Saturday, 09 September 2023 00:00

Another Star in the Night

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A Whateley Academy Short Story

Another Star in the Night

by Amethyst


Maiden Starlight and Wonderstar


Dickinson Cottage – Room 215
October 31st, 2016
10:47 p.m.

Julia Wunder opened the door to her room, and called out to her roommate, “Janine, are you here?” There was no response from Tinker though and, once she hit the light switch, she wasn’t surprised to see that both of their beds were still made and she was alone in the room. “Of course,” the pretty blonde girl thought bitterly, “not everyone is as pathetic as I am.”

It was Halloween, so Tinker was probably at the party or hanging out with Giggles, possibly both. She could always be in the tunnels working on something too; it wouldn’t be the first time. The point was that her roommate could show her face in public.

Julia knew that she could have gone to the party, but what would be the point? It would just be more of the same. More bullying, more mocking, and people calling her ‘blunderstar’ or ‘One-hit-Wunder’. It was well known on campus that she couldn’t take a hit. She had been in two fights since the beginning of the school year, trying to stand up for kids who were being bullied, and both times, she had been knocked out with one hit before she could bring her power to bear.

She was used to bullies; they were common enough in Los Angeles public schools, especially if you were fat, pimply, had thick glasses, and were dirt poor and had to shop in secondhand stores. Her mom worked two jobs trying to provide for her as a single mother, but she could barely keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Then there was the day that the bullying went too far and Julia literally exploded, injuring two of her classmates.

The MCO had gotten involved and they were twitchy after the whole thing with Bastion snapping two years earlier. Agent Dawn Mackenzie wasn’t like the MCO horror stories made MCO agents out to be. She was one of the good ones; fair, even sympathetic to some degree, and she had supervised Julia’s testing. Since the injuries to her attackers hadn’t been serious, she had manifested while being attacked, and the incident was caught on security footage, Agent Mackenzie didn’t try to have Julia locked up. She did seem concerned about the destructive nature of Julia’s powers, but she had helped her to get a scholarship to Whateley so she could learn to control them.

Julia had been so excited at first after she manifested. The other kids gave her a wide berth, she lost weight, her skin cleared up, she didn’t need those stupid glasses anymore, and she was pretty now. She thought that her life might be changing for the better. It didn’t. Whateley became more of the same when she tried to play the hero. She had tried to help others but she was no better equipped to deal with bullies with superpowers than she had been before manifesting.

She was an Exemplar 1, so while she had a BIT and was pretty and healthy, she wasn’t actually any stronger or faster than a baseline. Her only real power was her Energizer ability, which was rated at a four. She could gather various forms of electromagnetic energy, store it, and fire it as a concentrated concussive energy blast. She was capable of blasting through brick walls or steel plates, but the problem was that her power took concentration and time to gather the energy; the bigger the blast the more time it took, and if she lost her concentration she would have to start from scratch and part of what she had gathered would dissipate. It also created a glowing aura around her that made it hilariously obvious that she was using her power, and her an easy target because of the concentration required.

She had tried to be a hero twice, and both times, she had been taken down hard with one hit. Now she was constantly ridiculed for being a glass cannon. Hell, even the Underdogs seemed to get more respect than her. Better to avoid people altogether, for now. Maybe if she kept her head down then people would forget all about her.

Julia sighed collapsed onto her bed, and looked up at the poster above her on her ceiling. “I guess it’s just you and me tonight.” The poster featured her personal hero, Superstar. She was the leader of the Hollywood All-Stars and, for almost as far back as she could remember, Julia wanted to be just like her. She had even taken a similar codename, calling herself Wonderstar.

Her dream was to join the All-Stars someday and work with her idol, which was why it had crushed her when the Cape Squad had turned her down. Well, they hadn’t turned her down per se, they were just totally ghosting her, and that hurt worse. How was she supposed to become a hero if she couldn’t train for it?

Thinking about it wasn’t helping her mood, so she decided to turn on her laptop and try to take her mind off things. Hollywood Tonight with Dan Szilla would be on soon and while most of the guests were movie stars and other celebrities, it was a taste of home, something familiar.  She logged into her streaming site, found the episode for tonight, and then curled up under her blankets to watch.

