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Nemesis [Worm]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Mar 1, 2015.

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  1. Threadmarks: Index
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    This is a story idea that's been nagging at me, so here it is.

    Disclaimers:

    1) This story is set in the Wormverse, which is owned by Wildbow. Thanks for letting me use it.

    2) I will follow canon as closely as I can. If I find something that canon does not cover, then I will make stuff up. If canon then refutes me, then I will revise. Do not bother me with fanon; corrections require citations.

    3) I welcome criticism of my works, but if you tell me that something is wrong, I also expect an explanation of what is wrong, and a suggestion of how to fix it. Note that I do not promise to follow any given suggestion.


    Part 1: Introduction (below)
    Part 2: Encounters
    Part 3: Dysfunctional
    Interlude 1: Flux, Part 1
    Part 4: Wake-Up Call
    Part 5: Many Happy Returns
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2017
  2. Threadmarks: Introduction
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Nemesis

    Part One: Introduction


    Consciousness returned, and with it, sensation.

    Sensation is overrated. I'll put that out there now. There are many sensations which I could go my whole life without ever experiencing, and I would not miss them in the slightest.

    Not coincidentally, I know exactly how quite a few of those sensations go, because I've been right there, enjoying them to the fullest. Fuck my life.

    The first sensation to make itself known was pain. A shitload of it, all over my body, but concentrated to a large degree in my right arm and shoulder. How did it feel? My body felt like some maniac with a baseball bat had just now taken the time to give me a grade-A tune-up. I had to give him props for effort; he hadn't missed anywhere that I could tell. As for my arm, it felt like the very same maniac was attempting to remove it, with a chainsaw, at the shoulder, without either sharpening the blades or starting the fucking chainsaw.

    Yeah. It felt like that.

    The next sensation I recorded - thank you, near-perfect memory - was stink. Rotting garbage, shit, piss and fresh puke. Some of which, I was nearly certain, belonged to yours truly. At least the puke, anyway, going by the minty-fresh taste that did not inhabit my mouth.

    Did you know that it's possible to throw up from the smell of your own puke? I do now. Not an experience that I would recommend to anyone. Ever. Even those bastards out there who've made my List. You know who you are. If I ever get my hands on you, even while I'm pulling your tonsils out through your rectums with a pair of rusty pliers, I'll spare you that particular ordeal. Be thankful for small mercies.

    So I threw up some more, then passed out for a bit. When I came to again, it was because a rat was trying to eat my face. Or at least nibble at my nose. Well, I'm guessing it was a rat; I couldn't see a thing. All I know is that it had teeth and whiskers; it might have been an emaciated Chihuahua, but I wasn't in a mood to care. I tried to scream, but all that came out was a gurgling croak.

    The rat skittered away, thankfully. As did its two hundred and forty-three (I may have over-estimated a tad) cousins, brothers, sisters and elderly relatives, all of which had been doing their best to investigate me more closely than the Customs Service was ever likely to.

    That was when I heard the voice. "Hey, what was that?"

    <><>​

    Up until then, I hadn't been able to see much of anything. I'd attributed that to it being dark where I was, or possibly me being blind. Now I discovered that it was the former, because a flashlight beam cut through the blackness, splashed over grunge-covered brickwork, and hit me right in the eyes.

    When you've been lying in near-total darkness for Scion knows how long, being hit in the face with a pair of police-issue high-powered flashlights feels like exactly that; being hit in the face. Or rather, across the eyes. Probably with the same basball bat that our friendly neighbourhood maniac used to play a tune on my ribs, my kneecaps, and every other important part of my body.

    For the first time since I had regained consciousness (I say regained because saying 'gained' implies that this was the first time I was ever conscious, and I'd really rather this not be the case. I'm an optimist that way), I actually moved. You see, up until this point, I hadn't moved, not even to throw up. Apparently you can indeed toss your cookies while lying down. You just can't toss them very far (tip to all would-be prone cookie-tossers; do not be lying on your back when you do this. On your side is much healthier, and allows kind passers-by to place you in the recovery position).

    Movement revealed to me a very important set of data. Namely, all the aches and pains that I felt while lying still were as gentle breezes to the howling tornado of fucking agony that grabbed me when I started flexing my arms and legs. Also, that I was lying on my right arm. Which was probably why it hated me at the moment, and was very likely filing divorce papers at that point in time. The cramp that locked on to my right arm from the shoulder down gave me the distinct impression that the maniac with the chainsaw had given his place to an enraged six hundred pound gorilla, who was trying to wrench it from its socket, with some success.

    With my right arm unable to do more than a fairly basic impression of a day-old dead fish (with extra smell added in for bonus points) I raised my left hand to shield my eyes against the flashlights.

    With my arm straight out, I spread my fingers to try to cut down on the glare, and squinted to see who was approaching me.

    I was about to get a really, really good look.

    Because at that moment, a jolt of pure liquid flame shot up the length of my left arm, and blue-white lightning blasted outward from the palm of my hand.

    It lit up the alley like a camera flash, only it was more like a lightning strike. One that strobed on, and on, and on. Electricity, of course, seeks metal to ground into. Crackling blue-white tendrils attached themselves to dumpsters, garbage cans, fire escapes and stray tin cans on the ground. They also crawled over, curled around, the two police officers who had been picking their way toward me, flashlights up and at the ready.

    I saw the lightning hit them; it struck their badges, their flashlights, their guns, their belt buckles, their wristwatches. It clung to them, crawling over them, causing their bodies to convulse, to jerk in a grotesque dance. Then they fell. The closest one had smoke coiling up from his open mouth.

    Lightning was still crackling from my hand, still grounding to everything that it could ground to. Convulsively, I snapped my hand closed. The lightning ceased.

    I had just killed or badly injured two police officers, with lightning powers I hadn't even known I had. Fuck. My. Life.

    I managed to get to my knees, and then my feet, without actually passing out or falling over. Or both. Which tends, in my experience, to follow, one from the other. Carefully, I staggered toward the two downed cops. The first one was either dead, or should be; the smell of burned meat turned my stomach yet again. It was good that I had already emptied my stomach, because that smell would have rung the 'evacuate' bell, loud and clear. As it was, I did gag a few times.

    For a miracle, the second cop was alive; or at least, seemed to be breathing. I went to bend over to check that he was all right …

    “I wouldn't do that – villain.”

    <><>​

    Moving with all the grace and speed of a thoroughly inebriated baboon, I spun around; something slipped under my foot, and I ended up sprawled sideways against the alley wall. My left elbow had landed on a trash can, topped by a tied-off garbage bag. The bag burst open under the impact of my arm, allowing its well-marinated contents to add to the ambient fragrance permeating the alleyway.

    But I didn't care about that, not even to retch some more, even while my stomach did its best to earn its yoga merit badge by tying itself in knots.

    I was pretty sure it was a guy who had spoken; I was going with 'guy' as opposed to 'chick' because with a voice that deep, if it was a chick, I'd advise her to get off the steroids before too much hair started growing on her balls. The guy in question, just a silhouette in the dimness of the alleyway, hovered some three feet above the ground; the grotty, stinking, trash-covered ground. It was a good trick. I wished I knew how to do it.

    It was time for some intelligent, probing, in-depth questions regarding my situation. I gaped at the silhouetted figure and mumbled, “What the fuck?”

