He ignored the people, viewing them mostly as obstacles to maneuver around. In his nine months in NYC, he had failed to meet a single individual that he felt was worthy of his friendship. Sure. he had high standards. But he was also an excellent judge of character.
Fifteen years in foster homes had left him more than a little detached.
He'd been bounced around long enough to know that most families were bullshit. So a few months before he had the option of applying for emancipated minor status, he forged an impressive set of identification papers and credentials, and took off for the city.
Why? Because he had bought into the Hollywood premise that the city was a vibrant, exciting place, full of interesting and colorful people. It wasn't. But for his purposes, it still suited him well.
He passed a man in the street and the thought came to him, "murderer".
Kent didn't know how he knew, but he did. He also knew the information was passed on to whoever dealt with such matters. He passed a pair of rapists soon after, and the scenario repeated.
He only concerned himself with rapists and killers. When he'd first become aware of his unique ability, he also monitored for thieves. But that's not exactly true. When he'd first become aware of his powers, he was sure he had gone insane. After a period of adjustment, he marked off the city's thieves, murderers and rapists. It was too much work, as virtually everyone showed up as a thief of some sort. He learned to tune them out.
One of the reasons Kent was in such a funk was that he'd just viewed the latest X-Men film. The entire premise bugged him to no end. A school for mutants? As if. Unless your mutant power was recognizing other mutants, there was absolutely no reason in Kent's mind that they should all be aware of each other, much less work together.
He gritted his teeth, and the ground trembled slightly. He really needed to work on that.
That was something else that bugged him about superheroes in general, they were all too perfect and selfless. And for what? To protect a bunch of norms that were unappreciative at best,. and at their worst, hostile and malicious.
Kent only helped them out because he couldn't stop. While he could crank it down to a degree, he had found that there seemed to be no way to shut it off completely. So he embraced his role as best he could, and just sort of tried to get on with his life. Being a mutant was lonely work. He had to assume he was a mutant, having rejected all other possible explanations. There was simply no one on Earth he could relate to, as far as he could tell.
He had stopped on the corner to wait for the light to change when he first saw her. He was absent-mindedly scanning the crowds on the opposite corners when his eyes came upon a girl roughly his own age. She stood out in sharp relief from the others, as if he were zooming in on her. It was something he hadn't experienced before.
She glowed and sparkled like a damn Hollywood vampire.
He shook his head and dismissed her, focusing his attention on another corner. And there she was again, smiling an impish grin that was clearly directed at him. He looked back at the other corner, and she was still there, as well.
Kent looked to the third corner to test a theory that was rapidly forming in his mind. She was there, also. Three of them. The thought came to mind that he would probably be happy with just one of them.
Without thinking, he reached behind himself and his hand closed around a slender wrist. Then he felt it disappear, along with the other three of her.
Joy couldn't resist. She'd been tailing him off and on for a week before she decided to show herself. He was cute! And clearly an alien. She couldn't tell what his abilities were, but she sensed power there. But he wasn't from her planet. Wherever that was. As far as she could tell, she was entirely unique on Earth. The thought made her lonely.
So he made for a delightful new diversion from work. They had a lot in common.
But that name! She had stalked him in various guises until she felt she knew him completely. Or at least she knew his secret identity really well. So contrived. She wondered if he thought he was from Krypton.
At least he wasn't a reporter who wore glasses. His day job was middle-grade web programmer in one of the Soho boutiques or salons or whatever the current trendy term for office was there this month. Although he was a blogger, which was close.
But it was his blogging that was so attractive to her. They shared similar interests. It was a good thing, because he otherwise seemed to lead a pretty boring and routine life. If he ever did any superheroing, Joy didn't see it.
Kent ran a website called LetsKillSomeMotherfuckers.com. It was basically a news aggregation site, but he wrote regular Friday columns that really connected with her. He hated humans with a passion.
The site automatically gathered news articles about convicted rapists and murderers, listing their full names, crimes and cities of residence. In some cases, their home addresses. There was a disclaimer on the bottom of the page in eight-point type: "Parody site. Not to be taken seriously. Don't kill any of these motherfuckers."
But Joy knew that was just cover-your-ass. What it really was was a hit list. And she knew this because she had already used it twice since she shoulder-surfed him while he was updating the site at a Starbucks. It was sort of funny. She approached him in the form of a dumpy latina barrista, complete with dark moustache. She wiped down a few tables, then began wiping around his laptop, shaking the table and spilling his coffee.
He stood up and cradled his apparently precious Mac Air to his chest as she half-heartedly mopped the tabletop. All she needed was the URL, and she had it.
When he was angrily stuffing his gear into his bag, she disappeared. Before he left, he complained to the manager, and was informed that no such employee existed. He bit his tongue and left. Thinking about it, she did seem to be in violation of their Beautiful People policy. He put it out of his mind. Pondering imponderables was a waste of time.
Joy was on her phone within minutes, looking up his website. When she realized what it was about (as if the domain name wasn't enough), she felt a small chill. Not of revulsion. It was like he knew her too well already. She'd found a convicted rapist in the city who had received probation. Outrageous.
One of her projections knocked on his door, seduced him, and then summarily castrated him. It was far from her first, but it was the first time she did it with help. Like they were a team.
She didn't know the specifics. Her projections had no feelings, and the details were blocked to her, but she knew she got results. She also knew something else happened, because she had never read a news report about convicted rapists found with their balls cut off.
She did think about it, though. It was impossible not to. Did they cut them off? Bite them off? Dentata action? She knew when she wasn't watching and actively controlling them, her holograms were capable of anything. She was pretty sure at least one had transformed into a fierce black dog and bitten them off.
Joy was a little jealous of her projections. Not so much for the killing part, but because she knew they were enjoying the seduction aspect, if it were possible. She thought of them enjoying the sensation of warm, wet lips crushing their own, strong hands grabbing and groping them.
She signed, and black smoke streamed from her mouth. A passerby saw it and did a double-take. But she didn't care if people saw her projections or not, anymore. What could they do about it, anyway?
Back at home, she counted up her take from the Starbucks.
The encounter with the girl had left Kent shaken, stirred, and drained. He was ordinarily in complete control of his thoughts. Now his mind pendulumed back and forth between paranoia and eroticism.
Who was she? What was she? She was hot! There were four of her! What did she know about him? How much? What should he do? Would he see her again? How? Did he want to? Yes!
She had been completely shielded to him mentally, until he touched her. Then he understood what an anomaly she was. A murderer, much like the ones he routinely tagged and dispatched. But a good murderer. His kind of girl.
He had encountered such situations before, on occasion. Sometimes he would note a murderer, and then receive a vision of their justification. A few follow-ups on his part revealed that these people were never taken away. There was such a thing as justifiable homicide.
His normal detection range was a square mile or so, and not limited by speed. He could work just as well at forty miles an hour as standing still or walking. So at least once a month, he took the train randomly around the city, or took a cab ride across town.
Kent never had a specific destination in mind. He considered it a form of garbage collection. But on each jaunt, he would encounter a feeling along the way that told him it seemed random, but wasn't. There was a bigger, specific target that he had been led to.
This had the unintended outcome of grouping criminals geographically, as those that remained beyond his areas of influence were more or less safe. Unless the bumbling police managed to get one right for a change. It happened occasionally.
He had even considered joining the police force, or hiring on in some administrative fashion, to access the unsolved cases and pending investigations. But he'd dispatched more than his fair share of dirty cops already. Enough to turn his stomach and mind away from such thoughts. Any organization that was corruptible wasn't worth having. Joining one that was already corrupt was ludicrous. He disliked the absurd, much as Hitler despised surrealism.