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NotAHoneyBadger

Night Light (IC) [Solo]

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Freedom City University - Dormitories

1:03 a.m.

 

 

The fire alarms should have gone off sooner. The sprinklers should have put out the fire. The fire department, at least, was reacting precisely as they were trained to, but as the dormitories went up in flames, the fire trucks were still a ways out. Most of the students seemed to already have gotten out, quickly filing their way onto the asphalt parking lot. Campus security guards were all ready moving people away from the burning building, as well as keeping gawking pedestrians back. Onlookers watched as flames licked out of the windows of the second floor. The doors on the first floor pumped out black smoke, but was otherwise untouched, for the time being at least. Some of the students cried, but most murmured and whispered, waves of "Did everyone make it out?" and "Where's so-and-so?" and "What started this?" wafting through the air.

 

The flow of startled and sleep-deprived students had ceased, but the flames showed no sign of stopping in kind as fire began to climb to the third floor. The orange and red glow of the burning building shone like a beacon in the night, and everyone stood and watched in rapture as they waited for the fire department, the awaited sirens not far in the distance. Then a scream rang out, a young woman calling, "Micah! MICAH!" The student shoved through the crowd, looking for the absent Micah. Frantic, the girl ran up to one of the security guards and grabbed his sleeve. "My roommate, she's still in there! She's still on the second floor!"

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As the firetrucks rolled up and began to unload firefighters, the woman ran up to one. "Someone's in the building still! You have to help!" The firefight waved over a few others who were getting ready to enter the building, then put a hand on her shoulder firmly and replied, "All right miss, calm down, where-"

 

A window on the second floor shattered as a woman crashed through it from the inside. A gout of fire, wrapped halfway around her body, clung to the edges of the window but still stretched to follow her. As the woman plummeted to the concrete below the fire snapped off, the majority of it remaining with the building to continue its ravenous feeding, while a few tendrils clung to her clothes.

 

The woman slammed into the concrete with a CRUNCH!... rolling a couple of feet. A collective gasp ran through the crowd, but all ready several rescue personnel as well as students were running forward to help. The woman barely seemed to notice them as she stood up clumsily, a few tongues of flame still unextinguished by her roll across the sidewalk and asphalt. With a sound somewhere between a scream and a howl she fled, stumbling and disoriented, but still faster than anyone could keep up. The woman stumbled across the street in socks and a half-burned sweatshirt and escaped into an alley.

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Micah

North End - Near FCU

 

Micah ran.

 

She had woken up in the middle of an inferno, the walls, ceiling, and floor of her dorm room utterly consumed in flames, her bed a funeral pyre. Panicked, she had jumped out of bed and broken through her window, falling about 15 feet onto the pavement below. Somehow, none of if had hurt, not the fire, not the shards of glass, not even slamming into the concrete.

 

But all of that... that had been going on for over a week now. Micah didn't feel like she used to. Nothing hurt her, except the spasms, of course. Sometimes she would be wracked with agonizing pain. The pain could appear all over her body, but it would affect one area at a time, usually lasting a few minutes then subsiding for a short while. Besides that Micah would break things, lamps, doorknobs, sometimes even doors, overcome with sudden waves of strength, and she felt cold all of the time. She even slept through that fire! "It could have easily been 300 degrees in that room... maybe more." Why hadn't she woken up?

 

Micah also knew that she had probably started the fire. In addition to all of her other... symptoms... she could cause fires to go out of control. One time she made a candle's flame jump from the wick to a set of papers she was grading, and another time she nearly burnt down the kitchen in the commons when the stove light started spreading. Micah knew it wasn't her imagination, she knew it!

 

"That's what happened," Micah thought. "I took my tranquilizers, and in my sleep I must have... oh my god, how many people did I hurt in that fire?!"

 

The panicked woman continued fleeing through alleyways and backstreets. As she came to a corner she took the turn to fast and slipped, rolling and sliding into a brick wall. Micah simply sat there, her bedraggled, copper hair heaped in a tangled mess that covered her amber eyes. Her chest rose and fell in heaves as she continued hyperventilating. Micah's dizzied brain wandered back to her memories, to after she had jumped out of the window, and seen all those people staring at her.