    There was the sound of soft applause, even as the less crispy-fried cop behind me started to groan and move slightly. “Congratulations, villain,” the flying guy told me, his voice soft, but filled with a vicious satisfaction. “You just killed a police officer in front of his partner. You'd better run. Now.”

    I hesitated; some vague idea crossed my mind of staying, of confessing, of throwing myself on to their mercy. But the trash can rose into the air, wobbling like an ineptly-piloted UFO; before I could move, it smashed into me, driving me backward. “Run!” he shouted. “Before I kill you myself!”

    I ran.

    God help me, I ran.

    <><>​

    I only stopped running when my internal organs set up a unified protest; I was fairly sure that if I kept going, one or more of them was going to vacate the premises. My recently-emptied stomach was complaining the most; it was knotted up tighter than a Boy Scout's practice dummy. Also registering protests were my liver, my kidneys, my spleen, and (I was fairly sure) my pancreas. Though I wasn't really sure where that even was, or even if it existed. The pancreas, I suspect, might be a subtle joke played upon unsuspecting patients for centuries; an organ that doesn't actually exist, upon which doctors can blame all manners of ills. It sounds like a good scam; I'd buy into it.

    I slumped against an alley wall and slid down until I was sitting on the ground. Looking around, it was remarkably similar to the one I had just run from. It also sported the same accoutrements; trash cans, dumpsters, and a wide assortment of garbage for the appreciation of the discerning squatter. Even the smell was virtually identical. In only two aspects did it differ from the location from which I had been recently evicted; it lacked police officers, alive or dead, and it lacked hovering, menacing, shadowy figures.

    Which suited me just fine, at that moment. My right arm was no longer cramped or useless, but the maniac was back. He'd left his chainsaw behind, and was currently performing acupuncture on my arm. Using knitting needles.

    It was time to take stock, and answer some important questions.

    What's happened to me? I was sincerely fucked if I knew.

    Where am I? In the dark, in a city, in an alley. Further answers were vague to the point of incomprehensibility.

    What the fuck is with that lightning shit? I lifted my left hand, which I'd kept clenched rather tightly, ever since the light-show in the other alleyway. Incautiously, I opened it.

    In the middle of my palm was a shape like a four-pointed star, glowing light blue. And as my fingers spread open, fire streaked up my arm and lightning burst from the glowing star. Because I make great plans like that.

    It didn't electrocute me, which, considering my luck to date, I'd call a cast-iron miracle. But it sparked all over the alleyway, probably zapped a dozen cockroaches without putting an appreciable dent in the local population, and set fire to some of the trash.

    I closed my hand again. Dark blotches were dancing in front of my eyes, result of the incredibly bright (pun intended) idea of looking directly into a live electrical arc. Smooth move, Ex-Lax. But I had a partial answer to the 'what the fuck' question. My left hand would shoot out lightning if I opened it more than part way. Which was going to make certain operations very, very tricky.

    How I got that particular power was beyond me. In fact, trying to think back before the point of waking up in the alleyway was drawing a solid blank. I couldn't remember a single, solitary aspect of my life that didn't occur post-wake-up. Nor, I realised with a shock, could I remember my own name.

    So there I was, sitting in an alleyway, cold and hungry, wearing stinky, ragged clothes, having just murdered one police officer and seriously hurt another, with some flying sociopath on my case. And if that wasn't enough, I was scared to open my left hand in case I incinerated my surroundings or sent up a flare for the cops to come get me. And I had no idea who or where I was.

    And I needed a shave, too. I hate the feel of stubble on my face.

    Fuck my life.


    End of Part One

    Part Two
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2015
  3. CptTagon

    CptTagon Connoisseur.

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    Interested in seeing where this is going. Doesn't sound like Brockton Bay, at least when Taylor's around. Also doesn't sound like a Case 53, due to knowing what a cop is, who Scion is, and having stubble. So an unknown (but human) guy, in a unknown city, in an unknown time.
     
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  4. TheLordSiffer

    TheLordSiffer Getting out there.

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    Just read this on Spacebattles and I am hyped. Not only is the concept an unexplored one, not only does Shujinko-kun's powers seem badass as fuck, but you've also hit the nail on my favorite character archetype: The Snarky Grump.

    This fic has now taken I, Panacea's spot as my most anticipated Ack-fic.

    Godspeed, and may the Emperor favor your muse.
     
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  5. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    Random speculation: Protagonist's lightning palm isn't a superpower itself. It is, instead, the manifestation of a tinker power. It might also be the result of a shaker, breaker, or changer power, and possibly a few others. Would definitely give Protagonist a blaster rating if it sticks around, though.

    If the title is a reference to Cauldron's Nemesis program, then this is almost certainly multiple years before canon as I am fairly sure it was shut down before canon start by a fair margin.
     
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  6. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Citation? As I recall, they found papers referring to it in the Merchants' possession when Taylor went to rescue Sierra's brother from them.
     
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  7. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    *Shrugs* Might be fanon or a deliberate divergence in one story. The only semi-clear memory I have for the operational time of the Nemesis Program (which was, I think, ludicrously stupid... especially in a world with Thinkers) is from discussions in the SV Alchemical Solutions thread. If it was inaccurate, my apologies.
     
  8. esotericist

    esotericist Getting sticky.

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    I am curious, and warily interested in seeing more.
     
  9. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Thinkers don't go investigating every weird happening. Tattletale was caught up in her own problems. Accord worked out a plan to save the world from itself, and ended up as a supervillain. Alexandria was in on it. Any Thinker who figured something out and brought it to the attention of the PRT would be put on the wrong track, discredited, or disappeared.

    And when all else fails? Contessa.
     
  10. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    No, but acting like that is an unnecessary vulnerability and cuts Cauldron off from a bunch of other options down the line.

    Every single person who purchased a Nemesis is a huge potential leak and a routine check (during Master/Stranger protocols, preparations for a court case, whatever) could lead to them being discovered. Technically every Cauldron customer is a potential leak, but "purchased superpowers from this group" is way less damaging information than "Mind-controlled a person to fight against me, lose, and probably killed them and got a bunch of other people killed, too". It also really, REALLY harms efforts to integrate Case 53's into society and the Wards/Protectorate in general.

    They don't even need to be a Thinker to catch them; just somebody asking the right questions (for any of a thousand different reasons) and being able to see past their bluffs.

    A lot of Cauldron plots seem to be unnecessarily fragile. They accomplish their stated objectives, sure, but when something goes wrong it goes wrong explosively, and things can go wrong relatively easily.


    As for Contessa: Her long-term plans are inherently compromised because of her blindspots. Even operating purely in the short-term, though, there are a huge number of complications that could easily be sparked by her Paths that they didn't think to mitigate properly.

    Anyway, she can't be in two places simultaneously (though Doormaker allows her to get fairly close) and has finite ability to influence the world. Having to expend effort to cover up their indiscretions means she can't be spending that effort elsewhere.


    Specifically regarding the Nemesis program... I can only think of three things they could have gained from it. Money, getting people loyal to them placed into greater positions of power, and having something more to hang over their heads. It seems very likely that the Nemesis program could not possibly be more effective at these goals than a multitude of vastly less risky options that also have significantly less in the way of negative consequences. It just seems pointlessly evil.
     
