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Number Two and Other Stories

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Mar 24, 2015.

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  1. Threadmarks: Number Two
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Number Two


    I placed the final stack of bills in the briefcase and carefully closed it. As I snapped the latches shut, I heard the familiar voice of my boss.

    "Number Two, where are you?"

    "In here, sir," I replied, casually placing the briefcase on the floor behind my desk. I stood up as Electromaster entered; he wore his blue and white costume, of course. Electricity crackled in a faint nimbus around his head. Personally, I found it rather tacky, not to mention hazardous. And in the open, with bugs flying around? You could smell the little critters frying from yards away.

    “What are you doing?” he asked suspiciously. A suspicious one, was Electromaster. Always suspecting dissension among the troops. We went through more minions than any other two villains I'd ever worked for.

    Well, to be honest, I was fomenting a good deal of it. Three assassination attempts, one to take over his criminal empire, and four to abscond with the ill-gotten gains. I had personally thwarted two of those attempts, and warned Electromaster about the rest of them. It had taken a while, plus quite a few expended minions – well, what were minions good for, if not for expending in a good cause? And there was no better cause than for the betterment of yours truly – for me to finally gain his trust.

    “Going over the numbers, sir,” I replied, gesturing at the screen of my open laptop. “I've got the proceeds from that bank heist laundered, and invested in a nice rollover scheme -”

    “Never mind that,” he interrupted harshly. “Why are you not wearing your costume?”

    I concealed a wince. I was not built to wear a costume; spandex is not my go-to fabric of choice. I prefer to disguise my imperfections behind a well-cut Brooks Brothers suit, or something equally stylish from Armani.

    “I spilled coffee on it, sir,” I replied without missing a beat. “I have it soaking; I'll put it on immediately it's dry.”

    It had been the one sticking point of my employment with Electromaster; he'd had a costume made for me. Patterned after his own, of course. I disliked wearing it, intensely, but I never said as much, at least out loud. Electromaster was well-known for dealing very harshly, and very finally, with what he considered to be anything resembling criticism of his plans or requirements.

    So I smiled, and agreed with him that it was a marvellous fit, and wore the damned thing as little as possible. The colour scheme made me look like a Smurf with a skin condition, and the fit was terrible; it rode up so badly that every time I moved, I gave myself a wedgie.

    I had spilled coffee on it, of course; I did not put it past my illustrious employer to actually check on my story. At least he didn't insist that I call him “Master”, or even “o Great One”, as one of my previous employers had done. It was a small consolation, but one that I clung to.

    “Hmm,” he growled. “You do that. In the meantime, I need you to check on something for me.”

    I immediately looked attentive; or rather, more attentive. Around Electromaster – rather, around any of the touchier supervillains – you had to look as though you were ready to spring into action on the instant, or they may decide to make an example of you. I'd had that happen to the minion next to me once; it was a salutary lesson, and I never, ever forgot it.

    It took hours to get the bloodstains out of my uniform, after all.

    “Certainly, sir,” I told him. “What is it I need to check on?”

    “There's something going on,” he responded, beginning to pace back and forth. He did a really good villain's pace, I had to admit; hands clasped behind his back, head lowered in brooding thought, and a twist as he turned so that his cape did not entangle his legs. “Treachery is afoot.”

    I dislike capes almost as much as I dislike spandex. I never got the hang of wearing them, and I've seen too many villains – and heroes – brought down by something catching that great flapping piece of cloth that they unaccountably attached to their neck. I won't wear one if I can possibly help it; I considered it a point in Electromaster's favour that he did not supply the abomination of a costume with one. Not much of a point, mind; he did make me wear the costume, after all. But a point.

    “Treachery, sir?” I repeated, somewhat impressed. He'd actually picked up on this ahead of time; I hadn't thought him quite this perceptive. He must have learned something from me, somewhere along the way. “I'll look right into it.”

    “You do that, Number Two,” he commanded. “I -”

    At that moment, the entire base shuddered. A paperweight fell off my desk. I steadied the laptop and looked up, settling my glasses more securely on my face. “What – what was that, sir?”

    “An attack!” He broke for the door. “Sound the alarm! Mobilise the troops! We must repel the enemy!”

    I knew it was an attack. I'd arranged it. Or rather, I'd carefully leaked information which would, when carefully examined by the science hero Adam Force, reveal the location of this very base.

    I hadn't signed the leak, of course; as far as the do-gooder knew, the information had come into his hands via perfectly mundane means.

    Which meant, of course, that I should be leaving, very shortly. But I had things to do, or I would have already been out the door. Or, in this case, the escape shaft.

    Turning back to the laptop, I minimised the window which had been taking up the entire screen. It showed what I had been telling my esteemed employer, that the money from his last big job was currently invested safely in a high-return rollover scheme.

    What it didn't show was that the bank was not one that he had chosen, and that the name in which the money had been deposited was one of my several aliases.

    A not-so-distant explosion rocked the base, rattling the door in its frame, and I quickened my movements. Those had been the main doors to the base; Adam Force and his Force Pioneers – an unbearably optimistic name, in my opinion – would now be free to enter, and do battle with Electromaster. I wished him all joy with it.

    Calling up a window for a bank account that Electromaster didn't know I knew about, I entered a password that he would have killed me for knowing. With rapid keystrokes, I transferred electronic currency from one resting place to another. I couldn't get it all, and nor did I wish to; once my patsies on the side of law and order began scouring his accounts, they would expect to find some money. And they would.

    Just not all of it.

    Moments later, the icon flashed, indicating that the money had been transferred. Slapping the laptop closed, I pulled the other briefcase from my desk drawer, dropped the slim computer into it, and snapped the latches shut as well. Then I retrieved my first briefcase; when fleeing from the law, disposable cash is always welcome.

