Nora Kuong's Story

The story of how a teenage girl got her superpowers - and what she did with them immediately afterward.

(A quick note from the author: I'm white, and when I wrote this story I was trying to follow POC's advice for writing good representation to the best of my knowledge at that point in time. Additionally, I had appropriate people to look over this story and check whether or not I was being insensitive. However, if you feel that this story oversteps any bounds, please let me know.)

April 5, 2012

It was softball practice at school, and sixteen-year-old Nora Kuong was sitting on the bench alongside her friend, Maddie Nielsen. Nora was trying to watch the team, but Maddie's fidgeting and squirming made it hard to concentrate, so Nora looked over at the spritely redheaded girl. "You okay?" she asked.

Maddie sighed through her nose. "I got the worst luck with boys. Maybe I'm not meant to fall in love or something like that."

Nora raised her eyebrows. "Weren't you dating that guy, what's his name, Derek or something?" Realizing her ponytail had come loose, she pulled the band out of her dark, thick hair and put it back tightly.

"Yeah, but... we broke up." Maddie frowned. "Starting to think either there's something wrong with me, or the love gods just hate me." She sighed again.

Nora couldn't help but chuckle. "Maddie, I'm sure the love gods don't hate you," he said. "They couldn't possibly hate you. You're just... way too cute. Not like me, you know? Grumpy, bone structure like a truck?"

Maddie snorted and buried her face into her arm. "Okay, fine," she said in a muffled voice.

"Hey, Kuong!" the coach called from across the diamond. "C'mon over here!"

Nora whipped her head over. "Coming, coach!" She jumped to her feet and scrambled over across the green grass. But she hadn't made it halfway over before there was an immense crack in the air and everything went white - and Nora felt like her whole body was being turned inside out.

She opened her eyes and saw a hospital room. She felt a mattress beneath her and a blanket over her, and a heartbeat monitor on her finger. And she saw people. Two of them were her parents, one was a doctor. They were talking.

Nora took a deep breath and groaned. It got their attention. Her mother leaned in over her, brown eyes wide and black hair disheveled.

"Nora, honey, are you okay?" she asked.

Now that was a good question. Nora squirmed around a little to try and find out. She felt all right so far. "I think so," she said.

Her mother gave a little sob of relief.

Nora blinked and looked at her father, who seemed to be trying to keep himself composed. She looked at the doctor, who seemed perfectly calm. "What happened?" she asked.

"You were out at softball practice, and you were hit by lightning," he mother explained.

"Oh..." That brought back a memory - playing softball, then a flash of light and feeling like she was being pulled inside-out. She remembered now. "Am I... am I gonna be okay?" she asked.

The doctor looked at her and smiled in that cheery way that doctors could do. "Well, you might... have some difficulties ahead, but if you're doing this good so far, you're probably going to be pretty all right."

"I didn't die," Nora mused.

He chuckled a little. "No. Actually, did you know that out of five hundred lightning strikes that happen per year, ninety percent survive? So, that's a good thing."

Nora smiled a little, his cheeriness being contagious. "Yeah."

The doctor smiled. "You should make sure you let us know if anything happens - any mood issues, difficulties concentrating, numbness anywhere, anything. Sometimes there can be lasting effects."

"Mmm." She nodded. She didn't feel any different at all, mood-wise or otherwise. "I feel okay," she said.

"And that's very good," the doctor said in his cheery voice. "I need to talk to your mom and dad for awhile, okay?"

Nora nodded again. "Mmhmm." Then she thought of something. "My phone, do you have my phone?" she asked. "I should text Maddie. She's probably really worried."

Nora's father nodded. "Of course. I got that for ya." He smiled and pulled her phone (plum purple in color) out of the pocket of his jeans, and gave it to her.

She smiled at him. "Thanks, Dad." She took the phone and turned it on. She looked at the time on the clock first - she hadn't been out more than a few hours. That was good. Then she sent a text to Maddie.

Hey I'm alive!

Nearly immediately, Nora got a response. Thank goodness!!! How are you? When are you going to come home?

Umm. IDK. I just woke up and the doctor's talking to Mom and Dad right now. I feel okay. So maybe soon??

Yessss. I was so worried! Everybody was worried.