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  11. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    One thing you need to remember about Cauldron is that they are being led by a woman whose credentials for her position is that she was in the right place at the right time and she had hands to stab Eden with.

    I have mentioned this before but at that point you can literally replace both Fortuna and Dr. Mother with a single drugged up hobo who wandered through a portal into the flesh garden and he decided to stab the freaky growing thing before it steals the rest of his lucky charms and then dies by drowning in a pool of his own vomit. The only difference is that Fortuna knew the scope of what would happen if she failed.

    This is why I have no difficultly believing any nutty Cauldron plots that fail basic reasoning and common sense tests. Contessa asks for a goal and she gets the answer regardless of if it is a good idea or not and she does these things on the word of a woman who has no leadership training or potentially even a formal education before meeting Fortuna.
     
  12. esotericist

    esotericist Getting sticky.

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    You are my newest hero.
     
  13. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Super-powered lie detectors (either tech, or just as a side effect of a Thinker ability) seem to be fairly rare in the Wormverse. So much could have been screwed up by one in the right place, and it wasn't. Plus, the chances are that any legal proceedings would require the person to consent to such a device or person being used to monitor their truthfulness. Note that the PRT specifically didn't employ parahumans (except for the boss, oh well, whoops).

    And what questions, exactly, would you ask (without knowing about the Nemesis program to begin with, mind you) in order to actually uncover it?

    Note with my earlier comment about Contessa; if any client getting a Nemesis would lead to Cauldron being uncovered, all she has to do is turn up at the initial interview and say, "Sorry, we're rejecting your application. Goodbye."
     
  14. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    "Do you remember killing anyone", "Do you have any idea why this person attacked you", "Why do you think so many case 53s have been killed by senior Protectorate members?" or any of a thousand other possibilities. And it doesn't need to be superpowered lie-detectors by any stretch of the imagination; human empathy can work wonders. Especially if the people who did it felt guilty about it.

    As for Contessa screening them like that... doesn't work without a lot of damage control. Every single new trigger, every action by the Endbringers, Eidolon and Zion... if any of those affect the person (directly or indirectly) then Contessa's path could change and thus necessitate further action to keep things buried, possibly in ways that dramatically interfere with their actual goal.
     
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  15. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Oh well... I wonder what is going on. Is this another self insert or just a random scion worshipper grabbed of the streets by cauldron?
     
  16. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Not an SI.

    Not a Scion worshipper either. "Scion knows" is more of a sarcastic version of 'God knows'.

    I doubt very much that Protectorate capes would go in for the Nemesis program. I was thinking it would be more aimed at independent capes wanting to make a name for themselves.

    Also note that 1) someone paying hundreds of thousands, maybe a million dollars, to get a super-powered foe they could regularly trounce would kill them out of hand. Returning villain of the week, anyone?
    and 2) Someone going to those lengths would be unlikely to feel guilt over it.
     
  17. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    Cuts down on some risks, definitely, but those risks remain. Raises other risks, too, because those individuals who would choose that life are probably relatively likely to end up in the Protectorate's radar.

    Unless their Nemesis program accomplishes some goal more effectively than other plans would that have lower risk (seems rather unlikely), it was a stupid plan and pointlessly evil. If they wanted influence over people then some good old fashioned blackmail (with real or forged evidence that they might even believe was real once Cauldron was done with them) would be a much less risky way of controlling somebody, and it's not even close to the best choice. If they want to get them to advance further in society they could sell them information that would let them excel in whatever area they chose for a limited timeframe. This also encourages repeat business.

    As far as I can tell, somewhere along the lines somebody made the mistake of thinking that "the more evil the plan is the more likely it is to work".
     
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  18. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    So someone from the time after the gold morning? Instead of "the devil knows" it's now "Scion knows"?
     
  19. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    No.

    From somewhere around beginning of canon. Scion is known, and he's stupidly powerful.
     
  20. Threadmarks: Part Two: Encounters
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Nemesis

    Part Two: Encounters


    [Author's Note: Yes, this is about a character in Cauldron's Nemesis program. All OCs, to date.]


    I slept like a baby, as comfortably as though I was in a four-poster feather bed.

    Translation: I woke up every half-hour or so (have you ever known a baby to sleep through the night? I have to admit, I'm not well-acquainted with the larval stage of humanity, but all anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise) and the four-poster bed simile is accurate, so long as you understand that the bed was stuffed with concrete, and littered with half-burned trash. And inhabited by cockroaches the size of rats, and rats the size of small dogs. Or large cats.

    Well, maybe I'm exaggerating the size by a little. But not that much. Those were some big-ass roaches.

    In any case, I had other things to worry about when I woke up. Like the kid who was going through my pockets.

    I mean, seriously. Here I am, having the absolute most shit day of my life (okay, it's the only day of my life that I can remember at this moment, but my point still stands) and this little delinquent decides, "Hey, his day isn't bad enough already. Let's rob his sorry ass!"

    Personally, I blame those kids' TV shows. I mean, the Teletubbies? What parent in their right mind would let their child take lifestyle advice from a bunch of creepy-looking overweight walking TV sets, with antennae on their heads? That's just begging to have your rugrats loaded down with more subliminal messages than a McDonalds ad. And 'ignore your parents and watch more TV' is probably the least creepy of them.

    So when I felt the hand rummaging through my coat pocket, and realised it wasn't mine, I woke up instantly, alert and ready for anything.

    Or, you know, blearily opened my eyes. There was a crust on them thick enough for tectonic movements, but I got them open and blinked at the kid.

    "Wha'th'fuck?" I mumbled, realising as I did so that the taste in my mouth had somehow gotten worse while I slept. And it had been nothing to write home about then, except in the general sense of "Oh my god, get my tongue out of this hellhole!"

    There's a dirty joke in there somewhere, but I just can't see it. I must be losing my touch.

    The kid had shoulder-length straggly hair; I guessed it was either a skinny girl, or a skinnier guy. Then again, if my main source of income was picking the pockets of homeless guys sleeping in alleyways, I'd probably be a good bit skinnier too. Mainly because I suck at picking pockets.

    What? Don't tell me that you've never tried picking someone's pocket.

    Anyway, I had a good look at the kid while he or she backed away from me. Dirty white-blonde hair, shoulder-length as noted - 'dirty' as in that there was actually dirt in that hair - a pale pinched face, grimy hoodie and jeans ... and that was it. I couldn't pick another detail about him, her or it. It was like someone went to central casting and ordered 'one generic street kid, to go', and specified absolutely nothing else, not even gender.

    As I sat up, the kid backed a bit further away, then turned to run. I caught sight of something being tucked into a pocket of the hoodie. Oh, for fuck's sake. There was actually something in my pockets? I hadn't even thought to check.

    But I'm fairly tall, and I can run; I had proved that last night. I was willing to bet that I could outrun some undernourished street rat. And as I got up, I noticed something else; all the aches and pains that I'd been suffering from had vanished. Still hungry, but I felt like I could run forever.

    That is, until I took my first step. My foot travelled a grand total of six inches forward, then stopped. My body, which had been throwing its own weight in that general direction, in anticipation of the chase ... didn't.