    I had been only moments with preparing for my farewell bonus, but already the base was well on its way to becoming a total wreck. Metal pillars leaned at drunken angles, dangling cables spat vicious sparks, and the fluorescent lights which normally bathed the entire base in a soulless white glare now blinked on and off as the power supply fluctuated wildly.

    In the midst of this, Electromaster and those minions he had been able to gather faced off with Adam Force and the Force Pioneers. The science hero, clad in the high-tech armour which granted him the powers of flight and protection against most damage, hovered before the crackling nimbus of electricity that was being projected by Electromaster. I was too far away to hear the banter being exchanged between hero and villain before the battle recommenced, but I'm sure it was suitably tedious.

    Which led to the next aspect of the information which I had leaked. Adam Force had the location of the base. He had the plans of the base. What he didn't have were the details of the escape shaft, or even that there was one.

    Of course, the base had one. What self-respecting supervillain base doesn't have a back way out? In point of fact, when I began to work for Electromaster, I had checked that there was indeed one, and I'd had it refurbished, for this very day.

    Sidling along a corridor, hearing the distant sounds of battle, and the not so distant sounds of running and shouting – and shooting – I paused before the door to Electromaster's sanctum sanctorum. Of course the escape shaft led from there. And of course he'd locked it. The paranoid bastard probably locked the bathroom door when he wasn't using it.

    Well, considering that one of the faux assassination attempts I had engineered had involved a beartrap under the toilet seat, he was probably wise to do so.

    I had spent weeks carefully fostering that paranoid mindset, always with the aim that I was above suspicion. But now it had come back to bite me in the butt; between myself and escape was two solid inches of reinforced titanium steel. I frowned, studying it.

    I knew how he opened it, of course; there was a metal plate, which he touched with his bare hand. I could see the faint marks of his fingerprints on it, even now. But it wasn't a sensor, or even a pressure plate; I was fairly certain that he directed electricity through it in order to open the door. Which I, or any one of his henchmen or minions, was unable to do.

    I am not an unintelligent man. I knew that I could solve this conundrum. The question was, could I solve it before the Force team beat down Electromaster enough that I was discovered and captured?

    Briefly, I considered taking the battery out of the laptop and discharging its charge into the plate; that might work, and then again, it might not.

    Irritated, I sighed. This was a setback, and one that I should have anticipated. Carefully, I placed the briefcases into a niche near the door, and turned to go. I had to search for something with a heavy battery, one that would allow me to get the door open and escape without being detected. Electromaster had been equipping his minions with a hand-held discharge gun; such a device would be perfect. All I had to do was find one that hadn't been used yet …

    “Halt, villain!”

    I froze, hands automatically going up to show that I was unarmed. “Not a villain!” I called out. “Can I turn around?”

    “Slowly.” The voice was feminine. I essayed a glance; the erect stature, the mane of red-gold hair, the strikingly beautiful face, could belong to only one woman. Carefully, I turned; she held the raygun on me steadily, the barrel not wavering a fraction of an inch.

    “Tessa Force,” I greeted her. She wore a uniform patterned after her husband's – sky-blue with red and gold trim – although I had to admit that it looked much better on her than on him. Even if it wasn't spandex.

    “The same,” she acknowledged with a nod. “And you are?” A frown marred that perfect brow. “I've never seen a villain wearing a suit before.”

    Then you've never visited Wall Street. I bit back the obvious comment, and nodded, pretending nervousness. “I – I'm his accountant. I – I've never committed a crime.”

    “If you moved money for him,” she told me sternly, “then you've committed a crime whether you knew it or not.”

    I shuffled toward her, hands still up, head bowed, doing my best to look harmless. “I – if I turned state's evidence – I could tell you about what he did -”

    A particularly loud explosion blasted dust past us, and the ground shifted under our feet. Small pieces of the ceiling fell around us, and I took my chance. Tessa Force – if I recalled correctly, her scientist father had christened her Tesseract – had been fooled by my meek act, and taken off balance by the explosion. I grabbed for the gun, not so much to take it from her, but to take it out of line from myself. Being shot while escaping, even by a beautiful woman, is not something I would wish to add to my resume.

    She was strong, stronger than me, and (I quickly learned) more practised in hand to hand fighting. But I wasn't trying to beat her, and I wasn't trying to get the gun. I was only trying to hold it away from me until I could get my hand on the stun-gun hanging on her hip. She realised my intent just as my hand closed around the device; she attempted to leap back, to pull free long enough to shoot me, but I jabbed her first. The stun-gun crackled, and she fell to the floor.

    Not dead, as I ascertained with a quick check, nor even unconscious; her superb genetics were even now helping her throw off the shock from her own weapon. But I did not linger; I had no desire for a return match, one that would surely end with my defeat. Her deep green eyes, open and staring daggers at me, promised as much.

    “So sorry, dear lady,” I told her. “But I have business elsewhere.”

    Hurrying back to the niche where I had left the briefcases, I collected them, just as a second massive explosion smashed through the base. Electromaster must surely be on his last legs, and it was my duty to myself to get clear before he went down for good.

    The stun-gun – I will cheerfully use one on any idiot who calls a stun-gun a taser, and vice versa – crackled as I pressed it against the plate and jammed the activation button. The door slid open; discarding the stun-gun, I leaped inside.

    From there it was simplicity itself to access the escape shaft, the single capsule that was waiting there. As it closed around me, I saw the door open once more. Force, I thought, or perhaps his wife, recovered from my rude attack on her person.

    But no, it was Electromaster himself. His costume was scorched and torn, and he looked suitably desperate. He saw me in the capsule, saw the cover sliding down over me. Saw the cheery wave which I gave him.

