl with superpowers. Right now, I’m not focusing on writing about stuff like saving the world, but rather, about her daily life and the small challenges she makes as she struggles to fit in even among other mutants.
    I hope you enjoy reading!

  2. Crystalon 15 Apr 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I guess that I should start off with a description of my main character, Rebecca.

    Name: Rebecca; no last name

    Powers: Healing, although this leaves her feeling really weak.

    Hair: Brown

    Eyes: This is one of Rebecca’s more unusual qualities. She was born with the irises of her eyes glowing bright blue.

    Backstory: Rebecca’s parents abandoned her soon after she was born. She has since found a home among other mutants like herself.

    Because of her lack of offensive of defensive powers, Rebecca uses a powersuit to fight at the beginning of the story, although she is also skilled in martial arts. She has a quick temper, and, with the powersuit, can be a good fighter.

  3. Crystalon 15 Apr 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Chapter One

    I shove through the crowd of people, running as fast as I can toward the dark cloud of smoke on the horizon. As I get closer, I can see the flames and hear the wailing of fire trucks in the distance.
    I duck into an alleyway, digging through my backpack to find my suit. Unlike most of the heroes, I have a power suit so that I’ll be able to hold my own in a fight…not that I ever get to participate in actual battles.
    I’m not part of a team.
    Seriously. If you feel bad because you get left out of everything, try being thirteen years old and a sort-of superhero with blue glowing eyes who has the weakest power around and can’t even scrape together a team to fight crime with.
    At the moment, I think the eyes are my major problem.
    I was born with the irises of my eyes glowing bright blue. That is, in my opinion, why my parents abandoned me in front of the superhero Headquarters.
    It looks very creepy, which might be why I don’t exactly have a lot of friends. If I want to go out to save the world or something, I have to wear sunglasses so that people won’t freak out, or use a special kind of eye drop that makes me look relatively normal, but stings when I put it in.
    Or, you know, I could just wear the powersuit.
    Metal parts clank around as I hurriedly empty my backpack on the ground, making sure that I have everything. The powersuit is very light, fits tightly around my limbs, and is divided into pieces, like a suit of armor, so I can carry it with me easily.
    Finally, I find all of the parts of the suit and put them on. I shove my brown hair back into a messy ponytail, throwing my sunglasses on the ground before yanking my helmet over my head. Through the mirrored eyeslit, I can see out, but nobody can see in. I happen to like this better than the standard eye mask, which does nothing in terms of identity protection.
    I’m glad that most of us don’t have much of an identity to protect.
    My suit also is equipped with the standard walkie-talkie/two way radio system that all heroes get – whether or not they’re in a team. I radio out to whichever superhero is waiting at the scene.
    “I’m on my way.”
    There’s a brief burst of static. I don’t know if that was a message or just a system interference, but I’m off running as fast as I can.
    And then I’m flying, a white blur in the blue sky.
    Flying can be fun. I suppose it is, if you have wings. If you don’t, and have rocket boots like me, the ride is extremely shaky, and it’s all I can do to keep my body in a straight line so that I can steer myself.
    The good thing about flying, even with rocket boots, is that it gets you places quickly. What would have been a twenty-minute sprint on foot takes four minutes when you’re flying.
    I land relatively close to the burning building, keeping a safe distance from the flames.
    I hate fire.
    A figure runs toward me, wearing the black-and-red uniform of Team Alpha.
    It’s Daniel, aka Blur, the team’s fifteen-year-old leader. He has superspeed, which is virtually useless in a situation like this.
    Oh, joy.
    “Rebecca!” he says, winded, brushing strands of blond hair out of his icy blue eyes. “Great. You’re here. Now, I need you to-\
    Let me get something straight: I’m not a big fan of Team Alpha.
    Team Alpha is currently the nation’s leading superhero team. They’re made up of kids, which, in the public’s eye, makes them even more incredible. They make the headlines practically every day. They have the most powerful superpowers, like telekinesis, super strength, and invulnerability. Last year, they reversed global warming, saving the world.
    Basically, Team Alpha is the manifestation every superhero cliché that you could think of.
    And 90% of their work is fake.
    What the public doesn’t see is what happens behind the scenes. Team Alpha uses other, less powerful superheroes to do all the hard stuff for them. Their plans to reverse global warming were created by some genus, who they bullied into doing all the dirty work for them. Other heroes help out at disasters, only to fade into the background the moment everything was fixed.
    When they’re not saving the world, Team Alpha are just your average bullies, making jokes about those of us who have obvious mutations, like my eyes
    Well, they’re bullies until they need something from their victims, anyway.
    “Oh, no…” I moan. “You are not using me to achieve glory.”
    I look around. The only person doing anything, out of the ten members of the team, is Maria, who has the power to control fire.
    Daniel frowns. He’s so used to people just doing what he says that it takes him a few seconds to comprehend my not agreeing with him.
    “It’s not that, Rebecca, I swear. It’s just that there’s a fire, and I hoped you could-”
    I yank off my helmet, glaring at Daniel. I can play tough too.
    “Do what? Heal the building? Sorry, can’t help you.”
    I turn around and quickly walk away, ready to take off. Daniel grabs my shoulder.
    “Wait,” he says, his voice menacing. “There might be people in there. If-”
    “Not my problem, buddy. You’re the world’s greatest superhero. You figure out a solution.”
    I run off, quickly turning on my rocket boots. If Daniel tried, he could have ran after me and made me stay.
    But he didn’t.
    I look back at the burning building, fighting the desire to go back and help. If there were people in there –
    No. I will never help Team Alpha. After all the mean things they did to me…
    I force myself to look straight ahead as I force myself to turn away from the burning building, wondering if I will regret my decision.

  4. Crystalon 15 Apr 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Oops. Forgot a quotation mark. It should be:
    “Rebecca!” he says, winded, brushing strands of blond hair out of his icy blue eyes. “Great. You’re here. Now, I need you to-”

  5. B. Macon 15 Apr 2011 at 4:59 pm

    –I think the idea of focusing on a character whose powers are not very well-suited to combat is very interesting. I feel that giving her a powersuit sort of undermines that, though.

    –Why did this character decide to become a superhero? (She points out that she lost the superpower lottery, and it’s not clear why she’s trying to be a hero even though she doesn’t have strong powers and nobody else wants her on the team).

    –I think this would be a bit smoother in the past tense (“I shoved…”) than the present tense (“I shove”).

    –The subject of the first five sentences is “I.” I think more more variety there would help. (For example, you could rephrase “I can see the flames and hear the wailing of fire trucks in the distance” so that the flames and/or the trucks are the subject, and I think that’d be more active). UPDATE: I’m noticing that this is sort of a recurring issue here. She can focus more on what’s going on around her, I feel.

    –I found her eyes less interesting than she did. I could see the detail being interesting in a different context, like people staring at her glowing eyes and her feeling all awkward and stuff, but as an introductory detail, I don’t think it really says all that much about her. (Also, why would other superheroes hold it against her? Is she substantially more freaky than they are?)

    –I feel the exposition is a bit too direct. “Try being thirteen years old and a sort-of superhero with blue glowing eyes who has the weakest power around… I think the eyes are my major problem… I don’t exactly have a lot of friends.” I could think you could show/imply more and tell/exposit less.

    –I feel like her personality and motivations does not come across very strongly yet. Right now, her eye color and powersuit get more sentences. I think it’d be helpful to focus a bit more on character development.

    –It may help to start this story with a scene where she’s talking with a superhero team that won’t take her on for a combat mission. I think that’d give you more options for showing what she’s like and setting up the plot without having her narrate everything.

    –“the team’s fifteen year old leader…” I think there might be a more artful way to introduce his age. You could say something like how he’s a bit older than her, or a few years older than her, etc. Quantifying it like this feels a bit unnatural to me.

    “He has superspeed, which is virtually useless in a situation like this.” Haha, I like this. It’s matter-of-fact, a bit cold and very practical, which sounds a lot different than most of the superheroes I’ve encountered. I think this is a good example of voicing–up until this point, I don’t think she sounded very distinct.

    “I’m not a big fan of Team Alpha. Team Alpha is currently the nation’s leading superhero team…” Both of these details could be shown. For example, maybe journalists yelling questions at him and ignoring her? The way she interacts with him?

    I really like the phrase “I need you to…”, since we know he’s not actually on her team. His personality comes across a bit more clearly than hers does.

    “Basically, Team Alpha is the manifestation every superhero cliché that you could think of.” I think this could be a lot more distinct. Maybe you could play on one of these cliches. Maybe something like “Yesterday, they rescued a cat swept into a tree by a tsunami. Really.”

    “Their plans to reverse global warming were created by some genus, who they bullied into doing all the dirty work for them.” There was dirty work involved in fighting global warming? Suddenly the EPA sounds a lot more badass.

    I’d recommend playing up the contrast between how they look. Her eyes are freakish and she’s uncomfortable about going out without sunglasses. He’s apparently strapping and heroic and a teen idol, the whole shebang. He might even stare at her eyes and she knows he’d be cracking jokes if he weren’t trying to get her to do his job for him. Also! Fiery buildings are REALLY dirty, what with the ashes and smoke and debris. If he’s been doing any work here more intense than mugging for the cameras, he’s gonna look like a mess. If he looks like he’s doing a GQ shoot, she can probably guess that he hasn’t done jack since he got here.

    It might help show us how bothered she is by the jokes if she remembered one of them and threw it back at him. Alternately, she has a bad history with Alpha, right? Maybe she could allude to that? Or maybe she throws in a mocking reference to some feat that they both know is fake. (“And what exactly will you be doing? Fixing global warming?”)

    “I can play tough too.” Because her dialogue shows that she’s not backing down, I think this line is unnecessary exposition.

    She does come across a bit cold when she responds to “There might be people in there” with “Not my problem, buddy.” If that coldness is part of her personality, I think this is really strong. If not, I’d recommend a slight tweak along the lines of something a bit more compassionate to the victims (but keeping the sharp defiance against Dan). For example, maybe “I’m waiting here. If a speedster with balls goes in there and brings them out, I can heal them. Let me know if you see anybody like that.” Or maybe she offers to go in there and do his dangerous work for him IF he will admit to the press that he and his team had nothing to do with the global warming fix.

    “I force myself to look straight ahead as I force myself to turn away from the burning building, wondering if I will regret my decision.” I like the concept here, but this could be phrased a bit more smoothly. Maybe something like “I forced myself to turn away from the burning building. Screw the comic books. Superman never had it this bad.”

    I think this is pretty promising. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

  6. Crystalon 15 Apr 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Wow. I have a lot of stuff to work on. I’m fixing Chapter 1 right now…Here are some of my thoughts on this…

    1. In later chapters, you find out that she hates the powersuit. She then gets rid of it.
    2. We also find out why she decided to become a superhero.
    3. I agree with the past tense thing. I started writing it in present tense, and, as the chapter went on, found myself slipping into past tense more and more often.
    4. I didn’t notice that about the first five sentences, let alone the rest of the chapter.
    5. I also found the eyes kind of awkward. I was worried about writing that later, though, because I couldn’t find anywhere else in the chapter to put it, and it would probably be too late to mention it in Chapter 2.