    The sneaky little shit had taken the precaution of tying the shoelaces of my ratty sneakers together, before rifling through my pockets.

    Which produced the inevitable result. As my upper torso careened forward without any way to stop, and indeed without any visible means of support, I managed one massive, hobbled, hop in the right direction. I had hoped that this might get my legs under me, and that gravity and I could chalk this up to a misunderstanding, and we could go our separate ways.

    Unfortunately, this was not to be. My face-saving giant leap forward encountered a stray garbage bag, which pretty well stopped that from happening. I began to topple, arms windmilling wildly. My left hand smacked down on another garbage bag, which was perched on top of a random garbage bin. As it did so, through sheer instinct, my hand opened.

    My right hand had found the wall, so I didn't fall all the way. But I had a ringside seat as to what happened next. My brain, still a little groggy, had just enough time to realise, Oh shit -

    There was the usual streak of liquid fire up my left arm, yadda yadda. Lightning burst from the palm of my hand, straight into the garbage bag. Now I don't know exactly what was in the bag; all I know is that the dark green plastic fluoresced wildly for a few seconds, while my wits were still gathering themselves. But just as I was beginning to reach the conclusion that it might be a good idea to close my fucking hand … the bag exploded.

    Not a big explosion, nor a damaging one, or even a deafening one. It was more a big POP than anything else. But an explosion it was; bits and pieces of shredded plastic, and smoking garbage, were spread all over the walls and floor of the alleyway. And, more importantly, all over my left side. And my face, given that I was looking that way at the time.

    Garbage? Smells bad. Burned garbage? Smells infinitely fucking worse.

    Fuck. My. Life.

    <><>​

    I tumbled to the floor of the alleyway, and spent the next few moments swearing – quite inventively, I assure you – while I fumbled my laces apart and retied them. This was not easy with my right hand only, but my left hand had caused quite enough problems already. I considered just taking the sneakers off, but while they might look as though they had been rescued from the back of a charity bin – probably had – they were still my only shoes.

    Then I cleaned myself up, which mainly involved scraping the remains of the garbage off my face. With my right hand; my left hand was staying closed. Very firmly closed.

    I also took the time to more closely investigate what I was wearing. Sneakers, check. Worn and slightly tattered jeans, check. A torn and tattered T-shirt, check. A longish coat, also torn and a bit tattered, check. A layer of grime and exploded garbage over most of that, check.

    The pockets revealed not much more; nothing in the long-coat pockets, but there was a card in the right hand jeans pocket, and something that crinkled in the left hand pocket.

    I got the card out first. It was business card size, plain, white, blank. On it, in neat handwriting was the word COSTUME? Under that, what appeared to be a phone number.

    I puzzled over it for a moment, then put it away again. I was more interested in what was in my left hand pocket, but getting it out without incinerating it would be interesting.

    In the end, keeping my hand mostly closed while sneaking two fingers down into the pocket worked. I hooked out the crinkly object, which turned out to be a sheet of note paper, folded over. Opening it out, I found a series of names. Cape names, apparently.

    Electromaster

    Zapmaster

    Lightning Master

    Killer-Watt

    Killer-Volt

    Electrocutioner

    Storm Cell

    Blue Bolt

    Dark Sinister

    There was a definite trend to these names. Several trends, in fact. Most, or all, of them seemed to refer to my inability to avoid treating my surroundings to uncontrollable bolts of lightning whenever I opened my left hand. As for the last name … 'sinister' referred to the left hand. Subtle.

    And more alarmingly, the names sounded … villainous. Definitely villainous.

    Was I a villain? Had that hovering presence in the alley named me correctly?

    I tried to imagine robbing a bank. The image came to me, all too easily.

    Holding up a convenience store? Yeah, I could do that.

    Taking candy from a baby? I could probably even pull that off, though the thought of being smacked around the head by the mother was a little daunting.

    Wait, maybe I am a villain.

    I considered that. The evidence certainly seemed to suggest it; a calling card from a costume maker, a list of potential names. I might be a rookie villain, just recently fallen to the dark side. I didn't seem to harbour any qualms about committing criminal acts. And just to put the icing on the big-ass cake made of fuck-you that was bearing down on me, just last night I had murdered a cop in front of a parahuman hero.

    Fuck. My. Life.

    <><>​

    There was nothing in the alley for me, and I was getting hungrier by the moment. Just for a few seconds, I considered looking through the garbage cans for something edible, but I wasn't that hungry. Or at least, not yet.

    In any case, it was time to get out and about, to see what was happening in the world. To see, in fact, where the fuck in the world I was. So I picked the worst of the garbage off of myself, ran my hand through my hair to dislodge anything that might be lurking there, and straightened my coat.

    Hopefully, I told myself, trying to ignore the little voice down at the back of my mind that cackled madly at my naïve optimism, nothing else is going to happen to me today.

    Of course, given that Murphy apparently has my personal number, that shit was never gonna fly.

    <><>​

    I got out of the alley, and on to the street, without further incident. As I did so, I began to form the opinion that maybe the same fuck-knows-what that bestowed these oh-so-fucking-wonderful powers on me had also made adjustments to my digestive system. To wit, it felt like everything back of my navel had been made over into a gravitational singularity.

    Or to put it another way, I was hungry enough to eat a horse, and give the rider a run for his money.

    The street was lined with low-rent shops, the sort of places that deal in quantity rather than quality. Half of them were empty, boarded up; some of the rest had merchandise out on the sidewalk, the better to attract the suckers.

    As I proceeded along the sidewalk, I looked for some place selling food, or any acceptable substitute. My lack of legal tender, I was going to have to deal with after the fact. Or someone was.

    Nothing even vaguely food-related - not even McDonalds, for crying out loud - had shown itself, when I became aware of another problem. Specifically, I was hallucinating.

    Considering the various types of hallucinations I could have had – pink elephants, floating hamburgers, the female cast of Glee doing the can-can in the nude – the one I did have was fairly mundane, if somewhat obscure. What I was seeing was … ribbons. Ribbons of various shades, hanging in the air or stretched along the ground, all rippling in an unfelt wind. And some part of me liked those ribbons, thought they were wonderful, wanted to get close to them.

    I wasn't entirely sure that I trusted that feeling. Scratch that; until I knew why I felt like that, there was no way on God's green Earth that I was gonna go near one of those ribbons. Okay, the ones on the ground were kind of hard to avoid, but I wouldn't be touching them. Of course, they were more faded and see-through than most, but I still didn't trust them. After all, it wasn't like anything had done me any favours since I came to, last night.

    That was when I spotted the convenience store.

    Convenience stores had food.

    Food was on or about my top priority right about then, followed by information. I figured that I could get both in the store. Finding out about these damn ribbons was a distant third, or maybe a tenth; once I had food inside me, and knew where I was, I could maybe puzzle out what the hell they were about.

    So I stepped off the pavement, checked for cars, and crossed the street. People looked at me oddly as I approached the store; I stared right back at them. After all, it wasn't as though they could know who I was. I was just another face on the street, albeit a smelly one.

    It's amazing how wrong you can be about the most basic of assumptions.

    There was a stand for newspapers just inside the door to the convenience store; I barely glanced at it on the way in, then did a perfect double-take. The front page was all headline, wrapped around a half-page picture in glowing colour.