    And then the capsule closed, and I was gone. Rocketed away to a distant spot under another part of New York City, where I decamped the capsule, climbed some stairs, and re-entered society.

    In the one hand, I held a briefcase containing several hundred thousand dollars. In the other, I held a briefcase containing a laptop holding the access keys to quite a bit more money.

    I could have retired, of course. I could have retired after every job I did. But I didn't. And I wouldn't. Because like any other supervillain, I'm not in it for the money. I'm in it for the thrill.

    Whenever the heroes burst into the villain's lair, and the climactic battle is going on, does anyone notice the inconspicuous figure with the briefcases full of money, sidling out the back door? No, and I know this, because I'm that person.

    You see, I take work with supervillains, or wannabe villains. I have contacts all over the globe; I can organise minions, set up untraceable bank accounts, design underground bases, and in general do the behind-the-scenes work that most supervillains have no idea how to accomplish. I set them up as villains in the world scene, and all the while I'm taking note of their bank account numbers, and the escape routes from their bases.

    And I plan crimes for them. Crimes which get them more and more money, and more and more notice from the authorities. So when the day comes that the heroes come knocking on the front door, that's when I'm ducking out the back door.

    I'm never the man up front. I'm always the one working behind the scenes. The power behind the throne, as it were.

    Have you ever wondered why new villains are always cropping up, rising fast, then being captured? That's because there's someone like me behind them, pushing until they go too high, too fast, and fall afoul of the law. In the meantime, I'm parachuting to safety, with a briefcase full of cash.

    I'm the one they call Number Two.

    And I wouldn't have it any other way.


     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2015
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  2. Chojomeka

    Chojomeka Kimochi~

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    Well ain't he a little shit, I guess that's why he's called.....Number Two. :p
     
  3. m_d

    m_d Fascinated by storytelling

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    A few notes:
    “I have it soaking; I'll put it on immediately it's dry.” - once it's

    “o Great One" - O Great One

    "...a beartrap under the toilet seat"
    - Oh my, what an image. And goes nicely with the type of superhero setting this appears to be. Though actually, I'm not sure what kind of bear trap you could put under a toilet seat. I guess you could use a pit trap under the toilet itself. And I just read Chojomeka's comment. Nice pun you.

    "where I decamped the capsule" - decamped from the

    A fun and illustrative read with a sideways look at a common bit of superhero story convention (villains rising to success so quickly, and yet being beaten more easily than one might think given their demonstrated ability, at a convenient moment). I like the use of interior monologue in particular. Lots of writing advice includes some variation of 'show don't tell', and while there's plenty of badly done telling out there that deserves the admonition, there's also room for effectively done telling in the right context. Nice work Ack.
     
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  4. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    First one is actually a British/Australian phraseology.

    Second one I've seen in upper and lower case.

    It was a bear trap directly under the seat, designed to fit. Sit down, SNAP. Not very concealable, but he wanted to get the guy paranoid, after all.

    Decamped as in exited. 'from' is optional in this case, IMO.
     
  5. preier

    preier Not too sore, are you?

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    amusing.

    i also find it interesting that it's a mirror scenario to "nemesis" as in both cases, someone is setting up supervillain(s) to profit from it ^^

    supervillains, the NEW renewable energy
     
  6. Throne3d

    Throne3d Getting sticky.

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    Hm... For the first one, I've never actually heard it used like that (I'm British), though maybe it's only in a certain dialect? Not like it matters much though; the meaning is obvious, even if it does sound wrong, having never heard it before. Then again, if I did hear it in speech, I'd probably assume someone's just talking quickly and mumbled a word, like "I'll put it on immediately 'n it's dry" where 'n is "when".

    For the second... I would typically expect it to be capitalised, since it's a name/title thing? I mean, usually "o" is just used at the beginning of a phrase or something, and I don't think it's a proper noun in and of itself, so it's probably able to be lowercase, but I would definitely expect it to be capitalised most of the time, and maybe in a phrase like this too?

    But like you say, your writing style is ultimately up to you, so if it's still understandable, there's probably not much point changing it. :p

    Nice story though! It'd be interesting if there we got to find out about some more of his exploits at some point, or if he just got mentioned in one of your other stories (though I suppose that'd be going against the whole "no-one notices him" thing).
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2015
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  7. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    I'm considering writing more in this universe.

    See how things go.
     
  8. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    He attempts to get in on the ground floor for the Warlord!Undersiders movement. Things don't go quite as planned.

    Wasn't she supposed to just control bugs? Because getting around Skitter's local omniscience is a pain in the ass.

    And that Tattletale girl...she is always smirking at him, like she knows exactly what he is doing and is keeping him around because it amuses her. Of course she always looks like that towards everything so it might just be in his head.
     
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  9. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Given that this is original fiction ...
     
  10. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    You wouldn't be the first author to make a crossover fanfic between a favored series and their own original fiction.

    #2 getting used to being in Bet and it's more serious take on super-powered individuals, Tattletale and Skitter end up in the #2-verse and getting used to the lighter side of cape interactions while #2 fails badly to take advantage of what appears to be two naive newbie villains, someone copies Haywire's work and makes a solid portal between the two worlds, the BB portal is hijacked from #2-verse's end while Lisa was coaching Labyrinth on how to make it, there's all sorts of ways to do it.
     
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  11. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Hmmm.

    There's more to this universe than #2.

    My next story in this universe is likely to cover Adam Force and the Force Pioneers.

    For Science and Justice!
     
  12. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    Well yes, but that's all we really have at this point beyond the brief scuffle with the heroine and the interaction with his patsy master so I used what I knew and came up with the funny.

    Seriously, you can't tell me Lisa wouldn't be amused as all hell at #2 trying to pull that stuff on her and Taylor thinking either they or the world, depending on which side crossed over, would conform to what he is used to. She worked around Coil for years, she would keep #2 around just for pure entertainment value.
     
