Fandom: City of Villains
Word Count: 1,216
Characters: Khalid "Simaster" Jeffries
Prompt/request: I'm finally getting around to writing down how Khalid's powers changed. CoH Sims readers: This takes place after "Endgame," when Khalid is teleported back into the past. He's currently in the time before his (Khalid's) own parents, Ray and Jamie, are married.
It was a shard.
Not the same as what his father had – would have? Khalid didn't know exactly when his father had gotten a crystal shard, one that granted immortality and eternal youth.
There was a lot Khalid didn't know about his father's past, or his mother's, and it bothered him a great deal. In his own time, far in the future, it hadn't mattered at all. Now that he was in his parents' past – long before his own birth – it mattered a lot. Much more than any worry about killing his own parents and thus paradoxing himself out of existence. He wasn't worried so much about that; he just wanted to know if there were things he should avoid, besides his much younger parents, of course. Like, was there a war coming up? Or even a major battle? Or maybe was there something he could "invent" and become comfortably well-off with the proceeds?
But now, here and now, Khalid had a shard. Not the same as his father's. The "Immortals" of the future – their shards were, as best he remembered, a pale blue crystal. This was entirely off the earliest pictures of Eric "Boneshatter" Serling as a hero, with a belt holding the crystal shard that later imbedded itself in his chest. Khalid had never seen any of the Immortals' shards; all of them were safely ensconced somewhere in Immortal ribcages. But the photos showed a pale blue crystal or gem in Boneshatter's belt. Later on the crystal was in his chest, and he didn't need the belt any more.
This shard, here, was coral, not crystal. But it was supposed to be similar in its properties...
Khalid wondered if different shards and their attendant multi-faceted controlling sentiences battled it out for supremacy. We, the red coral shard network, must ally with the blue crystal shard network to defeat the green something-or-other shard network, before turning on our own allies! Seduce some minions, build your strength, then use those minions to launch attacks on enemy shards. It sounded like a plot for a simulation game.
On the other hand, for all that this thing was supposed to be part of a hivemind, it sure wasn't talking to him. Khalid knew that much about the crystals: they promised something in exchange for the minion's service. The question, of course, was whether a potentially self-aware piece of coral could, or would, do the same.
Y'know, if I didn't come from a family of part-mutants with superhero tendencies and careers, or if I weren't a supervillain, that last part would sound really, really strange.
Khalid stood alone, on a small rocky point of land offshore of the Rogue Isles, Sharkhead Isle to be specific. He figured that was the safest way for now – nobody nearby, nobody likely to wander out here by accident. He was about to try something very stupid, or self-improving, and he wasn't sure which. He hefted the fist-sized chunk of coral. Man, this thing's awful big to lodge itself in an average human torso.
All right, shard. Talk to me. That was what he wanted to say, but perhaps a friendlier tone would be a better opener.
But if a shard can read your mind, that's beside the point, isn't it?
Khalid nearly dropped the coral in his astonishment. "You can do that?" he said out loud, and then chastised himself for asking the obvious.
To some degree. And currently you're thinking hard about bargains.
"Yes, I am," Khalid agreed, now recovered. "You can give powers?"
Somewhat... I confess I don't know this crystal shard you thought about. And I suspect our goals may be mutually exclusive.
"Uh huh... okay. Look, if you can read my mind, you know what I want. So what do you want?"
Khalid waited while the coral remained silent for several minutes. He didn't want to rush the thing.
You wouldn't be interested in 'services to be performed at a later date' as my half of the bargain, I expect?
Khalid sorted that out in his mind. "No, that would be troublesome. What's the deal? You can't think of anything you want from me?" Boy, that would be awkward. And a blow to his self-esteem, if he wasn't desirable as a minion.
Well, to be honest, apart from your service, you really have nothing to offer.
Zing! "I have knowledge of the future!" Khalid bristled.
A future you're familiar with, but don't know how to create from here. And, I might add, a future in which I do not appear to play a part.
"Dammit, the other shard took Terecito Alvarado, and he's not nearly as powerful as – "
And I know nothing of this other shard and little about Terecito Alvarado. Perhaps that's how the other shard got destroyed. It wasn't picky enough.
Khalid didn't have a good response to that.
So, the ball's back in your court, I'm afraid. If you want special abilities, you'll have to either come up with a good payment now, or expect to pay later. I have no current use for you.
"What if I get the powers and then die before I can pay?" Yeah, it was an odd question, but Khalid was curious as to the answer.
Then you get the benefits of special abilities without paying. On the other hand, you don't enjoy the thought of death, so that might not be the best way to avoid payment.
This thing didn't seem at all like Khalid had expected. He sat, as comfortably as he could, on the bare rock. Of course, he'd heard only stories of the Aligned, those who'd submitted to the blue crystal shard network; this piece of coral wasn't part of that network.
He set the coral down, carefully, in a small depression of the rock. He wanted some privacy to his thoughts.
That was another thing: it would always be there, in his head... and having just experienced it directly, Khalid thought about the shard carriers he'd known. They'd agreed to that. So whatever it had offered them, they'd judged a permanent, round-the-clock observer to be worth it.
Khalid wasn't sure it was worth it.
The problem was that – as far as he knew – a shard had to be "alive" to grant its abilities. Guy Marlin, who probably wasn't even born yet – when he'd gotten some broken shard pieces, he'd gotten long life, and his age "frozen," and perfect health, which were all pretty nice. But no powers. Khalid wanted some powers to go with the health benefits.
"There has to be a way," he breathed. He could even handle the "pay later" clause; he just didn't want a constant presence in his head.
Khalid scooped up the coral.
Have you decided?
"Not yet." He put the thing in a small leather drawstring pouch, one with a very long strap. It looked ridiculous, the pouch, but it worked for this purpose. Khalid held the strap loosely, keeping the pouch far from his body. Eric Serling had been affect just from wearing his crystal shard on a belt, after all. Best not to let it get too close.
Khalid sighted into the distance and teleported back toward the Rogue Isles. He'd have to think on this a bit more before committing his mind, body and soul.