Yeah. I wanna get a ton of pizza when I get out of here. Nora sent the text and leaned back. But as she moved, her phone slipped out of her grip. She made a little grab for it, but it was too late, and she watched it slide down the side of the bed and clatter to the floor. She winced and leaned up, and looked down. She was pretty sure that there was no way she could grab it from here, but all the same, she had to lean down and try anyway. She reached her arm down and stretched her fingers out for the phone. Of course, she was several inches too high. She huffed through her nose and tried to lean down a little further.

Then the phone moved.

It was only the tiniest amount. One end lifted up perhaps an inch before falling down again, but it moved.

Nora stared at the phone. Had she just really seen that? Or had the lightning strike scrambled her brain? Desperately hoping that she'd really seen that and that her brain wasn't fried, she reached for it again.

It lifted up again.

"Nora, what are you doing?" her dad suddenly asked.

Nora jerked back up onto the the bed and looked at her father with wide eyes. Had he seen that? He didn't seem like it. He wasn't paying attention to the phone at all, just looking at her. "I dropped my phone, Dad."

"Right." He looked down and scanned the floor, then when he found it he picked it up and gave it back. "Here ya go."

Nora took her phone and held onto it, her heart pounding. She'd just lifted her phone up... with her mind!

Nora stayed in the hospital overnight, her mother nearby until well after she'd fallen asleep. The next day, it was clear that there was no reason she had to stay any longer, so she was allowed to go home. Her parents were more than happy to get her some of her favorite pizza for dinner. Of course, she couldn't stop thinking about how she'd lifted her phone up without even touching it. She would have tried to experiment with that more, but her mother had been there close by, and Nora had no idea how she'd react to something like that. What if she decided that she was some kind of dangerous freak, or that she was possessed by something evil? Not that she'd ever seen her mother react to anything like this before, but both possibilities felt distinctly likely to Nora. Most adults didn't take this kind of thing well, right? Sure, almost everyone knew that there were people out there who had strange abilities, but that didn't mean they accepted them as something that was normal and okay. She'd heard one guy talk about how they were secretly plotting to overthrow humanity. One person had opined that they were probably just possessed by demons. So she decided that it was safer to keep quiet.

After scarfing down three slices of pizza, she excused herself and went to her room. She scanned the place, looking for what she might practice on. The little glass and ceramic animals on the shelf, maybe? No, those could break if she dropped them. Her laptop on the desk? Same problem. But the pens and pencils nearby? Those were perfect. She picked up a few brightly-colored mechanical pencils and dropped them onto her pink floral bedspread. She took a deep breath and held her hand out to the pencils. She remembered in the hospital, she'd wanted to reach her phone. So she focused on that feeling. One pencil - a shiny blue one - nudged forward just a little bit. Nora smiled and kept trying. It kept moving forward, inch by inch... and then it flew off the bed, missed her hand, and smacked her in the face.

She blinked. "Ow..." She bent down and picked the pencil up. She'd done it again! But just how did this work? Magnetism? No, couldn't be; the pencil was mostly just plastic. Telekineses? That seemed more likely. Had the lightning strike done that? Maybe. Why not? Nora tossed the pencil back on the bed and spent the next fifteen minutes or so carefully moving and lifting the pencils around. The whole time, she had a grin on his face. This was awesome!

Finally, it occurred to Nora that maybe she could find answers to the whys of her new ability online. She gathered up her pencils and put them back on the desk, then sat down. She reached down to open her laptop, but then she had another idea. She spread her hands out and concentrated on lifting the top. This was harder than lifting the pencils; there was a lot more resistance. Very, very slowly, it moved up along with her hands. She grinned and grabbed the mouse, and opened a browser. She paused to figure out what to search for, then put in, "does lightning give you powers?"

The first site to come up was a page on the National Mega-Threat Research and Response Administration. Nora had heard about them on the news a few times; their job was to handle incidents involving people with strange powers, or something. And they apparently also had teams of people with powers, or some of the people had powers, or... something. She hadn't paid very close attention to that part.

Then she wondered: if they hired people with powers, could she work for them? If she was working for them, surely it wouldn't matter what anyone else thought about her powers. And she could be out doing something good! That thought in mind, she clicked on the link.

