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Malign

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by gibbousmoons, Jan 30, 2014.

  1. gibbousmoons

    gibbousmoons Well worn.

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    Malign, a Worm crossover with Soon I will be Invincible.

    She knew she was better. All she had to do was show them, and she would. She'd show them all.

    Index

    1_
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  2. gibbousmoons

    gibbousmoons Well worn.

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    The man in the mirror had seen better days, he knew. He hadn’t lived them, hadn’t even been there, but he knew such a basic truth when it was staring him in the face, even if it was a hard one. Danny Hebert, that was what he’d been called for the past two dozen years. He sucked in his gut to hide his paunch, which had grown over the decades. That was better.

    His face, though, that didn’t match the memory- not exactly. He shifted his face into what Annette had called ‘stern father disapproving of the boyfriend’, not that there was a boyfriend to intimidate. His daughter. . . he’d never call Taylor a disappointment, but she hadn’t taken after him. No, Taylor was very much the spitting image of his Annette, and perhaps that was for the best.

    The face in the mirror was familiar, and he absently reached out with his straight razor, scratching a winged design around his head, deepening his scowl to match the image in his picture-perfect memory.

    Damn.

    When had he gotten so old?

    Had it been when he’d time traveled to the Cretaceous, or when he’d. . . no.

    He knew exactly when he’d gotten so old.

    The man put the razor down and stared at the familiar helmet on his reflection’s head. He’d been aging for at least seventy years, but he’d held onto his youth until he’d started taking his medicine.

    Oh, they’d put him on pills before, but it never really worked. Trying to treat Malign Hypercognition Disorder with mundane medicines was just as foolish as . . . he couldn’t think of anything quite that foolish. Perhaps stealing fire from the gods? Danny shook his head, and reminded himself that he was Danny.

    It took a genius to shackle a genius, and as Danny took one of the tiny white pills he made himself, he knew that the man he’d used to be had made the right choice. For however brief a period he’d escaped to a new world, found a family, raised a wonderful daughter that he was still afraid to get too close too. Was his condition contagious, genetic? Even he hadn’t known, and he certainly didn’t know now. It tainted every moment he’d had with her since his wife died, but he was, if not happy, then he was content with how she’d turned out.

    Taylor was a good girl.

    He rinsed his face and tied his bathrobe shut. It was time for breakfast, and to stop reminiscing on the past.

    As he poured his cereal he turned on the television, and tuned it to the local news. Who knew, maybe today would be the day the Dockworkers’ Union finally had its fortunes change!

    “We take you live to Brockton Bay Central Bank, where a young Tinker has made her debut by successfully robbing the building, escaping after defeating several members of our local heroes, New Wave!”

    Danny put down his spoon as the small panel by the anchorman’s head expanded to cover his television screen, revealing a young woman wearing a familiar red winged helmet striding out of the bank’s front door, dragging Glory Girl by her foot with one hand, her other clutching a futuristic pistol. The swoop of the wings covered her cheekbones and she was wearing contact lenses instead of glasses, but Danny would recognize his daughter anywhere.

    “Oh no.” He breathed.

    It was genetic.

    Introducing Malign, a Worm/Soon I will be Invincible crossover.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  3. gibbousmoons

    gibbousmoons Well worn.

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    It should come as a surprise to no one that knew me that I despised the school system and everything it stood for. The grinding down of the brightest to fit the mediocre median, the buildings’ slow slide into decrepit wrecks of their former selves due to the slow leaching of funds, the way that no teacher I’d ever met beneath those fluorescent lights was fit to teach more than a seventh grade class. Schools used to be for the future, my mother told me one rainy day as she drove me home. Lost were the days when schools nurtured astronauts and physicists, she said, and now were the dark times.

    Yes, anyone who knew me even halfway well knew what I thought on the subject.

    Unfortunately, the only decent high school in the area, Arcadia, was a private school. And so I languished in the depths of Winslow High, suffering through American History and Computing for People Who Don’t Know How Computers Work.

    But today I was not in class, and since my dad had been called in to settle one of the few new hires he was allowed to make this season, I had been left alone. My dad loved me, I knew that, but over the past few years we’d grown apart. I still cared for him in a way that I couldn’t entirely articulate, a strange mixture of father and friend, but we needed each other less. We were content to know that the other was alright, and knew that if anything came up the other needed help on, they’d be there.

    He and I had put up studs and particle board over part of the basement over Christmas break some few months ago, so that I could have my own space, my own little office where I could be alone, breathe, and work on my homework and projects.

    Of course, I don’t think he meant this kind of project, which was why I’m not in that room. In fact, I’m not even in the neighborhood, let alone the house.

    Instead, I stood in front of a stained and rusted steel door. The part of Brockton Bay called ‘the Docks’ actually runs a good ways away from the water, skirting the northern edge of the warehouse district that used to service it, and most of the buildings there are gutted, trashed by migrants or the homeless. There are a few, though, like this one, that were spared by excellent security or luck.

