Negatrite is an artificial element, created ages ago by the blue-skinned Lunites. They call it thrun. Humans on the street tend to call it 'the Blue' (as in, "You've got the Blue in you."). It powers their orb spaceships, and can grant talents (superpowers) to anyone who is immersed in its rays for long enough. In a Lunite, such talents are reserved for the empress and special women in the warrior class. Negatrite is blue, glowing, and contains some sea green coloration as well.
Lunites mainly used the element for travel, and learned early on how to stimulate it via steam and/or electricity to counteract gravity.
The negatrite orb buried beneath Railroad City, Missouri was cracked by a pick axe and its tightly coiled lines of power were offset. Like a dam with a leak, the orb cracked and erupted, spewing energy far and wide. In living organisms on earth, negatrite had a more immediate effect, mutating 10% of all life, from humans down to microbes.
Some years later, the United States sent diplomats to the Moon, and began trade with the Lunites. The Empress granted thirty tons of older, less viable negatrite to America to use in their flying cloudcraft. This boon allowed the US to become the dominant power in the New World.
Although slivers of the element are still studied around the world, negatrite is often seen as more harm than good, and few ever go off in search of more. Rumors persist the Lunites buried more of their spheres below ground, but the risk of finding and excavating one is deemed too dangerous.
Many paranormals who were gifted with talents from the Blue were rated by scientists who studied it intently at the Canterra Bunker (in the Rail, built directly over the site of the 1877 blast). This rating system went from A to Z, with A being arguably unseen. Some speculate the Spaceman (now gone off into outer space) and the Avenging Savior (who died fighting the Jovians) may have been A-rated. Textbooks usually place them at a B. The following is a generic breakdown of the ratings. Keep in mind Bunker scientists (paranormalogists) alter the ratings regularly.
A: control/manipulation/emission of vast, immeasurable amounts of energy/matter. Also, possible imperviousness to various forms of harm, aging, disease, sickness. Internal organs may no longer classify as human, but godlike.
B-D: same as A, but several steps down in terms of output. The typical explanation is in doubles. B is half the power of A, C is half as potent as B, etc. EX- Spaceman, Avenging Savior
E-G: control/emission of energies, but little to no ability to manipulate them. This stage includes paranormals who change their entire physiology into forms beyond flesh (metallic, rock, elemental, mineral, etc.), and ones who have tremendous physical powers. EX- Chance. lawman who 'can't die' (he does, and has, a lot, but comes right back and better than before)
H-P: a wide swath of letters, and here is where it gets confusing. These represent an ability to emit power or have internal power (superstrength for example), but no ability to control or manipulate it, and usually it is one strict form of energy/matter/travel as opposed to two or more. EX- Cosme, tiny Guild heroine who could increase/decrease her density at will.
Q-U: as H-P, but much lower in potency. As for measuring potency, this is where the debate goes full on mad, and many laugh at the scale or ignore it. EX- The Huntress in Hazel, who sees the inner workings of living beings, possesses superhuman beauty and a painful ability to render someone unconscious at a distance.
V-Y: One talent, typically very limited (i.e just above the level of human possibility) or something non-invasive but very useful (super-sense, gliding, etc.). The Eighteen fit into this category, 18 people who, on the day of the Blue Silence, got only eternal youth and freedom from illness, but nothing devastating or what might make them far beyond another person. Also, Flag Banner Epsom, who could see the past of a person just by looking at them.
Z: the laughing stock. Has one talent, BUT it doesn't work without an outside stimulus (i.e generate electric shock, but must hold metal to use it).