 

"All those people... I could have killed them..." Micah felt sick, both then and now. Faced with all those eyes, staring at her in the firelight, Micah couldn't face what she had done. She couldn't stand to let them see her, so she ran away. "I shouldn't have let Dr. Sallai talk me into keeping it secret... I should have gone to the hospital, I should have told somebody! Oh, f-" Finally, Micah's nausea caught up with her, and she vomited. Her expulsion was a glowing orange and yellow, viscous enough to remain a mound rather than a puddle, and it melted and burned the pavement a little before cooling into a dark cluster of stone, bonded to the concrete. "What the hell am I?!"

 

Micah tried standing, rolling onto her knees and hands. Before she could get up she wretched again. "I should have told someone, I should have told..." Her voice was wrong. Her voice wasn't anything near what it normally was. This sounded deep, hoarse, gravelly, masculine. Micah grabbed at her throat, feeling around the vocal chords. To her horror her fingers felt not flesh and tissue, but solid, hard stone.

 

Frantic, Micah grabbed for the smart phone in the pocket of her sweatshirt, hoping to use the camera to get a look at her neck. It was only now that she noticed her clothes were still smoldering. With a cry of misery and fear, Micah swatted the clothes to extinguish them. Then she saw her hands, now a dark, nearly black, earth-brown color, and seemingly covered in some kind of rock skin. 

 

It was the final straw. Micah crumpled to the ground, sobbing. It hurt. Her whole body hurt. Her tears were glowing orange, just like her vomit, and they burned into the pavement before cooling into tiny bumps of stone, too. If Micah had noticed this, it would have been another stab at her already over-taxed emotions. The pain in her body grew worse and worse until she screamed. For a terrible eternity the pain continued.

 

 

And then it stopped. Steadily, but rather quickly, the throbbing, horrible pain subsided. Micah uncurled from the fetal position she had adopted. Looking at her hands, she saw they were still made of stone... but so were her arms... and her shoulders. Micah straightened out her body and looked herself all over. Her whole body was encased in rock, with nothing more than strips of fabric on top of that, the only remnants of her sweatshirt and sweatpants. What's more, she looked male, with a far more muscular frame, broad shoulders... she even grew a few inches taller, she thought.

 

The fact that the pain had gone away, save for a manageable soreness, had allowed Micah time to calm down some small degree. Closing her eyes, she took a few deep breaths. "Inhale... exhale... inhale..." After a few minutes of breathing regularly, no longer hyperventilating, Micah finally stood up, using the wall for support. She picked up her smart phone and switched it to the camera app, looking at her own image.

 

Just as she thought, Micah's entire body was coated with a dark stone skin, including her face. Her features were all but erased, covered up with a smooth stone mask that featured no nose, no ears, no lips, and no eyebrows. Her mouth was a gash in the stone, which, from her breathing, she could see open and close in small increments. A quick test determined the stone "lips" to be flexible, losing little of her normal expressive capability. Her eyes were similar, able to widen and narrow similar to human eyes... but instead of eyeballs with pupils and irises, Micah's new eyes were nothing more than large sockets, filled not with eyes but an orange glow. Micah felt her face. Her skin, although stone, could feel just the same as her old skin... at least, she thought so...

 

"What does it matter? Why does it matter if I can feel... I'm a freak." Micah slumped against the alley wall, defeated, exhausted.

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After several minutes stewing in her own sorrow, Micah finally found the will to move. "I need to find Dr. Sallai... I need help... I need to turn back..." Desperation allowed Micah to experience some small nugget of hope that she even could change back. However, even some small part of her, in the back of her mind, realized that there would be no way returning to normal would be anything less than next to impossible.