    The door was a slab of steel better suited to the walk-in bank vault I’d taken it from than a front entrance, but I didn’t exactly encourage visitors, and a coat of paint made it look enough like a door from its shadowed alcove that no one would notice the difference unless they already knew about it. I’d filed the markings off the dial, but I spin it from memory. It changed directions ten times, and then I was in, taking care to close the door behind me.

    A small garden sat in the middle of the room, the herbs and medicines soaking up as much light from the windows and bulbs as they could. There’s access to the storm drains from a locked door at the bottom of a stairway, and I fertilize them with the runoff I collected.

    On the left wall, sitting like some three-dimensional puzzle maze, was my supercomputer. Screens ranging from brand new to older than I am, and the chips. . . god, what I wouldn’t have given for some new chips. The math processor by itself was the size of my bed, and the liquid cooling system doubled as a space heater, keeping the building warm in the winter months.

    “Intruder detected!” Robbie said as he lurched out of his cubby, arms raised. Robie didn’t look much like a human, but I don’t have access to enough memory to include the programming that would make him move like a human anyway, well, not unless I wanted two cords running out of his back, instead of the one extension cord. “Who you be? dis is my place and I got a gun!”

    The wrag and old clothes wrapped robot gestured menacingly with the spraypainted water gun in its hand as it stepped forward, but I pulled a television remote from its holster by the door and press the big red button at the top, then a four digit combination. Robbie stopped, and I knew that the sonic cannon hidden in its upper body was slowly discharging against the wall, where it would dissipate harmlessly. I’d based the design off of ideas the army had been playing around with before it was disbanded as a waste of resources. Ultra-high frequency sound waves that wreaked havoc with the inner ear, inducing first anticipation, then nausea, disorientation, and much worse if the beam was kept on. Robbie guarded the building while I was away.

    I patted the two concrete lumps where conveyer belts had once been anchored. Written in black letters on each was ‘death ray mk 1’.

    And in the corner farthest from the door sat my pride and joy, the zeta reactor. It had taken me months to find the right parts for it, but among all the chaff littering pawn shops, dumpsters, and goodwill stores, I’d finally found just the right combination of pieces to part the dimensional veil, letting an infinitesimal amount of zeta energy through to run a steam turbine.

    My workbench was on the far wall, next to a water-damaged mannequin. The plastic body was hung with a simple red cloth suit, and wore on its head a helmet whose design that I’d based off of my inspiration. Doctor Impossible had been a legend, and if Kid Win could wear Hero’s colors, then I could wear my heroes. He’d never killed anyone, but in every one of the five battles the early Protectorate had fought against him he’d made it clear he could have.

    He was better than anyone else, and it had shown in everything about him, from the moment he slipped into Earth bet from Earth aleph to the day he vanished, as if he’d never existed. I wondered if, when he saw me on the news, he’d come out of whatever island nation he ruled from the shadows, or billionaire’s mansion he lived a life of decadence in. Would he congratulate me, fight me?

    To be sure, I knew that I wasn’t doing this for me, oh no. As I slid the helmet on my head, adjusting the wings for the right fit, I knew that I was doing this for them.

    I already knew that I was better than them, but I was going to show them, they’d understand!

    Soon, I’d show them all.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  4. Biigoh

    Biigoh Moderator

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    Oh Taylor... stop embaressing your dad... XD
     
  5. iamnuff

    iamnuff Connoisseur.

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    holy shit, how did i not notice this? ;D

    why doesn't it have more comments?

    fucking SIWBI! I love that story! Never seen a fic for it though, gotta wonder how your blending the crossover.

    Is malign hyper-cognition disorder connected to Sicon or triggers in any way, or is it something purely human? Does the PRT know about it, or do they think him a tinker? I can see Dr Impossible scorning Tinkers (and most para-humans in general) simply because they were given powers when they were at the worst moment of their lives, like a consolation prize or something, Tinker "Genius" is outright handed to them, without studying, or in some cases, even basic knowledge of the subject matter.

    I'd perhaps prefer Taylor to have her own brand of super-science completely separate from daddy's Zeta-Rays, but i can see it being a homage, she saw DR impossible being balls out awesome (on his Battle Blimp!) and decided to use bits and piece of audio footage from his battles to get clues on Zeta beams.

    how the fuck did she steal a bank vault door though? it's not exactly subtle.

    did she inherit his strength/durability, (how did he even get that? self-treatment, or something from exposure to Zeta Beams?) or was she using some sort of anti-grav to drag Glory Girl out of the bank?

    Robbie would be a hell of a lot more convincing as a "human" guard, if he didn't shout "Intruder detected" is a blatantly robotic voice when he "woke up"

    also, about DR I, the pills he made are probably the only way he could ever be close enough to "normal" to be a family man, it must have been hard as hell to convince himself to take them though, considering his views on "mediocrity" and the lowering of oneself to such things.

    I guess love can make a man do strange things?

    in the end, he was the only one who could cure (treat?) himself though, he realized there was something wrong, diagnosed himself, then found a way to treat himself. a self sufficient genius.


    hmm. is Fatale a member of the wards? Is that fairy girl connected to GU? Is magic a real thing in this setting, like it is in the Invincible-verse?





    how the fuck did this thread get no attention? Soon I will be invincible is super-hype! crossing ti with work is a stroke of (super)Genius!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  6. kinglugia

    kinglugia A Randy Avian

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    It's on SB.
     