  13. GladiusLucix

    GladiusLucix Versed in the lewd.

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    After a little time working together, I could see Lisa and #2 forming a partnership, liberally sprinkled with paranoia inducing not quite assassination attempts. Sort of like Lisa and Alexandria over in Amelia, just more potentially fatal.
     
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  14. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Partnered with Lisa? Two would quickly realise that she's smarter than him, and would give over the treachery side of things, and just throw his efforts into building them into a team that would go places.

    ... or he'd politely acknowledge his mistake, and bow out of the partnership, wish her good luck, and go try elsewhere.
     
  15. Zanfib

    Zanfib Not too sore, are you?

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    More interesting might be Two partnered with Coil. Two is smarter then Coil but the nature of Coils power means he is still in over his head. By the time he realises how dangerous Coil is he is already too close to easily escape, so he has to ally with Lisa (who would probably be the one to warn him how much trouble he's in) so they can both escape.
     
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  16. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    That could be interesting.
     
  17. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    That universe clearly needs to learn that you shoot the Thinker first.
     
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  18. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    But .. but .. then who'll hire the minions, do the accounts, design the base and plan the crimes?
     
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  19. Chojomeka

    Chojomeka Kimochi~

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    In one universe Dr. Doom sneezed....and instantly believed that it was Richards fault....again. In another universe David Xanatos simply grinned.
     
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  20. Threadmarks: The Matter with Minions
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    The Matter with Minions

    [Author's Note: In case it is not clear, the main character in this story is not the same as in the first one.]

    I looked up as they wrestled her into my study. It took three of my minions to do so, which was fairly impressive, given that any one of the three was more than a match for her in weight, and presumably strength as well. Her hands were tied behind her, and she had a gag tied around her mouth – for what reason, I had no idea – but she was still holding her own. Her foot-stomps and knee-gouges were rather impressive, and I made a mental note to never be caught within kicking distance of her.

    Which just left the other problem.

    They shoved her to the ground before my desk; I looked at her over my reading glasses, then at my minions. “What,” I inquired, “is the meaning of this?”

    The head of my minions, a weasel of a man who was always snivelling and attempting to ingratiate himself with me, no matter how much I asked him not to, approached the desk. “We brought her for you, Master,” he explained.

    I sighed. A simple 'sir' would have sufficed, but he insisted on calling me 'Master'. “You … brought her to me?”

    He nodded eagerly. “Yes, Master. You were speaking about finding a way to neutralise the Watchman, and so … “ He gestured at the young woman, who by now was kneeling on my rug, glaring at me over her gag. I hoped that she appreciated the fact that the thick pile was the only reason that she did not now have skinned knees. But still …

    Removing my glasses, I massaged my temples. Then I replaced them and looked at her again.

    Female, check. Early to mid twenties, check. Striking appearance, check. Impressively heaving bosom, check.

    They couldn't have been more complete if they'd been following a list.

    “Remove her gag,” I ordered.

    The minion standing closest to her made a who, me? gesture. I nodded briefly. Yes, you. Idiot.

    “Uh, Master, she, uh bites,” he protested.

    Well, that explained the gag, then. I looked at the woman. “Miss, if your gag is removed, do you promise not to bite anyone?”

    She glared back at me, obviously not wanting to give me any leeway. Then, reluctantly, she nodded.

    “And so,” I told the minion. “Remove the gag. Now.”

    Gingerly, he undid the gag, then jerked his fingers away, as if expecting her to snap at him. But she didn't; instead, she continued to glare at me.

    “You've made a big mistake, mister,” she snapped. “When Watchman hears about this, and he will … “

    “I have no doubt that he already has,” I interrupted. “But that is neither here nor there. I presume from your age that you are his girlfriend or paramour?”

    She stared at me. “You don't know?”

    I allowed a wrinkle of irritation to crease my brow. “I know many things, miss. There are some things that I choose not to know, as irrelevant. The Watchman's private affairs are one of them; or rather, they were up until this moment. You are, then, romantically attached to him?”

    Slowly, she nodded. “My name is Laura Landers, and yes, he's my … “ She took a deep breath. “Boyfriend, yes.”

    I nodded. “And I presume that these men abducted you from a public place, making a very visible scene, so as to ensure that the Watchman heard of it?”

    Again, Ms Landers nodded. “From my workplace, yes. I'm a journalist, with the - “

    “Of course you are,” I muttered, rubbing my temples again. “Why does this always happen to me?”

    “What?” she asked. “What do you mean?”

    I sighed. “Do you have any idea what the bane of my life is?”

    She perked right up. “The Watchman?”

    I snorted in mild amusement. “Hm. No.”

    “Uh … Adam Force?”

    I rolled my eyes. “That poseur? No.”

    Laura looked puzzled. “Then - “

    “Allow me to answer my own question,” I interrupted. “Forgive me; I did not intend to pose a quiz. The bane of my very existence as a supervillain is overeager minions.” I waved at them. “I was thinking out loud, how to remove the problem of your paramour as a factor in my plans, and they decided to kidnap you, no doubt as a means of keeping him under my thumb.”

    She frowned, apparently having trouble parsing this. “You mean you didn't -”

    I raised my eyes to the ceiling, being a reasonable substitute for the sky, and the highly doubtful existence of an Almighty beyond. “Of course not. What possible reason could I have had for kidnapping you? I didn't even know of your existence!” Irritably, I gestured at one of my minions. “Untie her, will you?”

    “Uh, Master, I -” He gestured at his face, where I now noticed several freshly-incurred weeping gouges. The impression I received was that he had gotten them at her hands.

