I wanted superheroes, but I didn’t just want a man in tights (not that a lot of people would object to that) but I needed a reason.
According to the fountain of all knowledge – Google – some babies are being born without their little toe. Some scientists say this is ridiculous, but others are more specific. The plantaris muscle in the foot is used by animals for gripping and manipulating objects with their feet – something you see in Apes. Humans also have this muscle but because of evolution is now unimportant to the extent that 9% of humans are now being born without it.
1 in every 100,000 people are now born without an appendix.
I was now thrilled that I didn’t need a magic wand/Aliens/ a futuristic deadly strain of the common cold or glow in the dark vampires.
My heroes are ordinary humans undergoing natural physiological transformation.
I admit to speeding evolution up a tiny bit, but hey – this is fiction.
And this is where it got to be fun.
In Five Minutes Longer each of my team of enhanced humans have a scientific reason for their ability.
In the first book we find out about Gael:
“I want to know what just happened,” Finn demanded as they shut the truck doors.
“You okay?” Vance asked Gael as Gael winced a little and took his shirt off. Vance brushed a hand over Gael’s back. No bullet hole, no blood.
Finn looked at the material on the shirt suspiciously, then picked it up. He carefully poked his finger through the hole in the back where the bullet had gone through, and with a sinking feeling, raised his eyes to where Vance was watching him steadily.
He thought a second before he ran his mouth off. Then he turned to Talon, who was sitting quietly in the front seat, watching him. “So next time someone’s waving a gun around, can I stand next to Gael, boss?” Finn asked innocently.
Gael guffawed and slapped Finn on the back. Finn tried not to wince.
“I take it this is your other ability? What is it, rapid healing?” Finn frowned. That still didn’t explain the lack of blood, though.
“Not exactly,” Gael answered.
“Gael,” Sawyer said warningly.
Gael looked at the guys sitting around the truck. “We’ve got a decision to make. We can’t work as a team without trust.” He looked at Finn. “To be honest the TV cameras saw me take the bullet, saw me move fast. There’s going to be questions anyway.”
Finn took a breath. “I know you don’t trust me.”
Talon interjected. “It’s not as easy as that. Even Gregory doesn’t know all our abilities, and we can’t expect you to lie if you’re asked a direct question.”
“I can change the…. I dunno.” Gael shrugged. “Last year I got skin cancer.”
“Cutaneous Melanoma, to give it its full title.” Gael’s scars twisted when he tried to smile. “It was shit really. It’s the most aggressive form of cancer, and you’re pretty much out of luck if it’s spread.” Gael gazed at Finn. “Mine had. Anyway, Talon and Gregory gave me a chance. We can’t get health insurance, and because the team wasn’t official, the bureau wasn’t gonna pay for anything…. So you met the Doc?”
“Well, turns out her daddy is one of the most renowned dermatologists there are, and he was fascinated with me. I had a shit-ton of tests, and I was waiting for the results when we were asked to help with a special op last year. Drug running, but they thought an enhanced was behind it, so they asked for our help… unofficially.”
Finn returned Gael’s smile automatically, even though his heart was doing its best to escape his chest.
“Things went wrong, and Talon got knocked out so he couldn’t help. They had Vance pinned down and were just going to shoot him. I thought, what the hell. It was likely I was going to die anyway so—”
“What he means is, he threw himself at the dick-head with the Tec-9 that was just about to blow my brains out,” Vance interrupted.
Gael chuckled. “The thing happened with my skin like you saw today. None of the bullets touched me. I went for a load of tests, and they found out there’s something called a Klf4 gene in everyone that is responsible for making human skin a barrier. Anyway, I won’t bore you with science, but basically the levels of it in me are off the charts. This gene doesn’t just protect the skin, though—it can have something to do with melanoma and other cancers. The doc called it ‘a double edged sword.’”
Finn swallowed. “It’s an activator and a repressor. That means it helps as well as harms.”
“How the hell do you know all this shit?” Sawyer burst out.
Finn shrugged. “It took me so long to learn to read, once I had, there was no stopping me.”
“Anyway, my skin changing didn’t just save Vance. When I got back and went to Doc’s, all traces of my cancer had gone, and Gregory doesn’t know because Doc’s father doesn’t work for the FBI. Doctor-patient privilege.”
“We keep it secret because we don’t want to end up as lab rats,” Talon said quietly, his blue gaze resting on Finn’s.
Finn frowned. “Secrecy won’t necessarily help that, though. The public knows you saved Cryer’s life—they’re gonna be more on your side.”
“Agreed with provisos,” Talon said. “I don’t want a perp suddenly deciding to see if Gael can withstand armor-piercing rounds.”
They all winced.
Talon started the truck and looked around at everyone. “We agreed on secrecy a long time ago. I get where Finn is coming from, but I’m not gonna insist on it. You all will have to come to your own decision.” Without waiting for a reply, Talon added, “Gregory wants us back at the office.”
Finn stared at his back. He hadn’t forgotten what that reporter said, and despite his nice little speech there, he hadn’t done any sharing. Finn now knew more about Gael than Talon. What he knew about Talon, Vance had told him, and Talon was supposed to be his partner, not just a member of the team. It all came down to trust. Talon gave him no direction out there. He didn’t even tell Finn to stay with him. That showed a glaring lack of trust as far as he was concerned.
He gazed out of the window. He was squashed up against the door, as Gael’s bulk sat next to him. He thought about what that reporter said about Talon. Had Talon really lost control and killed his father? Finn remembered the tightness in his chest when Talon demonstrated his ability on him, how he couldn’t breathe, how he couldn’t move.
Maybe Finn should be the one not trusting the team, not the other way around.
Did you know a human can actually change their DNA? I simplified it a little (maybe more than a little) but there’s a whole science called Epigenetics behind that question. Epigenetics doesn’t come in until the second book – One Step Sideways, but it’s just as fascinating as someone getting bullet-proof skin from the same gene that develops in the uterus to make a baby’s skin waterproof.