2.08 - Practice makes perfect
Leona and her Goonie went through the house quickly, getting blankets and first aid supplies just in case. Her aunt got a flashlight and batteries for it and any other emergency items that seemed potentially useful, though Goonie was the one who grabbed everything she could lay hands on. Soon she had a huge pack. Leona gaped at it and laughed. She was glad that she was getting so much into this training thing. Quinn watched from her room’s door with a sly little smile. She didn’t need to really ask what they were doing. Before the front door closed, she spoke.
“Good luck!” Quinn smiled before going into her room and locking it. Before long, they were in Goonie’s car, heading out towards Port Howard, one of San Isidro’s larger ports. “There’s a place out near the Port where we won’t be bothered. Used to be a make-out spot, actually.” She laughed. Leona couldn’t imagine Goonie making out there, but since she knew the place so well she had to have at some point. Come to think of it, Quinn had a rave out there last year. Leona had to wonder if they were going to the same location or not.
After over a half-hour’s worth of driving, they arrived at what looked to be a dilapidated yard. Goonie parked a little bit away and led her over to the gate. She helped her to slip through the chained gate. They slid the bag in after Leona and her auntie joined her. Once done, she produced the flashlights she’d brought, handing one to Leona. She grinned, shaking her head. Her transformed body would work better than a flashlight, but wouldn’t hurt to have them just in case her powers cut out on her. Afterwards, Goonie led Leona to a stacked group of rusted shipping containers.
“Okay. This will do. Can you transform now?” she asked.
Leona nodded. “All I do is will it… This is the first time I’ve done this in pitch darkness, so just in case, don’t stare at me, Mom. You’ll get blinded.”
Goonie nodded emphatically, averting her eyes. Leona formed the image of her heroic form complete in her costume and there was a bright flash of light. When the transformation was completed, Goonie looked at her and smiled, pointing at her wings. “They really glow! You’re beautiful at night, honey.” She laughed and hugged Leona tightly. There were little motes of yellow lights rising off her wings, looking a bit like embers from a flame or lazy fireflies.
Leona smiled happily at the compliment. “I FEEL beautiful Mom!” Leona said with Aurora’s beautiful voice. “Even if I can’t ever be a real girl aside from my transformed form, I can experience it all I wish like this.” Leona twirled and giggled. “I think I caught a glimpse of the light that night when it first happened, but I haven’t seen them quite like this. Even she saw those motes this time now that Goonie mentioned them.
Goonie smiled and reached out to touch one of her wings, noticing it was warm. Goonie’s hand felt even more warm. “They’re soft, too.” She smiled at her daughter. “You’d better be careful to not injure them.”
“I’ll try.” Leona smiled. “I can form a field that seems to protect me when I need it, and it seems almost instinctive to use. Y’know, it’s pretty scary when bad guys shoot at you. I reacted, and my power surrounded me. It was clumsy at first, a force-field around me like a capsule, but when I focused more, it clung to my skin, like a second tougher skin. I think I can protect myself in most circumstances, though I really don’t want to think about a situation where I might not be able to do it.”
“It’s a good thing you have a force field… and you can fly as well. What else are you able to do?” Goonie asked.
“I can augment my strength a bit with my powers, or maybe I negate gravity or weight itself, which I guess is the same thing.” Leona nodded. “But when my power surrounds an object, within a certain limitations, I can lift it. I seem to be able to punch people pretty well too. Plus, I blast things,” she added.
“Well, you can practice on these shipping containers. Say start by lifting one and test out controlling your powers. If you run out of energy, we’ll know what your limitations are.” Goonie stepped away and waited.
Leona turned her gaze to the top-most crate stacked and floated up, flapping her wings. She touched the container, and her aura moved towards it. It wouldn’t completely engulf the object. Maybe only a third of its surface. She grunted and tried to lift it, but it wouldn’t budge. She experimented with it more, and spread the field as thin as she could. When she did that she managed to cover half of the crate. WIth extreme effort, she was able to lift one end for a second, but it dropped back down when she exceeded her limitations.
She dropped down and thought. Goonie spoke and smiled comfortingly, “That’s a shame, but now we know that you aren’t a super-strength-type-hero. Try other objects you couldn’t handle normally, and ramp up. There are some crates, barrels, assorted objects, oil drums. Those things are probably mostly beyond your power to comfortably handle.”
