"An Even Brighter Path"
It was not the play of light and shadow
but the subtle shift of energy that
attracted Hannah's attention.
The man had light brown skin and
eyes the brighter red-brown of good sherry,
his short scruff of hair ginger with blond roots.
His energy had that odd, pliable texture
she associated with shapeshifters
but with a hidden edge to it.
"What do you want?" Hannah asked
as he approached them.
Hadyn drifted behind her,
pulling Lakia along.
Danso stepped forward.
The stranger stopped just outside
the edge of Hannah's nullification field.
At least he could respect limits that well.
"Just a few words, if you don't mind," he said.
"I heard that you had a falling out with SPOON,
and wanted to let you know about other options
for a support network in case you need them."
Hannah thought about the list of
organizations that shared her interest
in superkids and also had the connections
to pick up on that kind of news.
It wasn't a long list, and once you
crossed off SPOON, it consisted mostly
of supervillains. Granted, they had
good reputations for black capes,
but still: supervillains.
"You stay away from my kids,"
Hannah warned with a brisk thrust of
her talent, like poking him in the shoulder
with the edge of her fingernail.
"Hey, don't pet the hedgehog
the wrong way," Danso said.
"They get prickly if you do that."
"Hedgehog?" the man asked,
the corners of his mouth quirking
into a shallow smile.
"Yeah, I met one at a petting zoo once,"
Danso said. "They're sweet if you're gentle,
but they put their spikes up if you scare them.
You have to handle them real soft, and
only pet them from head to tail,
or you'll get stabbed."
"Excellent advice," the man said.
"Many creatures benefit from
such kind handling."
Of course that was when Lakia
darted out from the shelter
of Hannah's shadow.
"That's a nice tail you have,"
the stranger said to Lakia.
Currently it had a death grip
around her left thigh.
"Nobody likes my tail,"
"Then they have no taste,
and you shouldn't mind them,"
he said firmly. "I grew up around
people like that, and let me tell you, I
couldn't get away from them fast enough."
Hannah looked him over again. If he came
from Israel -- or worse, Palestine -- that would
make a lot of sense. His appearance fit.
For some people, joining supervillains
made a distinct improvement. But
her kids had a good home now.
"Lakia's making progress with
better company," Hannah said evenly.
"Understood. Sometimes a rough start
leads you to an even brighter path," he said.
The tiniest motion of his fingertips produced
a card of textured gray paper, embossed with
In case of emergency and a vdress above
a woodcut lifeboat. "Please take this,
just in case you ever need it."
Hannah crossed her arms.
"No thank you," she said.
Danso looked at her, then
at the stranger. "I'll put it next to
my lawyer's card," he said
as he took the offering.
It was a discreet hint that
they already had good backup,
without being so brusque
as to cause offense.
It was also a reminder that
Danso had spent considerable time
without the luxury of being picky about help.
"Thank you," the stranger said.
"It was a pleasure meeting you.
Enjoy your time at the park."
Then he drifted away.
"That was weird," Hadyn said.
"He kept looking at us like he
knew something he shouldn't."
Hannah sighed. "People talk,
sweetie, even when they should
keep their mouths shut." Then she
turned to Danso. "Why take the card?"
"So it wouldn't piss him off. So I can
hunt around for others like it. And because
I like to keep my options open," Danso said,
ticking points on his fingers. "You never know
who's going to turn out nasty or nice, you can't
tell by the look, you have to check them out."
"That's true," said Hannah. "You did
a great job of reasoning your way
through what could have turned
into a risky confrontation."
"I've had a lot of practice with that
on the street," said Danso. Then he
gave her a one-armed hug. "But I'm glad
I don't have to do it so much anymore."
* * *
Saul Omar -- He has light brown skin, sherry-brown eyes, and ginger hair with blond roots although his facial and body hair is darker brown. His heritage includes Israeli, Palestinian, Arabic, and American. He speaks Arabic, English, and Hebrew. He is Sunni Muslim. Saul favors gizmotronic or super-gizmotronic weapons; his favorite is a freeze ray. He likes musical games such as Moosiqar.
Origin: When his superpower manifested at puberty, that made him a target in Palestine. Kraken won him over simply by offering to get him out of the country, which is one of the bottom-ten for soups.
Uniform: Kraken uniform of dexflan and capery; the jumpsuits is sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment. It provides Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turns garish neon colors. The utility belt contains a multitude of small gizmos and other tools.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Spy, Expert (+4) Hand-to-Hand Combat, Good (+2) Gizmology, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Musical Games, Good (+2) Palestinian Folk Music, Good (+2) Politics, Good (+2) Teacher
Powers: Good (+2) Shapeshifting
Motivation: To make the world safer for soups -- by any means necessary.
* * *
"I've learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom -- how great is that?"
-- Soledad O'Brien
It's important to know how to respond when approached by a stranger, and how to approach someone so as not to pose a threat. Hannah's brisk "What do you want?" is commonly taught in women's self-defense classes. Saul is making sure to contact them in broad daylight, in a public place.
The aura is an energy field which surrounds living creatures, made up of electromagnetic energy from the physical body along with more subtle energy from the metaphysical body. This is one of the things that allows some soups to sense other soups, and people with most types of energy powers can interact with it. One method is "poking" someone with your energy, which is even more intimate than poking someone with your finger -- and coming from Hannah, it's scary, because Power Nullifcation can't be blocked the way people normally learn to block out foreign energy.
Hedgehogs have quills which require careful handling. If you are gentle, a hedgehog may permit handling by relaxing its quills. If you are not gentle or the hedgie just isn't in a friendly mood, you will become a pincushion. This is very much how superpowers behave on a reflexive level.
Tails appear in entertainment tropes such as Prehensile Tail and Beware My Stinger Tail., along with the infamous stereotype that black people have tails. While Lakia is mixed race, it's still an issue for her, and she's sensitive about it because people keep fussing about her tail.
Saul's advice on dealing with haters comes out of his experience growing up in a bottom-ten country.
A vdress is an address for contacting someone's vidwatch, similar to an email address but in a different format.
Closed body language is one way to discourage a stranger from making trouble. Hannah still wants Saul to buzz off.
Street smart means knowing how to handle yourself in the real world, particularly in rough neighborhoods or with pesky people. It's something all the kids learned, to varying degrees. Danso is just the most graceful at it. There are tips on how to become more street smart.
It's not always easy to distinguish between safe and unsafe people. Knowing the traits of unsafe people and safe people can help to determine whether someone is trustworthy.