Author's Note: Okay, so I got the idea for this fic from reading Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz (one of my favorite authors ever!) and The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I just read those and had this idea and was like, I have to write this. So, for warnings, the flashbacks are going to be pretty dark. And yeah, I know that the flashbacks I put in my fics normally aren't all rainbows and butterflies, but these are going to be worse than usual. So… just so you guys know. Other than that, usual level of violence, romance won't make that big of an appearance, but it will make at least some appearance. Oh, also, I'm going to be messing with ages a little bit, meaning that some people should be different ages at the time that this fic is occurring, but they're not going to be. Alrighty, read, review, and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Young Justice, nor do I own The Darkest Minds since I'm going to be slightly basing my fic off of that series (you don't have to read the book to understand this fic, though).
Wally was pretty sure that something bad was going on.
He wasn't entirely certain what it was, or how bad it was, but he just knew that there was something. All of the adults desperately tried to keep the situation under wraps, away from the innocent, prying eyes of curious children.
Wally was smart, though. He knew how to look at a situation and read into the tiny details. He saw the way that Mom started turning off the news channel whenever he came into the room, or the way Dad increased the parental controls on the family computer that Wally was barely on anyways. He knew that Mom and Dad stopped getting newspapers delivered every day, instead getting them at work. He noticed that families would just up and leave the neighborhood without really saying anything to anyone. No one at school talked to him, so he had plenty of time to observe around him and come to conclusions: something was happening out in the Real World that made it so certain people had to go somewhere and Mom and Dad didn't want Wally knowing what that was. They probably thought that it was going to scare him.
Or maybe they thought that it wasn't going to scare him and that's what they were worried about. They were always worried that he wasn't "normal" enough, that he was too much like a freak. Wally didn't think he was normal, but if being normal meant being like the other kids in his grade, then he wasn't too sure that he wanted to be normal anyways. Mom and Dad didn't appreciate it when he told them that, though, so he never mentioned it again.
Then the bad thing going on came to him.
There was a boy in his class named Josh Jackham. His mother was a police officer, and no one knew who the father was. Wally's parents had told him to stay away from Josh because of that, but Wally talked to him sometimes anyways. Everyone had been outside at recess and some of the older kids were bullying Josh, calling him mean names that they weren't supposed to be saying and pushing him around.
Josh was getting more and more frustrated as the bullying continued, angry tears pooling in the corners of his eyes and causing him to be laughed at more. He was heaving, begging, "Leave me alone! Leave me alone!" On the last word, a bright flash of lightning split the sky, an awe-inspiringly hot beam of light crashing to the ground in front of Josh, sending the bullies flying. Josh wasn't hurt, just scared, tears finally falling and body trembling like a leaf caught in the front windshield of a car. The bigger kids who had been picking on Josh were unconscious on the ground, one of them letting out one pathetic moan before falling completely silent.
The frantic teachers rushed around. Most of the them tasked themselves with herding the children away from the scene, but they missed little red-headed Wally West who was always so silent and alone. Using that to his advantage, Wally slipped closer to the scene, watching with rapt interest. Some of the other teachers were checking over the older boys for injuries, seeing if they could rouse them.
One particularly brave teacher had attempted to get closer to Josh, but the third grader was terrified and confused and not at all in the right frame of mind to be helped. Each time the teacher came close, a rush of wind tore at her, screaming in her ear and throwing her back. With each passing moment, the air grew heavier and the sky darker. A truly impressive storm was building up only above the school, a dark mark blotting the otherwise completely clear sunny day.
Out of the corner of his eye, Wally saw one of the teachers on her phone, yelling into it to be heard over the sound of the desperate wind and the confused conversation of an entire school of kids. He tried to creep closer to the teacher, but he only caught brief mentions of, "… one of them… metahuman… just a kid… how do we deal with… be here?... thank you so…" before one of the other teachers finally caught sight of him and ushered him back towards the school, eyes wide and panicked, fingers shaking slightly in their grip on his thin shoulders.
