In the living room of a homely Brooklyn apartment, Neo-York -
A boy woke up with a start, his face, healthily tanned from spending a few too many hours playing under the sun, deathly pale. Sweat pooled down from his matted black hair. He breathed heavily, chest heaving in and out before he leaned backwards, resting against a rough synth-leather couch pockmarked with holes in need of repair.
He sucked in a deep breath before leaning forward, palming his face. The light of early morning struggled to stream in through the prison of blinders covering the windows.
Last night, he had stayed up waiting for his parents to come back, but they never did. It was not unusual. They were heroes, after all. 'Justice never sleeps!' was what his dad would have said to him.
The boy looked down and saw a green blanket wrapped around him. He smiled. That meant his parents had come back and tucked him in.
It meant the nightmares, those awful, terrible nightmares - they were all just that: dreams.
"How's our little champ doing?" A sleepy voice greeted the boy. A man stepped into the room with a yawn.
"Dad!" The boy rushed off the couch and hugged his father with all his strength. Where his father had a tired tear welling up from the corner of his eye, tears of relief trickled down the boy's face.
"Hey now, what's wrong?" The father looked down at his son with surprise he masked with a smile. He was an average man by all definitions of the word. Plain face, plain features. He had an above average physique, but somehow his aura of normality just completely overshadowed it.
It was his smile, though, that was extraordinary. It was not a picture perfect smile, not the type you would see on holo-boards with biosculpted models who had every little part of their bodies fixed. He had a missing tooth or two, some crooked, some yellowed, some chipped. His lip was a little uneven because of an improperly healed scar.
But the prettiness of a smile was always secondary to the emotion behind it.
And his smile was cheery, hopeful, light - the type that made anyone put down their guards. It was honest. A mirror into a soul that was warm and pure.
"I-I had a dream that you and mom got captured, someone did horrible things to you and, and-," The boy sniffled. "You never came back."
"Hah, what a load of shit. I'm right here, aren't I?" The father picked up his son into the air, aiming his beaming smile right up at his child. It was an effective weapon, wiping away his son's fear and replacing it with a smile of his own.
The father groaned, closing his eyes as his red-tinted hair now dripped water.
"Honey, how many times do I have to tell you to watch your language around our son?" A woman in baggy shirt and pants stepped into view. She was much more conventionally attractive than her husband with crystal blue eyes and aqua tinted short hair.
Her hand was upraised, shimmering with blue energy that made it obvious where the water came from.
"Damn it, I keep forgetting. I mean-," The father sighed. "I'll just keep quiet and fix us up some breakfast. Can you take care of him until then?"
"Of course." The mother took the son from his father's hold and held the boy with equal ease. No surprise there. They were both trained heroes after all.
Granted, they were just D-listers, but the son knew better than anyone that they were the best heroes. If not to the world, then to him, at the very least.
The father's head started to steam as heat circulated across his body, drying out his head. His hair poofed back up to its usual spiky structure. He got behind a kitchen counter and started to put on an apron with practiced ease.
A very deserved practiced ease. The son's father was an infinitely better cook than his mother.
"What's wrong, dear?" The mother looked to her son, worried. But as any parent would, she hid her worry behind a comforting smile. Her smile was more reserved, slighter than her husband's.
But it was still comforting in a cool, calming sort of way.
"Nothing," said the son. After facing both his parents' smiles, the memories of the nightmare had faded away, locked away in that chamber of oblivion where old dreams went to and never came back from. "I'm just happy you two are back."
"I've Bloomed!" The boy sprinted into the living room. He was bigger now that he was twelve, full of the energy that only the early teens could have.
"What, really!?" The father whipped his neck toward the boy. He was holding a volume of manga in his hands. Fire crackled from his fingertips involuntarily, triggered by the sudden excitement. The book burnt to a crisp. "Shit! This fireproof coating's a scam!"
"No, you've just gotten stronger." The mother waved her hand, sending a bubble towards the burning book that quenched the fire, though the book was still left irreparably charred.
"Anyways-," The father tossed the volume away, expertly landing it in an open trashcan. "This is incredible! I always knew you had it in you, my boy! Tell me, what are your powers? Fire and water? Steam? You aren't a Mutant or anything, so it must be Blaster related, considering your mother and I are both Blasters."
"That's not how Alter genetics works," said the mother. "Parental powers are only a rough indicator of what the child inherits."
"Heh, no matter what the studies say, I know our son's got something amazing," said the father.
"Look!" The boy clapped his hands together, and when he pulled them apart, a green colored shield floated in the space between his hands.
"Oh, you're a Creator!" said the father.
"I know it's not either of your powers, but-," began the son.
"Nonsense! Some parents care that their kid has their powers, but not us. Anything you have is the best to us." The father knelt down by his son, inspecting the floating shield.
"This shield's invincible!" said the boy. "Just today, I saved one of my friends from a holo-board that collapsed."
"Hoho, invincible, you say? It's not good to be too confident, you know. Your old man will show you that some crappy old below regulations holo-board is nothing." The father wound back his fist and punched the shield. The force pinged back and knocked him flat on his back, dazed.
"You should take that advice yourself," said the mother with a sigh.
"See?" said the son. He was positively brimming with excitement, beaming with a happiness found from denying a powerless fate - a fate he once thought he was resigned to. "With this, I can finally, finally be a hero. Just like you two! I can take down a big villain group like the Trident too!"
"You're a late Bloomer," said the mother, putting a hand on her chin in contemplative thought. "Right on the cusp of puberty. They say the earlier or later a power Blooms, the stronger it is. But every power, no matter how strong, has to be trained."
The father groaned as he got back up, blowing at his aching knuckles. He grinned at his son. "And, son, you won't see better trainers than the two of us. You know, your dad's just gotten promoted to the B rank, heh.
The father knelt in front of his son, putting a firm hand on his child's shoulder. He looked into his son's eyes with orange, firm eyes. "Are you sure you want to train to fight?
To be a hero?
It's not all what the AA programs show you.
You'll make many friends.
But you'll lose some.
You'll save so many people.
But you'll fail others.
But even through all that, to be a real hero, to have a golden age heart, you need to know that you can never, ever give up. You can't ever let the weight of losses drag you down. Or, worse, make you bitter. Spiteful."
"Enough, honey, he's just turned twelve and barely now Bloomed. Heavy talks like that are for later," said the mother.
The father shook his head. "No. A hero's job is hard and can have, no, will have so many sacrifices. Aldrich needs to understand that before he steps foot on it."
"I know," said the son. He met his father's stare with equal, unbroken intensity. "I still want to do this. It was always my dream to be like you two. I can't let it slip when it's right in front of me."
"Like us two, huh?" The father laughed and patted his son's head. "It's fine to be like us, to reach for us, son, to follow us. But in time, you need to learn how to follow this." He tapped his chest, right above his heart. "To fight for yourself."