I have a story set in a world similar to x-men where some people develop powers like x-men. However, it's not a superhero story, it takes place on a college campus and mainly focused on everyday life, discussion of powered vs no powered relations, and the mentoring relationship of protagonist and another young child.

The protagonist is going to be the type that likes to find useful ways to exploit normal powers, and both of the main characters powers are not things that you would want to use in the obvious overt ways in every-day life. Thus I'm trying to figure out what other tricks the protagonist may come up with to use these abilities.

The protagonists ability is to block the powers of others around him from working, or more accurately to absorb the energy that fuels active powers before they can manifest. However, intentionally blocking the abilities of someone else is rude, at the very least, if not arguably criminal. Besides which some people go through such severe transformations that they can only survive due to passive powers helping them to, for instance, breath despite having developed gills, so blocking everyone's powers around him could potentially kill someone; he very quickly learns to not project his blocking field for this reason.

Some of the interesting effect he manages is to sense the power he is blocking and where it came from, making him able to sense active powers used around him, and thus who has powers (he always absorbs a little of the power, even when not actively blocking), and eventually he develops enough of a 'feel' for powers to get a rough idea of the kind of power someone has by what he is absorbing; nothing specific.

He also has a young child he is playing mentor for who has the ability to read and effect minds, but uit only works on a subconscious level (both his and the targets subconscious). The kid can't read your social security number or what your think about Firefly, but he can get a general 'feel' for someone's subconscious thoughts; which acts as part ability to emotion by sensing the 'feeling' of the subconscious, and part an ability to judge character by sensing rather their subconscious thoughts are positive ones, sneaky etc. The kid does not fully consciously understand or control what he is sensing, getting his own subconscious impression of the other person, and it's left ambiguous what all he can gleam.

The kid can also slightly effect someone's subconscious thoughts, inclining them to be more accepting of an idea, to feel a certain way, or to start thinking about a certain topic; though it is not an overt control and he can't force anyone into something they are truly oppose to; and it's not clear how much he is aware of or controls this ability either, thankfully he doesn't do this too often at first.

The protagonist is afraid that a child that can subtle manipulate others to get what he wants will grow up horrible spoiled and bad if he gets in the habit of exploiting his power. When the kid acts curious about his newly developed powers the protagonist would thus want to distract the kid away from realizing the true power by teaching him other nifty, but harmless, tricks. This is the part I really need help with, what other tricks could he come up with to entertain the kid and help the kid learn about his powers while distracting him away from the obvious uses.

As of now the only trick I have is to be able to learn to sense who is behind him by learning the 'feel' of someone else's subconscious mind. In fact he creates a whole game off of that idea that he gets other kids involved in (making the kid 'guess' which kid is sneaking up on him effectively).

What other tricks could either of these two use, particularly the kid, to do interesting things with their powers. They don't even have to be useful, just a novel game for the child to distract would be good.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I can only speak for myself, but if I found someone had been "reading" my subconscious thoughts, I would feel incredibly violated. If I found out they'd been "influencing" them, I might actually consider that ample justification for killing them in self-defense. $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2015 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ Reading people's subconscious thoughts is a terrifying prospect. Even without the ability to read explicit details, knowing someone's general intent that way is incredibly alienating. People expect privacy in their thoughts, especially the ones they can't really control. Violation of that privacy would incur severe social penalties. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Jul 29, 2015 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Green Terrifying in more ways than one. The kid would probably run screaming from the room if he could read my subconscious thoughts. I fear for his sanity in the long run. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Jul 29, 2015 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre compound this ability with even a whiff of socio/psychpathy and this kid is so very very scary. I don't think the mentor is doing him any favors by distracting him from any possible discipline that might preclude any unfortunate incidents later. This power is like handing a NSA data dump to a young teenager without any kind of rules on how to handle the info or not freak people out. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Jul 29, 2015 at 20:33

5 Answers 5


You should Dexter him.

For reference, Dexter is a sociopath who's taught by his adopted police officer father to channel his homicidal nature in constructive ways - in other words, against those who deserve it. The main tool he uses is to teach Dexter a restrictive code of ethics and behavior that ensures (to a reasonable extent) that he only murders the guilty.

