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- Leah Willis woke up super.
- And not just a little super: she had literally every super-power she thought of offhand. Strength and speed, of course, and flight--she was already floating even as she lay in bed: the pull of gravity was only the most diffident suggestion--and eyebeams that could do all sorts of different things, and super-senses, and even mental powers. And more. So much more that she couldn't entirely come to grips with it all at once.
- Slow and steady, then. Be careful, don't do anything by accident. She didn't feel in any danger of an accident. She felt perfectly under control. But that was often why accidents happened. She lay still and focused on what she could perceive, without "doing" anything.
- First, of course, her own body. The feeling of weightlessness was quite pleasant. She felt no need to breathe. In fact, somehow all of her bodily functions had become strictly optional. Her heart wasn't beating. Her blood wasn't even flowing. That was freaky enough that it made her uncomfortable. Immediately her cardiovascular system returned to its normal duties. She found that she could start it and stop at it will. Autonomic what now? She could feel the difference, of course, but the difference was just that her heart was beating and her blood was flowing; on any larger scale she felt exactly the same. Just as with her breathing: she could do it, she just had no need to. But not breathing felt natural; not having her heart beating felt... well, physically it felt fine, but it made her anxious anyway. She kept her heart "on".
- At least her nerves were still working normally. She wondered whether she could control them too, but she was not the least bit inclined to try.
- She checked her digestive system. It was completely empty, unless she counted lubricating mucus. (A little bit disgusting to think about, but no she was not going to try to stop producing it.) Excretory system included. Granted, she had used the toilet before going to bed, but a total lack of waste products after five hours of sleep had to be supernatural. Maybe she had a super-digestion. Maybe she could eat and drink anything she wanted and still not produce waste. That would be sweet.
- Speaking of eating anything she wanted--and speaking of sweet--she was quite sure that she wouldn't have to worry about staying th--um. Staying in shape, anyway. Leah was no longer thin. She was huge. As part of her transformation, she had at least doubled in mass. She was still just five feet three inches tall, but she was now so muscular she was a little surprised that all that bulk actually fit on her frame. But it did. Quite nicely in fact. Leah could see herself in her mind's eye with perfect clarity: she literally knew exactly what she looked like. From every direction, all at once. She was quite a spectacle. An impossible symphony of bulging super muscles and alluring super curves. Short, yes, but petite no more. She was super-beautiful, too: her skin was flawless, her hair lustrous and silky, her eyes bolder and sparklier and somehow deeper. The thought occurred to her of a supervillain surrendering to her without a fight, his will to resist destroyed by just her steely gaze. That probably wouldn't happen, but....
- Holy shit. She actually could do that.
- Technically, it wouldn't be her eyes that did it. That would just be for show. Really she'd be using her telepathy. She had known immediately upon awakening that she could sense and touch other minds with her own. Now that she was thinking about it specifically, she had a much clearer sense of her abilities. First, she couldn't merely sense minds: she was aware at least dimly of every mind around her for miles. And not just humans: animals' minds were much smaller and weaker, but minds they still were. Even insects had activity she perceived as mental. They weren't actually conscious--thank god, because she had killed rather many of them over the years--but their neurons fired in ways she could instinctively interpret as perception and decision. She could "read the minds" of insects. As well as, of course, the more familiar kinds of minds. Fortunately, she didn't automatically read a mind when she sensed it. She definitely didn't want to be constantly aware of people's private thoughts.
- But that was only the second scariest aspect of her telepathy. The real terror was that she couldn't just read minds, she could also control them. Forcing a supervillain to surrender? Well, maybe not a supervillain, if his mind were a lot stronger than a normal human's. But a normal criminal? Leah could easily, almost effortlessly force them to stop whatever they were doing. She could even compel them to go turn themselves in to the police. She could make any normal person do just about anything she wanted.
- She definitely did not want to think about that.
- Happier things! Like flying. The sky was tempting her, almost taunting her, because she could see it through the roof: she could turn her x-ray vision off, but it was on by default. She could see more stars than she had ever imagined, because her vision could detect even the faintest. She could identify them by their spectra, and she could even see how far away they actually were. She almost subconsciously began to develop a 3-D map of the Milky Way in the back of her mind. It was weird to see how disassociated most constellations actually were. She had known it, but now she could see it, literally see it with her own eyes and mind. It was quite awesome.