    Skipping over a few…

    6. About the global warming thing…Later on, it becomes clear that for Team Alpha, thinking or anything involving mental activity = dirty work. They get some genius to make the plans, all they do is execute them and get famous.
    7. Well, Daniel HASN’T done anything since he got there. But there aren’t any reporters or anything. They show up after Team Alpha saves the day.
    8. \I can play tough too.\ Yeah. How about, \Wow. Who knew that I could stand up to Team Alpha.\
    9. I think that in Chapter 2, I make it a little bit clearer that Rebecca kind of has two sides. One side is kind of cold, while the other side makes her appear really nice. Later on, she regrets this decision. HOWEVER, she was kind of angry when she said that, and when people get angry, thy generally tend to do things that they will later regret.
    10. I just thought of a better ending…

    Thanks for the feedback! I’ll post my second version as soon as I can.

  7. Crystalon 15 Apr 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Oh, sorry about the backslashes. Why can’t I type quotation marks? Every time I hit submit comment, they turn into backslashes!

  8. B. Macon 15 Apr 2011 at 6:01 pm

    “Why can’t I type quotation marks?” I’m not sure. Has anybody else been having that problem?

  9. B. Macon 15 Apr 2011 at 6:27 pm

    “Wow. I have a lot of stuff to work on.” No worries! I’m hard on everybody, especially my own work.

    “In later chapters, you find out that she hates the powersuit.” You could probably show that (or at least foreshadow it) now. For example, instead of emphasizing how light and convenient it is (it even fits in a backpack!), maybe getting suited up is sort of an ordeal.

    “I also found the eyes kind of awkward. I was worried about writing that later, though, because I couldn’t find anywhere else in the chapter to put it, and it would probably be too late to mention it in Chapter 2.” You could bring in the eyes when she meets Dan–I think they’d be important there because they help show readers that these two characters are very different superheroes and that they’re treated very differently. However, besides that, I don’t get the impression so far that the eyes are a critical detail. Personally, I’d much rather hear a sentence or two fleshing out how much her life sucks or something else that’ll help develop her in an interesting way. Also, if/when you describe the eyes, it might be more memorable and evocative if they actually come across as freaky?

    “6. About the global warming thing…Later on, it becomes clear that for Team Alpha, thinking or anything involving mental activity = dirty work. They get some genius to make the plans, all they do is execute them and get famous.” Will readers actually hold it against them that they’re executing plans they didn’t come up with? Personally, I wouldn’t expect Superman to do most of his own scientific planning, particularly if Superman were a 15 year old–pretty much every superhero that is not a scientist occasionally calls on scientist assistants for help. (For example, Superman has STAR Labs and Spider-Man sometimes gets help from Dr. Connors even though Spidey is scientifically gifted and Connors is a part-time villainous dinosaur). For this arrangement to be unlikable, I think you’d have to play this up in some way so that it goes so far what superheroes usually do. For example, maybe a scientist attempts to claim credit for the work he did, and they end up destroying his career because they hate admitting how much credit they owe to other people.

  10. Crystalon 15 Apr 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Okay. I think that I have the revisions to Chapter 1 done. I changed the tense from present to past, so if you notice something that I forgot to fix, let me know.

  11. Crystalon 15 Apr 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Chapter One
    I shoved through the crowd of people, running as fast as I could toward the dark cloud of smoke on the horizon. The wailing of sirens was getting louder.
    I ducked into an alleyway, digging through my backpack to find my suit. Unlike most of the heroes, I had a powersuit so that I would be able to hold my own in a fight…not that I ever get to participate in actual battles.
    I’m not part of a team.
    Seriously. If you feel bad because you get left out of everything, try being thirteen years old and a sort-of superhero with blue glowing eyes who has the weakest power around and can’t even scrape together a team to fight crime with.
    Metal parts clanked around as I hurriedly emptied my backpack on the ground, making sure that I had everything. My powersuit is very light, fits tightly around my limbs, and is divided into pieces, like a suit of armor, so I can carry it with me easily.
    “I hate powersuits,” I muttered. I could defend myself perfectly fine without one. Why did everything always have to revolve around powers?
    Finally, I found all of the parts of the suit and put them on. I shoved my brown hair back into a messy ponytail, throwing my sunglasses on the ground before yanking my helmet over my head. Through the mirrored eyeslit, I could see out, but nobody could see in.
    My suit also was equipped with the standard walkie-talkie/two way radio system that all heroes get – whether or not they’re in a team. I radioed out to whichever superhero was waiting at the scene.
    “I’m on my way.”
    There was a brief burst of static. I didn’t know if that was a message or just a system interference, but I was off running as fast as I can.
    And then I was flying, a blue streak in the sky.
    Flying can be fun. I suppose it is, if you have wings. If you don’t, and have rocket boots like me, the ride is extremely shaky, and it was all I could do to keep my body in a straight line so that I could steer myself.
    The good thing about flying, even with rocket boots, is that it gets you places quickly. What would have been a twenty-minute sprint on foot takes four minutes when you’re flying.
    I landed relatively close to the burning building, keeping a safe distance from the flames.
    A figure ran toward me, wearing the black-and-red uniform of Team Alpha.
    It was Daniel, aka Blur, the team’s leader. He has superspeed, which was virtually useless in a situation like this.
    Oh, joy.
    “Rebecca!” he said, winded, brushing an invisible speck of dust off his spot-clean uniform. “Great. You’re here. Now, I need you to-”
    Let me get something straight: I wasn’t a big fan of Team Alpha.
    Team Alpha was currently the nation’s leading superhero team. They were made up of kids, which, in the public’s eye, make them even more incredible. They made the headlines practically every day. They had the most powerful superpowers, like telekinesis, super strength, and invulnerability. Last year, they reversed global warming, saving the world.
    And 90% of their work was fake.
    What the public doesn’t see is what happens behind the scenes. Team Alpha uses other, less powerful superheroes to do all the hard stuff for them. Their plans to reverse global warming were created by some genus, who they bullied into doing all the dirty work for them. Other heroes help out at disasters, only to fade into the background the moment everything was fixed.
    When they’re not saving the world, Team Alpha were just your average bullies, making jokes about those of us who had obvious mutations, like my eyes.
    Well, they were bullies until they need something from their victims, anyway.
    “Oh, no…” I moaned. “You are not using me to achieve glory.”
    I looked around. The only person doing anything, out of the ten members of the team, was Maria, who has the power to control fire. She stopped trying to control the fire and jogged over closer to us, her face and uniform soot-stained, eager to hear the conversation.
    Daniel frowned. He was so used to people just doing what he said that it took him a few seconds to comprehend my not agreeing with him.
    “It’s not that, Rebecca, I swear. It’s just that there’s a fire, and I hoped you could-”
    Yanking off my helmet, I glared at Daniel. He wouldn’t look me in the eye, diverting his gaze at the ground instead.
    “Do what? Heal the building? Sorry, can’t help you.”
    Wow. Who knew that I could stand up to the leader of Team Alpha?
    “Well, when I was growing up,” Daniel said in a singsong voice, “my mommy taught me to always be nice to other people. It isn’t very nice to let someone’s home burn down.” He paused for effect, and I bit my lip, anticipating the cruel words that would be coming.
    “But,” he continued, “I guess your mom didn’t teach you that because you were such a freak that she couldn’t stand you.”
    I sucked in my breath. Maria looked away. Without a doubt, this was the meanest thing that Daniel had said yet.
    “I-I have to go,” I stammered
    Daniel went for another angle, realizing that he had just significantly lowered the chances of my helping him.
    “Wait,” he said, his voice menacing. “There might be people in there. If-”
    A voice crackled through the static. I could only hear a part of the message. “Crystal…come back right now…”
    Cassie.
    I closed my eyes briefly. Cassie was one of the only adults that I liked, the one who first convinced me to become a hero. She’s usually watching over the little kids.
    She would only call if there was an emergency.
    I had to get back.
    “Not my problem, buddy. You’re the world’s greatest superhero. You figure out a solution.”
    I run off, quickly turning on my rocket boots. If Daniel tried, he could have ran after me and made me stay.
    But he didn’t.
    My phone beeped. I landed on the rooftop and answered it.
    “Hey.”
    “Crystal, where are you?”
    “On a rooftop next to a burning building.”
    “I don’t have time for jokes, Crystal.”
    I sighed. I would explain later.
    “Why are you calling?” I asked.
    “Come back right now. Something’s gone horribly wrong.”

  12. Crystalon 15 Apr 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Sorry, B. Mac, for some reason, I didn’t see your two comments until after I had posted. I think that I’ll make the whole “saving the world” clearer later on.
    I think that in Chapter 2 or 3, there’s a huge argument about how safe Rebecca is without her suit.

  13. Crystalon 15 Apr 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Oh, the quotations are working again.

  14. Echoon 15 Apr 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Hey Crystal!

    I tried to post a comment on here before, but it didn’t show up. Weird…

    The first thing I wanted to say was that I really enjoyed reading your story. I especially likes the ending – I’m a big fan of cliffhangers!

    The one sentence that threw me off a bit was the one that started with “If you feel bad because you get left out of everything…” It felt like a bit of a run-on sentence to me. Maybe you could break it up a bit? Something like “If you feel bad because you get left out of everything, try being thirteen years old. Not to mention having blue glowing eyes, being the superhero with the weakest power around and unable to even scrape together a decent crime-fighting team.” Or something like that. 🙂

    Anyways, I think that it was really good! Can’t wait to read the next part.

    Echo

  15. Crystalon 17 Apr 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks, Echo!
    I’m going to spend a few more days working on Chapter 1, then finish Chapter 2. I’ll fix the sentence while I’m doing that.
    Thanks again for reading!

  16. Crystalon 20 Apr 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Okay, I have the third version of Chapter 1 ready. I completely rewrote the chapter. I’m hoping that this is better than versions 1 and 2…

    I made a whole bunch of changes, but I think that it’s improved a lot from the first version especially.