 

Regardless, doing something was better than nothing, and so Micah pushed off from the alley wall. The first few steps were tentative as she watched her own body mechanics. Micah was happy to discover that with the exception of her appearance and the feeling of her skin, little felt different. She still felt cold, like she had the past few days, and she was sore - goodness, was she sore - but otherwise she felt normal. "If anything, I feel lighter, or perhaps more energetic." Micah began walking forward boldly, comforted by the familiarity with which she moved in a new body.

 

The the ground gave way underneath Micah, her foot sliding forward. The concrete warped and shifted like some kind of sludge, and Micah stumbled. Her futile attempts at maintaining her balance only led to more pockets of the ground to turn into mud, and Micah fell face-first. With a yelp of surprise, she threw out her hands to catch her, and the concrete cracked beneath her hands.

 

For a few moments Micah remained utterly motionless, her breathing quickening again. She turned her head to looks around. In about four or five spots the concrete had been molded beneath her feet, creating small, curved ridges. Beneath her hands were a pair spiderweb-like cracks, one for each hand, that intersected and spread out up to five feet away. Carefully, Micah stood up. "What the hell..." She had been breaking things recently due to strange waves of strength, but this... this was different. Micah raised a foot and jabbed it at the ground to experiment. CRACK! The pavement split open. Micah knelt down and struck the ground with her hand... CRACK! Same result. Strangely, her hand didn't hurt at all. Curious, Micah continued her experiment, this time gentler, more deliberate. She thrust her palm towards the ground at a forty-five degree angle, and in response the concrete gave way, shifting into a mound next to her hand. "Is this a side-effect?"

 

The answer was obvious. In addition, Micah knew there was more to it than raw strength. She was capable of directing the pavement, even being precise. Micah struck the ground again, this time trying to shape the earth. Another mound formed, but this one was geometric, a circular column that jutted halfway out of the ground. Micah stood up. Even as strong as she was now, there would have been no way to create such a clean shape through random force. "...Interesting..."

 

Finished with her experiments, Micah turned to leave, but the sound of breaking glass stopped her. It had come from just around the corner. Micah turned back, walked slowly to the end of the alley and peeked out to find shards of a broken window and a discarded crowbar. Someone had smashed their way into a jeweler's store. Micah could hear him... no, them... she could only hear one talking, but she knew a second was inside. It was almost as if she could feel their feet touching the ground only a few dozen feet away. "Come on!" one of them hissed. "All the cops around here are at that fire. Hurry up!" A peek inside revealed two individuals in ski masks scooping necklaces and rings into backpacks. "What about an alarm?" Micah looked around, but couldn't find any indication that an alarm had been triggered.

 

Micah reached for the cell phone in her pocket... "Oh, right. My clothes..." Micah resisted the urge to face-palm as she realized that her phone would be lying in the alley, having fallen out of what remained of her shredded pocket. She went back to retrieve it, searching near the shreds of soft, comfortable sweatshirt lying on the pavement where she had transformed. No cell phone was in sight. "Oh, come on! Where-" CRUNCH!

 

Micah looked down to see a pile of broken plastic and electronics. "Oops." Now Micah couldn't call the police without running back to campus, a place she was not keen to show her current face. "Besides, I don't think they'd be particularly keen on listening to the strange rock-person they just met." A part of Micah wanted to confront the burglars herself, maybe terrify them with her strange form, but at the same time, she had no clue how the two would react. "Yeah, not interested in getting shot."

 

"Ugh... what do I do?"

Edited by NotAHoneyBadger

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Micah put her head in her hands, frustrated. "Relax. Think one thought at a time. Formulate a hypothetical scenario, run it through your head..." Calling the cops would require her go back an reveal herself, thus it was a last resort. She could likely break into a nearby building and use the phone, but the sound of the break in would alert the thieves, and they would run off with whatever they had already gotten. She could intimidate the criminals by herself... but she risked an aggressive reaction. 

 

All options were unappealing, but... "Come on, what are they gonna do? Try and gun down the rock monster? That's even if one of them has a gun!" The thought was all well and good inside Micah's head, but that slim possibility of getting shot was, as minute as it was, still a worthy deterrent. 