  7. Biigoh

    Biigoh Moderator

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    Sadly, it didn't get updated here like it did on SB
     
  8. gibbousmoons

    gibbousmoons Well worn.

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    I stayed for five hours, until at two my stomach finally spoke up and reminded me that I hadn’t eaten since seven, when I’d had breakfast. Breakfast had been big, but not that big, and I carefully set down the engraving tools I was using to carve channels in the back of a recycled chip. My current project was proceeding a little ahead of schedule, which was a pleasant change from the usual array of setbacks and unanticipated problems.

    Even a keen mind, almost certainly the greatest, could make mistakes, and I’d made my fair share up to this point. I still shuddered at the memory of my failure at breeding a new strain of hyper-aggressive honeybee which produced terrible tasting honey, with which I’d hold the food industry hostage. Somehow I’d underestimated the amount of time it would take to breed a new subspecies of bee, and had promptly set that off as a long term project while I worked on more lucrative plans.

    Like working out how to get enough power to supply the things I wanted to build, mostly rays, but robots featured prominently in my frenzied notes as well. They were inefficient, hard to program, and even harder to make battle-ready, but somehow the notion had caught in my mind after reading some of Asimov’s short stories too many times. Legions of chrome-plated servants, an eternal testament that would outlast me. . . the notion had some appeal.

    But for now, Robbie was the best I could make. Subpar actuators, poor memory, needing to be plugged into the wall- that last was more indignity than anything else, but Robbie wasn’t fit for anything more than guarding a small area and scaring off the homeless. Lack of material, lack of power, lack of experience. Those were my obstacles, and though as time went on I learned more and more, invented more easily and thought more clearly, they were still stumbling blocks that had been set in my way.

    I prefered to think of them as chances to grow, and become more than I was, so it only made sense that I’d been working on the second of that list for a month now.

    From robots I’d shifted my aim. I’d identified some of my problem areas, and soon I was going to be able to cross one off the list entirely. First on the agenda was power. I needed a portable source, a reliable source.

    I needed a smaller zeta reactor.

    And as I looked down at the cylinder I knew I had it. It was smaller than a soda can, but cracking it open would make a bit more of a mess.

    It was beautiful, simple, and elegant. I picked it up, and the metal was cool in my hands. Two isolated conductive poles sat on it, along with three separate sliding pressure switches, each of which would need to be pushed along a different axis to activate the generator. Unlike the big stationary reactor, this one had priorities other than being absolutely stable.

    I opened a drawer in a salvaged filing cabinet. I’d had to replace the tracks that had rusted out, but I’d only had to spend a few minutes on that before I had a perfectly serviceable place to put things, people, am I right? Somebody spent over a hundred dollars replacing this thing, when they could have fixed it with half an hour and a screwdriver. That said, if Brockton Bay’s citizens wanted to waste their money and leave perfectly good parts sitting on the side of the road for some enterprising young villain could come along and pick them up, then that wasn’t my problem.

    The drawer held a mass of packing peanuts, and sitting on top of the white foam kernels was my key to the big leagues, my beam pistol.

    It was simple, made to be as hard to break as I could manage in order to protect the miniaturized zeta generator that I carefully slid into the breach. It was small, handgun sized, meant to be light enough that I could throw it as far away as I could with my meager strength.

    I pointed it at a cinder block, and pulled the trigger.

    Click.

    The prototype had run off a half-dozen extension cords, and plugged into my stationary reactor. It had produced a transparent beam of pure other-dimensional energy, vaporizing hamburger patties and turning bricks into dust in less than a second of sustained fire.

    My beam pistol let loose a brilliant white burst of light, the modifications I’d made to the firing mechanism making the beam bleed energy like a stab wound blood. The cinderblock shattered, breaking into dozens of pieces. Damn. I grimaced, and thumbed the dial down before firing again.

    Click.

    The same burst of light, the same almost imperceptible recoil, but this time the cinder block’s pieces were merely blasted into the wall twenty feet away, and not broken any further.

    That should be safe enough.

    I slid the hand-sized weapon into the pocket of my baggy jeans, turned off the lights, and turned Robbie back on as I closed the door behind me. I needed to return home before my father did.

    Over the past few months I’d picked up a few good habits. Jogging was one of them, but I couldn’t take very long jogs too often, especially since my workshop wasn’t very close to home, and I needed to keep it a secret. That meant that if I wanted to get work done while my father was home, I’d have to give him a time estimate, and he’d get suspicious if I took four hour jogs daily.

    So it was that my legs were shaking as I came up to my front door, fished the key out of my pocket, and let myself inside. I stored the beam pistol in my basement room and locked the door, in case of . . . anything, really, and started making myself lunch.

    Lunch was sandwiches.

    I turned on the television as I ate, amusing myself by trying to guess the stories behind what was being reported on the news, my mind making lightning-fast connections to events mentioned in previous days and weeks.

    The anchorwoman mentioned Brockton Bay Central Bank’s new security system, and I grinned.