  17. Crystalon 20 Apr 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Chapter One

    “Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me,” I muttered, cocking my head to listen to the rest of the recorded message on my communicator.
    “Thank you for applying. Unfortunately, Star Team has no interest in working with you at the time. We are sorry that you did not meet our requirements. You will be able to re-apply in six months. Have a nice day!” the computerized voice chirped in my ear.
    I angrily switched off the communicator. THAT’S all I was worth? A recorded message? If I was going to be rejected again, could the team at least say it to my face?
    I leaned against a building, all too aware of the looks that I was getting. I had absolutely no intention of going back to the Headquarters, but at the same time, the way people were looking at me was making me uncomfortable.
    Since I didn’t really have to keep my identity secret, I didn’t wear a mask. If anyone was stupid enough to come after me, they’d have to get through the Headquarters, which currently housed 367 superheroes, including me.
    I started walking downtown, in hopes of finding somewhere where I could get dinner before I went back.
    A little boy, maybe ten years old, was drawing on the sidewalk with chalk. When he saw me, he let out a little gasp, and his eyes bugged out.
    “What?” I growled. “Never seen a superhero before?”
    He shook his head. “YOU aren’t a superhero. Alpha Team are superheroes.”
    I put my hands on my hips, wondering why I was wasting my time with this kid. “How do you know I’m not a superhero?”
    “’Cause you don’t have a cool suit like Alpha Team with your name on it or anything.”
    Oh, yeah. Because only superheroes can wear a cape and tights.
    I looked down. I didn’t have a team, and wasn’t exactly planning on saving the world today, so I was wearing a black t-shirt and jeans instead of a silly costume.
    “And,” the boy continued, “no one in Alpha Team has weird glowy eyes like you.”
    “Whatever,” I muttered, turning away.
    The late-afternoon sun stretched out my shadow as I kept walking. The boy’s comments didn’t hurt me; I didn’t think that he meant any harm.
    A weird smoky smell spread through the crisp fall air. I took a deep breath. Maybe someone was having a barbecue. Or burning leaves. I loved this time of fall –
    My head jerked up. Smoke! In the distance, clouds of smoke were billowing up from the top of a building.
    A fire!
    I took off running, not bothering to brush aside the strands of brown hair that blew into my eyes.
    Now, to be honest, I was not good at running. I was pretty strong. I knew several different fighting techniques. But running?
    Not a chance.
    The building was about a mile away, in the business district, so by the time I got there, I was gasping for breath. My hair was sticking to my face, which I was sure was red as a tomato.
    The wind blew hot cinders into my face, and I jumped back, coughing.
    The heat was intense. I had no idea how firefighters could stand it. My eyes watered, and I squeezed them shut.
    “Hey!” a voice yelled behind me.
    I turned around.
    It was Daniel, also known as Blur, Team Alpha’s leader. He had superspeed, and I smirked as I realized just how powerless he and the rest of the team were in this situation. Guess they’d have to learn to fight like the rest of us.
    “Hey, what are you doing here? Go away! This is our territory!”
    “Oh, sorry,” I replied sarcastically. “I didn’t realize that I was prohibited from going in this part of town.”
    “I – Oh, well, we did need backup. Now can you – ”
    “Oh, no. I was only checking to make sure that there was actually a team doing something here,” I said, taking in Daniel’s clean appearance. “Doesn’t look like you’ve made any effort to help. The only way you’d be able to assist here is if you stole the idea from anyone else.”
    I looked around, watching the rest of the team trying to put out the fire. Brian, who was super-strong, looked helpless as he struggled to comprehend the fact that this was one situation that he could not solve using his strength. John, who could control wind, was at least trying to blow the fire out, but it wasn’t working. The rest of Team Alpha stood huddled in a group, talking amongst themselves.
    I snickered. The most powerful superheroes in the world couldn’t put out a simple fire!
    I hated Team Alpha. And not just because they’d rejected me for their team two times.
    Team Alpha is your generic superhero team. You know the kind. They have the best powers: telekinesis, superstrength, or invulnerability.
    They do all the generic superhero stuff: rescue cats from trees, fight evil, and, of course, save the world.
    Last year, they reversed global warming, saving Earth from certain doom.
    I can respect that.
    But that was only what the public saw. Behind the scenes, things were different.

    Last year, Peter Anderson, a certified genius, had put the finishing touches on his plan to reverse global warming. From the other side of the lab, finishing my math homework, I had watched him carefully save his work, then leave the room.
    I had finished my work and walked to the dark corner where my locker was to put it away.
    But, as I stood twisting my dial, I heard voices.
    I had frozen in place, not daring to breathe. Daniel entered the room, hacked into Peter’s hard drive while his buddies kept lookout, and left, taking the plans.
    He had stolen the idea from Peter, and credited it as his own.
    Now, Daniel’s face turned bright red. I had the sneaking suspicion that the only reason he didn’t hit me was because of the growing crowd and reporters. That would mean bad publicity, but I didn’t want to risk it.
    “Well, I guess you’ve got this all under control! See you later! Bye!” I quickly chirped in an overly sweet voice.
    I had no doubts that he would get me back later.
    I ran around to the back of the building, radioing for help – “Someone who can control fire, please” – while wondering if I should go back or wait.
    I walked a few blocks away, where the smoke wasn’t so bad. I was getting a few strange looks, but not as many as before. With the fire so close, the passerby must have just thought that I was another superhero waiting for her team so that she could save the day.
    Most people think that a fire wouldn’t matter so much. Why should a superhero have to intervene? The firefighters can do it.
    It’s not that simple.
    When a person’s life is on the line, you have to at least try. It doesn’t matter if the firefighters are already there, or if you aren’t sure if you can help.
    You have to at least do SOMETHING.
    “Rebecca!” Maria, one of the few superheroes that I could consider a friend, sprinted toward me.
    “Where’s the fire?”
    “It’s over there,” I said, pointing. “The apartment building. I think it’s pretty bad.”
    “Well, that’s why they sent me.” She winked, and sprinted off in toward the building.
    I started to head back to the Headquarters, but my communicator beeped, and I sighed and stopped to answer it.
    “Hello?” I said, pushing the button that allowed me to talk long-distance.
    “Hey,” the voice in my ear said. “It’s Cassie.” She sounded like she had been crying.
    I blinked in surprise. Cassie was the only adult that I would trust. She worked at the Headquarters, taking care of the little kids. Usually, she was only there on weekends. On weekdays, she worked at a preschool. Today was Wednesday. So why was she calling?
    “Cassie? What’s going on?”
    “Oh, I’m so glad that I could get ahold of you! Something’s gone terribly wrong!”

  18. cool don 21 Apr 2011 at 3:39 am

    Interesting story like it. Could you checkout my review forum.

  19. CCon 29 Apr 2011 at 10:05 am

    I like your revised Chapter 1…can’t wait for the next one.

  20. Crystalon 29 Apr 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks, CC!

    Sorry it took me so long to post my next chapter…I couldn’t find a good way to start Chapter 2. But I finally finished!
    Here it is:

    Chapter Two
    I knocked quietly on the door of Cassie’s office, dreading the bad news.
    “Come in,” she called softly.
    I stood awkwardly in the doorway, studying Cassie. She was bent over a sheet of paper, highlighting phrases. Her eyes were a bit red – she had been crying.
    “Sit down, Rebecca,” Cassie said, brushing strands of blond hair off of her shoulders. I pulled a chair out from the other side of her desk and sat, gripping the sides of the chair tightly. The gray walls of the office seemed to be closing in on me.
    “So, how are you?” Cassie asked.
    I didn’t have time to jump around the topic. “What’s going on?”
    Cassie held up the sheet of paper. I squinted at it. It was a newspaper article printed off the Internet. “Adam’s dead.”
    I searched my mind. Adam…I couldn’t remember where I had heard the name before.
    I gasped.
    “Wait. You mean Adam, as in my best friend when I was a kid? THAT Adam?”
    Adam and I had been friends when we were kids. A year ago, when he was eleven, he had left the Headquarters to live with his family now that his powers were under control. He had never written or called, and I figured that he had forgotten all about me now that he had a normal life and new friends. I had put him out of my mind, too, determined not to get upset.
    Cassie looked down at her desk. “Yes. I’m sorry, Rebecca.”
    Tears blurred my vision as I tried to stop my lower lip from trembling. I refused to cry.
    Cassie cleared her throat. “Uh, that’s not all.”
    My head jerked up. “What now?” I asked, trying to keep the tremor out of my voice.
    “Adam didn’t just die, Rebecca. He was killed.”
    “By who?”
    “The police.”
    I stared at Cassie uncomprehendingly. “Why?”
    She leaned forward, folding her hands on her desk. “Listen, Rebecca. Not a lot of people know about this, okay? If I tell you why Adam was shot, will you promise not to tell anyone?”
    I swallowed hard. “Okay. I promise.”
    “All right. Technically, what happened to Adam is very complicated, so I’m going to explain it to you in the simplest terms I can use, if that’s okay.” She didn’t wait for an answer. “Well, your powers are controlled by a certain part of your brain. Okay?”
    I nodded.
    “The stronger your powers are, the more stress this puts on your brain.” She consulted the paper. “I believe that Adam was a telekinetic, right?”
    “Yeah.”
    “Telekinetics are unbelievably strong.”
    “So?”
    “Having powers, especially strong ones, can be hard to control. Sometimes, like in Adam’s case, all control will be lost. When this happens, he has no awareness of what is happening around him, and could possibly harm others.”
    “So, in effect, he was a supervillain.”
    “I would prefer you not to refer to him as a villain. Adam was not evil.”
    “What happened? He hurt somebody, didn’t he? He hurt somebody, and then the police – they – ”
    “They shot him.”
    Tears trickled down my cheeks as I started to cry. Cassie pushed a box of tissues toward me.
    I took a shaky breath. “Have there – Have there been others?” I asked.
    “This was what I wanted to talk to you about. I thought that you should hear it from me.”
    “What?” I asked.
    “There HAVE been others. Way too many.” She glanced at the article. “To keep the citizens of the United States of America safe, all superhumans must cease superhero activity immediately. Any display of powers in public will be taken as an act of violence, punishable by imprisonment or death.” Cassie quoted.
    “When did this happen?”
    “About an hour ago. I have access to all breaking news. It goes into effect tomorrow.”
    “So…” I struggled to understand. “This means no more superheroes. Ever.”
    “Yes.”
    “Okay…Not that I’m worried about the public or anything but…Isn’t that a little harsh?”
    “Yeah,” Cassie said. “Right now, I wouldn’t worry about the public either. If they really need us that badly, the government will realize their mistake. But…”
    “What’s wrong?”
    “Have you noticed how many more kids we’ve been getting recently?”
    “Um…”
    Cassie turned to her computer. “In the past month, there have been about 50 new superhumans aged 8-15. About 80% of the superhumans claimed that their powers showed up about a week before their arrival.”
    “So, what you’re saying is that more and more superhumans are being created each day?”
    “Exactly. Usually, when a superhuman first uses his or her powers, it’s because they suddenly happened without warning. So there could be a lot of kids out there who think that they’re safe, and then one day –” Cassie shrugged. “If this happened in public…”
    “Oh…I get where you’re going.”
    “Yes. The new law could cause thousands of people to be imprisoned…Or worse.”
    “Why are you telling me this?”
    “We need someone who can find superhumans and get them here safely. It would be dangerous, but – ”
    “You want me to do that,” I said.
    “Yes.”
    “I’m not doing it.” I folded my arms.
    “Look, Rebecca,” Cassie said calmly. “We need someone who is friendly and can pass for a normal kid. We think you qualify.”
    “Okay. Let’s see. Friendly: No. Normal-looking: Are you kidding me?”
    “Rebecca, if you weren’t so cynical all of the time, you might find that you actually would have friends. As for your eyes – ” Cassie grabbed a bottle of eye drops off of her desk – “These eye drops will pretty much eliminate the glow from your eyes.”
    “I’ll think about it,” I said. Despite the benefits, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be the one collecting the superhumans. It just felt…wrong. Like tattling on a kid who didn’t even know that he’d done anything wrong.
    “You have all the time you need.”

    That night, I sat on my bed, wondering if I should accept the offer. If I accepted, I could be normal.
    If I declined, I would be stuck here forever, never knowing what the world outside our small town was like. I would always be the girl whose parents abandoned her because she was too much of a freak to keep around the house, the girl who could save lives but not defend herself against bullies, the girl whose best friend had just died.
    Accepting meant a new life, declining meant that nothing would ever change.
    I knew what my choice would be.