 

As Micah moved her hands from her face, she looked down at the pavement, at all the damage and alteration she had caused to it, and an idea popped into her head. "What if I could knock them out without exposing myself to bullets?" She looked up at the wall in front of her. It lead into the back room of jeweler's, which meant that the alley she walked down to reach the front of the shop would lead directly into the front of the store. Perhaps...

 

A certain combination of impishness and dogged curiosity crept into Micah, bringing with it boldness. She had to try, she simply could not resist. Micah strode forward to the side wall, and then waited, feeling the ground around her. Just as she had earlier, when she detected the two criminals by their footsteps, she could feel them again, even through the wall. Each time their feet struck the ground, a tiny tremor rippled out, and touched Micah's feet, telling her exactly where they were. She waited, tracking them, until one of them moved towards the wall she was standing on the other side of...

 

"There!"

 

Micah thrust her arm forward with as much force as possible, striking the wall, willing it to crumble. Her fist broke through, shattering a small hole through the thick, solid brickwork. Her hand grasped out at the burglar immediately on the other side, and gripped his shoulder. "Got him!" Micah yanked back, pulling the thief into the wall. SMACK! The thief's head struck the wall, and he went limp. Micah let go and let the unconscious body crumple into a heap. She heard a panicked scream from inside, then the tremors in the ground told her that the remaining crook was making a break with what he had already taken. Micah dashed to the end of the alley and turned the corner just in time to see him jump through the window he had entered. "Hey!" Micah yelled, her deep, masculine voice surprising herself again momentarily. "Put the bag down, now!"

 

BANG! BANG! BANG!

 

Micah toppled to the ground as three impacts slammed against her. "F*** F*** F***! He f***ing shot me!" Micah's hands scrambled over her abdomen, trying to find the bullet holes. She hadn't even seen him draw. She was going to die, bleeding out in the street as a rock monster, all because she wanted to play h-

 

Micah found the wounds. To put more precisely, she found the bullets, still embedded in her rock-like skin. As her hand brushed over them, the three crumpled metal wads dislodged and clattered to the ground. They hadn't even gone more than a couple centimeters. She was not only going to live... Micah hadn't even gotten injured.

 

The criminal shouted out swear words, then stepped closer to Micah, panicking out loud. "Oh man... did I... did I kill it?" Micah looked up at the ski-masked man and smiled, and in return she was treated with a priceless look of disbelief and awe. Before the man could fire of his pistol again, Micah slammed her elbow into the sidewalk, sending out a spider web of cracks and a shockwave. The concrete splintered and jutted out, and the gunman was knocked over from both the force of the tiny earthquake and the ground beneath him shifting. Micah stood up and placed a foot triumphantly on his hand, pinning the gun to the jagged ground. With a wink and a smile, Micah leaned in and punched the terrified man in the face. His head smacked against the pavement, but she hadn't even hit him that hard. It was just enough to knock him out.

 

She had won. Even after getting shot. She was... "I'm freaking invincible!" Micah lost herself in the moment and bounced on her toes excitedly. She even giggled, but her changed voice made it sound like a truck on a gravel road. She didn't care.

 

Once her celebration was over, Micah searched the unconscious crook's pockets, looking for a cell phone. She pulled it out, dialed 911, and quickly gave her address. Then she tossed the phone onto the body and ran back into the alley. The adrenaline was still kicking through her system, and so she floundered for a few minutes, unsure of what she was doing. "Right... get my stuff." There wasn't much to get except the scraps of her clothes and the broken cell phone, but she didn't want to leave any evidence of her presence.

 

"I also can't go back to the dorms. Not like this."

 

Micah knew where she could go. She could go to Dr. Sallai's. He knew about her, he would take her in... that was, if she could convince him that she was really Micah, looking the way she did.

 

 

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Parkside

1:47 a.m.

 

Micah knew where Dr. Sallai's home was. She and several other grad students had been invited over for dinner more than once. Micah moved from tree to tree in the park, dodging streetlamps and late-night pedestrians, doing her best not to be seen. Thankfully, those that did see her couldn't get a good look because of the darkness, and merely hurried away, unsure of Micah's appearance and intentions. Thus, Micah reached her professor's home without any problems.

