Metropolis was impressive.
Even the thrift stores were nicer than what he’d found in Fawcett City. That is, at least, until one started sifting through just what it was that one would find in a Metropolis thrift store.
The heather gray t-shirt was obviously second hand, well washed and worn, with a distinctive S-shield emblazoned on the chest that had faded from use.
Humanity, it seemed, never changed. Thousands of years ago, they had built temples and worshipped him as a god. Today, they wore the icons of their heroes on their clothing and spent their money in gift shops, such as the one in the tower. The forms of adoration may have differed, but hero worship was unchanged.
“Gur’sr be pirun!”
Across from the young boy repping the Superman merch, an Atlantean with glowing violet eyes had summoned tendrils of water that snapped and writhed in the air, before lancing out toward the child. Switching from Atlantean to English, Garth snapped, “Quit playing around, transform and get serious.”
A thin smile tugged at the edges of the boy’s mouth. Bringing both arms up, he crossed them at the wrist as his fingers seemed to form some obscure symbol as he uttered, “Asmku het fisos.”
It was a long forgotten language. The echoes of a people whose culture continued only in the child. As soon as he’d spoken the invocation, he split his arms apart.
As he did, the watery spears stopped short of his form, seemingly erupting as droplets of water sprayed harmlessly across the training arena.
“Bring your A-game and I might consider it,” the boy tossed back at the Atlantean mage.
“Heh. Step into the ocean and say that, Shorty,” Garth quipped, faking bravado even as his shoulders slumped slightly in defeat at having his spell broken so easily. Arms crossed over his chest, Tempest raised one eyebrow in curiosity as he asked, “How’d you come up with a counterspell that fast?”
For a moment, the bronze-skinned youth seemed every bit his young age, as he gave a slight roll of his head that was accompanied by a roll of the eyes as he said, “One, appearances not withstanding, I’ve been doing this since before King Tut.”
“About that,” Garth interjected. Gesturing to indicate the timeless hero’s short stature, the Atlantean asked, “Couldn’t you just stay an adult if you wanted?”
The boy shifted underneath Garth’s violet gaze, reaching across his body with one arm as he suddenly looked down, and then away from Tempest. “Yeah, that... that didn’t go well when I tried it,” the boy offered, in a muted tone. After a moment of icy silence, he added, “For anyone.”
Garth just stood there, as though uncertain of what to say. “Heavy,” the former Aqualad deadpanned finally, before asking, “Want to talk about it?”
Teth made a dismissive gesture. “You wouldn’t want to hear about it. Ancient history, right?”
Now it was Garth’s turn to adopt a smug look. “I’m from Atlantis. So, I get it. Can’t live in the past,” the man offered, in a conciliatory tone. Then, electing for a change of topic, opted to get back to what they’d been discussing earlier. “What was the other thing? About my magic, that is.”
The ghost of a soft smile seemed to relax the boy’s apprehensiveness. “Your Atlantean tradition would probably benefit from the study of some wuxing,” Teth offered. “I have some scrolls you could look at. It’d probably help your technique more than if I gave you the answer.”
“Did you seriously just say scrolls?”
“Yeah!” the boy exclaimed, slipping back into the energy and enthusiasm appropriate for his age. “The library in the Rock contains humanity’s earliest writings on the mystica arcana. There are clay tablets dating all the way back to Babel!”
A few thousands years hooked up to the wisdom of Zehuti had definitely made the former slave-boy into a bit of a nerd, which was on full display with the enthusiasm he was projecting at the thought of ancient libraries, papyrus scrolls, and inscribed tablets covered with a layer of dust.
It was an energy that Garth clearly did not share. “Dude, ain’t nobody got time for that,” Tempest stated flatly.
Now it was Teth’s turn for his shoulders to slump in defeat, as if Garth had just taken all the air out of him.
“Can’t you put the collection on a Kindle or something?”
The boy blinked. The look of momentary confusion transformed into a scowl as the young Canaanite shot a look up at the Atlantean that made clear his disapproval of the idea. “Nevermind,” Teth uttered, with another roll of his eyes. Instead, turning his back to Garth, the boy started toward the exit into the tower proper. “I’m going to get some coffee.”
Who knew hot bean juice could be so addictive? For a fifteenth century novelty, coffee was proving to be one of Teth’s favorite parts of the modern world.
As Garth watched the boy head for the exit, the Atlantean’s violet eyes began to glow. The droplets of water around the room began to slowly coalesce behind the child’s back.
“Pirun,” Tempest whispered, summoning an orb of water that was suddenly lobbed at Teth’s unsuspecting back like a water balloon.
The boy’s hand came up, his voice echoing, “Fisos,” as he snapped his thumb and finger loudly.
The same moment as the snap, the watery orb reversed it’s arc through the air. As it hit Garth, the water suddenly turned to ice, trapping him in an icy webbing.
“Damn it!” Garth seethed.
Without so much as a glance back, Teth made his way through the door and walked out of the room.
It wasn’t until he was well into his way down the hall that he finally let out the laugh that he’d been holding in, another crack in the veneer of the mature face that the boy put forth.
Then he stopped.
His nose wrinkled, as a look of disgust passed over his face.
He really hoped it wasn’t something that someone had brought into the break room. It wasn’t as bad as when Garth had shared some of his Atlantean cuisine with them – sea urchin surprise was not for the faint of heart – but it definitely wasn’t pleasant.
The boy rounded the corner...
...and found himself stopping short as he nearly collided with someone.
The figure was dressed in black. The lower part of a lightning bolt glowed with an otherworldly light. Teth's head went back, his green eyes tracing up along the lighting bolt until he found that he was looking up at himself.
“This can’t be.”