As soon as the door opened and shut on it’s own, Bill looked up and asked “Invisibility?”
“Yes sir!”, an excited male voice piped.
“Sorry, it’s a hard no. HR complications galore, you understand.”, Bill said apologetically.
The invisible man sighed dejectedly, and uttered “Okay. Thanks anyway.”
Bill continued, “But if you’re interested, there’s a Private Investigator office on the seventh floor, they might be hiring.” The sudden intake of air and the sound of hands clapping in excitement gave away more than Bill had expected to hear.
“Oh, great! Thank you so much!”, said the invisible person. The door opened and shut on it’s own again.
A few moments went by, before Bill looked up towards the wall.
“Still here, aren’t you?”
“Yes, sorry… bad habit.”
It was a small office, with bland walls and one large circular desk in the middle of the room, surround by a dozen chairs. The table appeared to be comically huge in the room, and it was always a pain to try to squeeze between the table and the wall just to get past it – and you could only pass by on the right, or else you would knock the clock off the wall if you went left.
Looking at the clock – it was 3:44PM – Bill sighed. He had been interviewing people all day.
When he was bored, Bill would often retreat into his memories of what it was like before everyone had super powers. He remembered the day everything changed.
It started with a video of a young baby going viral online. The mother had been recording the father trying to change their baby’s first diaper, when suddenly the child shot a stream of pee out right at the father.
As funny as it was, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, or special in any particular way.
It was when the baby began laughing at the father as he picked his baby up and held it out at arm’s reach, trying to get the baby over the sink as it was still urinating into the air, that the video changed the world forever.
The mother was chasing the father across the bathroom with her camera, when the father suddenly slipped on a diaper that had fallen out of the diaper bag beside him.
The sudden change in stance as he stumbled caused him to shoot his arms out, instinctively letting go of the young child in his arms, letting the baby free-fall into the air.
As the mother screamed, and the father hit the ground with a large grunt, the mother’s camera had dropped out of her hands as she rushed to catch the baby before it landed on the ground.
The camera just so happened to fall to the ground, facing up and catching on video the first known instance of what would then be referred to as the “Great Empowerment”.
The mother’s instincts and quick reaction led her hands to be where they should have been in order to catch her baby. However, the baby never landed in her arms.
As the mother looked around on the ground, she heard a giggle coming from above her.
The father had crawled to his knees, with a look of disbelief on his face, as he reached over to the mother, as they both looked to the ceiling of the room.
Their baby girl was floating in mid-air, a few feet above them. She looked as if she were swimming through the air, with her arms and legs stretched out, grasping at the air around her.
The mother and father gently stood together, and softly placed their hands around their baby, as the mother clutched her to her chest.
“Did you see that, Phil?”
“Yeah honey, I saw that… is she okay?”
“Yeah, yes, she… she looks fine. She’s smiling, after all. Oh my god… what was that?”
“I don’t know, but, look, don’t tell your mother, okay? She already hates me, she’ll never get over this.”
The video was put online, and despite many suggesting it had been edited, the video quickly became the most viewed video ever uploaded, within a manner of hours. Many debunkers tried everything they could to prove it was a fake, but continued to come up empty-handed.
It had been one week, and thousands of videos had been uploaded by people all trying to show off their new ‘super powers’ which were nothing more than clever video editing and special or practical effects.
And then, that weekend during a pro football game, one of the running backs for the losing team in the Super Bowl tackled an opponent, and the man who had been tackled suddenly burst into flames.
It was an outrageous spectacle to see on TV – the whole world assumed it was just another beer commercial.
But the footage never cut, the commercial never came on. The camera stayed focused on the man as he was screaming and burning alive, being witnessed by forty million people on live TV.
The running back looked on in horror, from the burning man that the rest of the football players were trying to pad the flames out on, to his own hands, seeing them glowing red.
Of course, it had been a decade and a half since that event, and it was no longer noteworthy to hear what someone’s super power was.