She was taken to crisp-looking site done in white, grays, and dark blues. As she read over it, she saw the text:

It occasionally happens that an individual who is struck by lightning or comes into contact with another high source of powers develops unusual physical characteristics or extraordinary abilities. If this has happened to you, do not panic. You're most likely not in any danger. If you are having difficulty controlling your new abilities, please see the MEP Self-Control Technique Guide (2010 Edition). If you believe that you present a danger to others, please contact us for help.

There was more text, but it didn't have anything she found interesting. Then she saw a link titled "Joining NMTRRA," and she clicked it.

NMTRRA takes on threats to public safety that present an extraordinarily difficult risk for other departments. To do this, we enlist the help of individuals with skill and expertise in useful areas. Although having extraordinary abilities is an asset, it is not necessarily required. If you believe that you have something to offer us and you are over eighteen years of age, you can contact us at our office.

Nora almost clicked the link to view their contact information, but then she saw the part about being "eighteen years of age." She leaned back and sighed. "Well, so much for that," she muttered. Still, she read on.

If you are below eighteen, please continue to study and learn, and look after yourself with exercise and good health habits. Although you might not qualify now, your skills might be exactly what we need in several years. If you have powers, please refer to the MEP Self-Control Technique Guide (2010 Edition) to learn how you can hone and exercise them.

Nora curled up her nose and stuck her tongue out, because the words "self-control" seemed like something an adult with too many controlling tendencies would come up with, and she wanted to spite this hypothetical adult and express that she was not here to be controlled like somebody's minion even if she was going to read the book. She clicked the link. When the PDF document loaded, she scrolled down to the contents. Among its contents was an explanation of just what an MEP was, a section on emotional control techniques (in case one's powers were connected to emotions), a section on how to experiment with one's powers without endangering people or property, and a section on techniques that other MEPs had luck with. Nora first went to the section on what an MEP was and skimmed through it. She saw a part that said:

An MEP, or Mysteranium Enhanced Person, is an individual whose physiology has been altered by a presence of the element mysteranium interacting with a sudden surge of energy in their body.

She was glad to have it explained, though she was a little annoyed that it didn't explain where mysteranium even came from, let alone how she got it into her body. Once that was done, she skipped the whole section on emotional control and safety precautions, and went down to the section on exercise techniques.

The first page included a warning to go back and read the section on safety before trying any of these exercises if the reader had not done so before, noting that carelessness could endanger lives or destroy homes and property, and that practicing certain things in certain places might be illegal or might require a permit. Nora sighed and went back to the last chapter. She skimmed through because a lot just didn't apply to her own situation, but a few things she took note of were tips about practicing on things you didn't mind damaging instead of anything valuable or important, practicing on small and easy things until you got the hang of it and working your way up to harder things, wearing any protective gear you might need, and making sure that the area was clear of anyone who might get hurt. After that, Nora went back to the section on techniques and read through, making mental notes of the ones that seemed interesting or useful. Tomorrow was Saturday, and she planned to make the most of it.

Saturday morning, Nora got up and dressed herself in jeans, hiking shoes, a t-shirt, and a jacket. She pulled her hair into a ponytail, grabbed her phone and put it in her pocket, then dashed to the kitchen and grabbed a toaster pastry. As she chewed through it, she debated whether or not to call Maddie. She decided that she couldn't possibly keep this a secret from everyone, and she knew she could trust her, so she sent her a text. Hey Maddie, meet up with me by the big sycamore in a few? This was a large tree out in the woods that they'd hung out together nearby for a few years now.

Nora had nearly finished her pastry when she got a message back: Sure. Be there soon.

Nora finished her pastry off, then hurried outside. The tree was a five minute walk from her house, and few people ever came out here. After looking around to make sure no one was nearby, Nora walked around and gathered up small rocks and put them into a pile. She took a deep breath and lifted one up individually, concentrating on just holding it there - the book had said that being able to hold an object up for awhile was important.

Then Nora heard footsteps behind her - Maddie's footsteps, from the sound. She let the rock drop and turned around, and sure enough she saw the redhead. "Hey," she said, trying to grin. Despite the fact that Maddie was her best friend, she was a little nervous.