  21. B. Macon 29 Apr 2011 at 6:36 pm

    –When you submit the story to publishers, I would recommend italicizing words instead of capitalizing them for emphasis.

    –I like this opening line. I thought it was effective foreshadowing—I wanted to learn what was pissing her off.

    –I think the recording could have been more faceless. Instead of something direct like “Star Team has no interest in working with you at the time,” maybe something like “The position has been filled” or “Star Team has decided to take this position in a different direction.” Not that I’ve EVER heard those phrases before. 😉

    –“ I angrily switched off the communicator. THAT’S all I was worth? A recorded message?” I felt these last two sentences were sort of unnecessary. Her frustration should be obvious—she just got turned down by a telephone recording. If she’s going to tell us something that I feel is obvious, I’d like it to be more memorable than that. Also, if she angrily turns off the recording, one possibility is that she turns it off before it’s finished. “Have a nice *click*.” “You too, asshole.”

    “I leaned against a building, all too aware of the looks that I was getting.” I think more context/setting would help here. Are we talking about random bystanders, or other superheroes, or what?

    “I didn’t really have to keep my identity secret”—I’d recommend taking out the ambiguous “really” here.

    I think her secret identity/lack of mask could be incorporated more smoothly in the conversation with the kid than just on its own, as it is. How does the kid know she’s not a “real” superhero? Because she doesn’t have a cool suit—she doesn’t even have a mask! He may assume that the only reason a superhero wouldn’t wear a mask is because she hasn’t stopped enough criminals to have people gunning for her. One protagonist in The Taxman Must Die fiercely guards his “secret” identity for this reason even though he’s a mutant reptile and the glasses aren’t exactly fooling anyone).

    “Because only superheroes can wear a cape and tights.” Right now, this is narration, and I think it might be more effective as dialogue, maybe as something like “Because you can only be a superhero if you wear a cape and tights.” Then he can shoot back with something like “A good superhero,” he said.

    “currently housed 367 superheroes, including me.” First, is this super-precise number (367 superheroes) appropriate for her voice? Second, I think it’d be interesting to replace “including me” with “including [some memorable way of describing her that develops her situation].

    “The boy’s comments didn’t hurt me; I didn’t think that he meant any harm.” Should I take these comments at face value? Her bringing this up (especially after dismissing him with a sullen “Whatever”) suggests that she IS hurt by it. So, if she is hurt, I think that comes across effectively enough. If she’s NOT hurt, I’d like her to show that by responding to his eyes comment with something a bit more breezy or nonchalant. Maybe something like “Hey, if you were a bad guy, I could show you what they do!”

    “The heat was intense.” Could you show this with more unusual language? (Maybe something like “It was like pressing an iron on my forehead”).

    “What are you doing here? Go away! This is our territory!” Next line: “Oh, well, we did need backup.” This shift feels too sudden. I think you could cut the first three lines and just start with the backup routine.

    “The only way you’d be able to assist here is if you stole the idea from anyone else.” This felt awkward, I feel. I know she’s got issues with their idea-stealing, but it doesn’t really fit here because her main criticism of them up to this point has been that Daniel isn’t actually willing to get his hands dirty and they don’t have the right powers for this situation, not that they don’t have the right ideas. So the ideas are sort of a non sequitur at this point. One way to introduce this more smoothly would be to say something like “Hey, the firefighters have the right idea [getting their hands dirty, saving people and not worrying about who gets the credit or having the perfect powers for the situation]. Why don’t you go steal it from them?” Then Daniel can sourly respond with something like “You can’t prove anything,” which would serve as a segue to the plagiarism/hacking incident.

    “taking in Daniel’s clean appearance”—to help readers figure out what’s you’re trying to show here, 1) I’d recommend making it “suspiciously clean appearance” and 2) I’d recommend setting this up by mentioning how much ash and crap are floating around closer to the fire.

    “And not just because they’d rejected me for their team two times.” I thought it was Star Team that rejected her? (Unless she’s been rejected by several teams). Second, I think this could be shortened to “…because they’d rejected me twice.”

    “Rebecca!” Maria, one of the few superheroes that I could consider a friend, sprinted toward me. Could you show this? For example, one way you could show that they’re pretty close is how they talk to each other. For example, “Hi, Rebecca!” is probably not how your enemies would greet you… Unless your enemies are pathologically amiable.

    “I blinked in surprise. Cassie was the only adult that I would trust. She worked at the Headquarters, taking care of the little kids. Usually, she was only there on weekends. On weekdays, she worked at a preschool. Today was Wednesday. So why was she calling?” I think this could be shortened to something like “I blinked in surprise. Cassie, the only adult I trusted, took care of the little kids at the Headquarters on weekends. Today she should have been at her preschool.” I took out “So why was she calling” because I think the readers will be able to infer that something is up without the character explicitly posing the question. (Alternately, if she does pose it, I’d like it to be more memorable—maybe it reminds her of the last time she had this sort of weird call from Cassie, which was [INTERESTING EVENT Y]).

    “Oh, I’m so glad that I could get ahold of you! Something’s gone terribly wrong!” Hmm. This is a sort of coy cliffhanger. The setup with the kids suggests that something’s happened to the kids, so that’s something to go on. This first sentence is not quite working for me. It feels too idle for someone in a crisis. What would you think about something like “Get over here right away! Something’s gone terribly wrong.”?

    I’d sort of like the conversation with Maria to be fleshed out a bit more. Right now, it doesn’t seem to have developed either the plot or either character all that much (besides telling us that Maria is one of her friends).

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter! 🙂

  22. Crystalon 01 May 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Thanks for reviewing!
    I’m currently not planning on submitting this to a publisher, but I’ll try to use the italics in the future.
    Just one other thing: When I started writing Chapter 1, the story was going to go in a completely different direction than it is now. Maria wasn’t really so much Rebecca’s friend as someone that she could sit at a lunch table with and occasionally talk to. Now, I don’t think that she shows up in the story at all past Chapter 1, while I was planning to have her make several more appearances.
    Thanks again!

  23. B. Macon 01 May 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Hello, Crystal.

    I thought of something else that might be an interesting possibility for working in the fact that she doesn’t wear a mask. Maybe the kid assumes she’s not wearing a mask because she hasn’t stopped enough criminals to have any enemies gunning for her. (One protagonist in The Taxman Must Die fiercely guards his “secret” identity even though he’s a mutant reptile and his glasses/”disguise” aren’t exactly fooling anyone–He’s worried that people will think he’s slacking off on beating up criminals if he doesn’t need to keep a secret identity).

    You could also use her decision not to wear a mask to develop her personality/style. For example, she might wear not wear a mask because she likes being open with people and doesn’t feel she has anything to hide. (If so, it’s thematically fitting that the professional liars are the ones hiding their faces).

  24. Crystalon 01 May 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks for the great ideas! Being open with people/not hiding anything is sort of already a part of her personality, so I think that I could work that in.

  25. Crystalon 23 May 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Chapter Three

    “Rebecca.”
    Someone was calling me. I slowly opened my eyes and gasped.
    Adam was standing in front of me. Although I had been asleep, I was somehow upright, leaning against a brick wall. The buildings in front of me were apartments, though none that I recognized. It was obvious that I wasn’t anywhere near the Headquarters.
    “Adam? Is that you?”
    He shook his head, blond locks of hair falling into his eyes. “No, I’m the Easter Bunny.”
    He paused, a grin spreading across his face. “Yes, stupid, it’s me.”
    “But – But you’re dead.”
    “Well, isn’t that obvious,” Adam said sarcastically. “I know I’m dead. You’re dreaming.”
    “This isn’t real, then?” I asked, not sure if I wanted it to be.
    Adam screwed up his face in thought. “You know, that’s a pretty good question. I guess, since I’m talking to you in a dream, then it isn’t. Personally, I think that this is actually happening, but it’s a dream. You can’t prove anything.”
    “Then why are you talking to me?”
    He shrugged. “I dunno…Maybe because you’re my best friend and I died before I could tell you goodbye?”
    “No, really.”
    Adam had never been the sentimental type.
    “Okay…I guess, ‘cause I wanted to tell you that I’m not the world’s biggest jerk, sorry for not writing, calling and/or visiting you; there was a bunch of stuff going on in my life. I’m sorry.” Adam said in a mocking tone, but I could hear the ring of sincerity in his voice.
    “And that was so important that you had to screw up my dreams just to apologize?” I asked.
    Adam grinned. “It might have been.”
    I laughed a little, glad to be reunited with my best friend – if only for the moment. “So, where am I exactly?”
    Adam’s expression turned somber. “Look around, Rebecca. I lived and died here. Right here.”
    He pointed to the apartment building. “That,” he said, “is where I lived for two years. And that – ”he pointed to the ground beneath my feet – “is where I died.”
    “Oh. I – uh…”
    “But…I didn’t drag you here to talk about how I died. I need to tell you that I’m still alive.”
    “Um…Adam…You just said that you died,” I said doubtfully.
    “Oh. Yeah. Well, I did. But they saved my body. They made my heart beat again. A machine’s breathing for me. So, yeah, I’m kinda alive right now.”
    I felt a wave of relief rush through me.
    “So, you’re, like, in a coma.”
    “Yep.”
    “Where are you?” I asked Adam. “I can help –”
    “No,” he interrupted. “I don’t want to go back. What if I lose control again? I’m perfectly happy like this. I’m free.”
    “Who has you? Are they the same people who killed you?”
    Adam shrugged. “Possibly.”
    “Who?”
    “Government.”
    “Why?” I asked. The government had just put out a law eliminating all superhumans. Why would they want to keep Adam alive?
    “Look, I honestly don’t know. Or care, for that matter.”
    “You…Don’t care.”
    “Yep.”
    “Somebody just killed you, and you don’t care.”
    “Look. I’m obviously not getting through to you, so I should just stop the chitchat and tell you my message.”
    Message?
    “You said that you needed to tell me that you were still alive,” I said angrily.
    Adam shrugged. “I lied. So. My message for you: The hunt is beginning.”
    “Um, hunt for what?”
    “Superhumans. I seem to recall the jerks who shot me talking about the hunt, and how they were gonna get a big reward for me. ‘Specially ‘cause I’m dangerous.”
    Adam was trying to lighten the mood, but the reality of what he had said was beginning to sink in.
    “Wait a minute. They’re giving out rewards? It’s like…they’re hunting us.”
    “Yes. I said that two minutes ago.”
    “No, I meant, it’s like deer season. They’re looking for any excuse to shoot us. And all because it’s fun for them.”
    “Yes! You’re getting it, Rebecca! You’re finally understanding something!”
    I took a deep breath. “You’re infuriating, you know that?”
    Adam grinned. For a moment, it was just like when we were little, before Adam had moved, before he had been captured by the government.
    Then Adam frowned. He tilted his head slightly.
    “You have to go.”
    “What?”
    “Look, I’m really sorry. You’re needed in your own world.”
    My own world? This was a dream, not an alternate universe!
    I opened my mouth to protest, but the world was already starting to dissolve.
    For a second before he faded completely, I thought that I could see regret in Adam’s eyes. He knew what was coming.
    “I’m sorry…”