Leona rushed to an oil drum and touched it, surrounded it easily with her aura. She then lifted it effortlessly with a giggle. She did it with the other before suggested objects one by one and all were within her limitations. She was even able to throw a few barrels into the air and clumsily juggle them. Goonie laughed and clapped. “Careful! Don’t whomp me with one!”
“So let’s test your strength. You said your punches can be effective. Try hitting them and see what kind of damage you can do,” her auntie suggested. “The shipping containers first.”
Leona winced, not wanting to hurt her hand, but it would give a good benchmark. She drew her arm back, approaching the bottom crate. She hit it as hard as she could. It did absolutely nothing. There wasn’t even a dent, but it did hurt.” Leona cradled her hand. Goonie rushed forward to check her hand, but she waved her Mom back. She was fine. Thinking it through, she surrounded her fists in the aura and struck the crate repeatedly. She didn’t hurt herself, but it didn’t look like she was much stronger than an athlete after repeated impacts.
Goonie stepped close and examined her hands, this time not allowing herself to be shooed away. She nodded and checked the container and smiled. “You’re not able to punch through steel, it looks like, but I sure couldn’t dent these things like you’re doing.” She shrugged.
Aurora’s jaw dropped and she checked it again, and saw that her repeated blows had indeed dented it. It wasn’t especially significant nor obvious, but she’d done something successfully.
“I’ll need to play with it a bit more later, but now I can see what I can do if I attack physically. We can safely say that super strength has nothing to do with what I do. Well, athlete-level or a bit higher isn’t bad. I guess all that’s left are my force fields and blasts.”
“Now step back, Mom, I’ll blast this container next. Let’s see if that does something more.” She stepped back and Goonie scurried away.
“Be careful!” Laguna cried over her shoulder.
Leona considered the situation and coated herself with the barrier. Shrapnel might spray all over, which was part of why she told Goonie to get clear. She reached her hand towards one of the containers and willed one of her beams at it. It shot out like a laser and struck, weakly first, but she increased the power with each consecutive blast. As she blasted, eventually the beam penetrated the side of the container. The blasts appeared to be concussive rather than melting. She practiced more, adjusting the power levels and worked on her aim.
It was getting to be pretty fun, beating up old unused containers on the dock. After a while when Leona stopped blasting, Laguna rushed in and chuckled. “Trigger happy, much? Tell ya what, if you want to practice your aim a bit more, I’ll set up some targets for you. Take a break for a moment.” Leona nodded and settled down, wondering about how she was able to exert herself so much when the sun wasn’t up. She didn’t feel drained yet.
Leona eyed the car nearby while Goonie was setting things up. “Can I try lifting the car? It’s smaller than the shipping containers. It’d give another benchmark.”
Goonie hesitated but nodded. “Any damage you do you’re going to have to go to work in the cafe to work out, got it?”
Leona nodded and smiled. She walked over to the car and gently placed a hand on it. She didn’t try to lift it right away. She just tried to surround it with her aura, to see how much she could put around it. That would tell her in of itself whether she could lift it or not, she reasoned. Plus, she could gauge how dense the aura was. Too thin, and the effect was weaker. Her aura spread over the car slowly, but it was fully covered, but thin. She sighed and reached down to lift it. She grunted immediately. It was heavy, but she lifted it! Leona whooped and grunted simultaneously, sweating. “Now…” She panted and gently set the car down. “I have an idea of how much I can lift, and how much effort it’ll take.”
Leona smiled happily, feeling accomplished. She’d learned another new thing. “But I don’t know if I could fly with it… It was hard as it was. I’m certainly not going to experiment with that with your car.” Leona laughed.
“Good girl.” Goonie rushed over and hugged her daughter a little awkwardly so as not to harm her wings.
Leona hugged her back and grinned, and an impish and impetuous idea occurred to her. She surrounded her aura around her, sweeping her auntie into her arms and leapt into the air, holding her tightly. “Now we can see if I can carry a person for a set distance. How about a nice flight over the bay!”
Laguna shrieked the moment her feet left the ground and she clung to Leona. All she had to worry about was holding onto Goonie, because she had next to no weight. She flew around with a gleeful laugh. She learned something else as she flew with someone in her arms. She didn’t notice it before, but the extra mass did throw off her maneuvering off a bit. She had to compensate for it.