    OFFICER DOWN

    Electro-Killer” Slays One Cop, Wounds Another, Flux Says

    The picture was of … I guessed it was me. After all, the hand raised toward the camera, outlined by the flash, showed the familiar glowing blue scar in the middle of the palm. Behind it … a male face, unshaven, teeth pulled back in a snarl. But … blue marks tracked across the face, in a vaguely lightning-like pattern, continuing into the hairline. My/his hair was white, with blue streaks through it, following the lightning marks on the face.

    Holy fuck. Do I look like that?

    Quickly, I stepped back out of the door, and looked at myself in the window. Colours were hard to make out, but sure enough, my hair was white, and there were marks of a different colour on my face, continuing in my hair. Not only was I not just another face in the crowd, but the fucking newspaper had printed my picture.

    I looked around. More people were looking at me now. Phones were out; they were either taking pictures, or making calls. And I was damn sure they weren't doing selfies, or calling Grandma to ask her if she'd like some milk from the fucking store.

    Oh, no. They were dropping a dime, grassing me up, selling me up the river, doing me the dirty, squealing to the pigs.

    Fuck my life.

    <><>​

    I had minutes, if that. The gnawing hunger in my midsection hadn't ceased in the slightest – in fact, I was fairly sure that if I held really still, I would be able to hear it chant 'Ia Ia Fhtagn Ia' – so food was definitely a priority. Any sort of food.

    I dashed back into the store. Payment wasn't going to be an option, and after all, I was already wanted for murder, so what was a little petty theft? So I started stuffing whatever was on the shelves, and ready to eat, into the capacious pockets of my coat. Packets of cookies, tins of tuna, a jar of honey, it all went in there. When I headed for the drinks fridge, the owner behind the counter seemed to wake up. He was an older man, maybe Japanese or Korean or something. I didn't care. I just wanted some of that chocolate milk that was in the fridge. Just waiting for me. Tempting me with its rich smooth chocolatey goodness.

    As I headed for the fridge, I noticed that the lights in the store had their own ribbons, as did the fridge itself. But I didn't care in the slightest. I didn't know what the ribbons were, and they weren't doing anything to hurt me, so they weren't a priority for me.

    Just as I was opening the fridge, I heard the sound from behind me. It was a sound that I recognised. The sound of a gun being cocked.

    Then it hit me. I had no idea how this could be. I remembered absolutely nothing from before the point when I came to, last night. For all I knew, I had popped into being, fully formed, at that point, never having existed before.

    But I knew things. Little things. Things like how to speak English, and what shoes were, and which way cars would come from on the road, and – most importantly right now – what a double-barrelled shotgun sounded like when someone pulls back one of the hammers.

    “You put stuff on counter now!” called the store owner. “Not in pocket!”

    I turned and made the universal sign for 'wait'; I wanted to think this through.

    How could I know some things – like what money looked like – but not others, such as what my own face looked like? How could I know what mobile phones – and selfies – were, but not where I was, who I was, and, for fuck's sake, what I was? Because I sure as fuck wasn't really human any more.

    “Hey!” yelled the store owner. He eared back the other hammer. “You pay for stuff now, get out of store!”

    Fuck it. I could hear approaching sirens. I wrenched open the fridge and grabbed that chocolate milk. The old guy wasn't about to shoot someone in the back for stealing milk, was he?

    There was a thunderous boom, and a hammer-blow smashed into my back, just under my right shoulderblade. I was driven forward into the fridge, ending up face-to-tub with a serving of Delicious Dairy Yoghurt. Warmth trickled down my back, under my coat.

    Son of a bitch. He fucking shot me.

    Pushing myself back upright, I turned dazedly, to see the old fart pointing the shotgun at me again; I'd had enough. I raised my left hand, palm out, and opened my hand for about one second.

    This was the first time that I'd used my power deliberately, and results did not disappoint. Crackling arcs of electricity sprang out from my hand, accompanied by the usual feeling of power surging up my arm. Blue-white tendrils of lightning shorted out the lights, set fire to a stand of souvenir teddy bears, touched on to the shotgun barrel (knocking Shotgun Billy ass over teakettle) and blew the living fuck out of his cash register.

    The sirens were a lot closer now. I looked around for the chocolate milk, but could not see it. Fuck. I couldn't stop and look for it, especially since the lights had gone out. The teddy-bears were burning merrily, and the ruins of the cash register were still sparking, but that didn't give me enough light to look for it.

    So I turned and stumbled out of the store. My back was still on fire from being shot, but I didn't seem to be coughing blood, and my right arm still worked, more or less, so I guessed that he had used a really low-end round. Murder charges are still murder charges, after all. Was it wrong that I counted it as a good thing that I'd only been shot with small shotgun pellets?

    The first police cars screeched to a halt just seconds after I left the store. Doors flew open, and officers pointed guns over them. Guns pointed at me.

    This was a disturbing trend, of late. People pointing guns indicated a certain level of hostility on their part, which raised feelings of anxiety and irritation on my part. I decided to remove those feelings from my psyche. By venting them. Was it my fault that I chose to vent them at the cop cars?

    Raising my left hand, I unleashed my power once more. This time, I not only did not close my hand, but I slowly panned from left to right.

    Crackling energy poured from my hand; it struck the cars, struck the officers behind them, struck everything that could possibly carry a charge. The officers were flung backward, landing awkwardly; the cars didn't seem to suffer much, except for smoke trailing up from under the hood of each one.

    “Fuckin' just leave me alone,” I muttered to the world, and turned to stagger away, down the pavement.

    “That's just not going to happen,” claimed a new voice, and he dropped down, out of the sky.

    The hovering figure from last night; here he was, in plain view. Clad in a black and silver costume, with dashing good looks, he posed in midair as he faced me.

    “I've come to take you in, villain,” he declared. “Resist, and it will go badly for you.”

    I felt a surge of anger at the word 'villain'; seriously, what the fuck? Where did he get off, calling me that? “And who the fuck are you?” I demanded.

    He smiled broadly. “Flux, at your service. Or not.”

    “Flux, huh?” I grunted. “Well, you can just fluck off.” I had noticed that part of his costume included silvery bands of metal around his biceps, forearms, thighs and calves. Electricity grounds to metal. This bastard was just a flying lightning rod.

    Thrusting out my left hand, I opened the fingers dramatically. “Right the fluck now!”

    Once more, lightning burst from the star-mark on my palm. It surged toward him, tendrils of blue-white electricity seeking to ground in the bands of metal, treat him to the joys of electrical conduction.

    He flinched back, but my lightning was faster. I could see the arc reaching for him, wrapping around him … but it never touched him. A full inch of air, I could see, separated him from the crackling charge.

    “Ha!” he crowed. “You'll have to try harder than that … villain.”

    Groans behind me told me that the officers were gradually coming around. And in front of me, a superhero that my powers couldn't touch. My back still ached from where I'd been shot already. And I still hadn't had that damn chocolate milk.

    Fuck. My. Life.


    End of Part Two

    Part Three
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2015
  21. TheLordSiffer

    TheLordSiffer Getting out there.

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    The more frustrated he gets, the more satisfying it'll be when he turns the bastard into chunky salsa!
    I'm hoping Shujinko-chan will suffer endless annoyance and frustration in an uphill battle to carve out a piece of the world for himself, all the while gathering his own team/friends.