    Sometimes, things just fall into place.

    I went to school the following Monday with a plan in my head and a spring in my step. I smiled widely as I came through the front doors, and even the oppressive atmosphere created by a thousand surging unwashed bodies was unable to put a dent in my mood. I may have been stuck in this miserable place for the next few months, but another of my problems was going to go the way of the dinosaur before much longer, and my brain was flooded in dopamine and all that good stuff, filling me with giddy anticipation.

    I had it all planned out, every step of the way. There wasn’t a single variable unaccounted for, and there were precious few steps left before I would be ready to carry out a heist Brockton Bay had never seen the likes of before.

    It was daring, some would probably call it foolhardy, but Iwas no fool.

    Unbidden, another memory arose, but I kept my face straight, my expression stern. It was like I’d been carved from rock, when I took control of my reactions. It was a skill I’d learned, and first used, just four months before.


    Mental ingredients lists danced through my head as I slid through the clusters of chatting teens- mental children more intent on petty one-upmanship and pubescent flings than their futures, until I came to my locker. I seldom used it, after all I wasn’t learning anything in class, so there was no need for me to bring my textbooks out, and I didn’t take notes.

    There was a scent.

    About my locker there was a familiar scent, one I’d grown used to over winter break, and that had filled my new lab space before I’d lined the door to the sewers to blot out the stench.

    I’d spun the dial, changing directions twice, then almost ripped the door open, fury etched in my face as I saw the damage to my textbooks, the notes I’d taken for appearance’s sake. . . they were all covered in rotting black and brown filth, spread around on cylinders of absorbent tissue and lined pads.

    The raw smell- I thought I’d smelled terrible scents before but my eyes closed reflexively as I scrunched up my nose, too late- I’d already taken a breath.

    My airways clogged as I gagged, expelled my breakfast and added to the mess, and I heard jeers and juvenile laughter behind me, all around me. I clasped my hands to my face in a futile effort to keep the odor at bay, and there was a hand on my back-

    a push-

    the door slammed.

    It was dark, and I was alone, abandoned save for filth and waste.

    I could have struggled, but I forced my body to stay still. I didn’t move, couldn’t move beyond the reflexive spasms in my gut that slammed me back against the wall, where the locker had been bolted into the cinderblock of the school.

    As the hours passed, I consoled myself with the thought that the vaguarities of my situation hadn’t changed, only the specifics. I grew accustomed to the smell, humans were adaptable creatures, I knew that rationally, and this was my second time, my second paradigm shift.

    After consolation came rage, red hot and seething. How dare they, how dare they? Forget the useless teachers, the students who were too dull to see the chance to hitch themselve to my wagon! I’d burn down their houses, alter their scholastic records, go straight to the root of the problem and tear it out with pliers!

    At the third hour- I could count the seconds as they ticked by- the hot passion that had filled me was banked to a low simmer. My goals had shifted as well, though I still dwelled on revenge, it had taken a subtler tone.

    Why did this happen? The source seemed to be the bullies that took so much joy in tormenting me, Emma, Madison, and Sophia, but why did they pick me, in particular?

    It wasn’t because I was tall, or particularly attractive. In fact, there wasn’t anything much about me that stood out, other than how smart I was, but most of the time they didn’t bully me about my grades, or what I did in class.

    They bullied me because I was the easiest target, the weakest of the ones who were readily available, I concluded. I was Emma’s former friend, and she knew how to make me hurt, how to get a rise out of me. How did that trite public service announcement go? Bullies only pick on people to make themselves feel better?

    I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of seeing me break.

    They’d get bored and wander off to torment someone else, no. They’d die of old age before I gave any of them the satisfaction of knowing that this cruel attack, that any of their attacks, hurt me. I’d go beyond that-

    From the moment I left this locker, I was going to be above them in truth, and they wouldn’t be able to hurt me any more than an ant could break a steel wall.

    When the locker door was opened by a reluctant janitor, I unfolded myself slowly, and put my feet steadily on the tile floor. Rising to my full height, not hunched over my books, I stared back at the onlooking crowd.

    Clad in filth and rotten blood I stood there and met Emma’s eyes. She’d used to be my friend. I’m not sure what exactly was in my gaze at that moment, but it wasn’t rage, or threats, or curses.

    Emma’s face went pale as the blood left it, and she looked away.


    That day changed me.

    I kept walking past my locker, the smell of rotten filth and rancid blood had been long since cleaned out of it with bleach.

    Once upon a time there had been a group of girls that bullied me.

    When I’d come back to school after my ‘medical suspension’, I’d looked forward to looking them in the eyes, unbowed, unbroken, and above their petty taunts and pranks, but I never had.

    Madison had gotten a transfer to the Catholic school on the other side of town, Emma’s family had moved to a different state, and Sophia?

    The lean track runner gave me a thin lipped smile as she passed me, and I nodded back.

    We had an understanding.

    I went to class.

    When I left school I was aware that I had a shadow, one beyond the natural kind, one that followed me as I skulked around the edges of the crowded parking lot, and crossed through a back lot to access a decidedly seedier part of town.