The teacher had finally gotten him inside, breathing a sigh of relief as the two got out of the now pouring rain and vicious winds. Wally caught a brief glimpse of men in full combat gear closing in on Josh before the doors shut.
Slightly worried for Josh, Wally thought on the word he'd heard: metahuman. What was a metahuman? Was it the reason that the weather was being so weird? Did it mean that Josh was the one causing the weird weather?
In science, meta often meant something had been changed, or altered. So… altered human? Josh was an altered human? Altered so he could make the weather go all crazy? If that was what was really going on, then that was awesome! It was totally insane! The idea didn't really make sense. How could an alteration in Josh's chemical makeup allow him to affect an entirely separate entity like the weather?
Properly curious now (and a little bit afraid of what this could mean because imagine bad people having powers like that), Wally hesitantly walked up to the side of one of his favorite teachers, the one that taught the more scientific classes. It was just elementary school, so there was never anything really interesting going on, but the class was fun anyways.
After a few seconds, the teacher noticed Wally and crouched down next to him, "You okay, buddy? I heard you tried to stay out there in that rain. You can't do that, kiddo. You'll get sick out in the rain."
Wally blinked up at him and nodded seriously. The teacher smiled and patted Wally's shoulder, but before the man could turn around, Wally blurted out, "Can I go stay in your room?" The teacher's eyebrows pulled together and he looked like he was going to say no, but Wally pushed the issue before he could, "I just… I'm scared… and you know that staying your room helps me." It was true. Staying in the room, surrounded by locked cabinets with chemicals and tons of super interesting books on science that were way higher level than the ones in the library and a teacher willing to have intelligent conversation, made Wally feel accepted in a way that he never did anywhere else.
The teacher sighed gently, but nodded, truthfully understanding what Wally was saying. He gave Wally a stern warning to stay where he was before going over to the other teachers and telling them that he was going to bring the quiet redhead back to his room to help him calm down. The other teachers nodded, giving the green-eyed, friendless boy sympathetic glances and that was that.
After being led back to the science room, Wally immediately found a book he hadn't looked at yet, one about biology, and started reading. Maybe this would give him the answers he was looking for. He doubted that, but there was always the chance that the first book he grabbed would be the one that answered his questions. If it wasn't, then at the very least he'd get some useful information that might help him in his search.
Two chapters later, Wally had to admit defeat for the time being. The rain pounding down at the windows and the lightning cracking around them made it impossible to concentrate. School had been officially cancelled, but the weather was so dangerous that all the kids were currently stuck at the school as parents waited for the weather to die down enough to get the kids out.
Another flash of light illuminated the room, reflecting off the teacher's shiny mug and Wally was struck with an idea. From his spot between the bookshelf and the window, Wally called out, "What's a metahuman?"
The teacher froze, eyes widening dramatically before he swallowed and tried to cover up that reaction by smiling broadly, "Where'd you hear that word, Wally?"
"Outside." The boy answered simply, "The other teacher was calling someone and said something about a metahuman. I think it means an altered human and I think Josh is one of them and that's why everyone's freaking out. I think since he's a metahuman, he's able to control the weather. I also think this is what everyone is trying to keep from the kids lately."
A small, sad smile twisted the teacher's lips and he sighed tiredly before saying, "I was told to not tell you guys this because people don't want the kids to know, but you've figured most of it out by yourself, so there's no point in not telling you. Can you promise to not tell anyone else?"
Wally nodded and said matter-of-factly, "I don't have anyone to tell anyways."