    “Rebecca! Wake up!”
    “What?” I asked sleepily. I yawned and slowly sat up, remembering that weird dream –
    I looked around. Tara, one of the youngest kids at the Headquarters, was standing in the doorway.
    A smile spread across my face. It had just been a dream. Of course the government wasn’t hunting the superhumans.
    “Um, something’s going on, and Cassie said to get you.”
    “What’s happening?” I asked her.
    Tara shrugged. “Dunno.”
    I glanced at my clock. The digital numbers read 2:35 A.M.
    “Hooray,” I muttered, turning on the bedroom light. “Cassie’s probably got a mission for me. At 2:30 in the morning. Yay for me.”
    “Should I tell her you’re coming.”
    “Yeah. Oh, and tell her that I said yes. She’ll know what I mean.”
    What was Cassie doing here in the middle of the night, anyway?
    I quickly threw on some clothes and stumbled out the door. Cassie was waiting for me in the lobby.
    “I know that you probably haven’t made your decision yet, but I need your help with this situation,” she said.
    “Um, actually, I thought it over, and…well…I’ll help.”
    “Good.” Cassie tossed the bottle of eye drops to me. “Put these in your eyes. You need to look as normal as possible.”
    “Uh, before I just run off in the middle of the night, do you mind telling me where we’re going?”
    “Your first mission is starting. Now.”
    “Can it wait until morning?”
    “No. It’s important.”
    Cassie’s words were short and clipped, and I wondered what was wrong this time. It had to be pretty serious.
    “Okay. I’m coming. Just…let me get my things.” I had a backpack full of anything I could ever need, and, seeing as I had no idea what was going on, I was probably gonna need it.
    I sprinted back down the hallway to my room. Throwing back my curtains, I checked out the window, wondering if I could see what was happening from my bedroom.
    Far away, a white glow was illuminating buildings. Police sirens were wailing in the distance.
    “Oh, no,” I muttered.
    It hadn’t been a dream. Adam was right.
    The hunt was beginning.

  26. Mynaon 23 May 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Hey! I’ve been following this story some so I figured I’d post some comments on the chapter. 🙂

    I don’t have much to say overall (sorry about the scant critique) I did enjoy this chapter and it was hard to pick out specific problem parts (your writing reminds me a bit of a friends, and I do love her writing, so. xD) But I feel like when she wakes up and is told she’s got a mission… well, she’s been waiting for a mission for a long time, right? So maybe she’s all tired and then they’re like “Well you’ve got a mission” and she spazzes out and is instantly awake. I think that would be cute. Making that scene a bit more frantic/urgent would also help but overall not much to say about this chapter. 🙂

  27. Crystalon 23 May 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Yeah…As you’ve noticed, my first chapter has been changing a lot, and I’m working on another re-write. In this version, she’s sort of a reluctant superhero – doesn’t mind the whole thing, but doesn’t exactly enjoy it either. So when superheroes are banned, she doesn’t really care too much, and isn’t too eager to learn that she’s become a sort of spy.

  28. Crystalon 23 May 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Oh…Thanks for the review!

  29. Echoon 23 May 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Sorry I haven’t been keeping up to date! I just read chapters 2 and 3. Once again, very good. I like where the story’s headed – a hunt for superheroes and a girl who just wants to stay out of it. I always really like how you end chapters as well – gotta love cliffhangers! The only criticism I would make is to tweak some of Adams sentences – for example, Adam says that he knows he’s dead, but I think it makes more sense if he says “I know I died” – that way, when he says that’s he’s still alive, it makes less of a contradiction. I hope I made that clear 🙂 anyways, good job! Can’t wait to read the next part!

  30. Crystalon 11 Jun 2011 at 11:49 am

    Thanks so much for reviewing, guys! I really appreciate your telling me what you think of my story…Now I can fix stuff that I missed.

    About that first chapter…Well…I’d say, looking at my first version to where I am now, I’ve improved a lot. I’m getting a really good idea for a different version, though I probably won’t post it until I’m done with my first draft (I’m getting pretty far!).

  31. B. Macon 16 Jun 2011 at 4:16 am

    –I feel like Adam’s responses could do a better job of developing a character and/or the plot. Right now, they feel sort of generic to me.

    — I asked, not sure if I wanted it to be. Could you show this opinion?

    –““You know, that’s a pretty good question. I guess, since I’m talking to you in a dream, then it isn’t. Personally, I think that this is actually happening, but it’s a dream. You can’t prove anything.” This could probably be shortened.

    — He shrugged. “I dunno…Maybe because you’re my best friend and I died before I could tell you goodbye?” Please show this—when best friends are talking, it shouldn’t be necessary for them to remind each other that they’re best friends, I feel. Also, him reminding her about dying before he could tell her goodbye struck me as sort of awkward and maybe implausibly emotive for a male character. (For example, maybe he refers to his “unfinished business” and she then says something that suggests he’s talking about not telling her goodbye).

    –I don’t feel like this scene feels like a smooth transition from the previous two chapters. For example, what are some ways it develops or builds on previous material? (One possibility: If Adam’s death has been wearing on her for some time, perhaps she alludes to that earlier in the story).

    –“I felt a wave of relief rush through me.” Could you show this? Or, if you have her tell us she’s feeling relief, could you use a more memorable phrase?

    –“Who has you? Are they the same people who killed you?” I think “Are they” could be removed here.

    –“The government had just put out a law eliminating all superhumans. Why would they want to keep Adam alive?” This backstory about the law feels out of the blue to me. I’d recommend alluding to it or doing some sort of setup for it earlier in the story. Also, if Adam has been dead for some time, maybe she could work the law into their conversation.

    –This is a recurring issue with my own writing, but I would recommend avoiding situations where a character repeats something another character just said. ““Look. I’m obviously not getting through to you, so I should just stop the chitchat and tell you my message.” Message?” It might be smoother to have her just go with the angry response. “You’re alive. I got it.”

    “I lied.” So… he’s not actually alive/in a coma? Why throw that red herring at us if it doesn’t actually matter? (You could probably save space by eliminating the red herring).

    “Adam was trying to lighten the mood, but the reality of what he had said was beginning to sink in.” Could you show this?

    “Wait a minute. They’re giving out rewards? It’s like…they’re hunting us.” I think this phrase makes her sound a bit slow on the uptake. Could I recommend something like “Wait, they’re putting out bounties on us?”

    “And all because it’s fun for them.” Umm, where is she coming up with this? (It seems out of the blue to me because she does not apparently know enough about them to guess that this is their motivation—it might feel smoother if he had revealed something about his captors that suggested they were sadistic).

    I’d like Cassie to be more demanding. “ “Your first mission is starting. Now.” “Can it wait until morning?” “No. It’s important.” Instead of “No. It’s important,” maybe something like “If you want out, just say so.” I think that develops this a bit as a shot at her commitment. Alternately, perhaps she responds to “Can it wait until morning?” with a grim warning about what will happen if she dawdles. (For example, in a really sinister situation, I could see a character responding to “Can it wait until morning?” with “Sure, if you don’t mind being dead by then”).

    PS: Does Adam have any relevant superpowers we need to know about? (IE: Anything that could cause this dream sequence?) Otherwise, all of the information she receives is purely from her own imagination, right?

  32. Crystalon 16 Jun 2011 at 8:42 am

    Thanks! I’ll start revising that!
    In the meantime, here’s Chapter 4.

    Chapter Four

    My eyes stinging from the drops, I glanced into the rearview mirror. I looked like a normal thirteen-year-old girl. No superpowers. No glowing eyes. For once, I was normal. And it felt…great.
    Cassie steered her car around a curve and glanced at me. “The drops will work for about eight hours. There’s probably enough in that bottle to last you for a year.”
    “Thanks…Um, where are we headed?”
    “Downtown. There’s an emergency.”
    “You already told me that. What kind of emergency?”
    “Rebecca, this is a test: See how well you can do under pressure.”
    “No offense, Cassie, but wouldn’t it be a lot less difficult to not do a real-life test? Less chance of me killing someone?”
    Cassie sighed. “Rebecca,” she said slowly, “much as I appreciate your sarcasm, now is not really the time.”
    I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t really sarcastic.
    “I – Look, I would really appreciate your telling me just what I’m getting into,” I said.
    “Well,” Cassie said, “ The Headquarters has come up with a new plan regarding superhumans. Potential candidates for a team will be asked to complete a mission requiring a particular skill that you possess. Assuming that you survive this mission, you will be asked to pass a series of tests. If you pass the tests, then you can expect a year of training. After that, you’re working for the Headquarters. You can back out of the deal at age eighteen.”
    “Um, survive?”
    “Yeah…it can get pretty risky out there.”
    “Can you just tell me what to do already?” I asked, getting a little nervous.
    “It’s a simple pickup mission. We’ve found a superhuman in the immediate area. All you need to do is gain her trust and get her to come here. We’ll take care of the rest.”
    “Yeah. I’m great at making friends. Easy, right?”
    Cassie missed the sarcasm this time.
    “Yes. You should have no trouble getting her to trust you.”
    I groaned in frustration. “Why don’t you just do it yourself?”
    “We…tried.”
    “And?”
    “She wouldn’t let us get near her. Kept running away. Didn’t want to scare her. No idea what other powers she has.”
    “Other?”
    “Well, I think that you’ll have to see her powers first.”
    “Okay…Cassie, what’s going on?”
    “It’s your chance, Rebecca. Just complete the mission.”
    “All right, I’ll do it.”
    “Good.”
    “It’s at the corner. By Adam’s old…apartment.” Cassie struggled to keep her face neutral, but I could tell that she thought that she had said the wrong thing.
    I half smiled, pretending that I hadn’t heard, or wasn’t bothered. Somehow, I felt more helpless that Adam was in the clutches of the enemy and I couldn’t do anything about it.
    I hated myself for thinking it, but I wished that I still believed that Adam was dead. It was simpler that way.
    “Rebecca? You okay?”
    I realized that I had been sitting there, staring out into space, for too long.
    “Yeah. Fine.”
    Cassie stopped the car. “You know what to do, right?”
    I paused, halfway out the door. “Well, now that you gave me the vague details, yeah, I understand the fact that I have to complete a mission in the middle of the night perfectly.”
    It was Cassie’s turn to sigh. “Rebecca…”
    “Yeah, okay, I’m doing it!”
    I slammed the car door, slowly making my way up to the corner, where the apartment was.
    Across the street, I could see the remains of the building that had been on fire earlier in the day.
    It just seemed sad, in a way. There was barely a sound, and in the distance, I could still hear the sirens and see the searchlights. And here, people going on with their lives…
    I shook the thought from my mind. Shivering in the cold wind, I was reminded of the fact that, although it had been warm earlier in the day, tonight was supposed to drop below freezing. I was already cold even though I was wearing a light jacket.
    I reached the corner building. The apartment was next to a store, and in between the two buildings was a narrow alley. I figured that that was the obvious place to search.
    Silently, I walked toward the alley. I had left the dim glow of the streetlights behind, and I could just make out a tiny figure huddled against a wall in the darkness.
    “Hello?” I called, unsure if I should walk closer to the figure.
    “Go away.” It was a young girl’s voice. She was crying softly.
    “Are you okay?”
    She laughed softly. “That’s a good one. No, you idiot, I’m not okay. If I was okay, I’d be home, not freezing in the middle of nowhere.”
    I hesitated, then walked into the alley, crouching down next to the girl.
    I could see her now. She was sitting a few inches away from the wall, her knees drawn up to her chest. Her head was down; I couldn’t see her face.
    “Can’t you just leave me alone?” she continued.
    “I – No.” I hadn’t been too eager to complete the mission at first, but she obviously needed help.
    “Just – I’ll be fine.” She drew in a shuddering breath. I noticed that she was shivering, and I realized that all she was wearing was a T-shirt and jeans.
    “That’s it. You’re coming. I don’t care if you want to or not, but I will not let you freeze to death out here.”
    The girl raised her head, and I could see her face. Large brown eyes looked into mine, and I could see tear tracks running down her cheeks.
    “Seriously,” I continued. “I can take you somewhere safe.” I grabbed the girl’s hand. It was ice cold.
    She didn’t protest, so I pulled her to her feet.
    “Okay,” she said. “Okay.” She shook out her wings.
    Wait.
    Wings?
    She had wings, white and feathered like a bird, except that they were larger than she was. Seven feet on each side; I wondered if she could fly.
    “You sure you still want me?” she asked.
    I laughed. “Yes, we still want you.”
    The girl tilted her head slightly. “In that case, I guess I better tell you my name. I’m Eva.”
    “Rebecca.”
    I started walking quickly, hoping that Cassie’s car was still there.
    It wasn’t.
    I felt my stomach drop. Cassie had to be here. What was I going to do?
    “So, what do we do now?” Eva asked.
    “I – I don’t know.”
    Eva tilted her head again, but this time, it was if she was listening for something. “Something’s coming,” she whispered, terrified.
    “What?” I asked. “Why are you so scared?”
    Eva pulled me back into the alley, her wings brushing my arms as she spread them out fully.
    It had started to rain lightly, or maybe snow, and there was no light from the moon or stars. I couldn’t see Eva’s face, even though I was just inches from her.
    “Something’s been following me,” she whispered.
    I realized that the streetlights had gone out. No one was around. Every light in the buildings had gone out.
    We were all alone.
    Footsteps echoed up the previously empty street.
    Correction: Alone with whatever was chasing Eva.