    On another note,
    I'm currently assuming that the Nemesis code-word is villain, with this little tidbit plus Flux's ultra-spamming of the word as my reasoning.

    As for this, well, Chekhov's Orphan?
     
    Sheaman3773 likes this.
  22. CptTagon

    CptTagon Connoisseur.

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    So the ribbons are almost certainly electrical lines or conduits. Our hero is making it more and more unlikely that he will find a sympathetic, non villain ear with him attacking the cops and shopkeep.
     
  23. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Dude, that option was burned when he killed the cops. He's now at war with the state, because one asshole wanted to play hero and have a nemesis. The only real option has now is to become S rank and force them to the negotiation table.

    Otherwise his smartest policy is probably terror. They fuck with him, they die. They pay reasonable tribute like giving him food, he won't bother.
     
    ShadowStepper1300 likes this.
  24. Bailey Matutine

    Bailey Matutine (Verified Pooka)

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    Holy shit, Flux arranged to have a cop murdered just to make himself look more heroic?
     
  25. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    Well, it's Worm.
     
  26. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    I don't think he deliberately got a cop killed... but it is very likely that he didn't care, at all, about the casualties his little brand of selfishness would cause. It is probable he had at least some idea that other people would end up dead, or at least hurt, when he fought his nemesis.

    Anyway, protagonist needs teammates of some sort. Hopefully ones that will cause some degree of deescalation.
     
  27. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    I was actually hoping that the whole attempt to have a Nemesis would fail miserably with the OC just giving no fucks and ignoring the hero entirely.

    Yeah he commits perry crimes to survive but after his repeated statements that it was an accident because he didn't know he could even do that and the fact that he never hurt or even attacked anyone afterwards means that the mark it down as a Trigger accident. Flux tries repeatedly to fight his paid for nemesis only for the character to discover a way to travel through those ribbons without ever fighting him. Immunity to a type of attacks doesn't do much good when the person in question with those attacks never sends them at you after all.

    That's how I would have preferred it to go anyway with this being one of the miserable failures that lead to the discontinuation of the Nemesis program.
     
  28. Threadmarks: Part Three: Dysfunctional
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Nemesis

    Part 03: Dysfunctional


    I closed my hand, cutting off the lightning, and faced my tormentor. “Okay, Fluckface, what the fluck do you want?”

    No, I wasn't lisping; every time I mangled his name like that, I saw a tiny twitch in his cheek. Piss someone off enough, and maybe they'll make a mistake that you can capitalise on.

    “The name is Flux,” he growled. “Treat it with some respect, and maybe I'll go easy on you.”

    I heard a metallic grinding from behind me, but I didn't dare look around.

    “Well, maybe I don't have any more flux to give,” I retorted. “Now, I don't know what sort of -”

    I found out what the grinding noise was. It was from a manhole cover, lifting up from the manhole that it had previously been covering.

    I found this out when the cover hit me in the kidneys.

    Allow me to assure you of one thing; having a manhole cover frisbee you in the kidneys is absolutely no fun whatsoever. Even if the Surgeon General issues a statement saying that having this happen to you is actually a health-positive experience, I will remain firmly unconvinced.

    It fucking hurt.

    I came to on my hands and knees, doing my best to hork my lungs up. The manhole cover hovered right in front of my face, humming slightly. I had no idea why it was humming – some magnetism-related physics bullshit, probably – but this made it all the more intimidating. Behind me, I heard the police stumbling to their feet, but they weren't coming to interfere. I was vaguely disappointed; I wished they would interfere, if only to get me away from this airborne psycho who seemed to enjoy kicking me around with his powers.

    Slowly, painfully, I regained my feet, using a light pole for support. Flux let me; the manhole cover hovered nearby, just waiting for its chance.

    I revised my plan of pissing him off until he made a mistake; currently, it seemed that pissing him off merely made him more likely to beat the living bejeezus out of me, and in public, with full legal approval at that. I felt vaguely aggrieved at that; when would I get my turn at beating the bejeezus out of him? It was something I was looking forward to.

    “Give up yet, villain?” he asked. Fuck me; he was actually gloating. Seriously. I was only vaguely subdued, and I hadn't yet actually been restrained, and he was already acting like I was on the way to the big house.

    I didn't answer; the manhole cover edged a little closer. I moved around so that the light pole was between me and it. It swung around behind me; I hastily dodged out of the way before it could smack me in the back of the legs.

    “There's nowhere to go, villain,” he told me. More of that damned gloating; I wanted so badly to play a tune on his face with a baseball bat. “Anywhere you want to dodge, I can still get to you."

    I hid a smile; he was wrong there. And in fact, he had just given me the heads-up on how to escape him. But first …

    One of those ribbons ran up into the light-pole that I was leaning against. I had an idea what the ribbon was by now, given what my power was. And all the time I had been leaning against the pole, something deep inside me had been begging, pleading, for me to touch the ribbon. But not with my left hand. With my right hand.

    “Oh, I'll give up,” I assured Flux, clamping my right hand right over the ribbon. Immediately, liquid fire shot down my right arm into my body, and all the sluggishness, all the pain, all the injury, seemed to just fall away. I stood straighter as the energy poured into me; I could swear my hair was standing on end. I'm fairly certain my eyes were glowing.

    “What are you - “ he began.

    “Right after you kiss my ass!” I yelled, and changed hands.

    I didn't shoot lightning at him again; that would have been stupid. Well, more stupid than most of what I do, from day to day. Instead, I clamped my hand on to the pole; my power, plus all the electricity that I'd just absorbed, flooded into it.

    The street light attached to the pole blew out. Flux was hovering directly under it, and he yelled in surprise as he was showered with shattered plastic and hot sparks.

    I'd figured out why he was hovering there; he was a magnetic manipulator, and it was easier to 'hang' from a metal overhead than push down against the ground. Or so I guessed.

    Anyway, time for part two of my daring escape plan.

    I sprinted toward the open manhole, and jumped in.

    He'd been right that I wouldn't be able to escape the cover above ground. But manhole covers couldn't fit into manholes. It was kind of their thing.

    It was kind of depressing that falling into an open manhole was probably going to be the best thing that happened to me, that day. But hey, Murphy's an asshole that way.

    <><>​

    Rhia hung at the back of the crowd, watching the action. It looked like Flux had found someone else to pick on; she felt kind of sorry for the lightning guy, but at least it might take the pressure off of her and the others for a while. Besides, he was a big guy; it looked like he could take a beating.

    Cleo was near her, but she wasn't watching; nor would she have been, even if she could see past the crowd. It wasn't what she was here for; she was working the crowd, and the kid was a natural at it. Even without her parahuman abilities, Cleo had a talent for sneaking and picking pockets; with them, she was made for it. Rhia tried to keep track of her, and succeeded for the most part, but sight and hearing just tended to slide off of her.

    Not so much the sense of touch; Rhia spotted it when Cleo got just a little too cocky, and tried to lift a guy's wallet from his inside pocket. The guy felt her hand, and reacted faster than Cleo had reckoned for. He grabbed her wrist and yanked her half off her feet as she tried to pull away.

    Fuckin' little thief!” he snapped. “I'm gonna -”

    Honey!” gushed Rhia, pushing through the crowd toward him. “I've been looking for you everywhere!”