The teacher winced, but continued with an even voice, "A metahuman describes someone with abilities beyond normal human limits. Scientists think that there is a certain gene that is altered to give someone these abilities, but that's just a working theory right now. Good?" Wally nodded studiously, and the teacher continued, "Metahumans have been around for a long time, but, recently, there was a boom of them. Their numbers have drastically increased, and people feel threatened by that. These metahumans aren't natural. They're something different, something dangerous. I mean, look at Josh. He hurt those boys with his powers. So, the government has created camps for these metahumans. They're rounding them all up and sending them to the camps where scientists are working on a cure and are helping the metahumans to control their powers and stop being so dangerous. Still good?" Wally nodded again, and the teacher finished with, "We're keeping this from the kids because you don't need to be worried about your friends turning into metahumans and being dangerous. That would just be bad for you guys."
Wally nodded for a third time and accepted the answer. Mom and Dad always said that adults did the things they did to help kids and Mom and Dad never lied. Unless it was to help Wally, of course.
The rest of the answer was kind of sad, though. He didn't want Josh to go away. Josh was one of the only people who talked to him. Josh was never a friend, but he wasn't overly hostile like a lot of the others. He hadn't thought that Josh was dangerous, though. Even when he'd hurt those boys, they'd been hurting him first and Josh had seemed just as scared as the teachers had. But an adult told him that Josh was dangerous, so he must have been. Maybe you started out not dangerous but became dangerous because of the powers? Maybe, maybe not. Wally would figure it out eventually.
But he was curious. Was it the anger that had started the powers? Or was it something else? How did one start being a metahuman? Wally opened his mouth to ask the teacher that, turning towards the front of the room, when there was a sound like shattering glass behind him. Wally saw a bright flash of light from behind him and he saw the expression of horror in the teacher's suddenly pale face and he saw his own body instinctually trying to move as if he were watching the situation from the side.
Inside, there was a calm acceptance of the fact that he was about to be hit by lightning (the lightning that Josh had created with his anger, a part of his mind whispered). Outside, there was only blood draining from his face and an incapability to move in the face of his shock.
And then, there was an impact like what Wally imagined getting hit by a truck would be like and Wally gasped. The sound became strangled in his throat, caught between the crippling fear and the scream of pain that wanted to rip its way out first.
He tumbled forward, still propelled by the bolt of lightning that broke all rules when it hit him instead of the lightning pole or the taller trees nearby. Wally smashed into a cabinet of chemicals, the lightning smashing around him and shattering the thin cabinet doors, sending shrapnel flying everywhere and drawing big lines of fire on Wally's skin. He vaguely registered liquid spraying up around him, coating him and causing the stinging aftereffects of that painful lightning to intensify, shaking his thin limbs and forcing his muscles to spasm sporadically, eyes fluttering shut as the pain overwhelmed him.
Opening them again took longer than he'd wanted. After his eyes had closed, the world had kind of seemed to shift around him. He didn't feel like he was in the real world anymore. There was a swirling vortex of light and feeling and emotions that he would never have the proper words to describe. It felt like coming home. And, honestly, that was why it took so long to open his eyes. He didn't want the beautiful feeling to go away when he woke up and he knew it would.
The sound of his Mom and Dad talking with the doctor was what finally brought him to open his eyes. Mom was wringing her hands in distress, "Are you absolutely certain, Doctor?"
He nodded seriously, "There's no other explanation for how quickly he healed and recovered from the cuts and metal burns, ma'am. I am very sorry to have to be the one to give you this news."
Dad's voice was gravelly with controlled emotion when he said, "Is there any way to fix… to fix… it…" Wally's Dad looked the same as normal, hands crossed over his chest and big, broad shoulders squared, stood at least a foot away from Mom like usual. But Wally had never heard Dad struggle to say something. Dad was sometimes scary when he was mad, and he was never really around, but he was strong and brave and took care of them. Whatever was scaring him enough to not be able to talk about it had to be really bad.
The doctor gave the two a sad glance before shaking his head. Dad sighed and nodded, "I'll call the Collection Agency."
The doctor shifted slightly and offered, "If you'd like, I can call the Collection Agency? You two can stay with your son until they come." Mom nodded and started crying.