The musical guest was the band Toxic Overbite, some punk metal band that was starting to become really popular, but Julia didn’t really care for them. When she saw the other guests, she almost considered finding something else to watch. Dana Lovett was some new actress who just got her big break in a psychological thriller called Breakdown, Dwayne Johnson was probably plugging whatever new movie he was in, and she didn’t even know who the hell Gwen Carter was.

She didn’t really feel like finding something else to watch, so she settled in to watch as Dan was introduced and stepped onstage to start his monologue. “Good evening and Rawr everybody... I hope you're having a wonderful night here in the downtown L.A. studios for GTV. I know I am. Local news in the tech industry, Pond Technologies stock values are taking a hit with the scandal involving Arthur Pond’s daughter. Get this; she has the nerve to be alive, and a mutant, after all that trouble her poor parents went through to claim her dead. Arthur was quoted as saying, ‘That gold digger is a liar and won’t get a dime out of us’.”

There was some booing and Dan raised his hands to calm the crowd. “Hey, let’s cut Arthur some slack. He’s like Pavlov’s dogs drooling at the dinner bell, it’s a conditioned response. It must be, he’s said the same thing word for word about seven different women. He learned them from his father, who spoke those same words when he met Arthur’s future wife. Don’t worry, Lily, if Arthur is true to form, you should receive a hush payment in 3… 2… 1…”

The crowd laughed and he paused to chuckle before continuing. “Seriously folks, their stock values are dropping like Arthur’s pants with a new secretary. Sales of shares in their Japanese competitors have risen across the board and stock values for their British competitor, Brighton Industries, have already gone up by seven percent. So it looks like people are looking to invest on the other side of the Pond.”

There was another round of laughing and applause and when it calmed down, Dan said enthusiastically. “We’ve got a great show for you tonight, folks. We have Toxic Overbite as our musical guests, Dana Lovett from the movie Breakdown, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, and Gwen Carter! And as always, give it up for King Konway and the Tokyo Rampage Band!”

Julia watched listlessly as the new starlet talked about her role and the movie, through Toxic Overbite playing their new hit single, and then as Dwayne Johnson talked about his upcoming voice-acting role in a new Disney movie. The trailer looked interesting enough, but Julia figured that she would probably wait until it was on VD or streaming services to watch it. Then, after a commercial break, Dan said, “We’re back, and now, I’d like a very warm welcome for my next guest. She’s been in the news a lot lately. Give it up for Gwen Carter!”

Julia’s eyes went wide as a girl who could only be an Exemplar, stepped through the curtains and made her way over to shake Dan’s hand and sit down in the unoccupied chair. She definitely had the body and good looks for it and her ice-blue hair seemed to glow. As the camera zoomed in, Julia thought that her eyes were glowing as well, and were those glowing blue freckles?

“Welcome to the show, Gwen, you’re looking positively radiant tonight,” Dan joked, setting the seemingly nervous girl a little more at ease.

“Ummm… thanks, Dan. it’s good to be here. I’m… uhh… just a little nervous. I can’t remember ever seeing this many people before,” she said as she looked out at the audience. There was this moment of silence that followed before the girl gave an awkward and nervous laugh and added, “That was a joke.”

King Conway quickly contributed a *ba dum tss* on his drums and Dan and the other guests laughed. Then Dan began to talk to her, going over why she had been in the news so much recently. Apparently, it was her family that Bastion had killed when he snapped a couple of years ago. She was twelve at the time and had died along with her parents but they had managed to resuscitate her and she had manifested in the attack.

Since then she had been thought brain dead but was actually in some sort of deep comatose state as her body changed and her brain healed. “So you can’t remember anything from before you woke up?” Dan asked the girl.

She shook her head, a sad look on her face. “No. I was terrified when I woke up, I had no idea who I was until the doctors told me and I wasn’t sure if I was more afraid that I would never remember what happened, or that I would. The doctors and nurses had to help me relearn most of the basic stuff, but I guess being an Exemplar has helped. Aunt Darcy has been telling me about my parents and my life before… what happened, and teaching me the stuff that a girl my age should know. She never gave up on me waking up...”

The girl looked upset, her eyes glistening, but managed to collect herself as Dan said, “You’ve had a lot of help getting back on your feet haven’t you?”