"Hey," Maddie said. "Nice morning," she said. She looked at the rock pile for a second, but said nothing. Then she walked over to the tree's trunk and leaned against it. "So what's up?"

Nora took a deep breath. "I gotta tell you something. And it's gonna seem... weird."

Maddie looked at her face quietly. Then, "Weird, huh? I mean... I've seen all kinds of things, so... try me."

"Okay." Nora nodded and reached her hand out to the pile of rocks. She raised one up a little and let it hover.

Maddie's eyes went wide, and she leaned forward. She reached down and poked at the rock, which moved over only slightly. "Holy..." Her mouth dropped open. "No, I gotta be dreaming still. This is just... weird. When did this..." She paused. "Since the lightning strike?"

Nora blinked. "Yeah, how did you know?" she asked.

"Well, I mean, I heard about this guy who got hit by lightning and suddenly he was a piano genius," she said. "I guess if anything could give ya special powers, it'd be a thunderstorm, right?"

Nora chuckled softly, relieved that Maddie was taking this so well. "Yeah. I guess so. Actually, there's a whole book on it - it involves some element called mysteranium. When ya get it into your body and you get hit by lightning or something, this can happen."

Maddie tilted her head and poked the floating rock again. "Huh... well, how 'bout that..." She paused. "You have actual superpowers, Nora," she said quietly. "D'you think they'll... send government agents or something?"

"I - I don't think so," Nora said quietly. "They didn't make it sound like they did that." She tried to lift a handful of rocks at once, and was pleased to see them all float upward. Still, she was a little nervous.

"Yeah, well, I heard stories about some guys who did that to somebody," Maddie said. "Like, over in Minnesota or something? Like, some guy was grabbed out of a parking lot, or something." She paused and frowned, thinking about it. "Then again, a parking lot ain't very sneaky, and government agents are supposed to be sneaky. I dunno, it was just some rumor I heard ages back."

"Yeah." Nora hoped Maddie was right about it just being some rumor. "Anyway, they have a website with a whole book on stuff you can try, if you have powers," she said. "Almost sounds like they don't wanna be bothered hunting you down."

"Yeah, yeah maybe," Maddie said. She leaned against the tree.

Nora went back to practicing, but she hadn't been at it long before she heard footsteps. Maddie heard it, too; they both turned and looked in the same direction at once. Nora immediately recognized him as the guy that Maddie had been dating before, brief as it had been. He was a little on the tall side, thin and dark-haired, with pale skin that clearly hadn't seen the outdoors much since at least December. Something about his face put Nora off. It took a moment for her to figure out what it was, but she realized that there was an odd slackness in the skin around his eyes, as if he was looking at an object he cared little about rather than an actual person.

Maddie frowned. "Derek, what are you doing out here? You know I don't wanna see you anymore."

Derek stepped forward nonetheless. "Yeah, and girls say lots of things they don't mean. You know, you told me you loved me, you wanted to do all kinds of things with me, like... go on a road trip someday?"

"Yeah, that was before I realized I you just meant to have me as a... personal accessory, toy, whatever," Maddie said. "Now go away, Derek."

Derek huffed. "Nothing's gonna get in the way of our love, Maddie. You might feel like you don't want me right now, but you'll change your mind."

Nora stepped forward, eyes narrowed. "Derek, get lost," she said.

He laughed. "Or you'll what? I got a black belt, you know - what are you gonna do?"

"Hit ya with a stick? I got a real good batting average. Wanna try it?"

That made Derek pause, and he cleared his throat. "Yeah, I gotta go do some things, anyway," he mumbled. Then louder, he said, "I'm gonna make you remember you love me, Maddie. One day, somehow." He smirked a little. "Your parents are gonna be away overnight in a few days, right?"

Maddie's face paled. "How did you..."

"They post about it on social media," he said, his smirk turning into a grin. His eyes still had that slack, almost dead look.

Maddie's expression turned to horror. "You creep!" She grabbed one of the rocks that Nora had piled up and threw one at him. "You get lost!"

Derek turned and ran off, disappearing into the woods.

Nora looked at Maddie, who looked very frightened. "Hey. Are you..."

"Can - can I stay at your place while my parents are out?" Maddie whispered.

"Of course," she said. "Why didn't you tell me what a creep he was, back when you and him...?"