As soon as the doctor was out of the room, Wally tried to speak, coughing when he realized that his throat was bone dry, before blinking up at his parents and trying again, "Mom? Dad? What's going on?"
They weren't coming any closer to his hospital bed. Mom was still crying, the sounds only getting louder when he started speaking. Dad's jaw ground together, eyes cold and shut off. Wally shrunk back in the bed, confused, "Mom? Are you okay?"
His Mom shook and blinked tears away at him, disgust lining her expression. She didn't even speak to him, turning to Dad and saying, "I can't do this. I'll be in the car."
Dad didn't say anything, only nodding at his wife and staring Wally down from several feet away. Knowing that Dad didn't like it when he repeated questions, but so confused that he didn't know what else to do, Wally asked again, "What's going on, Dad?"
Dad let out a frustrated, scared breath, rubbing an aggravated hand through his hair. He took up pacing, muttering to himself, "We can never have kids again. What did we do wrong that our kid ended up being a freak? What evil deed did I do to be punished with this? Wallace wasn't supposed to be a metahuman."
Wally interrupted him with a gasp, sitting up so fast it made his head spin, bright spots of light sparking in the corners of his vision. He blurted, "I'm a metahuman? How? Was it because I was hit with Josh's lightning?"
But his Dad wasn't listening. Dad stared at him with abject horror, quickly stepping away from the bed that held his son. Voice stern (but shaking like the fingers of that terrified teacher had shook), Dad said, "Wallace. Do not move. Stay exactly where you are. Do you understand?" Wally nodded, scared at the serious note in Dad's voice (scared of the terror Dad had in his eyes when he looked at Wally). Dad continued, "You are a metahuman. I don't know how it happened. The Doctor is calling some people who are going to take you somewhere safe. They're going to keep you away from normal people, so you can't hurt them."
Wally was shaking his head before Dad had finished speaking, "No… no! That's not true! I would never hurt anyone! You don't need to send me away! I'll be good, and I'll fix myself! I swear!"
Dad's voice thundered in the small room, "Shut up! Shut up, Wallace! You are going with these people. No arguments! That's final!"
With a sudden clarity, Wally realized that the people were standing just outside the door, faces carefully blank. Three of them stood there, all men, all incredibly muscled. There was a patch on the arm of each of their uniforms that read 'Collection Agency'. Wally blanched at the sight of them.
A tall one with darkly tanned skin and thick black hair, a small mustache settled on his upper lip, spoke seriously, switching his gaze between Wally and his father, "Sir, we need you to leave the room. We will take care of this." He had a slight accent, but Wally couldn't identify it. He wasn't sure why that bothered him so much.
Dad sent one more look Wally's way, expression softer than Wally had ever seen it before. And then he was gone, swept around the corner to never be seen again. One of the men, built taller and broader than the rest with a huge face set in a furious scowl, stalked towards Wally. His black hair was swept to the side and messy. He was terrifying.
Wally tried to scoot back in his bed, but everything was acting weird. The men were moving so slow and something howled around in his head, limbs itching with a want, with a need he'd never felt before. There were more sparks behind him, machines shorting out and flashing in warning. The heart monitor started letting out a steady beep, a flat line showing on the screen.
Still struggling, but all tangled in his blankets, Wally was helpless when the third man came up behind him and gripped him by the hair, holding him still as the huge man started ripping out wires and IVs. Wally whimpered in pain, but the thin, pale man shook Wally's captive hair in a warning to be silent.
The dark-skinned man and the pale one each grabbed one of Wally's arms, dragging him down the hallway and out of the hospital. Nurses and doctors were staring at Wally with a sort of disgust. Wally realized with a sense of dawning horror that they didn't see a kid being dragged off without his consent. They saw a monster being taken away for their own safety.
The knowledge, mixed with the fact that everything was speeding up and slowing down around him without any sort of pattern, made Wally give in. He couldn't get past these big, strong men and there was no way that anyone would help him even if he shook them. He couldn't escape by himself because of the wacky speeding up and slowing down that only seemed to be affecting him. So, he shuffled along limply between the two men, bare feet cold against the ground and hospital gown thankfully clasped shut around him.