    Unfortunately for him, I really didn't care. “Untie Ms Landers, or when I get the piranha tank restocked, you get to test it out first.”

    I wouldn't, of course. Piranhas are woefully hard to keep alive outside of their native environment. If I wanted to tear someone apart gruesomely, I'd use a wood chipper. Easier to acquire and much easier to maintain.

    Carefully, he untied her wrists, then hurriedly retreated while she rubbed her wrists. She shot glares at several of my minions, then looked back at me. “So you're not intending to keep me as a prisoner in order to prevent the Watchman from foiling your plans?”

    “Good god, no, woman,” I retorted. “Hostage situations are terrible things. They get you despised in the popular media – which I would worry more about if I actually sampled it – the Watchman would do his best to get around whatever restrictions I laid on him, for which I would not blame him, and if there was any sort of rescue attempt, people would get hurt. Most likely, the hostage.”

    “You don't sound like any other supervillain I've ever heard of,” Laura Landers replied cautiously. “And I've been captured by at least half a dozen, now.”

    “Really?” I asked. “Maybe you should consider a better security setup, then. Perhaps a small concealable handgun on your person. Shoot a few minions, and the rest will back right off.”

    I straightened my lapels. “As for be being unlike any other supervillain, I will take that as a compliment. Me taking you as a hostage would do you no good, do the Watchman no good, and most assuredly do me no good. I came to that conclusion a long time ago, and so you are safe from me, so long as you yourself do not take up the superhero trade.” I noted a blinking light in the corner of the screen on my desk, and sighed. “Though I would advise you to move to the side of the room. Now.”

    Frowning, Laura did so. “Why do you want me to -”

    Her words were interrupted in the most direct manner possible; there were several crashes, starting a few floors above, culminating in one that brought down a good chunk of the ceiling right where she had been standing. On top of the pile of rubble, coughing and waving away dust, was the heroic form of the Watchman, all greys and browns, with that ridiculous cape fluttering into place.

    “Aha!” he shouted, striking a pose. “I have you now! Hand over Ms Landers, foul villain, or I'll -”

    I pointed. “She's over there,” I told him. “Take her and go.”

    He blinked. “What, really?” Turning, he stared as she moved toward him. One of my minions went to intercept her, but I waved him away. I didn't need to lose any more minions this month.

    Laura Landers went to his arms, and he held her close. “You won't get away with this so easily,” he declaimed to me. “Kidnapping is still a crime -”

    “I didn't have her kidnapped,” I snapped. “I was in the process of letting her go when you broke my ceiling.”

    The puzzled expression returned. “That can't be right.”

    “No, actually, he was,” she told him. “He even apologised. Sort of.”

    “Then the minions who kidnapped her -” he began.

    I steepled my fingers. “Will be dealt with. Severely.”

    He fumbled for something to say; I had forced him off script, for which I felt obscurely pleased with myself. I waved at the hole in the ceiling. “Oh, just take your girlfriend and go, will you? I've got world domination to plan, here.”

    “World domination; that's a crime,” he declared, finding familiar ground.

    “Not if I'm fairly elected,” I responded. “Now will you go already? You're making the minions nervous, and I've only just managed to housetrain some of them.”

    With a whoosh of wind, he was gone, and with him the winsome Laura Landers. I sighed and gestured to the minions. “Get that cleaned up. Get me a damage report. And get the roof fixed before it rains.”

    They scurried into action, and I set about brushing dust off of my papers and computer.

    Superheroes. Seriously.

    They're almost as bad as minions.



    The End
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2015
  21. preier

    preier Not too sore, are you?

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    i had vetinari flashback (goodbye sir pratchett, and thanks for all the tales) ^^ very nice.

    would this evolve into a kind of gallery?
     
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  22. Cambrian

    Cambrian The Pimperor - Inspirational as Fuck

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    I love the second snippet as much as I loved the first. Yaaaay for more of this universe!
     
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  23. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    Why does he even have those minions, anyway? Tradition, driving up the cost of his rivals hiring minions, making the world a better place by employing more people, because they'll do things he needs done that more normal employees wouldn't, or what?
     
  24. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Yes.
     
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  25. Sebastian13/15

    Sebastian13/15 Getting out there.

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    I found this to be way more funny than is probably normal.
     
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  26. Threadmarks: Opposites Attract
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Opposites Attract


    Seismic had caused another earthquake in LA. It was the same old story; the villain had rebuilt his quake machine, and had tried to hold the city to ransom. Again. When the heroes had attacked him – of course – he had fled, leaving his machine to set off the earth tremor in his wake. They had destroyed it, of course, but several city blocks had been badly damaged, and facilities had been cut off in a much wider area.

    That was where I came in. I'm good at damage control. In fact, it's my thing. It's what I call myself, after all. What I'm really good at is permeation and control of my environment, seeing what's damaged, and fixing it. I'm less good at controlling things in other ways, though I can do it if pressed. In short, I'm not good at punching supervillains through walls, but I can, given adequate setup time, make the wall grab the villain, and give him a noogie.

    What? Just because I'm a hero, I can't noogie the villain? Show me where that's written down.

    Anyway, there was a lot of damage. Even with the latest earthquake-proofed buildings, that will happen. Correction; earthquake resistant buildings. Give them a big enough tremor, and they will fall down. Maybe the Japanese had the right idea, back in the day; make your buildings single story only, with rice paper for walls, and there's much less chance of being killed in a quake, or being trapped in a fallen building. But I digress.

    I used my ForceTech flight pack to get me to the rough epicentre of the damaged area. It was a very useful piece of equipment; while most people found the controls to be too finicky, and the antigrav mechanism prone to malfunction, I had no problems in that area. So I set down on what appeared to be a relatively stable place to stand, made it more stable, and let my power flow outward.

