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06/10/2004 12:59 PM

New York. Filled with people, busy people, bustling about the streets with suitcases or stuck in a car, waiting for the end of rush hour, although rush hour is not much different from any other in this sleepless city. Even tourists are harried. They hurry along the streets, trying to experience as much fun and excitement that the city offers before their short vacations end.

But, as always, there is another side to this coin. Bums and homeless lie in shade or under shelter from the elements, waiting for generous tips, easy food, or just human company. Most of them are calm about their fates, knowing in some part of their mind that the lucky day that they've waited and hoped for: the lotto ticket, roulette wheel, or happy philanthropist, will most likely never come.

Walking down the sidewalk on a (relatively) calm street, a young man. His hair is shimmering white, and his clothes are well worn, but not ragged. As if by habit, he avoids touching other people when he can. Some people, in their constant hurry, bump into him, and when they do a little light goes out of their day, they get a little more tired, inexplicably drained.

The man, Cooper, knows he could easily prevent this, but he doesn't reign in his ability, knowing that its effect will wear off. He knows his power well, and after five years of it, he should. He walks slowly, with no destination in mind. A cool spring rain runs off his hair, and occasionally, small currents of electricity arc across his fingers.

Then there is trouble. Nearing a subway station, he hears the sound of flint and steel too late. He sees the lighter, a small flame flickering against a cigarette, and a giant blaze roaring towards him. Cooper falls to his knees, hacking and retching. He receives a glare from the smoker, and puzzled looks from passerbys. The coughs recede and, embarrassed, he stumbles out of the rain, and into the subway station.

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