She shrugged. "I just didn't wanna. It was just a mess. 'Sides, I felt like I'd look like an idiot if I said I'd been suckered in by a creep like him." She cleared her throat. "Anyway, yeah. I'll come and stay at your place. I'll just tell the neighbor so she won't worry where I've gone, and..."

"Okay," Nora said.

Arranging for Maddie to stay overnight wasn't hard, and the teen came over at around nine with a small backpack with some supplies. After grabbing a snack from the kitchen, the pair went up to Nora's room. Maddie dropped her bag on the floor and sat down near it.

Nora, meanwhile, sat down in her desk chair, thinking about Derek and what he might do in the future. This certainly wouldn't be the end of it with him, not if he could help it. "Are you... gonna tell your parents? About Derek, I mean?" she asked.

Maddie shrugged. "I dunno... they'll probably think it's stupid," she mumbled. "Or tell me that I should've known better than dating a guy like that." She ran her fingers through her hair. "Or they'll ground me from dating forever."

Nora just hummed in response, because she wasn't sure what to say in response to that.

"Okay, remember when we watched The Craft last Halloween, and they did that spell to keep Nancy from hurting anybody?" she asked.

Nora looked at Maddie skeptically. "Are you suggesting that we use magic on Derek?"

"Well, I dunno... maybe we can just... use it to keep him away from me," she said, rubbing her hands on her knees. "I dunno, I'd just feel a lot better if we did than if we didn't, you know?" she asked. "Besides, my Auntie Rose says this stuff works, and she wouldn't lie to me."

"Well..." Nora decided that if it made Maddie feel better, it would be worth it. "Okay. What do we need?"

"They had a paper and some string, right? Or was it a ribbon? Something like that. And they tied it around her picture and said some words. But I think we can do it with just his full name, and I sure know what it is - Derek James Oliver," she said firmly.

Nora nodded. "Well, okay, I think we can do this." She opened a drawer in her desk and pulled out a sticky note pad, a pen, and a white-coated paper clip. "Will these work?" she asked.

Maddie nodded and took them from her. She wrote something down on the paper, folded it up a few times, and put the paper clip on it to hold it. "There," she said, sounding satisfied. She put it into a pocket in her bag. "Guess we'll see if that does anything." She looked up for a moment. "Hey. Wanna go to the gas station and get doughnuts?"

The gas station was only a block away, so Nora nodded. "Sure, sounds good." She pulled on her denim jacket, the one with the floral print on the inside, and then grabbed her blue handbag and slung it over her shoulder. Maddie (still wearing her jacket) got up, and the both of them went out to the front door and headed out into the evening. The air was a pleasant cool temperature, and he dampness enhanced the smell of spring in the air. Nora inhaled deeply.

"So I read more about people who get powers and stuff," Maddie said. "And mysteranium."

"Oh. Yeah?" Nora looked at her friend. "What did you find out?"

"Well, uh, mysteranium's really rare, and supposedly it's really good for magical stuff, but... it's illegal to sell without a permit. 'Cause people might try to use it to give people powers like yours, but there's no guarantee it'll even work, and people could get seriously hurt."

"Magical stuff, huh?" Nora quirked a smile. "Is that what you're hoping for? Learn how to do magic? You really believe in that?"

"Well, I heard that it's possible... Oh, and I looked into that one organization, the one that had that book, and like, there are old stories that they have all kinds of people who work there, not just people like you, but also people who do other things. Even a vampire."

"Vampires? Those are real?" Nora tilted her head skeptically.

"Well, that's what they said," Maddie said quickly. "Anyway... yeah." She smiled a little.

Nora looked over at her. "What? What's that expression about?"

"Well, I was thinking... maybe someday you and me might work there. I mean, maybe if I learn magic..."

Nora chuckled. She wasn't sure that she believed in magic, but she liked the idea of it, anyway. "That'd be something, wouldn't it?" Her face fell. "But that'd be... awhile from now, wouldn't it? I bet they'd want me to go to college first..." By 'they,' Nora meant her parents and NMTRRA. "That'd be a long time. In the meantime..." She sighed. "Gonna be stuck here."