    When I'm not concentrating on it, my power tends to stabilise the environment around me. Newton's first law is given a little bit of a boost; things that are at rest are a little more prone to stay at rest, while things that are in motion stay in motion. In the finer detail, things become a little more orderly; coffee doesn't spill, pencils don't break, staplers and copy machines don't jam up. On the whole, bad things are less likely to happen.

    This, by the way, was why I liked the ForceTech pack. It worked just the way I wanted it to, and the antigrav had yet to act out on me. I brought it back to Adam Force every thousand hours for a check-up, and he had yet to find anything wrong with it.

    My power has other applications, if I'm concentrating a little. When it comes to random events that can be affected by changes in the environment, they tend to come out my way. In short, I'm 'lucky'. I never trip, stub my toe, lose anything that's important to me, or even drop anything that I don't want to drop. I also haven't lost a game of darts, billiards or beer pong in ten years, except on purpose. I do deliberately lose on occasion; I like having friends.

    All the way through college, I seemed to live a charmed existence; pranks set up against me always backfired, while mine went off perfectly. It was only afterward, once my powers developed properly, that I realised what had been going on all that time.

    I only tested my powers against the 'random chance' of a casino once. I visited Las Vegas and put down one dollar on the roulette wheel; six times they spun the wheel, and six times it came up on the number I selected. On the sixth spin, there was a burning smell, and sparks came out from under the wheel; whatever they were using to brake the thing had failed to overcome my power, and had burned out. It came down on my number anyway, but I never collected my winnings; I just got out of there.

    Of course, when I'm really concentrating on my powers, the effect is a little more pronounced than 'good luck'.

    Once I was sure that I had the entire damaged region within my ambit, I exerted my will. The effect was subtle at first; a shifting, a grinding, in the depths of the rubble. And then things started to move, to reassemble themselves. Gradually, defying entropy and gravity, the chunks of concrete and rebar started to work back together. Beneath, the water and gas electrical lines reconnected, sealed themselves up. Piece by piece, chunk by chunk, the collapsed buildings, the infrastructure, became as good as new.

    On the way, I took note of substandard materials that had been used in one building; this had not materially contributed to the collapse, but had certainly not helped to prevent it. There was also an injured man in a broom closet on the fourth floor of one of the buildings. I could not mend him the same way as I mended the buildings, but I could send EMTs his way.

    In a few more minutes, I was putting the finishing touches on my repairs. I had even fixed the street better than new; the asphalt was as fresh and clean, the paint as bright and new, as if it had been put down yesterday.

    Lifting off on my flight pack, I flew the three blocks to where the police were holding the cordon. Touching down next to the command vehicle, I nodded to the officer in charge. “It's all clear. Everything is back the way it should be. I left the earthquake machine destroyed, of course. You'll need to send the EMTs up to the fourth floor of that building.” I told them about the injured man, and where he could be found.

    The rep from the Mayor's office was there, of course. He approached me as I finished talking to the cops. “Mr, ah, Damage Control. It's a pleasure to meet you.”

    I smiled as I shook his hand. I knew he was a little taken aback by my costume, or lack thereof. But it suited my theme, and so I stuck with it. A hard hat, denim work shirt and overalls, heavy work gloves and boots, and a toolbelt that I never actually made use of, except to store my phone. A domino mask that I usually hid under oversized sunglasses completed my ensemble. Apart from the jetpack, of course. “All my pleasure, Mr, uh … ?“

    “Wells, Colin Wells,” he informed me. “The Mayor is aware of the arrangement you have with the government, and is willing to reimburse you for your time to the usual value.”

    I nodded. One percent of the estimated value of what was repaired might not seem like much, but the zeroes tended to mount up. And when compared to the cost of rebuilding it all … it was a pittance to someone like the Mayor of the city of Los Angeles.

    Who, I noted, could not even be bothered to come and meet with me himself. Behind my shades, I rolled my eyes. “Sounds good to me, Mr Wells.”

    “So, where would you like the funds deposited, sir?” asked Wells.

    I raised an eyebrow. Really? What does this clown think he's playing at? “A check works just fine for me, Mr Wells,” I pointed out.

    “I, uh, the Mayor's office, would feel much more secure with online banking - “

    I cut him off. “No. You hand me a check, I look it over and go on my way. I do not wait three to five working days for the funds to clear. And I do not suffer strange and mysterious banking fees. And most importantly, I do not hand over my banking information to just anyone. Is that abundantly clear, Mr Wells?”

    He swallowed. “Uh, yes, uh, sir. Sorry about the miscommunication.” Reaching into his inside pocket, he pulled out an envelope and handed it to me. I opened it and pulled out the check, and read the amount on it.

    Wells cleared his throat. “If we're done here, sir -”

    “Wells.”

    “Yes, sir?”

    “What, exactly, is this?” I was keeping my voice level, with just a little effort.

    “It's, uh, the check that you requested, sir.”

    “This amount,” I persisted. “Where's the rest of it? I think you missed a zero.”

    “It's the amount that was deemed appropriate,” he ventured. “One percent of the appraisal value of the property that was damaged.” He was starting to sweat, now.

    I read the amount on the check again. “Wells, I've been doing this for a while. Sometimes someone decides to lowball the appraisal value. You know what happens then?”

    He blinked behind his glasses. “What?”

    “Nothing.” I took my shades off, so that I could look him in the eye. “I never, ever go back to where they stiffed me, until they make up the rest of the amount. Think about that for a moment.”

    “Sir, I assure you -”

    I cut him off. “Save it. I'm done here. Next disaster hits, next villain decides to level a city block, don't call me unless you've got the rest of this money waiting for me before I start work. As well as the payment for the job at hand.”