Wally was dragged into some sort of bus. It was a little smaller than a usual school bus and it was completely white. There were no windows on the sides, making it seem kind of like a big van. When he was shoved inside, he saw that there were a bunch of benches without backs. They forced him back a few rows and pushed him down next to someone who didn't look much older than Wally from the glimpse he'd gotten.
Then the men were yanking his hands behind his back with bruising force, dragging them together and cuffing them, adding a layer of zip ties and chaining the whole thing to the ground before moving on and doing the same thing with his feet.
Finally, finally, they left him and went to different positions on the bus. The dark-skinned one moved to the back of the bus, grabbing a gun and holding it with lethal intent in his eyes and the point leveled at the group. The pale one sat towards the middle, gun held with the same deadly intent and lack of remorse. The huge one took up a similar position in the front, facing back towards the gathered group. Within a moment, the bus shuddered to life and revved its engine.
In the brief moment that the engine was still loudly starting, the boy next to Wally leaned over and said, "Hey, I'm Cameron. What's your name?"
"Wally." He answered back, shaking slightly in his seat. He snuck a glance at Cameron and just prevented himself from doing a double take. The kid's skin was pale, almost tinged blue like he was suffering from hypothermia. He had a shock of white hair on his head, fluffy and tangled. His eyes were a startling blue, but one of them was swelling shut from a huge shiner.
Cameron whispered carefully, "You a criminal's kid too?"
Wally slid his eyes over to Cameron, startled, "Your parents are criminals?"
Cameron grinned slightly, "I'm taking that as a no. And yeah, dad's a villain. A lot of us on the bus are in that kind of situation. The kids are those whose parents are criminals and when CPS was trying to find a place for us, they realized we were freaks and sent us off to the Collection Agency. The adults are actual criminals who were arrested. So, that's not you?"
Wally shook his head slightly and whispered back, "No. My parents realized that I was a metahuman and had the doctor call the Collection Agency."
Cameron opened his mouth to say something in return, but he was stopped when one of the men came over and smashed the butt of his rifled into the back of Wally's head. Wally was sent jerking forward, the pain from the cuffs scraping against his skin a mere ghost compared to the fire that bloomed on the back of his head. Wally's eyes closed, and he breathed harshly as blood trickled through his hair, soaking into the bright material of the hospital gown. The pale man barked, "No talking!"
Luckily, Cameron didn't say anything, but his skin went frosty blue before shading over completely, body shifting into ice, frozen tendrils of frost icing over the seat they were on. Wally gasped at the first freezing touch, eyes wide.
By then, they'd attracted the attention of the other two men. One of the metahumans in the back (was that really a man, though?) started snarling and pulling at his chains, howling, "Leave them alone! They're just kids!"
Panic settled under Wally's skin as that man was clubbed with a rifle too and the other two men tried to get Cameron to stop icing the bus over. Eventually, the huge man shook his head and stepped back a little, aiming the gun at Cameron's chest.
Eyes wide and breath fluttering at unnatural speeds in his throat, time slowed even more. He saw the bullet exit its chamber, flying abysmally slow through the air. Wally knew with a sick type of certainty that if his hands were free, he'd be able to pluck the bullet right out of the air. Instead, he was forced to watch it crawl through the air towards his unsuspecting seatmate (one of the few people who had tried to be nice and talk to him and try to get to know him).
No. Wally shook his head, breathing settling as he came to a conclusion. He didn't have to just watch. He could do something about this. Ignoring the scraping pain of the zip ties and cuffs tearing away at his skin and cutting at the soft parts of his wrist, Wally pulled, leaning over towards Cameron. He felt something pop in his right shoulder and bit back a cry of pain. Finally, finally, he reached far enough to shove Cameron away. It wasn't going to feel nice on Cameron's hands, but it wouldn't be a bullet to the chest. It would, however, be a bullet in Wally's shoulder.