  33. Mynaon 17 Jun 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Yaaay, chapter four! ^.^

    “I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t really sarcastic.”
    * I really like this line, it shows the MC is really, genuinely afraid of hurting someone on her mission.

    “ The Headquarters has come up with a new plan regarding superhumans. Potential candidates for a team will be asked to complete a mission requiring a particular skill that you possess. Assuming that you survive this mission, you will be asked to pass a series of tests. If you pass the tests, then you can expect a year of training. After that, you’re working for the Headquarters. You can back out of the deal at age eighteen.”
    * I think you might want to break this up, just to make it easier to follow. So maybe she’s like “Assuming you survive the mission–” and your MC is like “Um, survive?” “Yeah…it can get pretty risky out there.” After that you could just continue the rest of Cass’s explanation. It’s just a random suggestion, but I feel like it would flow better.

    “Cassie missed the sarcasm this time.”
    * This is mildly confusing, because the first time the MC was not actually being sarcastic, even if Cass thought she was, so…

    “There was barely a sound, and in the distance, I could still hear the sirens and see the searchlights.”
    * This sentence is contradicting itself…

    “That’s a good one. No, you idiot, I’m not okay. If I was okay, I’d be home, not freezing in the middle of nowhere.”
    * Why is a random girl in an alley being so open to a stranger?

    “We were all alone.
    Footsteps echoed up the previously empty street.
    Correction: Alone with whatever was chasing Eva.”
    * I really like how you finished off this chapter, quite eerie in a sense, but gah cliffhanger! 😮

    Overall, chapter four was pretty good! I didn’t find much to critique. 🙂 Hehehe, I can’t wait to see who (or what o-o) is chasing after Eva…

  34. Mynaon 17 Jun 2011 at 2:10 pm

    …the gasp!face smiley bothers me some… o-O

  35. FotV/Annaon 17 Jun 2011 at 5:25 pm

    It’s interesting that you gave your heroine the most beneficial power for those she comes across, but one that has no obvious combat applications. However, the powersuit I have a problem with. Personally I think powersuits only make sense when characters have no power, super-intelligence, or tech based superpowers. Otherwise it seems a bit illogical. Plus it ruins the awesomeness of her being a young (though too young I feel- but that’s just me… How old are you?) struggling hero-wannabe with noncombat powers. Seriously, the only super main character who just had healing powers was Linderman in the Heroes comics miniseries where he and Pettrelli are in Vietnam. And that probably doesn’t count. The powersuit removes any drama that could arise from her situation. Plus I feel it makes her overpowered- powersuits make people very powerful and those who have them don’t need other powers.

  36. FotV/Annaon 17 Jun 2011 at 5:32 pm

    By the way, if you’re in Jr. High as I predict, you are pretty good.

  37. B. Macon 17 Jun 2011 at 9:08 pm

    “You already told me that. What kind of emergency?” “Rebecca, this is a test: See how well you can do under pressure.” I think this reduces the urgency considerably—if the danger is just staged, I think it’s less gripping. (It might be smoother to just have Cassie give the faintest outline of what’s going on and say that the details are really unclear at this time—it’s less aggressively coy and the danger feels less artificial, that way).

    “The Headquarters has come up with a new plan regarding superhumans. Potential candidates for a team will be asked to complete a mission requiring a particular skill that you possess. Assuming that you survive this mission, you will be asked to pass a series of tests. If you pass the tests, then you can expect a year of training. After that, you’re working for the Headquarters. You can back out of the deal at age eighteen.” How is this different than what they were doing before? Is there a less tense moment when you could get these logistics out of the way? (For example, perhaps when she agrees to do the test?) Alternately, could this be shortened? For example, “This week, Headquarters started reviewing candidates for a team by having them complete a mission geared to their skills. Assuming that you survive, you will be put through a series of tests. Successful candidates receive a year of training and work for the HQ until age 18.”

    “Yeah. I’m great at making friends. Easy, right?” Cassie missed the sarcasm this time. “Yes. You should have no trouble getting her to trust you.” I think Cassie’s lines here could be more interesting. Maybe something along the lines of “[SUPERHERO CANDIDATE X] had to [do something much harder]—he didn’t complain, either.” Alternately, if you’re willing to tweak the timing of your world a bit, maybe they’ve been doing these sorts of tests for a few years and she draws a comparison with what Adam had to do. (That’d be a pretty smooth way to develop Adam’s superpowers and personality, I feel).

    I don’t feel like chapter 4 is a terribly smooth transition from chapter 3.

    “now that you gave me the vague details”—She’s whining again. I’d like Cassie to verbally slap her here–I would say she’s gotten a more thorough briefing than pretty anyone but a SWAT unit would get. For example, sometimes the police have to track down a suspect without knowing his name and having only the vaguest idea of what he looks like. In super-serious cases like homicides, I think it’s not uncommon for the police to canvass 50+ homes or apartment units looking for somebody that might conceivably have seen something. I think her test would actually be more interesting if it were more challenging (physically, mentally and/or socially, etc).

    “I understand the fact that I have to complete a mission in the middle of the night perfectly–” So do bajillions of police officers and soldiers without superpowers. 😉 I’m having a hard time liking this character because she tends to complain quite a lot about trivial obstacles. If the obstacles were larger, complaining might be less unappealing. Alternately, if she has to complain, have Cassie point out how unsuperheroic she sounds. Seriously, if she’s whining that she has to work when it’s dark out, she sounds like she’d be absolutely useless in a genuine crisis. “Yes, honey, a supervillain might attack at night. Build yourself a bridge and get over it.”

    I think it might be more interesting to spend a few more lines covering her search. (For example, maybe her thought process is that the girl she’s looking for probably wants to be left alone, but would probably want to keep an escape path handy—so an alley would make a lot of sense).

    “Can’t you just leave me alone?” I think it might be more interesting if she takes a more direct, confrontational approach. For example, if we’re really supposed to feel like this is a difficult mission, maybe the girl says something like “Get out of here or I will torch you.” (One way that the protagonist could guess that she’s bluffing is because a character that actually had control of fire would surely not be freezing in a back alley without some sort of fire going, right?) Also, generally increasing the difficulty in this scene would probably help.

    “That’s it. You’re coming. I don’t care if you want to or not, but I will not let you freeze to death out here.” Is this voice-consistent for this character? (She strikes me as more of a snarker than someone prone to issuing commands to unwilling people? Maybe something along the lines of “So… your plan is to sleep in an alley in a t-shirt and jeans while it’s 40 degrees out. How’s that working out for you?)

    “It was a young girl’s voice.” Hmm, how young is Eva? (8? 10? 13?)

    “I hadn’t been too eager to complete the mission at first, but she obviously needed help.” Could you show this? (For example, I think “She drew in a shuddering breath” is really strong—I’d like more of that).

    In terms of developing the superhumans in your story, it might help to have her introduce her superpowers to build trust with Eva. (If superhumans are really shy about sharing off their powers in public, it sort of seems strange that she’d just shake out her wings without trying to hide them from a stranger).

    “You sure you still want me?” she asked. I laughed. “Yes, we still want you.” I think Rebecca’s line here could be more interesting. Maybe something like “Of course. You know what the cops do to us?”

    “Why are you so scared?” I feel like this line could be phrased more smoothly. Speaking of smoothness, “I looked like a normal thirteen-year-old girl.” It feels a bit out of place that she reminds us (keeps reminding us) she’s 13 and female. I think there are more effective ways to show this.

  38. Nicholas Caseon 02 Jul 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Hmm…not bad at all. I’d give a reivew but B.Mac beat me to it. 🙁

  39. B. Macon 02 Jul 2011 at 9:42 pm

    You can definitely review something I’ve already reviewed.
    –You could touch on anything I didn’t cover. It is extremely unlikely that my few hundred words have covered everything that could possibly be said about a chapter.
    –You might disagree with something (even everything!) I wrote. For example, if I thought something was a concern and you disagree, it’d probably be helpful to the author to know that some readers haven’t been having an issue with that.
    –Likewise, if you agree with me about something, that might be helpful for the author to know.
    –For whatever reason, you might feel that part of a previous review was not applicable to the work at hand. For example, some advice might be more applicable to a comic book than a novel or vice versa. (For example, if someone suggested that a superpower might be problematic because it wouldn’t create interesting visuals, that’d probably be a legitimate concern for a comic book but probably wouldn’t matter much for a novel).

  40. Nicholas Caseon 02 Jul 2011 at 10:04 pm

    No lol-I mean that you covered all I had to say.

  41. Grenacon 21 Jul 2011 at 9:35 am

    Expect a review from me next week. I need to catch up on this and it’s nearing my time to go.

  42. Crystalon 21 Jul 2011 at 9:59 am

    Oh, wow, I completely forgot that I had reviews to respond to.

    Myna: “Why is a random girl in an alley being so open to a stranger?” Wow, that got me thinking…
    By the way, do you mean that I’m doing a good or bad job with the cliffhangers?

    FotV/Anna: Thanks! Though I did get rid of the powersuit. But now, as I’m writing my first fight scene, she’s completly helpless.