    Folding the check, I put it into my pocket, then I slid my shades back on to my face. “LA's a big place, Wells. Shit will happen, sooner or later. Your boss wants my help cleaning up afterward, he'd better pony up.”

    Before he could answer, I kicked in the flight pack and lifted up and away.

    At that moment, my phone earpiece buzzed. “Incoming call. Do you accept?”

    “Yes.” I was still seething. “Who is it?”

    Hi, honey, it's me.”

    Despite my foul mood, I smiled. “Hello, dear. What's up?”

    Just touching base. You all right, sweetie?”

    “Not really. I might be early home for once.”

    She was perceptive, I gave her that. “Oh? What's the matter?”

    “Bastards lowballed the LA job. Smarmy little weasel gave me a check for about one-tenth what it should have been.”

    Oh, dear.”

    “Anyway, enough of my day. How about yours?”

    Oh, I was thinking I might go shopping. Retail therapy, you know.”

    “Remember, lowball. Make sure you leave something behind in the shops, all right?”

    Oh, ha ha. Chicken wings all right for dinner tonight?”

    “My favourite. See you at home.”

    See you there.”

    She made kissing noises, and ended the call. I found myself smiling again; she always knew how to cheer me up. Not many people could say that they'd met the love of their life in college, but I had. She had been the one person who could bring me down to earth and keep me there, and I loved her for it.

    <><>​

    I had been in the air five minutes, heading for LAX, when my phone buzzed again. “Incoming call. Do you accept?”

    “Yes. Who is it?”

    This is Lieutenant-Colonel Groves, of the Military Liaison Group.”

    “I remember you, Lieutenant-Colonel. We met last year, in Dallas.”

    Yes, we did. We have need of your talents again. Catastrophe is in New York.”

    “Oh, god,” I muttered. “Casualties?”

    Thankfully few, but there is extensive property damage. The Mayor's office is citing seven figures.”

    Which meant that I'd get five, if and when I got paid. If they didn't lowball again. “Sure. Tell 'em I'm on my way. Where can you pick me up from?”

    Actually, I'm on your six, about half a mile out.”

    I slowed the pack to a hover, and looked around. The aircraft coming up from behind was a ForceTech special, produced for the military. It looked like nothing on earth, but I knew from personal experience that this one, and its brothers and sisters, could also fly like nothing on earth.

    All the same, I would never set foot on one without my own personal luck field.

    As it approached, all sleek lines and smooth fairings, I guided my pack around to where the rear hatch was opening. Groves was standing there, waiting for me as I landed inside; I shook his hand. Groves was one of the good guys. He'd never tried to doubletalk me.

    “Good to see you again,” he greeted me. “Buckle up, we're going hypersonic in ninety.”

    By which I knew that he meant ninety seconds, not ninety minutes.

    With practised movements, I shed the pack and clipped it on to a bracket, sat in a seat that configured itself to my form, and let the auto-buckle system work itself out. When the scramjets cut in, I felt as though all the skin on my face was trying to leave via the rear hatch. Groves seemed to be merely relaxing, as though this was a daily occurrence for him. And to be honest, it probably was.

    "So," he commented, once the acceleration had eased off. "The LA guys stiffed you, huh?"

    "How the hell did you know that?" I demanded, though I wasn't overly surprised. Groves was a very savvy operator, and there was little that went on in the world of independent heroes that he wasn't privy to.

    "Little birdie told me," he responded casually. "Branch of the Mayor's office that handles that sort of thing recently had a change of leadership. New guy in charge decided that they had to look into cutting costs."

    "Which means stiffing us independents," I concluded.

    "Got it in one." He eyed me from his seat. "You really gonna hold out for the payment up front before you work in LA again?"

    I shrugged. "They're gonna short me once, they'll do it again. Gotta send a message, am I right?"

    "Not saying you're wrong," he observed. "But demanding payment before you even do the work, that could be taken as extortion or even blackmail."

    I rolled my eyes. "Damn it, Groves. I do good work. You know I do good work. But what am I gonna do, with these penny-pinchers gouging me even when I put the place back to better than new condition?"

    "Well, shit, I know it, all right," he agreed. "Wouldn't call on you, otherwise. Just saying what they're like to say, you demand payment up front like that."

    "That happens, I walk," I stated flatly. "They don't need me. But they'll sure as hell find out that I'm a damn sight cheaper than anyone else."

    "Might could be they'll try to use legal means to force you to do the work," he warned me.

    I grinned at him. “Your hillbilly roots are showing through, Lieutenant-Colonel.”

    He grinned back. “Oh, shet yore pie-hole.”

    “Anyway, if they do try to coerce me with legalities,” I went on, “they can whistle in the wind for all I care.”

    “But if they do pull up some bullshit legality that says you have to do the work?”

    I shrugged. “They agreed to the terms, and if they want to play fast and loose with their assessments of property value, we can go there. I figure I can rebuild to the value of the assessment if I want to. Might be less than what they're looking for, but that really isn't my problem now, is it?”

    “Well now,” he mused. “That would make 'em scream just a little. I'd pay money to see that.”

    I chuckled and leaned back in my seat. “Stick around, the next time you give me a ride to LA. You just might get your chance.”

    <><>​

    It took us roughly twenty minutes to get to New York, during which time we discussed Catastrophe. Groves didn't have any new intelligence on her; at least, none that he was sharing with me. All that was known, or presumed, was that she was female, and that she was somewhere between eighteen and forty years old. Her earliest appearance had been ten years previously, when she devastated three city blocks of Fifth Avenue. Since then, she had appeared intermittently, causing mayhem with what was more or less the inverse of my power set.