He did scream, then, as the bullet tore into his muscles and lodged there, causing him to slump over. The only thing that held him upright was the chains still dragging at his raw wrists and his dislocated shoulder.
Cameron screamed too, as time sped back up to normal and blood splattered his shoulder and chains pulled against his wrists. The ice melted away from his skin and left him looking like normal again, if horrified. The adults were pounding at the seats, desperately trying to get out of their restraints. They might be criminals, but they cared about a kid getting hurt, apparently.
The pale man yelled for the driver to stop the bus and the driver did, pulling over to, presumably, a shoulder of the road. Gasping for breath, Wally shook in his bonds, pain pounding through his small body. It wasn't as painful as that lightning had been, but it didn't feel spectacular either.
The dark-skinned man called for order, telling them to calm down. It wasn't working as everyone continued tearing at their bonds. Eventually, the huge one screamed for silence. The bus load went deadly silent, everyone breathing harshly and staring at the man who sneered at them, anger dripping off his body and curling around him.
Once he was assured of their silence, he snarled, "Obviously we didn't explain ourselves well enough. We are the Collection Agency. You are one of the first groups of metahumans collected for the camps. You will not use your powers. You will not speak. And, as a word of advice, do not try to stand up for someone else. You will only be hurt worse and they will be hurt too."
To prove his point, he stomped over to Cameron and Wally. He threw the end of his rifle into Cameron's ribs, causing the nice kid to cough up blood. The big man then smashed the butt of the rifle into Cameron's mouth, knocking him out. Cameron tipped over, arms akimbo behind him, still gently weeping blood from the small cuts the cuffs gave him.
Then the huge man came over to Wally. He gripped Wally's hair, ignoring the whimper and probing curiously at the back of Wally's head, "No wonder they flagged you. That's some impressive healing ability you've got there. The only sign that you were hit back here is the dried blood. You're going to be real useful." Wally squirmed in his bonds, twitching slightly with the pain movement elicited. The huge man smiled, wicked and cruel. He reached over to a first aid kit, the sound of him rifling through it endlessly loud in the silence that had overcome the bus. He wiped his fingers carefully with an alcohol wipe before thrusting his fingers into Wally's bullet wound. Wally let out a strangled scream that turned to pained moans and whimpers as the man continued to probe in the wound. The huge man started talking, "Now, now. We don't want the bullet left in here, do we?"
Finally, the man pulled his fingers out, bringing the bullet with him. Wally gasped, sagging against his bonds. He didn't even have enough in him to whimper when the man grasped Wally's chin in his bloody fingers, forcing the eight-year-old to look the huge man right in the eyes. The man stared at him before smirking and pushing Wally's head away. He stood up, towering over Wally's small form. He glanced out at the rest of the metahumans locked in the bus, "I'm sure you've been hearing about how we're bringing you to these camps to cure you and to protect you. That's false. We're bringing you here to experiment on you and make you work. It's the least you freaks can do to make up for existing. Some of you are going to be used primarily for brute force with occasional experiments – like you monster in the back. Some of you, like this little hero, are going to be used primarily for experiments. This one can recover fast enough for a lot of experiments." Wally shivered in his seat as the man eyed him dangerously before the man continued, "There will be no escape. And the punishment for escape attempts will not be something so simple as death."
He eyed them all for another long moment before turning back to the front of the bus and motioning for the driver to start driving again. He casually wiped the blood off his hands with a wipe and tossed the bloody rag on the floor.
Wally shook against the fear, the adrenaline rush, the pain, the strange feeling of his skin knitting back together as he sat there, the loneliness. He shook against the injustice of the situation. He shook against the knowledge that this was about to be his life.
Author's Note: Here we go! This is just the prologue, so this happened in the past and the story is going to pick up in the present with flashbacks to Wally's time in the camp. Let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions! Thanks for reading!