- She remembered when she had learned that fact about the constellations: during a school trip to a planetarium in seventh grade. She hadn't thought about that in years. She... holy shit. She remembered the last time she'd thought about it: the date had been August 9, 2018. Not as long ago as she'd thought, actually, but then again, that instance had just been a fleeting internal reference. She hadn't actually dwelled on the planetarium memory since June 24, 2016, when she'd gone camping with her friend Mary and her family and they'd lain out under the stars at night. She remembered... oh god, she remembered EVERYTHING.
- It was more than a bit overwhelming. Leah snapped herself back to the present and concentrated on what she could see: the stars of Orion's belt. Mintaka on the left, Alnilam in the middle, Alnitak on the right. Alnitak was the closest to Earth by a fair margin, but it was still
- The exact number kept changing, of course. And it was rounded off. But that was the average distance, in miles, traveled by the photons from Alnitak that had struck Leah's eye during the fraction of a millisecond when she had wondered how far away Alnitak was.
- But that had been more than 1271 years ago. Now the numbers were more like 7,471,732,506,352,221.
- And now Leah was seeing double. Because somehow, she could now see the stars not just as normal physics allowed them to be seen, but also as they actually currently were.
- It wasn't even confusing. That was Alnitak past, and that over there was Alnitak present. Past view and present view were overlapping but obviously distinct. Somehow, Leah's super-brain was collecting all of this data and presenting it in a way her conscious mind could handle.
- What else did her brain know, that she could learn by wondering?
- And that was how Leah Willis discovered that she was both omniscient and omnipotent.
- She did not instantly become conscious of everything at once. She could have: her conscious mind could have expanded to infinity and beyond. But Leah wasn't ready for that, so it didn't happen. In the first moment, all she learned was that she could know whatever she wanted to know.
- The very first thing she wondered was what she ought to do. With ultimate power comes ultimate responsibility, and Leah had always been a very conscientious person. Fortunately, she immediately knew the complete answer to her question. Unfortunately, it was not a pleasant answer. If Leah wanted to do the most possible good, she would have to change the universe so completely that she would effectively be ending it and starting anew. She would literally have to give each sentient being its own personal, private reality--there would be some overlap, but not much. On the other hand, if Leah wanted to work with the universe as it was, the best she could do would be to announce her omnipotence to everyone and use her powers to ensure that they not only believed her, but appreciated her, so that they would heed her when she told them what would be best for them. That was even less palatable than just cleaning house, especially because it wouldn't be as good.
- Leah knew what she ought to do. She ought to end the existing universe and inaugurate the new reality of individualized utopias. That would be best. She knew that would be best. She even understood why it would be best. But she couldn't bring herself to do it. She settled for Plan C. She would not use her powers to make any large-scale changes--not without explicit democratic approval. She would not be a goddess. She would only follow the straightforward path. The world already had many hundreds of superheroes. She would just be more powerful than the rest.
- She would have expected that it would be best for her to conceal the extent of her powers. She knew otherwise. In fact it would be best for her tell the truth: that her powers were infinite, but that it would be unethical for her to use them to their full extent without due process. Any government or community could invite her help, and she would meet with them to discuss their needs and the range of possible, ethical solutions. But she would not just unilaterally solve all of the world's problems, because that level of intervention would cause more harm than it prevented.
- Still, there were plenty of things she could do unilaterally. She began to do them. They required neither effort nor attention: she wanted them to happen and therefore they happened. All over the world, the hungry were sated. All over the world, the sick began to recover. All over the world, people with criminal plans thought better of them. All over the world, accidents did not happen. And so on, and so on.
- Meanwhile, Leah Willis put in a call to the Hotline of the United States Department of Paranormal Affairs.
- She didn't bother to use a phone; she just willed the call to go through as if it were from her phone. With idle curiosity she watched the signals leap across the country, first via the cellular network to the electronic switchboard, then by wires to the DPA's call center, in their secondary office in northern Virginia. She watched as the call was answered automatically. She knew what would be "said" even before the return signals began to emerge. Waves carrying that information eventually reached her cell phone, but her phone was not actually in call mode, so that signal was ignored. The call continued even so, authorized and controlled by Leah's omnipotent will.
- "For emergency press 1," said a clipped female voice.
