The source of their Powers was never discovered; what nobody had doubted, however, was that there was a will behind it. Both the fact that there were exactly nine of them – one for each billion people – and the fact that each of them gained their powers on January 1st, 2050, at exactly midnight local time, made coincidence a too unlikely explanation.
Once it found out about their existence, the world called them superheroes; but amongst themselves they would use the name Champions.
The people would not discover the existence of the Champions for more than a year, though, because at the same time they had gained their powers, the Universe had started responding to spells. Some would call them wishes, or prayers; whatever the name, people's intentions were starting to directly affect the real world. Like many religions had insisted, it would only happen if the person making the wish genuinely believed in it; unlike what those religions had taught, the effect of the wish appeared to be completely unrelated to its content. Someone would pray for a million dollars, truly believing in the power of prayer; a week-long drought would be the result.
Very soon, in a matter of days, people realized what happened and started experimenting. Whatever the reason for this change, it appeared to be almost mechanical in the way it interpreted the spells. They had to be voiced - mere thinking did not seem to have an effect - but the language would appear to have little relevance. Wishing for a million dollars in English, French or Chinese would all cause a week-long drought, with maybe minutes in difference; on the other hand, wishing for a million Euros or Yuan would change the length of the drought significantly and work was in progress to determine the exact relationship. Intonation, number of people making the same wish, number of repetitions - everything had an effect.
It didn't take long before the experiments were formalized; by next Fall, Universities throughout the world began adding to their curricula courses in the new science of Magic. The governments were even faster in regulating the new Spellcaster profession. The American DHS was the first to have a Magic Crimes Division, but other agencies and governments followed suit very quickly. Even the Vatican announced that they were going to convene a special council to analyze the new situation.
Ideas for further development:
- The DHS asks for the power to record everything, including private residencies, to discover people who make unlicensed wishes. It is granted, as long as the search is never done manually, only through an AI that can check warrants. The recordings are also supposed to be erased after an year but, with cryptographically-secure storage being practically free, this is not something you can count on.
- A black market in spells develops very quickly.
- The copyright lawsuits in spells dwarf anything previously seen with movies, music or patents; the next richest guy on the planet is a spell writer.
- Religious fanaticism leads to armed confrontation against the government; even regular people are uneasy with the idea of the government regulating religious prayers.