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Hero Talent Quest

First published in Havok Magazine, June 2019 https://gohavok.com/2019/06/17/hero-talent-quest/

 

Tiger slouched in his seat. Outside the crowd hummed before the white marquee set up for the Talent Quest. I shouldn’t be here. He resettled his cap backwards and glanced along the table at his four teammates. Each of them, and the others not here today, had an invisible guardian and special abilities according to their gifts. Each thought Tiger had that too.

 “I still say this is a bad idea,” he said. “We’d find them eventually anyway.”

“Well, we can’t cancel now. Half the city must be out there.”

“There’s no way all of them could—”

“Don’t know why you agreed to this.”

“Come on, we discussed this before.”

“Enough grumbling.” Bethany stood up. “We ready?”

“As we’ll ever be.” Tiger fiddled with his pen and stared at the blank notepad on the table, peering through the pressed pulp and deep into its molecular layers with his gift of sight.

Bethany opened the tent flap and called, “One at a time. Who’s first?”

A blond teenager entered, his eyes wide and movements stiff. Tiger’s gaze caught on his jugular, pulsing at an elevated rate. “I—I can’t do this,” he stammered, and then he fled.

“Super nervousness isn’t a superpower,” Tiger sighed. He’d follow the kid out the door if he thought he could get away with it.

The young lady who came in next was so intense that she needed to ease up before she sprained something. Anira wrote NO AURA on her notepad.

Bethany slipped back into her seat and tucked a strand of silver hair behind her ear. “Name, please?”

“Harry. Harriet Lim.” She faced them, fidgeting.

“Tell us about the superpower you believe you have.”

Harry surveyed the panel. “Well, uh, it’s—Look, it’s probably easier if I just show you.”

Graeme nodded. “As long as it’s not dangerous.”

“No, not at all.” Harry slid into the slickest performance of the robot dance that Tiger had ever seen. Tiger’s jaw fell open at the genuine skill. But… Harry thought this was her superpower? Where’s the dang buzzer when you need one?

Manaia cleared her throat. “That’s very impressive. The, um, expert opinion of this panel is that you need to share your gift with the world.”

Harry beamed. “So, I get through to the next round?”

Round?

Bethany shook her head. “I’m sorry, dear. You have a true gift, but it isn’t supernatural. I’d see your taniwha, if you had one.”

“Nobody’s seen mine.” Tiger countered. “Doesn’t mean it’s not there.” Or does it?

“I can sense your aura,” Anira said to Tiger. “Harry, I don’t sense an aura on you.”

“What?” Harry’s face contorted.

 “The taniwha are creatures of legend who give powers.” Bethany glanced at the opposite corner of the tent. “Mine is sitting over there.”

Tiger gnawed on his lip. Wish I could see mine.

“I thought this was a talent quest!” Harry’s gaze followed Bethany’s. Of course, only Bethany could see the taniwha.

Except she can’t see mine. Tiger bit his lip. Was his taniwha even real? He’d asked himself so many times…

He thought back over their group’s previous adventures ousting villains, saving cities, even stopping earthquakes. His own part had been… smallish. But vital, part of him whispered. Your power is real, even if no one can see your taniwha.

If only he could believe it.

Graeme winced. “I’m sorry, Harry. This is a supernatural talent quest.”

“Waste of my time.” Harry stomped out.

“Um—” Tiger swallowed. “Did the publicity team know we meant actual superpowers?”

Bethany frowned. “I thought they understood, but I haven’t seen the ads myself.”

“So, what do we do? Pack up and go home?” Manaia cast a glance at the door flap. She bounced a ball of fire above her palm, then closed her fist and extinguished the little flame.

The seconds ticked away, and the crowd’s murmurs grew louder.

“No,” said Anira. “Someone with genuine powers could be out there. We can’t leave them alone to deal with a taniwha gift.”

“I suppose seeing everyone is doable if we bring them through as fast as we can.” Manaia shot a sideways glance at the door.

Graeme walked to the flap, opened it, and called, “Next, please!”

A curious few hours followed in which people of all ages demonstrated singing, ear-wiggling, card tricks, more dancing, and even stand-up comedy. Anira sensed no auras, and Bethany shook her head each time they considered the taniwha question.

“Are you the last one?” Manaia opened the flap. “Oh. It’s you again. Ready for a redo?”

The blond teen entered and nodded. “I’m Chase Eden.”

His pulse was still too fast, but steadier. Tiger glanced away.

Anira narrowed her eyes. Had she sensed an aura?

Tiger opened his mouth to ask, but the boy vanished into thin air.

The team leaped up and converged on the spot where he’d been. The tent flap flapped, but there was no wind.

Anira wobbled on her feet, then steadied herself. “That was a strange aura. It’s gone now.”

Tiger wheeled to Bethany. “Did you see a taniwha? Or anything?”

“No, did you?”

“I thought…” Tiger punched the palm of his hand. “I can’t be sure. But when he disappeared, it was as if the edge of a huge wing wrapped around him. An invisible wing.”

“Like a bird? Or a dragon?” Manaia tapped her toe on the ground.

A laugh sounded close outside. The group rushed for the door. With the crowd gone, the park basked quietly under the summer sun. There was no trace of Chase and his maybe-dragon.

Tiger jumped up and down. “Do you know what this means?” Whatever he’d expected today, this wasn’t it. Who would have thought!

“We’ve got another wannabe supervillain to deal with.” Anira sighed and stared across the glistening lake.

“Well, yes. But…” Tiger pulled off his hat and danced on it, his grin spreading. I’m not alone. “My guardian isn’t the only invisible one.”

https://gohavok.com/2019/06/17/hero-talent-quest/

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