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The Adventures of "Fish Guy" (Superhero fiction)

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Honestly, I'll get to the BIG ritual soon. :o 

 

Okay, no more whining. No more feeling sorry for myself. Time to get my ass on the deck of the good ship SS: Manly and grab a mop where and when I'm needed.  And while I suspected she knew, I had a talk with the boss about it.

 

Lady Obsidian's reaction was perfect.

 

"Damn, I thought that's what she was talking about. I'm sorry, Eel. For both of us. I know you wanted to show what you could do. I did at your age, and we could definitely have used you," She said kindly, "But we need you more here."

 

"How do you always know the right thing to say?" I asked.

 

She smiled, "I don't, but at my age I've said the wrong thing enough times that I'm better at knowing where not to go. Besides," she put a gauntleted hand on my shoulder, "I do mean it.  I know it's not the comfort you're looking for, but Tornado might be stuck here as well."

 

"Hey, the poison is out, almost entirely," Tornado protested, "Just strap those scuba things on me and I'll be good to go." It would have been an impressive boast if he wasn't still laid up.

 

"Mixed feelings," I admitted, "Sorry, Valentino. I'd be lying if I said I didn’t want the company but I know they need you."

 

"At least you'll be doing something if you're stuck here," He grumbled.

 

And suddenly I felt better about my own behavior. Everyone hates being benched.

 

"Stop whining," A voice cut in, It was Ariana, "I'll be here too… mostly just puttering around and waiting for news, but you know how it is… and you don't see me or Eel complaining or feeling sorry for himself."

 

I tried not to let the chagrin rise to my cheeks, and instead said, "I gotta be where I gotta be," With my best nonchalant shrug.

 

"See, why can you be more like Eel?" Ariana said to her cousin.

 

I fought a smirk.

 

"Don't over play your hand," Lady Obsidian muttered near my ear when it started to slip out.

I swallowed the smirk entirely.

 

"I'm not whining, it's just not going to look good for the Samaritans to be down two members like this," Tornado said, "the other teams are going to be full on representing."

 

"Hardly," Lady Obsidian said, "No team wants to leave their home town fully undefended."

 

"Thank goodness for Valorous," Arctic Fox said proudly, "He's promised to take up some of our regular patrol paths and even check in on Mabel."

 

"What, he's afraid of water?" Tornado inquired.

 

"Look," Fox started to growl, "A little gratitude…"

 

"You rang?" Pinprick spoke up at that, and managed to defuse the situation before it could escalate.

 

"I hope I'm not in a coma if stuff does go down in the city," I admitted.

 

"Maybe I can help with that too," I nearly jumped out of my skin as Doctor Salem spoke behind me, "While Mabel has been taking Lady Obsidian's designs to construct deep sea survival field generators for all of you…"

 

"Limited time use on those," The Lady warned but let Doctor Salem continue.

 

"There is a ritual," Dr. Salem said, "It takes a bit of ambient magic, but with what we'll be doing anyway, we will have enough. If the rest of you would yield up but a drop of your blood…a trust I will not abuse, and I can arrange a summoning…"

 

"I whisk right to them if I recover early?" I said excitedly.

 

"You mean I won't miss anything?" Tornado blurted at the same time.

 

"Yeah, thanks guys, don't need the company at all," Ariana muttered a touch testily at the dual enthusiasm to bale on her.

 

I looked sheepish.

 

Her Uncle grinned.

 

"No, Eel is the center of the magic working where the Ambient energy will be. It won't send anyone out on the field, but it would have enough energy to bring one of you back from the ocean early," Doctor Salem said with a put-upon expression.

 

"Aw man," Tornado muttered, giving voice to my own disappointment.

 

Instead of doubling down, I remembered the manners my daddy taught me and said, "Thank you, Doctor. If something attacks the city during all this, that could be a real lifesaver"

 

The ritual went smoothly actually, a vial of crystal had a drop of the blood of the others put in it, stirred, and chanted over. A pinprick from each person was all it took.

 

There was a glow, a bell like chime, and then it was done.

 

"Here," She handed it to me, "later, break it, and call out the one you want summoned and it will yank them to your side."

 

I put it away carefully, "Thanks." I doubted I'd use it. All the important stuff would be going on in the sea.

 

"You're welcome, now finish what you need to do today, get some food, and some rest," She advised, "The dangerous ritual begins late tonight."

 

Won't that be fun, I thought.