    I didn’t know who my stalker was, technically, but only because I hadn’t ever taken the time to check. If forced, I could hazard a pretty firm guess as the identity of this particular teenaged hero.

    Hero.

    What a joke. If Shadow Stalker was a hero, then I’d eat one of my hideout’s backup power batteries, the ones I’d made out of two liter bottles and coke, not the big packs of taped-together nine volts. I’d read up on her, and she didn’t have the right kind of attitude. In her few public appearances, she looked more like she was bored out of her mind than happy to he helping people with their problems. It was all over her body language. No, whatever hold the PRT had on her, Shadow Stalker wasn’t a hero where it counted. She wasn’t in it for other people.

    I stepped into my hideout and smiled to myself as I left the door open for a fraction of a second longer than was strictly necessary. The Protectorate had ties with Dragon, and I wasn’t willing to try breaking her code by any means. The Canadian Tinker was so far beyond me in that realm that it was humbling, and I made a point of lightly probing it every now and then, just to remind myself that there were people better than I was in their specialties.

    The Parahuman Response Teams, on the other hand. . . perhaps it was paranoia, or a misplaced sense of pride, but whatever the reason was they hadn’t let Dragon run even a firewall over their secure government server. I’d cracked it open for a lark last Summer, and found a series of backdoors into almost everything, ready to go. Included in the compromised systems was the PRT’s database on known capes, including Shadow Stalker. It listed known powers, how those powers worked, the rough-and-ready power classifications used for field operations, and most importantly, known weaknesses, and ways to negate their powers.

    It was almost cheating.

    It was cheating, and I almost hadn’t looked.

    I had, of course. There was no reason not to, and the day after I’d identified Shadow Stalker I’d set up a Faraday cage around my entire lab. Wires that I’d ripped out of the walls and ceiling ran in a loose grid around the room. I didn’t know if it actually stopped the former vigilante, but Robbie hadn’t noticed any intruders either, so she must not have cared to find out.

    Today I was rechecking my portable zeta generator against the diagrams in a small handwritten journal. I’d found it in the attic wedged between boxes full of paperback romance novels, the luckiest find in all of history. I don’t know who wrote it, the owner’s name was smudged out, but I knew that it had to be one of a select group, the elite of those who’d been associated with Doctor Impossible.

    The glowing red hue leaking out from around the containment shielding of my base’s generator proved that. Zeta energy, it had made me giddy when I’d read the words written in that cramped hand on the title page.

    And now I had a portable rift to the zeta dimension in the palm of my hand, a micron wide and self-stabilizing. Radiating enough energy to- to- do almost anything I could set my mind to!

    As long as it was actually stable, of course. That was why I was spending my third consecutive day checking it, meticulously scanning the casing with a microscope, looking for any sign of the telltale warping that would signify an unplanned force on the interior of the space-age metal cylinder. I didn’t expect to find any, and there weren’t any warnings beyond a cursory ‘be careful’ in the book I learned the basics of zeta theory from, but what kind of idiot would use tech based on someone else’s work without testing it first? That would be almost as bad as just picking up a ray gun off the ground and using it.

    But there weren’t any flaws in the containment chamber, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I slid the larger portion of the portable generator back around it.

    I replaced the completed power source in the barrel of my gun, fingers dancing along the familiar steps to open the hatch and slide the generator inside, then close it securely. Then I opened my costume case. Helmet, armored jumpsuit, zeta beam pistol, and cape. All save the pistol were in shades of bold red and striking blue, the cape a solid sheet of color, attached to the suit’s shoulders by a clasp. I set the pistol in its place on the utility belt and stepped back to take it in.

    There was something wrong.

    Light boots that would be easy to run in, a cape made from multiple layers of cotton sheets and treated with a chemical to make it tougher. The same chemical treatment had been given to the rest of my costume. It was stiffer than before, but I was sure that would only give it the impression of being made from a heavier, more expensive cloth, which would only help.

    So if not the boots, or the cape, or the bulk of the costume, then it must be the helmet.

    I took it out of the case and held it in my hands, turning it over and over, searching for the flaw that had been gnawing at me.

    Perhaps it would only be visible when compared with the rest of the ensemble? I stripped, and put on the pants, the boots, the shirt and utility belt and cape, then slowly slid the helmet down over my face.

    Half an inch of alloyed steel that I’d carefully smelted in a forge I’d constructed in the corner, the same I’d used for the casing of the pistol, it shone a soft, faint red with reflected light. The upswept wings that served as cheek guards glinted. There was nothing wrong with it. The quick-cooling crystalline structure was a perfect match for. . .

    Ah.

    The girl in the mirror was the spitting image of a familiar face. I traced it, haltingly, with one finger.

    It wasn’t mine.

    It wasn’t mine.

    I dropped the helmet, and it landed on the concrete floor with a crack.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. It was wrong!

    I stomped on it, hard, but it didn’t break. The four pound sledgehammer didn’t so much as crack it. It wasn’t until I drew my zeta beam pistol and leveled it at the offending item that I paused.

    My thumb edged off the safety. Slowly, ever so slowly, I reholstered the gun.

    It wasn’t right, but that didn’t mean I had to destroy it completely. I’d just. . . put it away, right.