Everyone had one, and they were all unique in some way. Of course, the most notable ones quickly became super celebrities, or became actual super heroes. But the truth was, most people’s super powers were not that outstanding, nothing special that could really differentiate them from every other human.
From the mundane to the amazing, from the dangerous to the useful to the beautiful, everyone could do something simply no other human in history could have dreamed of in their wildest imagination.
And yet, here Bill was, sitting in a small office, working for the largest corporation in the country, behind a desk that was too big, hoping to find someone for this all important role sent from upper management to his desk.
“This is important, Bill, you hear me? We need to find someone for this role, and stat.”
Bill’s boss, the President of WAS, Inc., Mr. Ryan Slane, was a commanding presence in his office. The entire top floor was his own suite, with panoramic views of the city on all sides. He stood a foot away from the floor to ceiling window behind his desk, looking out at the people on the streets a thousand feet below.
He put the cigar in his hands to his lips and sucked some of the tobacco smoke in, letting it swirl in his mouth with the flavor of the Cuban plant.
“It’s not exactly something I can trust with just anyone. You’re my most loyal employee. I’ve known you were different from the day I met you. So that’s why I’m putting you in charge of this instead of Susan Delaney, she’s a sweetheart and has never done me wrong in recruiting the best of the best, I mean, hell, she brought you in. But I need this done right, and you’re the only choice where my gut doesn’t clench in hesitation.”
“Thanks Ryan,” Bill said. His hands were in his pockets as he took another step towards the window closest to him. He kept his eyes on the horizon, looking at the snow on the mountain crests just miles away outside the city limits. He had never been skiing.
Ryan continued on with his speech about their desperate need to find someone to fill the “professional hero” role he had just opened up in the office. It was his latest bright idea he believed would be vital to the company in the coming years.
In a world of heroes, how exactly would one fit the role of a professional hero?
Bill inched closer to the window, slowly lowering his eyes to the streets below. The wave of vertigo made him nauseous, which wasn’t helped at all by the scent of the cigar in the room.
Ryan appeared by Bill’s side, looking down toward the same area.
“Like a bunch of ants, aren’t they? Almost like they’ve got no rhyme or reason to anything they do, not caring about where they go,” Ryan muttered.
“I was in Hong Kong just before you came in to my office, looking out of the window just like you are now, and it’s no different. I’ve told you about their food, yeah? Amazing black truffle scrambled eggs at that one place…”
Bill answered, “Capital Café”.
“Yes! Exactly, Capital Café. I love that place. Have you ever been there? You should really go, I don’t know why you never take time off. I’ll even comp you the plane ticket, it’s just…”
Ryan continued, but Bill was focusing on the pedestrians below.
Everyone knew that Hong Kong had an abnormally high concentration of super powers that focused around food. Some people could snap their fingers and instantly heat a dish to the proper temperature, while some had telekinetic power over eggs, allowing them to crack an entire dozen at once without ever even having to touch them.
Bill had never been to Hong Kong. In fact, he had never even left Texas. Ryan was able to travel the entire world thanks to being empowered with teleportation. As far as anyone else knew, he was the only person in the world with that capability.
Bill was deathly afraid of heights, and so he had never even stepped foot on a plane.
For Ryan, the Empowerment allowed him to do market research on the fly, and to make in-person deals with his associates at the drop of a hat. He loved business, and the process of making money. And because of his natural workaholic attitude, his Empowerment was incredibly well paired.
WAS, Inc. was the fastest growing company in history, and it was all Ryan’s doing.
Bill didn’t have a power anywhere near as lavish.
“…anyway, it’s almost four in Australia, so if you’ll excuse me, Bill…”
Bill turned his gaze from the streets below, meeting Ryan’s.
“Yeah, of course, Ryan. Thanks again.” Bill smiled.
Back in the future, Bill, or Thursday at 3:45PM CST Bill, or Bill #15743 – he hadn’t settled on a naming convention for his multiple selves yet – sat at the round table in the tiny room, staring at the young man in the three piece suit sitting across from him.
“So, Kyle, you mentioned you’re able to remove people’s Empowerments, permanently, just by touching them, is that right?”