Greetings! For those of you who have been checking out our High Impact Heroics Adventure Log, you recently were treated to the backstory of Gil Phillips, the Beacon. Continuing the trend of, “How did we get here?”, our prologue revealed that the team broke some rules during their first teamup and got the attention of The Lawman. So, here is a little window into how that began, through the eyes of Morgan Teller, the Delinquent.
There is…a house…in New Orleans~
Morgan Teller’s eyes cracked open to the musical alarm, precipitating a long moan. It was time to get up for school, and sadly there was no wiggling out of this one.
“Aww shit.” Morgan made a quick check, a series of quick pats down the chest, then the abdomen, and then lower. There was a different shape there than there had been yesterday.
They caaaaaaall it the Rising Son~
Morgan had been the subject of rumors around Halcyon City High School #5, mostly through a combination of truancy, a disdain for authority and a series of pranks that just seemed to follow Morgan around…oh, and the fact that Morgan was non-binary and absolutely unafraid of anyone noticing or pointing it out.
And it’s been…the ruin…of many a poor boy~
“So, it’s boy parts today.” It was a statement of fact. Perhaps it was human nature that after a long enough time, the extraordinary turned mundane. At this point, waking up each day to a body which randomly would or wouldn’t have the same chromosomal structure as the day before had become a morning ritual.
And that wasn’t even the weirdest part of being the lovechild of a magical supervillain.
And God…I know…I’m one.
“Ma, I’m gonna be late!” Morgan’s plaintive cry was met with a hard look from Ms. Teller.
“Morgan, you wouldn’t be running late if you had packed your lunch last night.” Ma offered a retort that refused to allow her child to leave without doing her motherly duty and packing a meal for her child.
“Ma, I don’t need a bagged lunch, I can get something at the cafeteria.”
“You mean like when you short-counted the lunchlady out of the money in the till?”
“That was one time!” Morgan wilted a bit under their mother’s cold look and did their best to look contrite. “That I got caught doing it. Sorry.”
Ma’s face tried to hold a serious expression for a moment, and then broke into a smile, giving her child a quick kiss on the forehead and handing over a bag of lunch. “Go ace that test.”
Morgan let out a quick snort and a grin. “It’s English. No worries. I speak good. I B.S. better.” With a bound,Morgan was out the door, jogging toward the boredom that was sure to be at Halcyon High School #5.
There were some days that Morgan wished that Dad had left something a bit more useful for getting around, and mornings like this were one of them. As it was, getting in on time would take using most the back routes that Morgan had figured out from years of prowling . . . after all, that was where the interesting stuff happened, some of the more interesting people of Halcyon City skulked, and occasionally there was something ready to “fall off the back of the truck”.
“Ok Harry, one last load, I’ll get it and we’ll shove off!”
“Speaking of which…”
Morgan peered around the corner. A door was swinging shut around a loading dock, while a truck idled with the back door open. A smirk crossed the delinquent’s face . . . there was an opportunity to be had.
Dad’s legacy wasn’t exactly something that Morgan really understood. Something happened, something passed at birth…a secret that was never really explained during any father/offspring time at the Spike. There was one thing though, and it was something that, perhaps, Morgan had known instinctively all their life: how to make people see what you want them to see. Sometimes it was by saying something with such conviction they felt that you had to be sincere. Others, it was making everything so confusing that people threw up their hands and walked away, willing to take what they saw at face value. Mostly, it was letting them see what they wanted to see. Morgan wasn’t alone in this knowledge…but there was a little extra gift involved.
To a normal, bored observer, Morgan Teller would fade from view. Not invisible, mind you, but absolutely unimportant, a figure that was more of a stock piece of scenery than anything worth paying mind to. With a few quiet steps, Morgan was over the the back of the truck, pulling out the packing slip. It had a letterhead: High Impact Biomedical.
There was promise here. Medical meant medical tools! Maybe drugs…yeah, not those kind, but something that could be delivered dirt cheap to a neighborhood pharmacy or two. However, that wasn’t this shipment.
It was toys. Kids toys. Gaudily colored and branded tops, and fidget spinners. Dolls, action figures of heroes, stacks of them. Morgan moved a box to look at the next level.
Morgan slowly backed away from the truck.
“It’s not my fault.” The whisper wasn’t meant to escape, but it did anyway, a reassuring voice as something cold knotted in Morgan’s stomach. “It’s not my problem.”
The door by the loading dock began to squeak open, presumably the man returning to load up the truck. Morgan didn’t wait to see for sure, bolting around the truck and back along the path to school.