    There was a cardboard box full of old prototypes, and I dropped the helmet in it, then slid it under my work desk. Right. I was fine, I just needed to get a grip.

    That took a week and I couldn’t even wear it! Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    “I’ll do it.” I whispered to myself as I walked over to a particular cabinet and pulled out a handful of zip lock bags, each filled with a different purified mineral. This was going to take a while.

    First, though, I had to design my helmet. I liked the look of the old one, so maybe I’d keep the wings. I’d have to change them, though. The old ones had similarities to eagles’ wings, broad and powerful. Perhaps something faster, sleeker.

    Extend the nose guard.

    The old helmet had a point down, an homage to a nose guard more than anything practical, but I wasn’t a Brute like Doctor Impossible had been, I couldn’t afford to take a hit to the face that would give away that I’d been in a fight.

    Bring the wings down lower, cover my jaw, not stick out as much on the top.

    The wings gave presence, true, but the pointed out on top. I didn’t want to leave anything that could snag, and protecting my jaw was important as well. Maybe I could pour out some more armored plates for my chest?

    I was going to need more wax molds.

    A week later I snuck through the sewers in the dead of night, my costume reinforced and my new helmet adorning my head. I must have gotten the silica levels a little off while I was forging it, because the metallic helm was a fainter shade of red, almost a pink while still remaining in the realm of a bright, firm red.

    My utility belt was packed full, and I had a bag slung over my shoulder. The modified motorbike and it’s cargo were sitting just to the side of the spot beneath the bank’s floor, and I’d wired the ceiling with shaped explosives.

    It was going to be a quick robbery, in and out. My goal was the vault, and the safe deposit boxes within. I didn’t know what was in those boxes, but I knew it was bound to be valuable, and this would put my name on the map.

    I relaxed my body and pressed the detonator, and the explosives brought ten feet of rubble into the storm drain. Quickly, I climbed up the rubble and blasted the glass safety wall, sending it shattering to the ground. Another blast breaks the lock on the door, but I leave the security cameras. The whole point of this is to prove myself, to show that I’m capable of anything.

    The vault door was a slab of steel, at least six inches thick, from what I could find out online.

    I thumbed the charge on my zeta beam pistol to maximum, and vaporized a two foot hole through the door and wall on the other side of the room. White hot molten metal dripped onto the floor, and I dialed the selector down from ‘Enough’ to ‘9’, then proceeded to widen the gap until I judged that I could-

    “We know you’re in there!” Someone shouted from outside, and I felt like whoever it was had a grip on my heart. “Come out with your hands up and maybe I won’t kick your ass!”

    Another woman shouted, “Surrender now, and I promise that you’ll be delivered into police custody without suffering any harm.”

    Shit.

    New Wave.

    I had a plan for this.

    Going into this situation without backup plans would have been beyond stupid, and so I didn’t, but my heart still thundered in my chest, and I had to grip my pistol as tightly as I could to stop my hand from shaking.

    New Wave wasn’t a good matchup for me. At all. Half of the team could project forcefields and energy blasts, and the other half had a downright eclectic collection of unrelated powers strong enough to make anyone stand up and listen when they were here in force.

    The bank manager’s office was near to the vault so he could keep an eye on it, and I slid through the door. His personal computer terminal would be locked, but-

    Yes. The security cameras on the outside of the bank were still running, recording data in case of a robbery. I laughed nervously as I flicked between channels. Two teens in matching costumes, white with arrows that ran the length of the color spectrum emanating out from their chests, were visible on one terminal, both of them floating over the ground. Another view showed that they’d covered the area around the front of the bank in a shield. They were Laserdream and Shielder, and each could fire blasts of energy and create forcefields.

    I switched cameras again, and recognized another pair of figures. Glory Girl and her mother, Brandish. Glory girl was about my age, and wore a white sundress as her costume. She didn’t need to wear any more, since as far as I knew nothing had ever hurt her, and in addition to that she was incredibly strong, and had an aura that played on the confidence of people around her- just the kind of combination of powers and superhuman thuggery were present to make her stand out on my list of people not to get arrested by. Hopefully her mother would be able to reign her in. Brandish wore white and orange, and carried a police baton and riot shield made of white energy.

    “Where’s the rest of your group?” I shouted out to buy time as I tapped through my utility belt, making sure I knew where everything was. “I’m willing to give you time to call them to help. It’s the only way I’ll get a fair fight.”

    Carol Danvers, Brandish, was the only adult present, so when Glory Girl failed to try to badger me outside she responded. “I’m willing to give you until the count of ten to come out here, and then we’re coming in.”

    Well, hadn’t thought that would work. “As if!” I pressed myself up against the side of the office door and measured the distances. If I ran for the hole in the floor, would I make it?

    No, not with Glory Girl and Photon Mom’s kids there. I’d go down to a blast of light to the back, or a haymaker in my side, before I was halfway across the lobby. How had they gotten to me so quickly?

    I refreshed my getaway plan in my mind. I’d been caught in the act, which got rid of the first two plans. The third though, it still had promise. I couldn’t see the computer monitors from this angle, but I remembered where the heroes had been. I drew my pistol again and aimed it carefully.