Gwen looked down at her feet as if trying to parse the meaning of that saying, “I… Aunt Darcy has been there for me since she heard I woke up, helping me with everything, and the Hollywood All-Stars have been great too. They’ve been paying my medical bills since… Aunt Darcy says that they’ve been good to us, but I can only really tell you about what they’ve done since I woke up. When my identity was leaked to the Times, they helped to keep the reporters from bothering us too much when we were leaving the hospital, and Aunt Darcy, Lily, and I are staying at their headquarters so we’ll be safe, they even promised the help train me and Lily if we want to be heroes like them some day.”

“You mean Lily Pond, right? How did you meet and…”

Julia had stopped paying attention by then. She stared blankly at the screen as she clenched her fists and seethed. “That girl is living with the All-Stars? They’re going to train her?!  That should be me. What did she ever do to deserve it?! She couldn’t remember her damn name without somebody telling her and I…”

Julia took deep calming breaths. She was jealous and being a bitch, and she knew it. From the sounds of it, that girl had been through enough already, far more heartache and loss than Julia had, and she could see it in those glowing eyes. “Yeah, way to be a bitch, Julia,” she chastised herself. “That’s not how a hero acts. If I want to be a hero, then I need to be a better person. I wish I could meet that girl, she could probably use some friends and maybe meeting someone close to the All-Stars would help me to achieve my dream someday.”

She turned her eyes, and her mind, back to the laptop screen as Gwen and the other guests were all laughing about something that Gwen said. Gwen seemed resigned to the awkwardness and managed to reply, “As you can see, there’s probably a lot that I still have to learn about, Dan. I really just want to get on with my life and not dwell on the past. I have a second chance at life and I don’t want to waste it, I want to enjoy it. I think that I want to take the All-Stars up on their offer and maybe become a hero like them someday. They’ve already helped me so much and made such a difference in my life, I’d like to be able to do that for people too.”

The host pressed on, asking Gwen, “So, we know that you’re an Exemplar, but have you discovered any other powers yet?”

“Aunt Darcy took me for testing to get my MID the day that I got out of the hospital,” the glowing girl replied. “I do have some other powers, but they’ve been a little hard to get used to. Psi-napse says that training should help me to get better with them.”

“So, you want to be a cape, and you have powers and an MID. You must have a codename already then?” Dan asked.

“Oh, yeah,” she replied eagerly. “It’s the one on my MID. I’m going to be called Maiden Starlight.”

Dan laughed and grinned at his guest. “That sounds like the type of name a character from an anime would have.”

The poor girl looked completely flummoxed as she asked, “Anime?”

“It’s a style of animated media,” Dan explained gently, causing Gwen to relax a bit. “There are different genres too, and your name sounds like you’d fit right in with a magical-girl type show. Can anyone out there in our studio audience suggest some good ones for her?”

“Sailor Moon!” one woman shouted.

Another called out, “Tokyo Mew Mew!”

“Pretty Cure!” a woman’s voice added as Dan jotted the suggestions down on his notepad.

“Cardcaptor Sakura!” one last person contributed before Dan raised his arms, chuckling at the response.

“Let’s not overwhelm her, that should be plenty to start her off,” Dan laughed, handing her the paper from the notepad before turning back to the audience. “You’ve all been a great audience, but that’s all the time we have for tonight. Thanks again to Toxic Overbite for that great musical number, Dana Lovett for sharing her Breakdown moments with us, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson for being such a fun guy, telling us more about Moana, and sharing that great clip. Who knew he could sing? Finally, thanks to Gwen Carter for sharing her story with us and being such a good sport! Good night, everyone, and don't go rampaging anywhere I wouldn’t.”

Julia sighed and closed the tab she had been watching in, opening another to type the name ‘Gwen Carter’ into the search engine. She felt like some kind of online stalker, but she wanted to know more about her. Who knows, maybe they could meet during the summer since they were both living in L.A.

When she heard the door being opened she hurriedly closed the screen and started to prepare for bed after a brief exchange of greetings with her roommate. “What was I doing?” she thought to herself bitterly as she tried to get comfortable in bed and held her stuffed bunny close. “Learning about her online? Hoping that we can meet? And do what? Use her to get close to my hero? Not a very heroic thing to do, Julia. No, if Gwen Carter is going to try to become a hero, then I can’t stop trying either. I’ll become just as strong as she does, work hard, even if I have to do it on my own, and I’ll meet the All-Stars on my own by proving myself. Look out, Maiden Starlight, you have a rival, and my name is Wonderstar.”


The End
Read 738 times Last modified on Friday, 08 September 2023 18:26
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