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Okay, long one... meaning even more violations against the English Language . Hope you enjoy

 

 

The Balance spilled all around me, before it was almost equal parts land and water, but the land was shrinking even as the view of it was expanding. More and more I took in glimpses not of flowing rivers, but great gaping oceans that seemed to pour off the edge of the metaphorical map that was the strange plane. It wasn't hard to guess why.

 

"I guess my mind is on the others right now and the sea," I confessed, "So… I'm affecting the view?"

 

"Quite right," Dr. Salem told me. Unlike before, she did not appear as a beautiful young woman. There was a glow to her, but her age here matched her many years on the mortal world. It wasn't hard to guess the reason for that either: Energy conservation, "But that's all right. Just leave me enough to sit on, and think on the ocean. Imagine going further than you've ever been before."

 

I didn't completely have to imagine on my own. A lot of brave explorers and brilliant scientists have made studying the depths their lives' work.  The Balance reared up, and suddenly she and I weren't just sitting on an Island, we were in a bubble. The ocean depths! I swore I could see figures moving in the great twilight murk of the aquatic world beyond. Whales? Squid? Flickering schools of multitude fish.

 

And the currents, I could see the currents blowing past like windstorms of the depths. The energy of them was intense. Part of my longed to drift into one, and let it carry me away…. Even if the ultimate goal would be oblivion and then renewal into… who or what I didn't know?

 

Doctor Salem sat down next to me, and pulled out a spear. She had dabbed some goo on her forehead before this, and some on my chest over my heart. Marks of some ancient culture I didn't know jack about; so much for my love of history.

 

"Take one," she said.

 

I reached for another spear, and felt the rage, the intense hatred rise up, but not only was I mentally braced for it, the wards cast on me numbed it. It was like having a drug in your system that took you out of yourself. It made me detached. I could see the anger inside me. I could feel it but it seemed less real than before. Good thing. Eight of these without some protection and I might have slapped the old woman silly.

 

Yeah, that thought indicated I wasn't as detached as I thought.

 

"Islu Katan!" She raised the spear she carried with surprising strength for she lofted it one handed, "Islu Marduk! Islu Gaia! Wyrdaan nosi! Tantu fo vragain!"

 

I had no idea what she had just said, even if I was going to get greater understanding, this was the plane for it, but she followed it up with an order, "Break it."

 

And I snapped the spear!

 

Worthless! Pathetic miserable little me! Daring to try again to gain the notice of a universe that loved me no more than a dog loved a tick. Energy that I would never grasp, power I was unworthy of, burst around me and flowed… and then was drawn into the other spear Dr. Salem carried.

 

"Grab another!" She demanded.

 

I wanted to curl up and sleep again, and hope I never ever woke up. Here I was, wasting my time in some ritual I didn't understand while my team mates could be dying, no doubt they would be dying, for they faced the blessed troops of the Eldest while I sniveled here like a child taunting an oncoming Tsunami only now realizing his mistake, "We can't possibly…"

 

"Grab.Another!" She bellowed!

 

And I did, it was useless, but if the hag wanted me to grab another, so be it. I resented it though, especially now that I held a new spear again. How dare she snarl orders at me anyway? She was just another insect, as unimportant and meaningless as I. Didn't she see that?

Apparently not, more chanting began railing out of her mouth, much like before. In my mind's eye, I thought the images of the great sea were gaining substance, clarity, but they weren't pleasant.

 

"BREAK IT!" She demanded!

 

I snapped it, directing my rage and loathing at the object. It cracked then sundered, and another wave of suicidal self loathing struck me! It was…weaker!

The Law of Diminishing returns, they had said. So it was. I still felt insignificant, but this time my survival instinct rallied more quickly. So what  if I didn't matter… maybe there was a certain reason to live. If infinity wanted to be uncaring, to remind me how it had no obligation to me and I would die miserable and alone with nary a glance, I could at least spit in its metaphorical eye and make it notice me.

 

Let's hear it for North Carolinian stubbornness!

 

I glanced up! I could see distortions along the Balance! It was like looking in a hall of mirrors if the mirrors couldn't quite agree on what they were reflecting! I saw whole cities underwater! Some were elegant spiraling towers, others were vast cave networks with beautifully adorned entrances, and others still looked like ancient Grecian architecture lit up by radiant plant life! Some plunged into the dark depths, pits rather than towers, yet they were no less magnificent for it. One floated, touching neither sea floor nor surface! Another was  a Giant Turtle with an Island nation upon its back, it's people only seeing the surface once a century when it decided to rise.