    Catastrophe's main power seemed to be the ability to spread chaos; she caused cars to stall or to swerve into obstacles or each other. Electrical conduits sparked wildly or shorted out altogether. Nothing that was finicky or delicate lasted long around her, and the only images they had of her at all had been taken through a security camera with a badly warped cover; the camera had taken three frames, and then self-immolated.

    Like my powers, however, hers always manifested in a way that benefited her; nothing that shorted out or exploded or otherwise malfunctioned did it in a way that harmed her. If someone tried to shoot me, my power would keep the primer from exploding; in her case, the entire gun would explode in the firer's hand.

    Our powers had another connection, which manifested itself as the ForceTech plane slowed to a hover over Manhattan. “She's nearby,” I told Groves. “But she's leaving.”

    “What, she's in the city?” he asked. “Right now?”

    I nodded. “I've encountered her before. Our powers have a mutual-exclusion thing going on. The closer we get, the weaker our powers become.”

    “But you could follow her,” he pointed out. “When her powers get weak enough, we could identify her, capture her.”

    I shook my head. “Nope. I'm not that sort of superhero. I'm not the guy who chases down the supervillain. I just fix the damage, afterward. I leave that sort of thing to the real heroes.”

    Reluctantly, he nodded. “You got a point. Suppose it's a good thing that she's leaving, so you can actually fix the damage.”

    “Got that right,” I agreed. He lowered the hatch; I strapped on the flight pack, tipped him an ironic salute, and dived out of the aircraft.

    <><>​

    Groves must have had words with the Mayor's office; when I finished fixing the damage that Catastrophe had left behind, they were very prompt with the check, and the amount was gratifyingly impressive. Or maybe they never intended to short me in the first place. In any case, I tucked the slip of paper away next to the one from LA. These would serve to cover a few bills, plus build my nest egg up a little more.

    The Liaison aircraft dropped me off over Lake Michigan; by the time I had fallen a thousand feet, they had turned tail and accelerated out of sight, the sonic boom dopplering into the distance. I activated the flight pack, and skimmed low over the lake through the early evening haze. Landing in a lakeside park, I stowed the flight pack, helmet and mask in my duffel, shouldered it, and strolled down the lane toward my house.

    As I walked, I felt my range shrinking all the time, my power attenuating. I knew exactly what this meant; Catastrophe was in the area. I completed the walk home, and let myself in through the back door.

    “Hi, honey, I'm home,” I called out, as I dropped the duffel in the corner. The aroma of chicken wings wafted to me as I kicked my boots off. “That smells wonderful.”

    She appeared from the living room, came over, and kissed me gently. “Thank you, darling,” she murmured. “So, did you get to New York?”

    “You certainly made a mess there,” I noted. “Thanks for keeping the casualties down. Though I still think it's total bullshit that you can fly and I can't.”

    “Hey,” she retorted playfully. “Them's the breaks. And even if I have to break stuff, I don't have to kill anyone.”

    I nodded. “And next time, maybe LA. Or maybe the time after. Don't want anyone getting suspicious.”

    She smiled as I wrapped my arm around her waist and pulled her close. “Whatever your heart desires. We have to pay the bills somehow, right?”

    “Right,” I agreed, and kissed her soundly. “Have I told you how much I love you, recently?”

    Her tone was sultry. “I can always do with being told again – eeek!”

    The shriek was due to her being scooped into my arms; giggling, she snuggled into my arms as I carried her upstairs.

    <><>​

    We had met in college, she and I. She had always been able to bring me down to earth, while I was the stable friend who never had anything bad happen to them. Her power was unpredictable then, and prone to lashing out. People got hurt around her; minor accidents, occasional illnesses, that sort of thing. She could not find a boyfriend who could last more than a week. Until we made that first step, becoming more than friends. After that, we were inseparable.

    Her powers are like mine; always on, to a certain degree. Unlike mine, the destructive urges will build up over time. If they break loose of their own accord, she risks causing widespread destruction. But if she lets them out every now and again, she can release the pressure, so to speak, making things safe for a while. And I'm there to clean up her messes, which she appreciates. According to her, it feels wonderful to let loose, but she keeps herself in check for my sake. Which I appreciate.

    I fell in love with her because she was always able to puncture my self-delusions, making me see myself for what I was. She fell in love with me because I could see past her self-hate, and taught her to see herself as something more than a monster. In her arms, I was a normal person. In my arms, she could love and be loved, without hurting anyone.

    Really, we're perfect for each other.


    The End​
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2015
  27. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    Unless Catastrophe NEEDS to let loose with her power for whatever reason, that seems to be an exceptionally risky plan that should, at minimum, put them both in bankruptcy once somebody inevitably catches on. It might take them a long time, but there are definitely clues being left behind that people could eventually connect correctly.

    And it's not like even without that he'd be genuinely short on potential work; for example, repair all of the bridges and other pieces of infrastructure that are falling apart all over the country and otherwise prevent failures in the first place, or get hired directly by people to repair their homes. If he's willing and able to travel to other countries that potential work increases significantly.

    Anyway, Damage Control's superpower is easily one of the best ones around, I think; much better than "can hit things really, really well" when it comes to actually improving things.


    Thanks for the chapter, Ack.
     
  28. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Yeah, the longer Catastrophe goes without letting loose, the worse it gets. So she's letting go at regular intervals, keeping it low-level enough to not kill anyone. Also, it feels good to let loose, but she can still control it. Up to a certain point. And her power wants to damage stuff; doing it in an open field would do jack for her. So yeah, she's between a rock and a hard place. But with Damage Control to clean up her messes. it kind of works out.
     
  29. Chojomeka

    Chojomeka Kimochi~

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    Now that's a loving relationship.
     
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  30. Cambrian

    Cambrian The Pimperor - Inspirational as Fuck

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    Very good, I loved this one shot, and if this is the same universe as the rest, loving this universe.
     
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