    He looked around at her; their eyes met, and she felt the click of contact. “Oh, hey, sweetie,” he mumbled, his mouth trying to catch up with his brain. “Sorry to have kept you waiting, I just … “

    She reached out, took his wallet from Cleo's hand, and freed Cleo's wrist from his grip in the same moment. “I think you dropped this, sweetie,” she told him.

    Oh, uh, thanks,” he replied vaguely, looking around, but Cleo had already dodged behind someone else; by the time his eyes came back to Rhia, he had forgotten the pickpocket. After all, his wallet was right there in his hand.

    There was a crack as a street-light exploded, followed by a mass exclamation, the reason for which Rhia didn't bother finding out. “Listen,” she told the man, “I saw the most divine pair of shoes in this shop just up the road; can I have some money to buy them?”

    Of course, honey,” he assured her, opening his wallet and handing her a couple of hundreds. “I'll, uh, see you, uh … “

    Right back here,” she told him with a forced giggle, standing on her toes to kiss him on the cheek. “I won't keep you waiting too long.”

    Turning, she ducked away through the now-dispersing crowd, trying to get out of the man's sight before suppressing her power. Going by previous experience, it would take about thirty seconds before the man's true memories started burning through the false ones her power had overlaid on his mind. It would take about five minutes, however, before he stopped seeing her as whoever he thought she was.

    Normally, people retained their wits when her power attracted them to her. But when she pushed the contact, as she had just now, she was able to confuse them momentarily, overriding their understanding of what was going on. She hadn't wanted to, but if that man had made a fuss with Flux present, it could have gone very badly for Cleo.

    She shuddered; every time she used her power like that, she felt dirty all over. But sometimes, she just had no choice at all.

    At least I got a couple of hundred out of it, she told herself. Maybe that'll be enough to keep Troll happy.

    But even as she formed the thought, she knew that she was fooling herself.

    There was no keeping Troll happy.

    <><>​

    Jumping into an open manhole was not, I quickly discovered, the most optimal choice I could have made. The fact that the rest of my current range of choices was even less optimal was a mere detail; put simply, jumping into a manhole is a fucking stupid idea.

    I tried to grab the ladder and failed, several times. For the most part, I did my best to only use my right hand, but at one point, my left hand did open, causing the ladder and all nearby metal to spark wildly as the branching electricity discharged dramatically from my palm. And with all that, I still failed to actually grab the ladder.

    Whether fortunately or otherwise, the falling phase of my plan ended very shortly afterward, in the usual fashion; a hard impact with an unyielding surface. Followed immediately with me rolling sideways, to have a much softer impact with a rather yielding surface. The nature of the surface was extremely and immediately apparent to me, because my sense of smell simply up and quit at this point in time.

    To put it another way; I had just fallen into something that could charitably be described as 'liquid', but I wasn't swimming. A much more accurate phrase to describe my progress would be 'going through the motions'.

    Coughing and choking, I scrambled back on to the ledge, and tried to scrape the worst of what I had just fallen into, off of me. It didn't want to leave me go, so I grimaced and used my weapon of last resort; opening my left hand, I played the lightning over myself.

    All I personally felt was a mild tingling; so I was effectively immune to my own power. Good to know. The stench was utterly horrifying; my sense of smell reported this to me, before shutting up shop and taking its summer holidays. But the aftermath was more or less rewarding; I was able to brush the detritus, blasted and desiccated as it was, off of me in just a few moments. It didn't do more than scorch my clothes, for which I was profoundly grateful; I didn't even dare dwell on the concept, just in case Murphy'd had something planned for me along those lines, and had forgotten.

    In any case, I knew I had to keep moving, just in case Flux decided to come down into the sewers himself. But between the flowing cape he wore, and that spic-and-span costume, I doubted very much that he'd lower himself that far. Pun intended.

    However, running from something is not functionally the same as running to something, which meant that I didn't have any place to go. Although I had zero intention of staying underground; people may live in the sewers, someplace or other, but not in this sewer. This was a place you visited – briefly – then got the hell out of again. Even the fabled sewer alligators of urban myth would probably give this place, and its eye-watering stench, a wide berth. So I trekked a few hundred yards until I found another manhole, then went to the next one instead, just in case.

    Climbing the ladder without electrifying everything in the vicinity was initially a challenge, until I realised that hey, I didn't give a flying moose turd about that. So, ladder crackling merrily, I climbed up and out of the sewer.

    Of course, I had gone for more than a few minutes without Murphy being a dick to me, so I very carefully raised the cover, so that I could take a look around. The next thing I knew, there was a tremendous impact on my hand and the top of my head, and I was halfway down the ladder, wedged into the shaft, trying to figure out a) what had hit me, b) whether I had a concussion or a brain haemorrhage, and c) if my hand was broken.

    And Murphy strikes again. Fuck my life.

    In time, I figured out that a) it had been a truck, the manhole apparently being in the middle of the fucking street, b) neither, but it was ringing like the doorbell next to a Jehovah's Witness convention, and c) probably not, but I kind of wished that it had been my left hand. That way, I'd actually have an excuse for not using it.

    Painfully, I climbed back up the ladder to the manhole. I could've gone back down and found another one, but I was starting to get pissed off. And besides, I didn't want to climb down, just to climb up again, farther down.

    Yes, I tend to make bad judgements when angry. Is this any real surprise?

    This time, I jolted the cover up and let it fall straight away, snatching a quick look as I did so. Fortunately, as it seemed; just a moment later, what sounded like a heavy truck drove straight over the top of it. However, now I had an idea of which direction the traffic was proceeding from, so I snatched another glance. Nothing was coming – miracle of miracles – so I shoved the cover up and scrambled out of my noisome sanctuary.

    Shoving the cover back into place – it wouldn't do to give Flux an idea of where I had emerged, after all – I rolled to my feet and got off the street.

    And promptly got lost.

    <><>​

    We could go out again,” quavered Cleo; Rhia wished she would shut up. Troll was annoyed enough already.

    With one massive hand wrapped around Cleo's arm, Troll leaned his malformed face down toward hers. “Really, Sprite?” he rumbled. “Flux is out and about, as you say. If this man reports the matter, he'll be on the lookout for us. You should have played it safe, taken a few wallets, moved on.”

    He shook the girl by her arm; she cried out with pain. “But you got caught, because you tried to be smart.

    Troll!” cried Rhia. “Leave her alone. She didn't do anything wrong.” She fished out the money from her pocket. “Here, look, I scored a couple of hundred myself.”

    The hulking figure of the man who called himself Troll, nearly eight feet tall and almost as broad across the shoulders, turned toward her, discarding Cleo like a forgotten rag doll.

    Rhia watched Justin, behind Troll's back, move forward and help the teenager up; she clung to the pudgy boy, trying not to openly cry. As Troll neared her, she looked up at him, holding the money up. She could feel her power trying to engage; at this range, he was hugely intimidating, and that was one of the trigger conditions for her ability. But she didn't let it happen; she wouldn't let it happen.

    Changeling,” he growled. “Only two hundred?” He reached out, plucked the money from her fingers. “You know you could make much more than that. More than the little thief, if you put your mind to it.”