 

Wonder had slipped through the terror… but then the pictures changed, focusing, narrowing…images of vile shrines at each location! Hearts being torn out like Aztec priests of old sans restraint, determined not to raise a sun, but allow it to be devoured! The Eldest's priests … their shrines were their forges! Of course, of course!

 

One tendrilled priest twisted as if he knew was being watched. And I felt a cold chill return as his eyes flickered at hate for the intrusion on what to him was a most sacred rite.

 

I almost didn't notice Doctor Salem warning me, "Good, soon the Eldest will try other means … falsehoods and visions… brace yourself, and grab another!"

 

"What the hell do you think I've been doing?" I said a bit louder to the old crone as I seized yet another. Damn, the anger was getting through, "Sorry."

 

But she didn't have time to answer, she was chanting again, more words that flowed in one of my ears, stirred something ancient in my mind, and then left forgotten.

 

"Break it!" She said.

 

I didn't hesitate this time and snapped that sucker like a great white going to town on a surfboard.

 

They were all around a table, each New Samaritan, and Valorous!  Ariana was there too, the only one missing, was me!

"The stupid hick actually thinks he's important" Pinprick said laughing and holding up a thimble sized glass, "I'm telling you, Vivian, you got that kid so convinced he's got the right stuff, he'd let you launch him to the damn moon."

"We aim to please," Lady Obsidian, helmet less, took a drink from her own glass of wine, "Not bad, I must admit, but we needed a sacrifice for Doctor Salem's ritual and it's not like I wanted to lose a real hero."

"Hey, credit where credit is due," Arctic Fox snuggled against Valorous, "if it weren't for Ariana setting salmon man into spawning mode, he wouldn't be so distracted that he never noticed how my man, who is not a member somehow is on every other mission and always available."

Ariana winked, "Thank you. None of you are as happy to see him gone as I am. I mean, I did not want some redneck pawing at me any more than necessary."

Tornado laughed, "Can you imagine what your mama would say?"

"well, I for one am grateful," Valorous said, "And look forward to joining the best team officially soon. Here's to Fish Guy… a very useful map maker….and… hell, I can't think what else he was good for?"

Pinprick laughed, "The source of a lot of good jokes!"

 

Their laughter resounded.

 

"Oh, bullcrap," I snarled, shaking my head and scattering my vision, "You overplayed that one," I said to the thing moving past the barrier of oblivion, "They're grown adults, not middle school jackasses willing to murder… try again, punk!"

 

"Eel? What are you doing?" Doctor Salem asked.

 

"Just having a chat with the Eldest or at least I think I am," I said. Images had grown clearer of the locations where the spears had made, even taking direction, so that the others would know where to go.

 

"Yes, I gathered," She said, "No need to call him out."

 

"Makes me feel better, I'm tired of this bullying 'I'm nothing he's everything' bunk," I answered, "You just keep chanting and let me rant a bit at him. I'm calling this loser out."

 

"That loser could obliterate you with a thought," She warned, "If it ever gets free."

 

"Ah, but its not free," I said, "It's trapped behind the barrier and now it's writing badly out of character fan fiction….Keep chanting…" Then I added, "Please."

 

And she did. I was pissed as I grabbed another spear, not just because the thing was tainted, but the honor of my friends had just been insulted. I've got a real problem with liars saying crap about my friends. Pinprick could be a jerk, but he'd looked after me. Lady Obsidian believed in me every step of the way and was trying to warn me of the pitfalls of the calling. Tornado was becoming a friend. Arctic Fox had never let me down when the fighting started. And Ariana was too sweet a soul for that nonsense whether she wanted to date me or not.

 

Valorous?  Okay, I still felt Valorous was a jerk, but I was angry for their sake.

 

"Break it!" The now familiar command came.

 

"Whoops,"  I said to the void and Shattered the fourth spear! "Should have bought American, Eldest!"

 

The wave of self loathing… and another vision…

 

The battle was not going well. Lady Obsidian held the line! A force wall held back besieging tentacles hammering, hammering against the fields like a thousand sledgehammers! Pinprick's magic arrows did nothing, and something like a barracuda shot up and bit him clean in half before continuing onto attack the next one!

I could smell his blood in the water!

Arctic Fox froze foe after foe, but the undersea warriors kept coming, until one broke through a protective layer of ice and stabbed her right in the heart with one of the blessed spears! If it could penetrate my hide, why had I ever let them risk themselves! I could have taken the blow…

If I'd been there.