    B. Mac: Thanks for the review! I’m working of fixing most of the problems. Though, just to clear one thing up, the danger is very real. The test is to see if she can handle the pressure like a real superhero. (Arguably, not very smart, since she’s a thirteen-year-old girl with no experience, but that’s just the way the headquarters works. You’ll see more of this kind of stuff when she goes into training.)

    Nicholas Case: Yeah, B. Mac pointed out some stuff that I wouldn’t even have noticed. 🙂

    Grenac: Great! Hopefully, by next week, I’ll have the next chapter up. 🙂

  43. Crystalon 22 Jul 2011 at 8:09 am

    Chapter Five

    “Okay.” I took a shaky breath and tried to stay calm. Don’t freak Eva out. God knows where she’ll fly off to if she gets scared.
    “Okay,” I said again, trying to keep my voice level without raising it. “Can you tell me who’s following you? What he can do?”
    Soft footsteps echoed up the empty street. Eva grabbed my arm and yanked me back into the alley, roughly shoving me behind a dumpster. I stumbled and fell onto the hard concrete, with Eva tumbling in behind me.
    “Eva.”
    Eva looked up at me, her black hair falling in her eyes. Her bangs were uneven and her hair had been cut in a jagged line at about chin level. I wondered if she had cut it herself: How long had she been on her own?
    Eva rose to a crouched position, keeping her wings slightly extended. Please don’t let her run away, not now.
    I cast a quick glance upward. Clotheslines stretched between the two buildings. I didn’t know if she could fly through them.
    Was this good or bad?
    I grabbed her arm and repeated her name again. “Eva?”
    She glanced over at me nervously. “Sorry.”
    “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s going on.”
    “I –” Eva shook her head, her eyes filling with tears.
    I repeated my request from earlier. “Can you tell me who’s chasing you?”
    She shook her head.
    “What he can do?”
    “I don’t know…He can move stuff with his mind, I guess. And blend into the shadows. Like he is a shadow. And…”
    She lifted up her arm to show me four cuts on her wrist. I took a closer look. The cuts were fresh, still bleeding a little. In fact, they looked a little like claw marks.
    Great. He had claws. We had a better chance of beating all of Team Alpha in battle than surviving this.
    I had been trying to listen to Eva while keeping one ear on the person walking down the street, but I shouldn’t have bothered. Before I had even heard the footsteps stop, she stiffened.
    “Crap,” I muttered. Whoever – whatever – was chasing Eva had stopped right outside the alley.
    “Stay very still,” I whispered to Eva. “He doesn’t see us yet.”
    She shook her head sadly. “He already knows.”
    I saw the defeated look in her eyes, like she knew that there was nowhere to go.
    “We’ll fight,” I decided.
    You’ll fight. I already learned the first time. You’re gonna get crushed.” Eva bit her lip. “Let’s just get this over with.” She started to stand up, and I knew that she was gonna give away our hiding place.
    I grabbed her arm. I couldn’t have been more than a year or two older than Eva, but I was about a foot taller and much stronger than her.
    “There is no way that I am letting you give up.” I hissed through clenched teeth, keeping a tight grip on Eva’s arm.
    “Okay, okay!”
    I let go of her arm somewhat reluctantly. Eva was shying away from me, and I realized that I had scared her.
    I ground my teeth together. I knew that I would have to show her that I was a friend in order to earn her trust, but, honestly, Eva was starting to frustrate me. I mean, you just don’t just give up like that, not without a fight.
    Eva’s pursuer had stepped a few feet into the alley by now, probably having heard my outburst. He began to search every inch of the alley, standing on tiptoes to peer through windows, peering inside garbage cans, even getting down on his hands and knees to look through tiny cracks in buildings.
    “It’s a show,” Eva muttered. “He already knows where we are.” I glanced over at her and saw that she didn’t look scared anymore, just angry.
    Good. Better for fighting.
    I remembered my instructions from the basic training courses that I had taken a while back.
    “In a fight, the last thing you want to do is panic,” the instructor had said. “Keep your breathing calm and controlled. Get a weapon in your hand. If you don’t have one, improvise. Anything is better than nothing.”
    I reached in my backpack, rummaging around for the item I was looking for.
    Why on earth did I have to bring so much stuff? I wondered as I rooted around, trying to make as little noise as possible.
    Eva gave me a questioning look.
    I peered was still paused outside the alley.
    C’mon, where is it?
    Sweatshirt, map of Ohio – That’s where my tennis shoes went… – granola bar, fruit snacks, Band-Aids, fifty dollars, communicator – That would have been useful about twenty minutes ago… – Tissues, water bottle – Jeez, how much food do I have in here? – box of matches, flashlight – Aha!
    I held my Swiss Army Knife in the air and flicked out the serrated blade.
    “Really?” Eva mouthed.
    I shrugged. You were only allowed to carry a gun if you were twenty-one years or older; in the Headquarters the same rule also applied to knives. I had complained to Cassie once and she had told me kids were permitted to use the futuristic laser guns, but we both knew that all those did was shoot pretty beams of light.
    Maneuvering around the side of the trashcan so that I could escape easily if necessary, I motioned for Eva to do the same. I could see the person more clearly now.
    I squinted. He was on the short side, and rather skinny, for someone so powerful…
    I gave a little laugh. “It’s just a kid,” I breathed, grinning and shaking my head. Not more than twelve, though I couldn’t see his face to be sure.
    Eva shook her head frantically. “Shhh!” she hissed.
    Oops.
    Within seconds of my words, the ‘kid’ literally came out of nowhere to land on the lid of the dumpster, hitting it with such force that his hands left huge dents in it.
    Eva and I scattered, her running to the left, me to the right, knife at the ready.
    The boy went for me, his claws grazing my ankle as I hit the ground and quickly rolled to my feet.
    He didn’t get me! I had thought that he was actually good.
    This should be easy. While the boy had stronger powers than me, he was just a kid, and I had done enough sparring with Adam to know several strategies that would allow me to get the upper hand.
    I turned around to face the boy.
    Things kind of went downhill from there.
    I had thought that the reason I couldn’t see the boy’s features was because he was hidden in shadow. Now, I realized, it was because he had no face.
    Or, rather, I couldn’t see any details of his body. He was like a shadow, blending in with the darkness.
    I was…unnerved, to say the least. Scared might have been a better word. I wanted to run and hide, but that would have to wait for later – he was already circling me, waiting for me to let my guard down.
    I clocked his movements and prepared to attack him, clutching the knife so tightly that my knuckles turned white.
    “Be the one to make the first move. You have the element of surprise. Use it. Don’t come in as weak, tentative. Every move counts.
    “Remember, once you strike, that’s it. No going back.”

    I made a wild lunge for the boy, but he jumped out of the way, and I hit the ground, scraping my knee on the asphalt.
    Slightly embarrassed, I picked myself off the ground slowly. I guessed that those months of slacking off on training had finally come back to me.
    My attacker was perched on on a clothesline directly, and the second I stood, he jumped down, almost hitting me.
    Before he landed, he threw out a dark hand, and I was flying through the air, suspended for a moment, before I crashed into a row of trash cans left alongside the building.
    Before my eyes, the boy simply melted away, dissolving like sand. He could have been anywhere now.
    It could’ve been worse. I could’ve actually hit the building. Still, falling in a pile of trash wasn’t exactly my idea of fun.
    I lay there for a minute, dazed, then slowly got to my feet, wrinkling my nose at the smell.
    Never gonna do this again, I promised myself. If I got out of this alive, I was quitting my pathetic attempt to be a superhero.
    I still had to get to Eva; tell her to get out of here. Not to mention finding my attacker: He wasn’t exactly someone who you wanted to turn you back on.
    There they were. Eva was backed up against a wall, eyes wide with fear. Her hand was slowly reaching for a loose brick a few feet away, but she wasn’t going to make it. The boy was already there. I didn’t see him move in any way, but, Eva cried out in pain and drew her hand back like it had been burned.
    “Good girl.” It was the first time that I had heard him speak, and, while his voice was rough and gravelly, I wondered if he was more human than I had thought. “Now get up slowly, with your hands where I can see them.”
    Eva nodded feebly, but I could see that her eyes weren’t focused on our attacker, but on a spot maybe thirty feet behind him.
    No, Eva, don’t you dare. He’ll just drag you back down!
    She leapt to her feet, extending her wings to their full length.
    The boy moved another step forward, bringing him closer to me. I didn’t dare breathe, pressing my back against the wall, praying that I would remain undetected.
    Eva took off running, and I knew that she was going to go for it.
    I hadn’t expected Eva to get very far, but I had to give the girl credit: She was fast.
    She dodged around the boy, moving in a wide circle around him. For some reason, he let her go by; I knew that he could stop her if he wanted.
    Then, with a flap of her wings, she climbed into the air, hovering thirty, forty feet in the air, finally coming to rest on a rooftop.
    Our attacker appeared unconcerned. He stood watching Eva fly, and, when she landed, slowly extended his hand out toward her. The roof of the building began to crumble, and I saw Eva move away from the edge, as if it would help her. The space was too small for her to get a good running start, and the only other option was to jump off the roof, which, although at least forty feet off the ground, was not high enough to give her time to flap her wings.
    Eva was trapped, the building falling down around her.
    He was only a few steps in front of me, and I kicked off the wall, knife extended, preparing to punch him if stabbing didn’t work.
    He didn’t even turn around to acknowledge my presence, just flicked his hand at me, and suddenly I was flying through the air.
    I only had time to remember what my instructor had said about taking blows before I hit the building:
    “If you’re going to take a blow, try to remain upright. If you are punched in the stomach, breathing out hard will help you not get your wind knocked out. Keep your elbows tight to your chest to protect your ribs, and, if possible, block the punch with your arm or fist.
    “If you are knocked down, get up as soon as you are out of your attacker’s fighting range. Otherwise, you are completely open to getting attacked.
    “If you are shoved into a wall, try to hit it with your back, not your head, for the same reasons. It will hurt, but not as much as getting your head slammed into the wall.”

    Too late.

    Anyone who thinks that you can get right back up after getting slammed into a brick wall is wrong.
    Dead wrong.
    Trust me, it hurts. A lot. And, unlike in movies and TV, I was not able to get right up and fight. In fact, I was barely able to think.
    Dizzily, I tried to sit up, but the sharp pain coursing through my head told me that that was a bad idea. I laid my head back down, wishing to have nothing more than to curl up in my bed and sleep.
    I knew that there was no way I could fight now. There was a fine line between bravery and stupidity, and I had my limitations. Fighting in this condition wouldn’t have just been idiotic, it would have been suicide.
    I felt myself being lifted off the ground and into the air, and my eyes opened automatically. The boy was standing below me, telekinetically lifting me into the air. I kicked at him, connecting with his head, but, instead of the satisfying thump of my sneaker hitting his skull, there was nothing . My foot passed through his head like it was air, and he just lifted me higher in the air. As in, ten feet higher.
    “Enough,” he said in a low, demonic voice. “I spared you once. You dare attack me again?”
    I shook my head weakly, unable to break free of his telepathic hold.
    “I have no use for an empathetic…that is, if you even know what an empathy link is. Your life means nothing to me.”
    Empathetic? I was a healer, not an empathetic, whatever that was. I tried to tell him this, but I couldn’t talk, and, at any rate, at fifteen feet off the ground, I doubted that anyone could hear my weak voice.
    I realized that I still clutched the knife tightly in my hand; the blade had been digging into my palm, and the cut was now bleeding freely.
    I hurled the knife at the boy, ignoring the sting of pain in my injured hand. It missed his head by three feet.
    He laughed harshly. “What good did you think that would do?”
    My attacker moved his hands like he was wrapping them around my throat, and, at the same time, I realized that he was, in a way, strangling me.
    I gasped for breath, but I couldn’t get any air into my lungs. Dangling fifteen feet above ground, there was no way anyone could help me.
    I struggled to break free of his grasp, but the more I moved, the more dizzy and light-headed I felt.
    You’re using up oxygen the more you move, I thought. Stop struggling.
    I let myself go limp, but, already, black spots were starting to dance in front of my eyes.
    He really means it. He’s really gonna kill me. I’m actually going to die.
    I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to hang on much longer. I’d given up trying to breathe a long time ago, and the pressure on my chest was becoming unbearable. I closed my eyes and waited for the end.