    Rhia felt nausea rising in her throat at what he was insinuating. “N-no,” she insisted. “I can't. I won't.”

    His hand cupped her face, rough fingertips caressing her jawline. “You can, and you should,” he insisted. “You have the ability to present any man, any woman, with the love of their life. They would pay, and pay, and pay. We would be able to afford more than just food for everyone. Clothes, pretty baubles, for you and Sprite. The type of special education that Gargoyle needs.”

    She winced at that; it was a low blow. Justin was developmentally challenged; he had trouble reading and writing, and anything more complex than simple math was beyond him. Rhia didn't know what was wrong with him, or even if it wasn't the sign of a deeper intelligence. But no matter what it was, Justin had a sweet personality, and cared for Cleo and Rhia just as much as they cared for him.

    Troll, he feared, just as Cleo and Rhia did. Which just went to prove that he had some brains.

    But even for that, even if Troll didn't do what he did with the rest of the money they brought him, and sequester it away somewhere instead of giving them more money back for better food, Rhia could not do what he was saying she should. Could not and would not.

    Fearing his reaction, she nonetheless shook her head. “N-no,” she whispered. “No. I can't.”

    He growled, then, and she felt terror as his grip tightened. Her power slipped its leash then, and she felt it working its magic. His hand loosened, and he looked upon her with what could almost have been tenderness. But his words shattered the illusion.

    No matter. I'll just take you for myself then.”

    Up until now, she had managed to hold her power back from the affect it was undoubtedly going to have on him. But that point had now been passed. He had seen her power in full effect, and he was no doubt entranced.

    Which meant very bad things for her.

    No!” she shouted, not caring how her voice echoed in the abandoned building. “Troll! No! Please!”

    He smiled then, baring his yellowed, crooked teeth, and she felt utter dread. “Yes,” he told her. “Plead with me. I like it.”

    <><>​

    Somewhere along the way, I had managed to bang my knee, so I was limping. To be honest, I was somewhat surprised that I wasn't nursing, say, broken legs, broken arms, and several other things starting with 'broken', from the fall into the sewer, and then when the car ran over the manhole cover when I was holding it up. Even the place where I'd been shot had stopped hurting; feeling around back there located a hole in the coat, another in the shirt, but unbroken skin beneath that.

    I'd been bleeding from the wound. I'd felt the blood.

    Of course, not bleeding anymore from a previous gunshot wound counted as a 'plus' in the ledger, one of very few going around. All the same, this made me jumpy; Murphy surely had another wagonload of bad luck careening down the tracks toward me, and it would be a good idea for me to keep an eye out for it.

    And there it was. I was skulking – inasmuch as a six-foot-plus guy in a trenchcoat can skulk – down a side-street, lined with what appeared to be abandoned buildings, when I heard what was clearly a woman crying out for help.

    It was a trap.

    I knew it was a trap.

    She may as well have been calling out “Hey, come here and get shat on all over again!”

    I'd been dumped in the shit already today. Literally, in fact. And I really, really didn't want to get into another altercation, one that might have already attracted police attention. Or Flux. I really didn't want to tangle with Flux again.

    And yet, I noted that I was heading in that direction anyway. Toward the obvious trap. In the direction that I most definitely did not want to go. Seriously, for a villain, I've got way too many good intentions to make a good deal of it.

    I got to the door in the side of the building and dragged it open. Inside was fairly dim, but I could see several people. This was obviously the trap; an eight-foot-tall guy, manhandling a pretty girl. Behind them, a pudgy kid was … growing some sort of rocky hide from his body?

    “Hey!” he called out. “Let Rhia go!”

    He tackled the big guy from behind, which only reinforced my opinion that some people shouldn't be tackled at all; a casual backhand sent him flying through the air, to smash into a wall and fall to the ground.

    I sighed. This was my cue. Intervene, they turn on me, the trap is sprung, the cops get me. Yay.

    Well, maybe I'd get a good solid meal in prison. And a chance to call a lawyer.

    Because trap or no, I couldn't let this go past, without at least trying to stop it.

    Sometimes I fucking hate my good impulses.

    I stepped forward. “Hey!”

    <><>​

    Rhia struggled in Troll's grip. She'd felt hope, for just a second, when Justin tried to stand up for her. But Troll had smashed him away; his rocky carapace had splintered on impact with the brick wall. Cleo was trying to help him up, but it was clear that neither of them was going to be able to help her. Troll was finally going to take from her what she'd known he wanted, the first time she had seen him. And she was powerless to stop him. She clenched her eyes shut …

    Hey!”

    The voice was masculine, mature, neither Troll's gravelly growl nor Justin's softer tones. Troll paused, his fingers inches away from tearing her clothes. “Who the fuck are you?” he growled.

    Rhia turned her head; a man was walking toward them across the uneven floor. She frowned; was that the guy that Flux had been confronting?

    Doesn't matter,” the guy told him. He sounded beaten down, tired. Even his walk was almost listless, as though he was just doing things by the numbers. He didn't stride, like a hero. His foot caught on a loose brick, and he stumbled, almost fell, but caught himself. “You're gonna let her go, turd-face.”

    Troll growled. “You watch your mouth, man,” he challenged. “Or I'll break every bone in your body, fuck you up good.”

    The man stopped, and for a heart-stopping moment, Rhia thought he was going to just turn around, leave. Let Troll do what he had been about to do.

    Then he sighed. “Fucking do it, then,” he stated. “Give me your best shot. My day's already fucked in so many ways it's having to grow new orifices to fit, so let's see if you can top what's already happened to me.”

    Rhia found herself sprawling on the ground, as Troll stepped over her, toward the interloper. The big man didn't issue any more challenges, make any more threats. He just stepped in and swung one massive fist.

    The man was dead, Rhia knew that. In the moment that blow landed, every bone would be broken, and he would be flung away. Troll would triumph, as he always had.

    But somehow, it did not happen. The blow whistled in, but the man wasn't there anymore. He had stepped in, and he had grabbed Troll in a very important, very sensitive, part of his anatomy.

    And then Troll screamed. His bellow shook dust from the walls, and made the very dirt on the floor jump. His very body seemed to be outlined in a pale blue crackling fire.

    Rhia knew exactly what this was; she had seen the man employ it, uselessly, against Flux. It hadn't worked, then.

    Now, it worked.

    Oh, how it worked.

    Troll fell over, shaking the building a second time; he wasn't screaming any more. He wasn't making any noise at all. His eyes were open, and his mouth was open, and smoke was curling up out of the latter.

    The man who had killed him, the man with the strangely-streaked white hair, looked down at the smoking corpse.

    Fuck my life,” he muttered, then fell over backward.


    End of Part Three

    Interlude One
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
  29. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    Lethal force against a rapist? Really not going to hold that against him, especially since it wasn't entirely intentional. So, seems he has a gang now, and the gang has a very good to be thankful towards him. He'll probably feel better when he's eaten, bathed, gotten some good sleep in, and not have had his Nemesis programming triggered again for a while.

    So, interesting characters and interesting chapter, Ack. Thanks for the post. :)
     
  30. RoninSword

    RoninSword Sky God

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    I have to say that I really like this story. I'm to tired to really say all that much, but can someone explain the whole concept of Nemesis and what the deal was with those ribbons?
     
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