She compensated for it and practiced for a time, though she noticed belatedly Goonie was terrified. She was filled with joy and wonder, but Goonie really was afraid she’d fall. She stopped, and made a note that flying evasively while holding someone might be challenging in a pinch. “I’m sorry you got scared, Mom. Is it okay we did that?”
“Y-yes…” Goonie stuttered, eyes shut tightly. “Don't talk, just concentrate on your flying, got it?” She really was panicked.
“I promise I won’t drop you Mom.” Leona giggled and flapped a bit higher so she could show her the skylines of both of the two cities. This was a good place for that. She was determined to show her something of the wonder she was filled with. “Open your eyes and look. It’s beautiful Mom.” Leona said gently, hugging her tightly to reassure her. “Trust me, you’re as light as a feather.
Goonie eventually opened her eyes slowly and she caught sight of the both cities and gasped. Seaside City shone like a distant jewel, reflecting on the bay. San Isidro had its own grace and beauty by night, a bit darker, but the lights from the windows and fixtures were quite breathtaking. “Oh my goodness! It’s beautiful! Spectacular!” She laughed now that they weren’t moving. “Thank you honey, for that million-dollar view.” She hugged Leona a little tighter.
Leona smiled warmly and glided slowly on the night breezes. “I’m glad I could share this with you, Mom.” Leona’s smile was happy, and she carefully circled downwards towards the shipping containers where they stood before. She landed lightly and set her Goonie down. “I think I’m really happy. I don't know if these powers will always bring me happiness, but I’ll take these moments when they come… and treasure them.” She sighed contentedly.
“I can’t think of another girl so deserving.” Goonie beamed at Leona. “Do you want to test anything else?” She asked, her legs a little wobbly from her experience.
Leona laughed and supported her Mom. “No, there’s nothing left except for the force field. I don’t know how we could test that, though. When they were firing a bunch of guns off on me at the blimp heist, nothing got through. With the first type of capsule shield, they were stopped dead, and with the second, bullets bounced off as though the shield had a rubber-like quality.”
“I could throw things at you, I guess,” Goonie suggested.
Leona considered and smiled. “I got a better idea… we’re right by some water… so let’s see…” She walked to the water and concentrated on her field, surrounding herself with it. She stepped off the edge of the pier and floated over the water. She dipped her toe thoughtfully into it cautiously, noticing that the forcefield rejected the water.
Aurora tilted her head and smiled, sinking more and more of herself in. When it reached her neck she was sure she was quite dry. She plunged all the way underwater. She noticed that the air was getting a little thin right away. She could breathe at first, but this wouldn’t do. She swam up and when her head resurfaced, she opened the field at the top and widened the gap around her body to the capsule variety.
After a moment, she dipped back underwater, and it was more comfortable. Before she felt the chill of the ocean, but now she was quite warm. She played and experimented, flying through the water. She could take a supply of air with her , but did that mean it was finite? She tested to see how much she had to take with her to be effective. She surfaced periodically to reassure Goonie she was safe and alright. The brightness of her wings marked her location. Interestingly, she didn’t swim at all. Her powers or the capsule propelled her forward underwater, so flight wasn’t quite accurate. It was more like the classic superhero flying for the types without wings.
When done, she broached the surface of the ocean and launched into the air again, dropping the shield. She looked a bit like a glowy dolphin. She laughed joyfully and glided to the dock, landing by her Auntie. “Wow, that was so fun! I didn’t get cold or wet at all after a bit of experimentation.
Goonie rubbed Leona’s back and grinned. “Well, I think we’ve exhausted the possibilities for now, and at this rate, we might be spotted. Let’s go.” She led the way back.
Leona ran beside her easily and took her hand. “When we get to the gate, no need to take turns. I’ll float us over. You’ve seen magical movies where people held hands and floated together. I did it with an officer earlier, so don’t panic.” She winked at Goonie and when they neared it Leona flapped her wings after extending her aura around her Mom. They danced in midair and floated just as Leona prophesied. Goonie laughed and winced but she was happy they came down gently, still walking.