    It never came.
    A few seconds later, the boy’s hold on me loosened, and I fell in the middle of the road, jarring my shoulder.
    I lay there, not caring about my attacker, of the fact that I was lying in the middle of the road, gratefully sucking in huge gulps of air. Slowly, I sat up, wincing.
    I took inventory of my injuries. The cut in my right hand was deep enough that it would need stitches, but I’d live. My shoulder was also pretty sore, but not broken, I hoped.
    I reached up and touched my forehead, and my fingers came away wet with blood. Great. I was willing to bet that I’d need more stitches, not to mention getting checked for a concussion.
    Besides that, I had a few scrapes on my knees from falling on the pavement, and a bunch of bruises, but I would be okay.
    Y’know, if I didn’t get almost killed by a demonic shadow-boy again.
    It finally occurred to me to wonder what had happened, and I scrambled to my feet, searching for Eva.
    And possibly looking out for my attacker.
    The boy wasn’t anywhere to be found, and I briefly wondered if that was a good or a bad thing.
    Eva, however, was standing on the ground beside the building that I had crashed into, looking dazed. Limping a little, she started toward me.
    The back of my neck prickled, and I whirled around, wincing at the pain the movement brought me.
    Daniel was behind me, perched on the metal banister leading up to the doors of a huge office building.
    “What are you doing here?” I asked.
    “Saving your life. You could thank me, y’know.”
    I gave him a critical glare, eying the object he was holding loosely in his left hand. It looked like a gun, but I knew it couldn’t be – Even Daniel had to obey the rules.
    In one fluid movement, Daniel vaulted off the metal railing, landing in front of me.
    “Uh…Thanks, I guess.”
    He noticed me staring at the object in his hand. “Tasered him.”
    Oh. A taser. Not that I knew where to get one of those.
    “How’d you do that? He’s not solid.”
    “His back was turned.”
    I got it now. If he was distracted…
    “Oh.” I switched the subject. “That was…hard, to say the least.”
    He gave a little laugh, though it sounded more sarcastic than humorous. “Welcome to my life.”
    I nodded and motioned my head towards Eva. “I’m just…gonna see if…”
    He nodded. “I’ll make sure that he doesn’t come back.”
    I ran over to Eva, who had fallen to her knees. I knelt next to her. “Hey, you okay?” I asked.
    “Fine.”
    She stood up and shook out her wings. “See?” She grinned wryly. “I jumped…Think that was a bad idea.”
    “Don’t try to fly, okay?”
    Eva rolled her eyes. “After that? I don’t think I ever will.” The shock was starting to wear off, I could tell.
    I smiled. “C’mon. Let’s see if Daniel has a ride back to the Headquarters.”
    I tugged on Eva’s arm, but she didn’t move. “Come on!”
    I followed the direction of her eyes. My stomach dropped. Behind Daniel…A child-shaped shadow.
    “No!” I shouted, starting toward Daniel, knowing that the gap between us was too large for me to cross in time.
    Daniel half-turned, his eyes widening. He raised the taser, but, even with superspeed, he was too slow.
    The boy raised his hand, and Daniel was tossed into the air, not slowly, as I had been, but rather suddenly. He moved his hand slightly to the left, and Daniel was thrown, full speed, into a building across the street.
    Now! While he’s distracted!
    Before I had a chance to move, Eva leaped in within fighting range of the boy. He half-turned and swiped at her with his claws, but not before her foot made contact with his head.
    The force of the kick sent the boy spinning backwards, but before he hit the ground, he had already dissolved into the shadows
    Where’d he go?
    That didn’t matter now; I was already sprinting across the road towards Daniel.
    Eva was trying to follow me as I knelt down next to Daniel. She was staggering; I knew that she’d been hurt.
    “What do we do?” she asked, her eyes brimming with tears.
    What do I do? I wondered.
    I didn’t have time to explain about my healing, so I gave Eva instructions as quickly as I could.
    “Okay, I have a communicator in my backpack – it’s behind the dumpster, by the way; the communicator looks kinda like a walkie-talkie – grab it and press the red button three times,” I explained all in one breath.
    Eva nodded.
    “What did I just say?”
    “Grab the communicator and press the red button three times.”
    “Great. Now go!”
    I turned back toward Daniel, trusting Eva to do what she was told.
    Fumbling for a pulse, I hoped that he was still alive.
    Yes! Okay..now….
    I assessed his wounds. Nothing that I could see, besides a few scratches. He was barely breathing; I was willing to bet that he had some internal injuries, and I didn’t think that he’d be alive by the time help arrived.
    Daniel had saved my life; the least I could do was save his.
    I took a deep breath, trying not to panic, trying to remember how I used my powers.
    Okay. Okay. Remember how you did this last time?
    Actually, last time I had wound up in the hospital for two weeks, but I tried not to think about that.
    I placed my hand on Daniel’s chest, trying to recall how to heal him.
    C’mon, concentrate!
    My hands began to feel warm; my fingers tingling. The tingling feeling spread up my arms until they were practically buzzing with power.
    I had to admit; I loved this part. This was the one time when I had absolute power: Power over life and death.
    The buzzing feeling soon left, and I suddenly began to feel very cold, like there was a block of ice in the pit of my stomach.
    I could feel Daniel’s heart beating slower and slower, slipping away despite my efforts.
    I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, concentrating on keeping Daniel alive. His heart rate had stabilized, but I still could barely tell that he was breathing.
    Come on, just a little bit longer!
    Now I could feel myself weakening. In healing Daniel, I had actually been pouring my own energy into him, and I knew that I wasn’t strong enough to hold on for much longer; nor was Daniel, not without me healing him.
    I half-opened my eyes, but couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. Everything was just flashes of color and light, and it made me dizzy just to keep my eyes open, so I closed them again.
    I felt myself start to fade out, but I tried to hang on, just one more minute…
    Dimly, I was aware of the sound of voices. Good. Eva got help. Whatever happened beyond this point didn’t concern me.
    Abruptly, I cut off the energy that had been healing Daniel, then, almost at the same time, I allowed myself to sink backwards into a dizzying pit of blackness.

    When I woke up, the boy that had attacked us was standing over me.

  44. Grenacon 23 Jul 2011 at 11:55 am

    I only need to catch up on chapter 5 now :B

    I really like the whole idea behind this story, it seems interesting and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

    I only have two things to point out. The first is that I’m confused as to why Cassie chose Rebecca for the job/mission. I may have missed something, I forget things. The second thing is that there needs to be wrench thrown in to Rebecca’s task of getting the girl to follow her. It seemed a little too easy, almost like it was a trap…

    Now I have to get to chapter five, I am excited 🙂

  45. invader-mynaon 24 Jul 2011 at 6:34 am

    YESSSS! CHAPTER FIVE! I really liked it. I noticed it was longer than the other chapters and also pretty intense, s’pecially with the fight, so nice job! Your fight scenes are pretty strong, I think. That shadow-guy is creepy though, he seems difficult in a fight since he can become intangible. o.o CREEPY! One thing though, I thought Rebecca had no powers/very few powers? Is she also a healer?

  46. Grenacon 24 Jul 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Hnnngh <3
    Just read chapter 5, I have to say that was quite a ride. I wonder who that shadow-creep was, he was unnerving OAO;;;

    Daniel came out of nowhere and suddenly I'm wonder what he's up to and what this whole situation is. I have a theory, but I'm not entirely sure, so I'll keep quiet.

    I really liked your fight scene, I struggle with those lol. You did a good job 🙂

    Eagerly awaiting chapter six <3

  47. Crystalon 25 Jul 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Grenac: “I’m confused as to why Cassie chose Rebecca for the job…” That’ll be answered in Chapter 7. 🙂
    “There needs to be a wrench thrown into Rebecca’s task…” Hmm…I’ll keep this in mind when I’m revising.
    What’s your theory about Daniel? I’m interested in hearing it.
    “I really like your fight scene…” Thanks!

    Myna: Yeah, it’s about 4x longer than the other chapters. There were two points where I could have broken it off into separate chapters, but then it wouldn’t have felt complete. 🙂
    “I thought Rebecca had no powers/very few powers?” Oops…forgot to mention that in the earlier chapters. She has healing, which, as I’ve pointed out, is completely useless in a fight – you can only help out after someone gets hurt.
    “Your fight scenes are pretty strong, I think.” Thank you! I was actually worried that my fight scenes weren’t going to be strong enough…

  48. invader-mynaon 25 Jul 2011 at 7:38 pm

    True, healing’s no good in a fight until after someone’s down on the concrete. xD And no, I really like your fight scenes! I’ve seen a lot of weak ones (“DIEEE!” *20 pages of pyro blasts later…*) and yours are awesome. ^.^

  49. Grenacon 25 Jul 2011 at 8:34 pm

    – Oh, ok. I wasn’t sure if it was mentioned, so yay!

    – It’s more a theory on the whole situation with him and the shadow-creeper. I feel it may be…well, we’ll see BUT I CALLED IT SO THERE. Just in case C:

  50. Mynaon 25 Sep 2011 at 6:01 am

    HALLO! I have randomly burst back into this website after a school-induced hiatus1 Nyaaaaaa Crystal! I want to see chapter six! : o How has your story been going lately? I haven’t been reading since like July I feel bad o-o

  51. Crystalon 25 Sep 2011 at 11:06 am

    Hi, Myna. I’m really trying to get Chapter Six finished. I’m busy with school too, though, so I can only write on weekends. 🙁 But the good news is that I hope to have it done in the next few weeks. 😀

  52. Mynaon 25 Sep 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Ah yeah, school : ( But weekends are still good! Good luck with your story, I can’t wait to read/devour chapter six. : ) I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS

  53. Crystalon 25 Sep 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Yes, weekends are very good. 😀 I’ve already written more in one hour today than I did in the last few weeks combined.

  54. Grenacon 25 Sep 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Ah, I can’t wait for it 😀

    Yours too Myna 🙂

  55. Crystalon 12 Nov 2011 at 11:46 am

    Argh, reading over what I’ve done so far… I just realized that I’m not really getting anywhere. It’s been four months since I’ve posted a new chapter, so I just wanted to let you guys know that it’s going to be a little bit longer.

    No, for real this time.

  56. Grenacon 12 Nov 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Still eagerly waiting <3

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