In your case, you should teach the child to either 1) help the unhappy become happy or 2) get guilty people arrested.

Your game structure should basically be:

  1. Give the child a target name.
  2. Have them get a subconscious read on the target.
  3. Teach them how to use the information they gleaned to look for other info, research the target and eventually figure out how to help them.

This should channel the kid's power more toward the "sensing" end of the spectrum, while also teaching them alternative tools and not solely to rely on their power.

As an aside:

When the kid acts curious about his newly developed powers the protagonist would thus want to distract the kid away from realizing the true power by teaching him other nifty, but harmless, tricks

If you do this, the kid will eventually realize what you're doing, at which point you will lose the trust of the extraordinarily dangerous individual you've been teaching. This may mean that he'll start to ignore all of your teachings. He'll also start to use his new ability unsupervised, possibly on you.

Instead of hiding it, tell him about it but point out why it's dangerous. Educate him about the kind of psychological pitfalls he could fall into if he's manipulating everyone around him. And when he inevitably messes up, make sure he's aware of what he did:

"But what went wrong? I don't understand!"

Father stopped and cleaned his glasses, thinking. I waited impatiently, sick to my stomach. Images of Angie's mother flashed through my mind, piles of new clothes around her, hands bleeding through the bandages as she mindlessly sewed on and on.

"Your friend Angie is poor. Her mother didn't work. So you made her think that work was important, so she'd have money."

I swallowed hard past the lump in my throat. "Right."

He looked at me patiently. "More important than her health?"

I protested. "Of course not. I mean..." I trailed off as the realization hit me. I felt sick to my stomach at what I'd done.

His large hand patted my shoulder. "We'll come up with a plan, then go back and fix things. But I want you to remember this, son. Humans aren't simple or easy. Far better to fix things with words." He gave me a squeeze, then continued walking.

I trailed after in a daze, bloody fingers flashing through my mind.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for Dexter. Training the kid how and why to use his powers is the best way to prevent unfortunate events. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Jul 30, 2015 at 1:41

Does this power have a maximum range? If so, kidnap the kid, take him to an island somewhere, stock the pantry with canned goods, and wait it out.

Children in general are monsters, and this kid in particular is a potential antichrist. This isn't one of those parenting scenarios you want to handle by skimming through some Dr. Spock or maybe trying out a few hints from Dear Abby. Lock it down now, lock it down tight, and keep it locked down until you can train the kid to be a 70th-level Buddhist or something.


Honestly, the only reason I can think of to have someone with power nullification guard a kid like that is to use the nullification powers on him. Seriously, this kid's power is literally undetectable mind control.

The only games I could think to use would be some kind of radar game, like flashlight tag minus the flashlight, or training him for survival, like playing ninja by sensing where people are.


I think the example of a game that you have given is a good starting point for other practices. Other game-type exercises the child could be exposed to are simple lie-detector type games (whether or not another player is being truthful) or more complex games based on similar concepts such as poker. With the example of poker the child may be able to tell when his opponent has missed his draw (e.g. a failed straight or flush draw) due to feelings of disappointment, when they are holding a strong hand (feelings of excitement or greed) or when they are hesitant to call a raise (feelings of fear or worry). The difficulty level could be raised by introducing players who are aware of the child's ability (such as the protagonist) who might be capable of emotionally bluffing the child (e.g. by focusing on the potential win of a hand they incur excitement and cause the child to overestimate the strength of their hand)

But I also think that teaching the child to use their abilities through games is not a particularly good practice because it will teach the child how to use their abilities without passing on any of the responsibilities of doing so. Eventually, the child will grow up and realize the full extent of their powers


The protagonist can sense that the kid has powers to read minds. This goes to reason that there are other people with similar powers. If such a power exists, it can be assumed that the government also has access to these people, as this would be extremely useful for solving power-related crimes.

I think your best bet here is to simply teach the child to never use his powers at all, as once one of the alphabet intelligence agencies realize what he is capable off, they would stop at nothing at getting a hold of a foolproof lie detector / intelligence gathering agent.


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