Maddie shrugged. "Yeah... hey, I hear doughnuts calling." The gas station was getting closer, and Maddie hurried forward.

Soon they'd reached the gas station, and Nora dashed on in ahead of Maddie and ran over to the doughnuts. She grabbed one with cinnamon for herself. When Maddie caught up, she grabbed a chocolate one. After paying for the doughnuts, they left, and ate them along the way back home. They went into the house, and Maddie lead the way into Nora's bedroom. Nora came in behind and shut the door, noting that it felt strangely cold.

Then, Maddie inhaled sharply. "Derek!" she whispered.

Nora looked up, and the first thing she saw was Derek sitting on her bed in front of an open window. He held Nora's baseball bat in his hands, and he stood up. Nora reached for the door, but he reached for a hunting knife he had beside him and stood up. "Better not do that," he said. "Me and Maddie need to have a talk."

Maddie took a deep breath; she was clearly trying to hide her fear, but she wasn't doing well. "Derek, you can't - I don't want to talk to you," she said. "I want you gone."

"Gone." Derek chuckled dryly. "Isn't that a mean thing to wish on somebody? Gone? Are you just... incapable of caring about anybody besides yourself?"

"The only one who doesn't care about anybody but themselves is you," Nora shot out. She immediately regretted it, because Derek stepped in her direction, brandishing the knife.

"I didn't ask for your opinion, now did I?" Derek snarled. "You go get into the closet and stay there until me and Maddie are finished."

"No." Nora raised her hand and used her power to grab Derek's arm, and the knife - and to try to pull it from his hand. His eyes widened and he stepped back in fear, but he kept his grip. And he grabbed the bat and swung it toward Nora's head. Nora raised her other hand to try and grab his wrist, but he was moving too fast - the bat kept coming. Nora ducked; the bat hit the wall, sending paint and plaster flying. But she lost concentration on the knife, and he swung it toward her. She felt the blade cross her denim jacket - but it didn't get to her skin. She brought her hands up and concentrated on pushing him backward into the bed. Maybe it was surge of adrenaline she felt, but he went tumbling backwards. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that Maddie had moved out of the way and was on the phone.

Derek looked at Maddie, desperation on his face. "Tell your crazy friend to let me go!" he pleaded. "She's going to kill me!"

Maddie looked at him with disbelief, and for a moment she almost looked like she was going to laugh. In the meantime, Nora focused on keeping Derek pinned to the bed, and making sure that he couldn't lift his arms to attack either one of them.

"Please..." Derek moaned. "All I wanted to do was just... talk."

Maddie huffed and lowered the phone. "People who 'just wanna talk' don't come armed with weapons. And even if you did, it didn't matter, anyway. It's over, Derek James Oliver. I don't ever wanna see you again, let alone talk to you."

"It's unfair!"

"Yeah, well, have fun explaining it to the cops, dude."

The next while was buzzing with activity - the police came and arrested Derek and collected evidence (the plaster-covered bat and the recent hole in the wall, and the knife along with the fresh cut in Nora's jacket were pretty telling), and of course, Nora's parents were in a tizzy and needed to know what happened. Nora explained that she'd pushed Derek onto the bed and held him there while Maddie called the police. Nora and Maddie had to fill out statements for the police. And then they left.

"I'd have never thought something like that would happen here," Nora's mother said. "We're going to have to get a much better window."

"And a home alarm system," her father added. "You girls could have been..." He sighed. "Thank God you weren't."

Eventually everything settled down, and Maddie and Nora went back to the bedroom. Nora looked at the mark on her wall. "I... I really kicked his ass, didn't I?" she murmured.

Maddie grinned. "You did. Hey, I had a thought..."


"What if you and me practice real hard, and one day... we protect other girls like us? Ones who have rotten ex-boyfriends? Or just want some badass lady bodyguards?"

Nora was caught by surprise, and she chuckled. "That... that's an odd... I mean... that's actually not a bad idea. But what are you gonna do?"

"I'm gonna learn how to work magic, is what. They said you can do it. I just... gotta find out more. And in the meantime, I'm gonna learn to throw a few punches, or at least how to swing a bat harder."

Nora grinned. "Sounds like a plan to me."

Places to go from here:

The National Mega-Threat Research & Response Administration
Magic: An Overview

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