As Morgan had said, English was easy. They were covering Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and it hadn’t taken much more research than what Morgan would have normally done for fun. It was a slam dunk to tie in “fear of the “Other””, the symbolism of blood, and the “therapeutic exhumation” of Mercy Brown that Stoker had read newspaper clippings of before writing. That would be enough to show Professor Straud that Morgan knew better than 95% of the class. That was never the problem…it was keeping Morgan in class, and though the test was over, Morgan could tell that there was no way out.
For once, however, there was no griping. After all, Morgan needed an undisturbed desk for this, and he set a Tarot deck onto the desk and began shuffling.
“Jesus Morgan, cliche much today?” There was that whisper again, more of a comfort than help.
There wasn’t much helping it though, not with stuff like this. Dad had neglected to leave a copy of “Practical Magic 101” behind before he got caught, so when it came to anything more than tricking people, the best (read: only) resource Morgan had been able to find was in how magic was described elsewhere. And Morgan read; Crowley, Dee and Kelly, Newtown…and when they got boring Sanderson, Butcher and Rothuss. So if there was something to try, it didn’t hurt at this point.
Flip, flip, flip, flip, the cards went down in a pyramid shape on the desk. On the top was The Fool, a neophyte stepping out into the world. Below in the past….the Hermit, upside down: knowledge, but introspection, isolation. The present…Eight of Pentacles: material wealth, an inheritance, the future: The Knight of Wands, charging enthusiasm for something new. Well…that was something. Something was coming to the Fool, something that would draw him out of hiding and send him charging into the world. Which was great…but it did absolutely nothing with the “children’s toys being taken to a medical center in bulk”.
“It’s fine. There are plenty of reasons why a medical research center would want toys. Why they would need to keep babies around. And I am sure that they are non-horrible reasons.”
“Are you saying that because you believe it?”
The thought scampers into Morgan’s brain like an insect, skittering against his subconscious.
“No…of course not.” The problem with a criminal mind was that when something stunk, it really stunk, and Morgan could think of many answers for why megacorporation scientists were buying up kids toys in Halcyon City, and each one was more horrible than the last. “Not my fault, not my problem.”
“Teller!” Morgan’s head shot up to catch Professor Straud looking at him. “Quiet while the others are taking the test. And clear that off your desk.”
Morgan blinked for a moment, looking down at the desk and then back up. “Right away Professor Straud.” With a wave of his hand over the table, the cards vanished from view.
“Maybe there’s something to look over at Arasaka.”
Arasaka Base was a game store that Morgan sometimes dropped by. Chase never gave Morgan shit about the way Morgan was looking that day, and that was something to appreciate. While Morgan would be staying away from the miniatures and Magic: The Gathering (the one thing on magic that never actually helped) there were sometimes occult-y books hanging around, mostly used by GMs as window dressing in their games, but maybe it could help figure out this puzzle.
It was then that Morgan saw Gil. Gil wasn’t a bad kid, and Morgan almost felt bad for breaking his balls so often…it was just so easy. Gil wore his emotions on his sleeve, and when you were a badass magic empathy manipulator, well it was all in good fun as long as you didn’t go too far.
“He would go too far.”
Ignoring that particular line of self-questioning, Morgan headed over to greet their classmate, already getting dagger glares from Emma. If Gil wore his feelings on his sleeves, Emma was orchestrating a semaphore dance of “oh HELL no.” and “not MY man”! Morgan smiled, biting back the “just screw already!” they wanted to say in order to lean in, palming a quarter from their sleeve to fingertips, spiking just a touch of arousal with magic. Maybe if Emma thought her crush was in danger she might unwad her panties enough to make a move already. “Got to clean your ears out better, man!”
If you asked them later, Morgan couldn’t tell you when and why, but there was a sudden moment of certainty. Maybe it was knowing that Gil had been a massive supers-geek, his boundless energy when he got asked about a gaming session he’d set up with friends, or how he would shut down when it wasn’t something he felt comfortable about. A neophyte. A hideaway. An inheritance. A new knight, looking for adventure. This was a beginning.
“Cat got your tongue? I guess we don’t talk much, all told. We are in the same history class, though, right?”
“Uh…yeah,” Gil stammered. Morgan turned to Emma, and didn’t even feel guilty about snipping away a few of the emotions that had started pouring out, and replacing them with Confusion and Acceptance. Maybe it was going to undo some of that earlier work, but Morgan really didn’t want a scene starting here and a preemptive strike seemed like a good idea.
“Gil, can I tell you something weird?” Magic is real. I am magical. My father is a supervillain and I am a living freakshow…no, this was not the time! He couldn’t know right now. It was time to B.S. again.
“OK.” Thankfully, Gil seemed open to anything right now.