- The same voice continued more sedately. "Thank you for calling the Department of Paranormal Affairs Hotline. If you are calling to report a paranormal manifestation that has personally affected you, please press 3. If you are calling to report a manifestation that you have witnessed, please press 5. All other callers please remain on the line. We will answer your call as soon as we can. Thank you."
- Leah, of course, had done the equivalent of pressing 1.
- The call center wasn't busy at 4:48 AM EDT, so Leah's call was transferred to a receptionist without delay. Leah saw the woman at her desk, and idle curiosity brought her more information. Christine Dunham was 28 years old and had been doing this job since March 14, 2016. She worked the graveyard shift because she was naturally a night owl, but she'd been matched to this job in particular because she was a telepath who, unusually, could connect, so to speak, over the phone, as soon as she heard a caller's voice. She was authorized to use her powers to calm panicked callers and even, in certain situations, to read their minds. She would not be reading Leah's mind, of course, unless Leah decided to let her, and even then she'd only learn exactly what Leah wanted her to learn--even if it wasn't the truth. Leah didn't want to lie, though; in this case she was content to let nature take its course, which was that Christine would sense immediately that Leah's mind was impenetrable. But Leah know that she wouldn't actually have tried to pry anyway, because Leah wouldn't be meeting any of the prescribed conditions. Even though one of the conditions was Christine's own judgment.
- "Hi, thank you for calling the Paranormal Affairs Hotline. My name is Christine. You're calling to report a manifestation?"
- Leah didn't have to think about her responses; she knew exactly what to say to make the process go as smoothly as possible. "Yes, thank you. My name is Leah Willis and my address is 1174 Elm Street, Groveton, Wisconsin, 53579. I'm 17 years old, and I live with my parents but they're still asleep."
- Christine was a little nervous when she sensed how powerful Leah's mind was. She smiled with relief as Leah talked. Leah knew the gist of her thoughts even though she was not reading her mind. Leah might be a telepath, but in any case she was probably a super-genius, because she wasn't merely cool, calm, and collected, she had evidently thought about what whoever answered her call would need to know. Better yet, that the question had even occurred to her demonstrated both empathy and high conscientiousness, two traits that were very strongly correlated with, loosely speaking, heroism. Even if Leah was a telepath, the chance that she would succumb to the temptation to abuse her powers was low. And a super-intelligent telepath who was even considering abusing her powers was unlikely to have called to report herself in the first place. Anyway, it wasn't Christine's responsibility to make any of these evaluations. It just made her feel more comfortable.
- "Thank you," Christine said, "that's extremely helpful. And what can you tell me about your manifestation?
- "I'm not entirely sure, but I have multiple major powers and significant physical alternation. I want to come in for testing and I can easily transport myself to the testing center; I just figured I should call first."
- Christine chuckled. "I have to admit, this is not how these conversations usually go. But if you feel comfortable transporting yourself, you're welcome to do so. But, uh, if you'll forgive me for saying this, you probably shouldn't leave without letting your parents know, even if it's just a note they'll find when they wake up. If that's what you want to do, would you like us to have a representative standing by to meet with them in the morning? If so I can give you a phone number to leave in your note."
- Leah immediately knew the number. "That would be very helpful," she said. She didn't consciously compose a note; she just willed the note into existence--in her own handwriting, taped to the outsider of her bedroom door--and known what it said at the time. << Mom and Dad, I have super-powers! I called the DPA Hotline and I've gone to their testing center for evaluation. Everything is wonderful but I won't be home for a while. The DPA gave me a number for you to call to speak with someone who will be able to update you about my situation: 872-419-3836. Love, Leah >>
- "Give me just a moment to find the number," said Christine, and began to shuffle for the relevant piece of paper.
- "Of course," said Leah. She almost indulged the temptation to tell Christine what it was, because she knew nothing bad would result. But it would have been awkward.
- She thought about what she could do while she waited, and immediately knew. Technically, of course, she could do literally anything in literally zero time. But that wasn't what she'd meant. A more practical idea occurred to her instead: get dressed.
- She started by getting out of bed, because she hadn't even done that yet. She could have just teleported out, but she preferred to fly instead. She willed her covers off. Technically she didn't even use her power of telekinesis; willing things to move was pure omnipotence. Either way, the covers flew back. Leah flew up and out of bed. She left behind the ruins of her nightgown: the sturdy red fabric (it was her winter nightgown) had not survived her sudden increase in size. She had literally hulked out of her clothes. The nightgown's demise saddened her for an instant, but then she grinned and willed a replacement into existence, perfectly tailored for her rather outrageous new proportions. It appeared on her body. At the same time, she willed the shreds of the old version out of existence, and they immediately vanished. The transitions were instantaneous and seamless: air was destroyed and created as necessary to prevent even the slightest disturbance. Leah smiled. Omnipotence was very cool.
