The Power of Love
Lina Langley and Sydney Blackburn © 2018
All Rights Reserved
Vincent Silva breathed a sigh of relief when he saw his grade posted on the bulletin board. He’d already passed the entrance exams to be at Camp Hologram, but the on-site test was vital.
He didn’t recognize the names of the three other guys in Cabin One, but he never expected he would. Kids with power-gifted parents were raised to protect their identities, for everyone’s safety. He didn’t want anyone to know who his father and stepmother were. Especially his stepmother, though he hated to use that word. It went the other way as well—he used his mother’s maiden name on his application so his father and alleged stepmother wouldn’t know he was at the camp.
A sharp lack of noise brought his attention to a classroom that reminded him too much of high school—being lectured by Mister Mister, who used to be somebody. His power was mimicry—for a few hours he could have the power of any gifted person he touched. Five years ago, he’d run afoul of the villain Chameleon. Vince wasn’t sure exactly what had happened—the media reported only that somehow his stepmother had managed to defeat Mister Mister, after which he’d retired from active duty.
The resemblance to high school ended with Mister Mister, who didn’t look anything like a teacher. For a start, his gray hair, still thick and wavy, was shoulder length, and he wore an olive drab T-shirt the same color as his canvas pants. He had tattoos down his arms and over the backs of his hands. He was also more physically fit than any of Vince’s high school teachers had ever been.
“Welcome to Camp Hologram, gentlemen. You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t mastered a general control over your powers, so the focus of your training will be learning independence and teamwork. How to maximize your strengths, minimize your weaknesses. How to survive without any powers at all.
“It takes strength of will, and discipline….”
Vince tuned out the boring “why you’re all here” speech. He knew why he was there. He was born with powers and a determination to never be the kind of person his father was. Being the son of a villain didn’t mean that was his only choice.
“Weekend leave is in the city of Guilford, but don’t get too excited. There’s a volunteer element to your grades. I believe most of you have ignored the pamphlet of rules you received before arriving so let me reiterate: booze, drugs, and gambling are not permitted here at Camp Hologram. Lights out is at 10:00 p.m. Reveille is at 5:00 a.m. sharp. You are expected to make up your bunks and keep your gear in your lockers. This afternoon you’re to stow your gear and get to know your cabin mates. When you hear the klaxon, get to the mess hall or go hungry. Now grab your packs and go to your assigned cabin.”
Finally! Vince leaned down to grab his duffle, a heavy canvas bag almost as long as he was tall and stuffed with everything he owned. Whatever he did at Camp Hologram, fail or graduate qualified to be an official hero, he wasn’t going back home. Guilt made him flinch as he thought of his mother. She deserved a chance to make a life without his father screwing it up, and that meant a place with immaculate security. The kind only money could buy. Money popular heroes earned through sponsorships and licensing fees.
The first step was to ace his training.
He listened to the other guys grumble as they shuffled out, most of them with much less luggage.
“This is so lame,” someone said.
“Piece of cake,” someone else said.
Vince didn’t say anything. He followed the others out of the administration building. It was a large complex, holding the showers, the shitters, the kitchen, and the dining hall, along with the lecture room and who knew what else. Stuff the trainees didn’t need to know. Might be in the paperwork Mister Mister rightly guessed he hadn’t read.
Vince walked into the small building marked “One” and had to stop himself from sighing. It didn’t look big from the outside, but he didn’t expect it to be this small. There were two metal-framed bunk beds on each side of the wooden room and, as far as he could see, nothing else. He wasn’t sure where he was supposed to put his stuff. He had barely registered that there were already people inside when someone bumped into him.
He didn’t sound sorry at all to Vince, but it was enough to get Vince to move out of the way and turn to his right. There on the wall beside the door were four full size lockers in a tidy line, which he’d missed coming in.
“I call top!” he heard someone say from behind him.
“Too much information,” said the guy who’d bumped into him.
“Pervert,” someone else replied.
Vince glanced around the small room with a smile and tried to stuff his bag into the one empty locker while the others chose bunks. As long as he got one, he didn’t care which. His powers had nothing to do with strength, and while he worked out, it wasn’t easy for him to carry most of his belongings around with him.
His bag was far too big to fit. He’d need to unpack some of it, put some things on the upper shelf. Still, that wasn’t going to stop him from trying.
“I hope your powers have nothing to do with your spatial abilities,” someone said.
He turned around, ready to snap back with a snarky remark. The guy who had spoken was sitting cross-legged on the top bunk, a bright smile on his face.
“They don’t,” Vince replied, smiling back at him. The cabin was dim compared to outside so all he could see was a kind smile and symmetrical features.
“Oh, leave him alone,” someone else said. Vince’s gaze shot down to where the voice was coming from. This was the other guy who had gotten a bottom bunk. He was leaning on it and looking at his nails, his face covered by artfully uncombed blond hair. “Some boys need to take their toys everywhere. And by toys, I mean—”
“Oh my god,” the third guy said. He wasn’t on his bunk, he was sitting down on the floor and sorting through the stuff in his bag. “What are you, a walking cliché?”
The blond guy laughed, shrugging. “Is your name really Bartholomew Jameson Cockburn?”
“It’s Co-burn,” the guy replied. “You don’t pronounce the ‘ck’. It’s silent. Also, you can just call me BJ.”
“You want us to call you BJ Cockburn?” the blond said, biting his lower lip. Vince had to put his hand in front of his mouth to stop himself from laughing, too.
“Co-burn,” he reiterated. “And yes, please.”
“Oh I heard you. I’m just really immature,” the blond guy said.
“That’s becoming clear,” BJ said, looking up at him. “And you’re supposed to be putting your stuff away.”
The blond snickered. “Is that in the rulebook?”