    “I know a good lawyer who works pro bono.” Brandish continued to try to talk me down. “That means ‘for free’.”

    I knew what ‘pro bono’ meant. I wasn’t fluent in latin, but there were a smattering of phrases that kept popping up in textbooks, so I knew them.

    I judged the distance one more time, then fired the pistol. Zeta energy blew a hole in the bank’s wall and scattered brick dust into the air, but the bright red beam continued almost unobstructed, and hit Brandish’s shield head on! The shield didn’t break, but it still obeyed the laws of physics as Newton understood them, despite being made of solid-state energy.

    Brandish tumbled, blasted down the street by my sneak attack.

    Step one. Keep them off balance.

    Inside of a moment, Glory Girl was in front of me, hand held back to deliver a super strong punch. She wouldn’t want to hold back after I’d attacked her mother, but her muscle memory should make her pull the instinctive punch.

    Her fist his the super alloy plate protecting my stomach, and the plate broke.

    I folded up, wheezing for breath as I tried to uncurl my fingers. I succeeded just as the teen hero grabbed my hair and yanked me backwards. “If you-” she snarled, but stopped when she heard the steady clink-clingle of metal hitting the floor.

    About half the size of a large marker, my smoke bombs are hardly elegant. They work, though, and they work fast. I dove down below another punch as choking white smoke erupted from the bomb with a crack and hiss, then crawled towards the hole in the ground, firing a quick shot at Glory Girl that glanced off her shield. If I could just get to my escape tunnel in time, I’d be as good as home free.

    That didn’t happen, though. Instead what happened was that Glory Girl stepped on my cape. It fastened to my shoulders, and only the close-fitting nature of my costume stopped me from taking the sudden deceleration on my throat.

    “You don’t get to crawl away like that! You’re going to jail, uh. . .”

    For the first time, Glory Girl faltered. Banter, you either love it or you hate it, and she certainly loved it. “You so small time I haven’t heard of you, or are you new?” She was smaller than me, and had me by my cloak, so I was hunched over some.

    “. . .” I whispered, then coughed.

    Glory Girl leaned closer.

    I thumbed the dial back to ‘4’, pulled the trigger, and held it.

    She smirked at me as her shield absorbed the beam. For about four seconds.

    Then it shattered, and my Zeta beam hit her dead in the gut.

    Step two. Beams, know them and love them.

    A split second where my shadow moved was all the warning I had before I was shot in the back by a blast of glowing white light. Laserdream and Shielder! Damn, of all the people to forget about. I raised my cape up with one hand to shield my face, and grabbed Glory Girl’s semi-conscious body to haul her out of my way.

    The two of them were just inside the lobby, and were standing on the ground, apparently having decided that the ceiling was too low to hide in, and even as I watched the shield went back up. It was Shielders, which meant it was probably better on average than Glory Girl’s. At least, if the information I’d found in the PRT’s databases was true. It had worked out just previously, but could I push my luck?

    I glanced at the hole, then at the other two members of New Wave. If I wanted a clean getaway before Brandish got back, I’d need to finish this fast.

    My hand went to my utility belt at the same time that Shielder made a gap in his shield, and Laserdream fired through it. It hurt, but I took it on my cloak, which absorbed most of the hit. I opened the first pouch and threw a tin cannister at the two of them. It bounced off the shield and erupted into more thick, cloying smoke at the same time I popped my filter over my mouth.

    White smoke filled the building, and I crept off to the side, not towards the hole but away from it, all the while dropping one, two, three more cannisters, my entire four bomb complement. Laserdream fired a handful more blasts of light, and one hit me in the back, hard, but I locked my teeth together and tried to not give my position away as the attacks in my general direction slowly tapered off.

    Once the knock-out gas cleared, I popped my rebreather out of my mouth and stood up. After that display, Brandish was probably outside, waiting on reinforcements from the rest of New Wave. I needed to get out of here.

    But. . .

    I straightened up, and grabbed Glory Girl by the leg. For someone who hit so hard, even while holding back, she sure was light as I dragged her to the door. The door was a problem, since it was locked. I blasted the lock clean off, and entered to a frenzy of lights and sounds.

    News vans, at least three, were parked outside a police barricade, and I was struck with fear at the sudden silence as I exited the bank, Glory Girl dragged behind me by her foot. “I did this.” I said in the silence, for lack of anything better to say. I’d had a speech, about how I’d show how much I was worth, that I was just plain better than anyone else on this miserable rock, but all of it fled in the face of the awe-filled faces staring up at me from the street. “I. . . Did this.” I whispered to myself. Brandish stared at me from just in front of the barricade, stone faced.

    One of the news reporters shouted a question. “Who are you?”

    I dropped Glory Girl’s foot and sneered at the reporter. “Malign.” Then I swept back into the bank, cape billowing behind me. And I ran like hell for the getaway tunnel.

    I jumped over Laserdream’s supine body as the door slammed open behind me, and Brandish’s heavy footfalls rang on the floor.

    “The rest of the team is nearly here.” She shouted as I rolled down the slope of rubble. “We’ll hunt you down!”