- Her new nightgown was perfect, of course, but also of course, it was not what she'd be wearing to go out. She willed it to its hanger in her closet and floated nude while she considered her options. Her process of consideration was instantaneous: she did not want to wear a normal outfit; she did not want to wear what would eventually be her superhero costume; she did not want to wear baggy sweats; she preferred to wear good-looking gym clothes. The next instant, she knew what she wanted and willed it into existence at the same time. Shorts and sports bra--nothing fancy or immodest by gym standards--and a brand-new pair of tennis shoes, all mostly red with a little black. She looked great but in a totally casual way.
- She thought about trying different colors, but she didn't have to try them to try them; she could visualize them perfectly. She looked great in most of them and good in most of the rest. But red was her favorite. Exactly this shade of red. She expected that her eventual superhero costume would also be this color, and she was right. Actually the costume looked quite similar to her current outfit, only tighter and skimpier, with hotpants instead of shorts and a slightly less modest top. And boots instead of the sneakers, of course. Only low heels, though. Leah hated high heels.
- "Ah, here," said Christine Dunham. "Ready?"
- "Yes," said Leah.
- Chirstine gave it, spacing the digits out at a comfortable pace for transcription. She repeated it more quickly to confirm. "Okay?"
- "Got it, thank you."
- "Great. So if you'll leave a note and then get yourself to the testing center, that's all we need to do here. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
- "No, thank you, that's everything I needed."
- "Excellent. It was a pleasure to speak with you, Leah. Best of luck with the rest of your day."
- "Thanks, you too," said Leah, and ended the call.
- She could have simply willed herself to her destination, but she knew that she'd just end up waiting a few minutes anyway, so she decided to fly instead. First she willed herself invisible and insubstantial; then, at no great speed, she rose straight upward through the roof and into the sky.
- Groveton, asleep. There her parents; there her best friend Mallory; there her friend Bridget; there her friend Mary. Leah was too introverted to have many friends, or to be extremely tight with the friends she had, but she cared about those three enough to worry about how they'd handle this radical change. As soon as she worried, however, she knew that all three would be okay. She relaxed. She didn't have to know the details yet, and she chose not to. Slow and steady.
- She flew west.
- Super-speedsters all agreed that using their speed felt nothing like time slowing down. They also agreed that they liked it better that way, because the alternative would be really boring. The way it actually worked wasn't boring, but it was extremely disconcerting. You decided what to do and then you did it, and then you remembered having done it. But you didn't actually experience all of the doing. If you were fast enough, sometimes "you" could even make decisions while in "speed mode" and only learn what decision you'd made after you came out. Your subsconscious was accelerated enough to keep up with your body in order to control it, but your conscious mind was not.
- So it was with Leah. Her conscious mind noticed what it could; her subconscious handled the rest. When she flew at mere 8000 miles per hour at an altitude of one mile, she could identify towns as she passed above them. When she sped up a little and flew all around the planet in a single second, she could barely keep track of what state or country she was over. And when she flew billion times around the planet in a single instant, she knew she had done it, she had counted the laps, but she hadn't actually experienced anything at all.
- She appreciated that. Consciously counting to a billion would definitely have been boring.
- She had 37 more seconds to kill, so she decided to see a few sights. To Egypt! Easier done than said (assuming that saying meant speaking aloud, which required time to produce the sounds in order). She remained completely undetectable as she got up close and personal with the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. Other supers had long since located and studied almost all of the world's hidden treasures, so even though many sites and objects had been left undisturbed, there wasn't much new information to be gleaned from the relics of the past. On the other hand, Leah could actually travel to the past and observe it directly. Historians were going to love her. Or maybe hate her, if she disproved their pet theories. Well, she could live with being hated for that.
- She flew up the Nile to Luxor and killed the rest of her time looking around the Valley of the Kings. Then, at the perfect moment, she flew instantly to DPA Testing Center in the desert of northern Nevada and appeared in midair in the middle of the small, rarely-used lobby.
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