Warning: This story contains some edgy concepts. Highlight to read more details, some of which are spoilers. It includes foster care, negative experiences in the foster system, references to drinking problems, minor neglect, bullying, cruel language, uncontrolled use of superpowers, nonconsensual activation of superpowers, forced separation, running away, and other angst. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
"A Sting in the Tail"
Lakia rather liked living with Mrs. Fritz.
The house was small and drab,
but everyone had a bed to sleep in.
Mrs. Fritz was a quiet drunk and nobody
in the family really liked to hit people.
There were always crackers and fruit
on the counter, peanut butter and jelly
and cereal in the cabinet, milk in the fridge,
and bread in the breadbox, so it didn't matter
if meals went missing. Lakia knew how
to take care of herself as long as
there was food within reach.
Nobody bothered her much,
so she could play in the house
or the yard or the street or the park,
whatever she felt like doing.
It helped that the bigger kids preferred
picking on PJ to picking on Lakia.
He'd been flickering for months
and still couldn't control it, which
everyone said was just like bedwetting,
which always made the littler kids giggle
and then made PJ start crying.
So far Lakia had seen him
float and get stuck on the roof,
turn a drinking cup into a turnip,
and accidentally set the couch on fire.
Maybe all the changing back and forth
made it harder to control, but it was still funny.
Once PJ had turned blue and fuzzy,
then spent all day sobbing in bed until
the fur fell off and left him normal again.
"Your supervillain name should be Teddy Bear,"
Lakia said as she scampered around him, trying
to grab the battered old bear he clung to.
"You act like the Bandar-log,"
PJ said, whatever that meant.
"I wish you'd get superpowers too,
then you'd know how it feels!"
Suddenly Lakia felt a sting in her tail end,
and there was something squirming
down the back of her pants.
She yelled and yanked the pants off,
but the fuzzy brown noodle was
firmly attached to her butt.
When Mrs. Fritz tried to help,
the awful thing zapped her,
and when a doctor tried to help
the same thing happened to him.
So they said it was a freak accident
and that she was stuck with it.
Well, nobody wanted a boy who
could turn other people into soups, or
a girl with a sting in the tail, so they both got
shipped off to different homes "for their own good"
and they never saw each other again.
The next house had less food and more hitting,
so Lakia split pretty quick, and the police
caught her the first time but not the next.
At least on the street, she was free.
* * *
Peter John "PJ" Perkins -- He has fair skin with freckles, green eyes, and wavy dark blond hair to his chin. He has a round face and slightly pudgy body. PJ lives in foster care because his circumstances make him unappealing for adoption. Other children constantly bully him at home and at school. He has been flickering for months and has difficulty controlling his superpowers due to the erratic manifestation. It's never the same thing twice in a row.
Origin: Unconfirmed. Mother left him at the hospital shortly after birth, claiming that she had been raped by a supervillain and wanted no part of "the little monster."
Uniform: Play clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Creative, Good (+2) Heals Well, Good (+2) Fan of Rudyard Kipling
Poor (-2) Victim of Bullying
Powers: Indeterminate, still flickering.
Motivation: To be liked.
* * *
"A sting in the tail" is slang for a hidden menace.
Although meant to help, foster care often has poor outcomes for youth and adults. In local-America, half or more of youth in care may run away from their placement home for various reasons, usually as teenagers but occasionally much younger. There are ways to improve foster care, which Terramagne-America uses; their results are therefore better, but not perfect yet.
Flickering is one mode of manifestation for superpowers in Terramagne, particularly for children. PJ flickers through Flight, Transmutation, Firestarting, Shapeshifting, and Power Activation. The latter is actually the most dangerous due to discrimination. Even though it can only awaken latent powers, not bestow them on people without prior potential, the public makes little if any distinction between the two, and can be vicious toward anyone suspected of "turning someone into a soup."
Bullying often happens to children different in any way. In T-America, picking on soups constitutes Bullying the Dragon, and can indicate that the bully is just too stupid to survive. Some victims respond by becoming bullies themselves. Throughout Terramagne, leading reasons for becoming a supervillain or minion include getting even and finding protection. Sensible people therefore discourage bullying with great vigor.
The Bandar-log or Monkey People appear in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Check out "Kaa's Hunting" and "Road-Song of the Bandar-Log" which you can read online.
Lakia's Prehensile Tail also comes with a Nerve Strike power which can range from a mild zap to a disabling blast.
Attachment theory concerns the relationships people form, from childhood to adulthood. Attachment disorders often stem from poor care and/or disruptions such as foster placement. The negative effects can be serious and lengthy. Learn more about bonding and secure attachment.
Adultification happens in dysfunctional families, where children learn to fend for themselves because adults are unreliable caregivers. Lakia displays one common pattern, which is that the avoidant pattern in childhood develops into a dismissive pattern later on. While the latter is typically considered an adult pattern, all it really means is that the person has concluded that other people are unreliable in general and that they do just fine on their own thankyouverymuch. That can happen at any time.