    I think I’d upset her, but in all fairness her daughter came after me first.

    Fairness? Who was I kidding. My rebreather was firmly in my mouth still, so I couldn’t shout back, but I did fire my pistol wildly as I began my descent, scarlet beams of energy blasting jagged gouts along the sides of my tunnel, holding the close-ranged Brandish at bay for the moment. Lady Photon was a flyer too, and even if she was bringing the last member of New Wave her average response time was alarmingly low, and more alarmingly smaller than the amount of time I’d spent on this bank job so far.

    If this trick didn’t work, getting away would turn into a shootout.

    The Protectorate liked to give New Wave space to operate, but if word got out that someone had taken them down, they’d come down on me like a particularly large and stupid hammer. And word would get out. Thanks to those news vans they were probably already assembling nearby, just in case they were needed.

    I needed a clean getaway.

    Plan A had been the scooter. I’d souped it up as best as I could without spending too much time learning mechanics, installing components I’d too acutely feel the loss of in the event of its loss, but here, now? That wasn’t anywhere near enough.

    My knees hurt, but the chemical treatment held and I slid down the pile of rubble without injury, coming to a halt on the smooth floor of the storm drain’s inbuilt access path instead of rolling into the quick-flowing water my improvised access ramp’s other side dropped into.

    Coming back up to my feet, I saw a hint of glowing energy from the mouth of the tunnel, and raised my zeta beam pistol, firing another long burst up and making Brandish step back from the hole. “Timing.” I muttered to myself, a habit I was trying to break. “Got to get it right; there won’t be a second try.” I backed up to the scooter and flipped the red switch soldered to the handlebars.

    Primed.

    I looked down, and then at my costume.

    Then I flicked depressed the button that had been under the switch, and jumped off the edge, landing on the concrete debris and stumbling into the water as the tiny gas engine underneath the scooter roared to life, and it careened off down the storm drain.

    Shouts and thundering feet, along with flashes of white light, flashed past me as Brandish led the rest of New Wave on a wild goose chase. It would take them at least five minutes to catch up with my distraction in these narrow, twisting tunnels, and as the current swept me out to a far-distant access point on the other side of town I smiled around my rebreather.

    So what if I hadn’t gotten what I came here for? Nobody robbed banks for the money, they did it for the prestige, the challenge- and I’d just won.

    I’d won!

    I wanted to scream it from the rooftops, to stride down main street with my helmet on and cape swirling around me and make everyone know it. There was nowhere to go but up, and I’d just proven to everyone who would ever hear that I was capable of climbing that ladder. Rung over rung, hand over foot, I wouldn’t stop until I was at the very top.

    ------

    Danny Hebert wasn’t home.

    He hadn’t been home for over an hour, when he’d scribbled a note to his daughter about some work-related business coming up and thrown on a fresh dress shirt.

    Scruffy, lanky, and a little balding, he was hardly the most intimidating man in the room. Even if someone were to look past the glasses and into his eyes, there was no glint of insanity there, no glimmer of mad power.

    Danny Hebert was a businessman, an organizer and a completer of directives sent down by higher powers. He was the kind of person that liased between those with money and those with means. He had rules, moral codes that the people he worked with agreed to abide by, and a list of exceptions to each one.

    When all but a bare few of the docks had closed a decade before, one of those exceptions had come into play.

    Rule number one was, “don’t interact with supervillains”.

    “Boss?” Marco asked, tall and broad to his employer’s slimmer frame. “I know the rule, but we’re here to meet with, you know.”

    “I know. Don’t worry.” Danny said dryly. “But it’s for a good cause.”

    His man fidgeted. “I didn’t thank you for getting that job for Choi, did I?”

    “It wasn’t a problem.” He waved it off, and walked further into the smoky club with the easy gate of man with twice the hair, and three times the build. “The Boys needed somebody to make sure nobody stole from their warehouse at night, and Choi needed work.” What the warehouse was storing was none of his business, and his men made their own decisions.

    “Yeah, but this is a bit more hands on than you usually do things, mister Hebert. Are you sure you’re going to be safe?”

    Danny looked around the club, and brushed his hair back into shape before nodding thoughtfully. “I’ll be fine. Go home, Marco, and say hi to Betty for me, will you?”

    “. . . If you insist. You’re the boss.”

    “I just find jobs for you guys.” The union worker said.

    “In this economy?”

    Danny winced at the sarcasm. “Keep it down. Fine, I’m the boss. Now get out of here, this is private business.”

    Marco did so, looking back over his shoulder every few seconds until he was out the door. It was private business, in a way. In another way he was just telling a business partner about an opportunity. He wasn’t planning on doing something as active as advising anything, just. . . making sure everyone understood what the cards on the table were. He may not be the smartest man in the world, he may even just be a shadow of his former self, filled back in with the things raw genius and insanity had pushed out, but an eclipse was a shadow too, hold the ‘only’.

    Danny walked into the men’s room and said two words.

    “Door me.”
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  9. Biigoh

    Biigoh Moderator

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    Doh ho ho hohoho~

    yesh... and bricks were shat.