“”Nice job, girl. Are you going to the precinct here in San Isidro tomorrow?” she asked as she moved to the car. Leona let her transformation dissipate and got in. Laguna started the car after stashing the backpack in the back.
“Oh gosh, the targets you set up! We forgot that, Mom.” Leona laughed.
“It’s fine. I think you have that down pat.” Goonie put the car into reverse, and headed back to the frontage road to head home. “Well, are you going tomorrow?”
“It seems only right to do that,” Leona said. “I’m thinking I might sneak a peek at Sarah to reassure myself or more.” Well, crud… Quinn said to not mention it. Leona grinned.
Laguna took a breath. “You have to be careful, dear. Someone might take it wrong if you’re not clear about your intentions,” she warned her. “But maybe we can decide on a way to do it that won’t offend anyone.” She reached over and tousled Leona’s hair.
“I hoped you’d be able to help, Mom.” Leona smiled even more. “I said the same thing to Quinn. She doesn’t think about things like a superhero should… about reputation and stuff. I know it’s inevitable that some people won’t like me… like grumpy Detective over in Seaside, but I don't want to actually bring that on myself any faster.”
“That’s because you’re a good girl,” Laguna smiled and sighed in relief. “Do you feel any weaker for your experimenting? I know you were worried about being less powerful at night.” She eyed Leona. “I can stop if you think you want to check it more.”
Leona frowned thoughtfully. “That’s true, but how about this. You drive home, I’ll fly overhead, not too close, but enough to where I can pull in if I need help. I’ll call you on my phone if I feel like I’m in trouble.”
Laguna nodded and pulled over. When Leona stepped out, she transformed and quickly rose into the sky, watching Mom pull off again and continue home. She considered the situation,and decided she didn’t feel any weaker. In fact she did a few aerobatics for fun since she had to go slower than usual. When they got home, Leona went to the usual copse and reversed the transformation in the hopes that no one else would see her. She leapt over the wall and headed to the front of the condo, and waited at the front door. When she arrived, pulled into the driveway and shut down the car, she came over with the pack and opened the door. “Well, how did it feel to you?” Goonie asked.
“It felt fine, actually. I feel more relaxed. It’s true that I have an affinity for the Sun, but maybe it’s not the only source for my power. Maybe I take in light from the stars above, or maybe particles. Thanks for taking me tonight, Mom.” She hugged Laguna tightly. “I think I have a better idea of what I can do than I did before. They hugged inside the door and she patted Leona on the back.
“Okay, get some sleep now. I’ll bring you to the station early tomorrow if you’d like. Or to a private place to transform if you’d rather,” Laguna said. It warmed Leona’s heart that she was so supportive.
“A private place would be best. I don’t want anyone seeing you and getting a clue about who I might be.” Leona nodded. “They might even take me less seriously if they knew I was a kid, plus the comic books show what happens if you aren’t serious about protecting your identity, particularly the darker comics. I don’t want my family to ever be at risk just because I’ve decided to be a superhero.”
Laguna nodded, smiling. “Ah, I didn’t think of that. Good idea. Sounds like you’re well on your way to being a real superhero, since you have such a level head.”
Leona smiled at the compliment. “Fiction has always told the future, in a way. That’s why they say there is truth in fiction.” Leona philosophized. “ A person’s imagination is oftentimes able to foresee what something will be like. That’s why I don’t think comics are just silly. They’re just like any stories. They could tell the future. I know that’s just a theory, and I can’t go into much more detail, but anything at all is possible, if you think so much about how, instead what and when.”
Goonie rolled her eyes and laughed. “All right, seriously. Scoot! You have a big day tomorrow and I want you to get a good night’s sleep.”
Leona rushed ahead so her predictable swat of her backside wouldn’t land. She ran upstairs, and Quinn was nowhere to be seen downstairs so likely she was sleeping. She headed to her room, and her eyes opened in horror.
Black Angel, herself sat on her bed, smiling slyly. She waved and when Leona blinked, she was gone as though she never was present. Her bed wasn’t disturbed, but she was terrified by seeing her again. Leona sank to her knees, taking deep calming breaths. She was scared of what it meant to see her. Would she have to fear that she might take control someday?
She’d wanted to be reborn as her… wanted to replace her or use her somehow. She didn’t know what to do about it. She prayed that Black Angel’s good side was still around and could help her.