“Cool. So, I know that you’re pretty smart, though I think we’ve talked like once before. Anyway, you’ve, um, come up in conversation.”
“Uh, can I not tell you that yet? The weird part is, I was reading my tarot while I was cutting class and it totally looked like you came up there too! I decided it couldn’t be a coincidence.”
“Don’t worry about it. Anyways, can I ask you something totally random? Have you gotten any unsolicited packages recently?”
“Well, let me put it this way. The tarot said I’d be led into battle by a man of numbers. You’re definitely male all of the time, and apparently you killed a trig exam recently, so it seemed that you were a likely candidate, especially since there’s a rumor circulating.” That strictly wasn’t true…or even partially true, except for the rumors about Gil being ridiculously good at math. But it wouldn’t hurt to play off his ego to set the hook, especially if he was somehow involved in this thing.
“…rumor?” Again, no rumor, but Morgan needed him off balance and not thinking about his too hard.
“Don’t worry about it. Look, there’s a rumor floating around about fishy stuff going on around here. Go home and open that package, and then call me, I think we can figure something out.” Morgan produced Gil’s cell phone, un-vanishing it from sight, entered their number, and handed it back….to a look of surprise on Gil’s face. At least it wasn’t fear.
“Don’t worry too much about the sleight of hand. My Dad…is a magician.” Giving people a normal explanation, especially a partially true one had a way to making them swallow the fantastic. It hadn’t been that much of a challenge to pickpocket him with the touch on his shoulder…Morgan hadn’t even needed to use powers for it.
“Anyways…hopefully call me soon? You seem all right, even if you don’t talk much.” Morgan turned to walk away, ignoring the volcanic anger being sent her way from the counter, where Emma was standing. There would be time to peruse the shelves of Arasaka Base later, but for now, it was time to get going.
Morgan had gotten a block or two away when the lights flashed, red and blue lighting up the street. With a resigned sigh, Morgan stops and slinks against the back wall as a suited agent steps out.
“It’s a little early today Hendrickson, I thought that you only appeared after dark, like a vampire.”
The A.E.G.I.S. agent adjusted his tie and sunglasses. “That’s only because you only have me catching you at night. And I always have time for my favorite delinquent.”
Morgan rolled their eyes and continued to slink against the wall, forcing away the instinct to pull out every illusion they knew and run. Hendrickson would know, and any trouble Morgan would be in right now would be far worse if powers were brought into it.
“That was a nifty move back at the store. I thought I was going to be writing you up again.” Hendrickson shoved an arm over Morgan’s shoulder, leaning against the wall. “We’ve been hearing reports of juvenile super gangs forming up. You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?”
“No…sir.” Morgan kept their eyes down, but the agent made sure to lean down to level with them.
“You wouldn’t be lying to me, now would you? I know that’s a specialty of yours.”
Morgan snorted and looked back up defiantly. “I don’t even know any other supers my age. And you damn well know it, or we wouldn’t be having this chat here. But…” Suddenly, an idea flashed through Morgan’s brain. “There is something, maybe you should check it out.”
“Those weirdos at High Impact Biomedical. They’re bringing in kids toys and stuff. It seemed hinky when I saw them loading up the truck.”
“And what were you doing, watching them load it?”
Morgan shook their head angrily. “What does it matter, that’s not a crime! So, are you going to do anything about it?”
Hendrickson sighed and leaned back, straightening an already perfectly straight tie. “Teller, what’s the rule we have on this?” Morgan could feel that dark pit from this morning in their gut again. “We don’t create supervillain backstories. They have plenty of help on their own, thank you very much.”
Hendrickson marched back to his car, flipping off the lights. “Oh, I nearly forgot to mention. You won’t be my problem for much longer. With these gangs popping up, they’re sending in a real hero…fella named The Lawman. So long…Showtime.”
There it was, the final dig that made Morgan clench their fists. It was the name of their father, the father they had never met, the one who had left them with powers and a body they couldn’t control.
“It’s not my fault. It’s not my problem.” Morgan could feel a hot tear beginning to well up. “It’s not my fault, it’s not my problem. It’s not my fault, it’s not my-DAMMIT!” Morgan slammed a fistt against the wall, feeling knuckle scrape against concrete. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. God knows what was happening to those kids while A.E.G.I.S. puttered away putting out brush fires.
“It’s…it’s-” Morgan stopped, noticing that something had fallen out of their pocket, fluttering slightly as it hit the ground. Looking back up at them was one of the Tarot cards: the Magician.
Morgan slowly learned down to pick up the card, transfixed. Morgan couldn’t tell you how long they stared, whether a minute, or an hour, but when they looked up, things were perfectly clear.