Color Guard/Life is but a dream
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
No one in the camp noticed Erica, but she was used to that. She followed Megara into the tent and stood off to the side, watching. Megara knelt in front of the old woman seated cross-legged in the middle of an ornate rug. “Tarini, I beseech thee, our need is most desperate. Our people our dying of some strange plague, our warriors are being decimated by our enemies. We cannot survive much longer. Please, help us!”
The old woman put a gnarled hand on Megara’s bent head. “I’m afraid our tribe is lost, my child.”
“No! We cannot die! My daughters will be sixteen tomorrow, and are promised to our bravest warriors. They have their whole lives ahead of them! I cannot sit idly by and watch them waste away from this horrible disease or be taken for slaves of our enemies. There must be a way!”
Tarini sat back and took a deep breath. “Perhaps there is. But it comes at a great price.”
“Anything! There is no price too great to pay if it means saving our people.”
“So be it. Upon the morrow, your daughter Nastassia will have the power to heal all those who are sick, and your daughter Ignazia will have the power to rain fire upon our enemies. All the daughters of our line shall receive the most needed gift on their sixteenth birthday. All our daughters shall come in pairs, as your daughters are. And there shall never be other children, just the gifted pair.”
“Wait, no sons? How will our daughters find good husbands if it is known they cannot have a male child?”
“That is the price that must be paid, Megara. Our tribe is already lost, our names will splinter in a thousand directions. If our people are to be saved, we must make this sacrifice. There is no other way.”
Megara heaved a heavy sigh. “So be it.”
“Go then, I must begin the ritual to make it so. Prepare your daughters, for when they awake tomorrow, they will have untold power, and must use it wisely.”
“Thank you Tarini. Bless you.” Megara rushed out of the tent.
Tarini turned and looked Erica in the eye. “You are one of us.”
Erica awoke with a start, that phrase echoing in her head. She rubbed her eyes and reached for the lamp next to her bed, switching it on. “That was a weird dream.” She mumbled as she reached for the clock, bumping the lamp and sending it over the edge of the table. Instinctively she threw out a hand, and the lamp was encased in a bubble, floating inches off the floor. Erica stared as the bubble popped and the lamp landed gently on its side. She got out of bed and picked it up, placing it back on the table. She shook her head and mumbled to herself again, “I need a Coke.” Suddenly a can appeared in her hand. Erica dropped it, pushing it across the room with a bolt of energy from her hand. She stared at her hand for a moment, and then she started screaming.
- - -
“I will not have that freak in my house! What if she hurts one of the other children?” Erica’s foster mother’s voice carried up through the ventilation system as Erica huddled in the corner of her room, her arms wrapped around her legs, trying to make herself as small as possible and her mind blank.
The caseworker from Child Services responded, “I understand Mrs. Demetrius. I think I’ve found the perfect place for her, in Paragon City, Rhode Island. There’s an orphanage there that takes special kids like her.”
Erica tuned out the rest of the conversation. Orphanage? Rhode Island? That was clear across the country! And what was wrong with her?
“Erica? It’s time to go.” The caseworker appeared in the doorway. Erica sighed and stood up, walking slowly over to the bed where her suitcase lay, already packed. She’d done this half a dozen times already, it was nothing new. This would be the first time she’d been on a plane though. Rhode Island. She wondered what it was like as she followed the caseworker out the door and got into the car. She sighed as she watched the house grow smaller the farther away they got. And once again, no one remembered it was her birthday.
- - -
Erica stood in the middle of the field, her flag at parade rest. She closed her eyes and counted off the intro in her head and began the routine. The flag snapped and spun as she smoothly and effortlessly went through the various moves - tosses, spins, windmills, shoulder arms - the flag moving as a natural extension of her body. With a final flourish she finished the routine with a slam, the flag fluttering to the ground.
"Hey Color Guard!" A voice snapped her back to reality. "You're gonna be late for class!" She recognized the boy who had called out to her. He was a couple years younger and had the power of superspeed. She grinned and called back, "Race ya!" She winked out of existence as he took off running. He reached the door just as she reappeared in front of it. They laughed together as they walked in.
- - -
"You've all done exceedingly well learning how to use and control your powers. I'm very proud of you all. And that's why I've recommended that you be allowed to apply for hero licenses."
The class broke into excited chatter as the teacher handed out the forms. Erica held it in her hand. Her? A hero? It seemed so unreal. She'd only had her powers for six months, and had never imagined she'd be anything so special. When she was younger, before her parents died, she'd wanted to be a dancer. After bouncing around the foster homes, she'd wanted to be a social worker or a teacher. But now she had the power to really help people. To save them. Wow. It blew her away. She looked at the first question on the form. Hero name? Erica thought for a moment. Let's see, she could make protective bubbles around people and objects... Bubble Girl? Ugh, no way! Hmmm... her powers were energy-based and she loved to dance. Energy Dancer? She made a face. No, definitely not. She glanced over at the young boy who seemed to be trying to write as fast as he could run. Color Guard. She grinned. Yeah... I like that. She bent her head and filled out the rest of the form.