Monitoring: Ayaan Yadav
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
3:15 p.m. India Standard Time
Friday, August 15th, 2014
9:45 Coordinated Universal Time
Friday, August 15th, 2014
Ayaan isn’t bitter at the turn that his career has taken. Annoyed, sure, but not bitter. Ayaan doesn’t consider himself to be overly selfless–you have to help yourself before you help others, after all –but it would take a spectacular amount of selfishness and lack of perspective to be resentful of his present circumstances. He’s isn’t masking up to fight crime anymore, but he’s still doing good, and now he’s got nice company to do it with. At the worst, he’s back where he started before he got powers, and that isn’t too bad. And it goes a lot more smoothly than it did at the factory.
“Okay, how about The Justice Society of India?” he says. An overly-large sweater passes on conveyor belt beneath his hands and turns a brilliant (or garish) purple.
“I already said ‘no’. You can’t change one word and expect me to be okay with calling ourselves the Justice League,” says Ananya. Her fingers tap in irritation, but her wrist never leaves the small metal disk that connects her to the building’s electrical system. It’s a stopgap measure, intended to draw some measure of utility out of her while the engineers build a system that can handle a higher capacity.
“It’s not the Justice League,” he protests. “Entirely different.” He tugs at one of the sweaters at it passes by and makes it a dull green.
“Is it from a comic?” she asks.
His gift is rather different from hers, a little lackluster in comparison but more flexible on balance. Ayaan can change clothing. There are certain physical properties that he can influence, increasing or decreasing mass within a particular range, affecting thermal and electrical conductivity, even changing the color. These sweaters that he’s working are on being made into armor, as light as a feather but more durable than steel. The purple is just for fun, because it’s nearly impossible for anyone to change the color further.
Ayaan ignores her. “Okay, so what about The Young Allies?” he suggests, and Ananya frowns at him.
“We are not a superhero team,” she says. “Running into legal problems over the name is not even my second reason for objecting, let alone the first. The name is awful, anyway. Stick to stealing them from the comics.”
“Actually, that one’s a comic too,” says Kyra, from the other side of the room. She lifts her tablet for the others to see. “Four of them, Marvel and DC. If he says Young All-Stars, that’ll be another one too, Battery Lass.”
“Whose side are you on?” Ayaan asks, at the same time that Ananya cries, “I’m not a battery! And don’t encourage his names,” she adds.
“Because we should act like professionals?” Kyra asks.
“This is a military operation, if you’ll remember.”
Sure, Ayaan thinks, but it’s pretty easy to forget. They talk to Colonel Sharma more than anyone else, and he might wear a uniform but to Ayaan he registers less as an officer than he does as Ananya’s dad. And Ayaan has seen less violence now than he did in those brief months when he was working independently.
“Maybe I wouldn’t spend our time coming up with names if we knew what the government called us.”
“We don’t need to know that,” Ananya insists. “Why are you even here, Kyra? Ayaan and I are stuck here, but you could be with the others.”
“Because it’s fun to watch the two of you run through the same conversations without realizing it,” Kyra says, and Ananya twitches.
“Have you… Have you been using your gift on us?” Ananya’s hand just barely keeps from lifting away from the circle.
Her face twists angrily and she’s about to say something else, but Kyra shakes her head. “No. Come on. I wouldn’t that. Just, you know, say that I did. But I wouldn’t, really, and you can check the cameras if you think I’m lying. I don’t think I could even do it, anyway. I can only remove myself from your memories, not take away the memory itself.”
“It’s still a little messed up to even say it,” Ayaan says.
“Now who’s on whose side?” Kyra says, smiling.
Ananya shrugs and looks away from them. “You’d be more annoyed with it if he had given you a stupid name like…” She pauses for a moment. “Forgetagirl, instead of Phantom.’”
“He named himself The Cape, Ananya,” replies Kyra. “It’s not an insult, even if it is kind of stupid.”
“I prefer ‘classic,’” says Ayaan. He tries to cross his arms but he has to remain in contact with the clothes moving over the conveyer belt so they get positioned awkwardly, in a misshaped pretzel sort of way. “The names aren’t stupid.”
The physical cape itself wasn’t stupid, either. He got a lot of mileage out of having some extra fabric to play around with when he was fighting crime and not sitting in a warehouse potentially putting the body armor people out of business. Ayaan might get it back one day, too: Out of all of them, he’s the best-suited to working under fire. He’s never done it, and hopes that he’ll never have to, but he imagines that someone could do a lot of damage to someone’s skull by dramatically increasing the mass of a glove just as it comes swinging down.
“At least you could steal names from Indian comics,” Ananya says.
“Nobody reads those.”
“Well maybe you should start. How are they supposed to compete if you don’t read them?”
“Why should I care if they can compete?” is what Ayaan doesn’t say. He doesn’t want another lecture, so he only shrugs, and after it becomes apparent that the conversation has died, Kyra suggests that they watch a movie.
Ayaan considers asking if they have the recent Captain America film but thinks better of it. That does give him another idea for a name, though, and he leans over in Ananya’s direction. “How about The Guardians of the…Earth?”
“No,” she says, more lightly than earlier, and Ayaan decides to not press his luck with another suggestion.
They end up watching, at Kyra’s insistence, Carry On, Munna Bhai, a musical drama about a Mumbai gangster who gets romantic advice from Gandhi’s (probably hallucinated) ghost. It’s…better than Ayaan would like to admit, but not the best thing he’s seen. As the credits begin to roll, Ayaan considers another name that he’s been considering and decides to take a chance.
“How about ‘Powerful Current?’”
“For me?” Ananya asks, and he nods. Her lips move silently, as if she’s trying out the name, and she shrugs. “If that’s what it takes for you to stop calling me a battery.”
“And what about ‘The Champions?’”
“Don’t push it.”