 

After a few deep breaths, Micah walked up the stairs to the front porch and rang the bell a few times. She could tell when the Professor got out of bed and began walking to the door due to her tremor-sense, and took a step back from the door. Her appearance would be a shock no matter what, but it would likely be at least a little better if she wasn't in Sallai's face when he opened the door.

 

The porch light turned on and the door was opened just a crack, the chain still in place. The familiar face of Dr. Sallai, sleepy-eyed and bedraggled, peeped out from the crack. Upon seeing Micah, the professor startled back with a shout. Micah flinched and put up her hands, softly speaking to calm him down. "Doc, it's me... Micah."

 

Sallai surprisingly didn't slam the door and call the cops. He leaned forward to peek throw the crack again. "Mi... Micah?" he tentatively asked. "What...?"

 

Micah almost broke into tears again, but she held them back purely to avoid melting the porch. with a shuddering voice she replied, "The accident... it changed me..."

 

Before she knew it, the door had been unchained and opened wide. "Don't worry, Micah. I can recognize any of my students, especially you, even if you look and sound like this." In front of Micah stood, open-armed, an understanding and concerned Dr. Sallai, no hint of disgust or fear on his face. Despite herself, Micah broke down and cried again. Sallai moved in to hug her, but she held up her hand and shook her hand.

 

"Don't. I'll burn you... but thank you. Thank you so much... I can't tell you how happy it makes me to hear that."

 

After a minute, Micah calmed down again. She wiped her magma-streaked face and made sure she wouldn't burn down her professor's house before accepting his invitation inside.

 

The home was spacious, considering Sallai lived alone. His salary at FCU allowed it to live quite comfortably, it seemed. A kitchen, a bedroom, a living room, a study... it was everything a work-obsessed scholar could want. Few decorations dotted the space. Where candles or pictures or figurines would be in most homes, piles of papers and books lay scattered instead. Sallai led Micah into the living room and moved a pile of book off of the sofa for her to sit down. She poked the cushion tentatively, making sure she wouldn't burn them before taking a seat. The professor took a seat next to her and gently began asking questions.

 

"So tell me, Micah, when you're ready... what happened?"

 

Micah took a few moments to collect her thoughts and choose her words. "I set fire to my dorm room." Sallai opened his mouth to speak, by Micah waved her hand to quiet him. She knew what he would ask. "The second floor was pretty much consumed. I think the fire department kept the first and third from taking too much damage. I don't know if anyone was hurt... I... I hope not."

 

Micah took a deep breath and looked Sallai right in the eyes. "I slept through it. The fire. I just lied there in bed, everything around me burning. I was on fire, and I didn't feel it. I wasn't like this, either." She motioned to her body. "I was still normal then. I jumped out the window... and then I ran away. I made it about a mile, or something. Almost to Wading Way. Then I turned into this. The pain went away afterwards, mostly, so at least there's that."

 

"I have other powers, too. I'm strong, I'm fast, I can do some kind of crazy Avatar earth-bending stuff. I'm bulletproof, too, or bullet resistant, at least. Long story."

 

Looking up, Micah saw Sallai's mouth open slightly, then close. He shook his head and blinked a few times, unsure of what to say. She was prepared for the interrogation, the inevitable storm of questions. But all he asked was, "Do you want to eat first, or go to bed first?"

 

Micah's eyes widened, and she began to stutter questions, but Sallai raised is hand. "I think we both need time to process this. So... get some food, get some sleep, and we'll talk about this in the morning. Okay?"

 

A sigh of relief escaped Micah. His suggestion was just what she needed. Micah nodded silently, then got up. She took a few more breaths. "Thank goodness. Okay... it's going to be okay. Dr. Sallai will help. I'm okay..."

 

With the chaos of the night over and done with, Micah could finally relax. Her stomach growled ravenously. She sighed again, then shot her professor a sly grin.

 

"Can we make late-night pancakes?"

 

 

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