“We were just told,” BJ said. “Weren’t you listening? You were supposed to put your stuff away as soon as you got in the cabin. Like, um, he’s doing.” He pointed at Vince.
“Well, he doesn’t have a choice. Look at that ridiculous fucking bag,” the blond replied. “And he has a name. Which I’m sure he’ll tell us any minute now.”
“Vince Silva,” Vince said. He hefted the bottom end of the bag onto the floor and pushed the top in under the shelf. “And yeah, I know the bag is ridiculous. Who are you?”
“Cass Talbot,” he said. “So that means the guy who’s bullying you must be Car —”
“Locke,” the guy on the bunk interjected. “Everyone calls me Locke. And I wasn’t bullying him. I was making conversation. Isn’t this training camp supposed to be about teamwork or something like that? That’s what I’m doing, dude. Teamwork.”
“See?” Cass said, turning to BJ. “They get it. This is our last real day of freedom, so we should be spending our time bonding.”
Locke pushed off his bunk, landing in a graceful crouch. He stood in front of Cass and right across from Vince. In the light coming in the cabin’s window, Vince could see the guy—Locke—was gorgeous. Blond curls that fell to his shoulders, big light eyes; maybe green. Vince couldn’t tell from where he was standing, and it was important that he find out.
He shoved the bag one final time and slammed the locker door, only to have it bounce off the bag. He could fix it later.
Cass pulled out a bottle of rum. “I guess if this is against the rules, we should bond over getting rid of it,” he suggested.
“Jesus, Cass. Didn’t you just hear Mister Mister say no booze?”
Vince was glad BJ said it before he did, because both Locke and Cass were glaring at BJ.
“Right,” Cass said. He draped an arm over BJ’s shoulders. “No booze. We’re getting rid of it. And bonding. Like he said. If you help us, it’ll be gone faster.”
BJ’s mouth tightened, and it looked like he might shrug off Cass’s arm, but instead he said, in a grudging tone, “I guess.”
Which helped Vince relax. If someone as serious as BJ was willing to go along, then it couldn’t be bad enough to get them all kicked out. He slid a look toward Locke, but his gorgeousness was rooting in the locker farthest from the door.
“I got this,” Locke turned around with a tacky necklace that had a plastic shot glass on it.
“Classy,” Vince said.
“Bottle’s good enough for me,” Cass declared. The cap made a cracking sound as he twisted it off and took a swig. He swallowed and coughed a little.
Vince stifled a laugh.
“I’m not drinking from the bottle. Who knows what you guys have,” BJ said, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Fine,” Locke said, giving BJ the plastic necklace. “You use the cup. Gimme that,” he said to Cass.
Locke tipped the bottle with caution, made a face, and handed it off to Vince.
Vince knew how to shoot rum, not that he made a habit of it. It never paid to be less than one hundred percent around his father, or worse than that, his father and his father’s girlfriend. But he gulped down a shot and passed the bottle to BJ, who poured his shot with exaggerated dignity.
After wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, and giving Locke a sidelong look, Vince said, “So apart from being willing to bend the rules to swill cheap rum, what else do we have in common?”
“You mean, in addition to having super powers?” Locke asked, a smile in his voice.
Vince gave him a long look, and smiled. “Yeah. That, too.”
Within minutes, the four of them were sitting on the floor, offering tidbits of information, like age and hometowns. The rum bottle went round and round, and Vince felt himself getting a nice warm glow. The rum, not anything to do with how Locke’s hand kept falling on his knee.
“My power is metal manipulation. It’s sort of magnetic, but more than that,” Cass told them with a lazy smile. “Maybe I’ll demonstrate it for you later. What about you guys?”
Vince looked around. He’d had it drilled into him to never talk about his family or his powers, so it was hard to say, “Mine is sound.”
“Mine is so lame,” Locke said. “Light.” He nudged BJ with his foot. “What’s yours?”
“I’m a healer.”
“Sweet!” Cass exclaimed. “Can you cure hangovers?”
“No.” BJ scowled as he drained the bottle into his little cup.
The conversation was starting to drop off, and Locke’s hand was resting on Vince’s knee for longer and longer moments when a loud ringing scared the shit of them.
“Meal time,” BJ finally said. “We’re supposed to go to the hall.”
“Fuck. Smell my breath,” Locke leaned in towards Vince.
“Dude. Yeah, I get it. We reek.”
Locke backed off and Vince supposed he ought not to be thinking that, boozy breath and all, he could have wished Locke to move closer. He shook his head.
“Fuck!” BJ pushed to his feet. “I knew this was a bad idea.”
“Chill,” Vince said, standing up as well. “I got mints. We’re good, I just gotta….” He walked to the locker in a relatively straight line and tugged the upper end of his bag until it flopped on the floor with a thud. He half expected to see cartoon dust puff up.
The noise sounded again, and everyone was on their feet. “Hurry up, Vince,” Cass said, his tone not carrying a whole lot of urgency.
Vince tugged on the zipper, trying to remember where he’d put his mints. His powers were tied to his voice, so he had a variety of mints, lozenges, and sugar-free candies to soothe his throat and keep his mouth from getting too dry. He pulled out a hoodie and a couple pairs of underwear fell out.
“Sexy drawers, Vince,” Cass drawled.
Locke chuckled in agreement and Vince felt a flush burn his face.
“Yeah, whatever.” He tried to focus on his bag and thrust his hand inside, looking for the ziplock bag with his stash. He yanked it out and waved it like a victory flag.
“Gimme that,” BJ said, snatching it from Vince.
“Easy, dude, I need those. Not exactly any vending machines here, y’know.”
BJ found the mints and to Vince’s surprise, he handed them out before tossing the lot on Vince’s bunk. “Come on, we’ll be late.”
Locke met Vince’s eyes and smiled.