I saw Lady Obsidian's helmet sinking to the bottom of the sea trailing blood.

Tornado's lifeless body floated to the…

Tornado?

 

I shook my head, "You need to pay less attention to my fears and more to the logistics!" I seethed. That vision had hurt! I felt sick to my stomach. If I hadn't realized Torando was still laid up and on the base, that might have taken me out of it completely.

 

"Grab another and snap out of it!" Dr. Salem's voice was shrieking.

 

"Wrong order, but yes," I agreed and took the fifth, "Two more to go… hurry!"

 

But there was no rushing the ritual. The chanting went at its own pace.

 

And now it felt agonizingly slow. Despite my bravado, that last vision had rattled me.

 

"Break it!" She said.

 

Thank God, I thought, and snapped it ready for the…

 

The punch knocked me through the bank wall with such force that the stone work shredded like tissue paper. My own body certainly felt the impact.

Where was I?

I was back in North Carolina, in my home town.

I knew where I was…and I knew when I was.

"Oh god," I said and looked up into the masked face of Mister Brute. He wore a pin striped outfit that looked like a period piece from golden mafia days of old, or at least what Hollywood tells us they wore. The mask, such as it was, was more phantom of the opera than anything.

I had never felt a punch as hard as the one he delivered.

"Eel, is it?" The man moved through the hole in the wall he'd just created using my body, "Eel, I warned the others that this little bank robbery was beneath us. Especially in a small town like this, I doubted it would have much of worth, but…well, they wheedled and since we had time before our real job started elsewhere, I indulged them."

"Aren't you a sweet heart?" I said cockily, far too cockily for one who had just gotten his bearings again, and lobbed a manhole cover at him with all my might as a distraction.

He caught it quicker than I thought possible, "Nice throw. Now, little did we expect this place would have a hero guarding it. I admire your dedication, but you are outnumbered, and frankly, over matched. Stay down, boy."

He flung the manhole cover back at me with twice as much force as I'd managed. I tried to move to the side but it still clipped me knocking me like band English on a pool shot.

"Get bent!" I said, backing away from the bank as I got up again, and motioned him to follow me. I needed to get him away from the crowds.

"You warned him!" A woman's voice, and the popping of flames. Firebug was one of those villainesses who enjoyed showing her body off. It wasn't like anyone was going to touch her without permission, not with blue edged flames all over her, the body said come hither, the eyes added 'and die'.

Flames burst around me and I felt it all over again! The heat searing my flesh, the light blinding me. So much stronger than what Bodysuit had managed. I grabbed for the firehydrant to open it…

And for my trouble I bled, badly. Something shot by me faster than I could see, and cuts appeared along my torso.  I called out, surprised.

"Slice has her moments," Mr. Brute said and only now did I get a glimpse of the blurring figure carrying the knives, "Speedsters, not common, but not unheard of. Now ones with blades that can cut through almost anything or anyone, and training in those blades? That's rare. "

"Can we just finish him off already?" Slice's voice was in one place on moment, by my ear the next, and then closer to Mr. Brute, "I'm bored." I realized another slash, this one across my belly was threatening to split wide open.

"Pay attention, Slice," Mr. Brute said, "Observe… he's kept an awareness of this place, where things are… the struggling for the hydrant? No doubt to try to direct a shot of water at Firebug. And he's been pulling us further away from the crowds. This is, in most ways, an intelligent young man… most ways, a truly intelligent individual would be running now. Besides, his plan isn't going to work, is it Dice?"

Dice turned out to be a bored looking blond man in a black body suit with a duster over it. The logo on his chess was that of Snake Eyes. He lowered his shades and there was a glow, "It's not his lucky day."

While they were talking about plans, I was putting them into action. I broke the hydrant open only to feel a rush of empty air flow in my face!

"Awww, just air in the line, what are the odds?" Dice laughed.

I'd never faced a probability manipulator before.  I flung the hydrant itself at him but my shot veered wide and all I did was succeed in breaking a window in the distance.

"That's your solution to ranged targets? " Mr. Brute frowned, "you throw things at them? You are not well equipped for certain challenges, are you? Come at me, boy. I may knock you around, but at least, I'll let you get close." And he walked with slow deliberate steps towards me.

I took the bait and swung at him, clocking him hard across the mouth!

"You asked for it," I said with a moment of satisfaction.

"I felt that, nice," He said, "Good. Again!"

I jabbed, and he grabbed my arm and swung me around like a child.

"Did you study any hand to hand? Do you have any idea how to apply power you've got?" Then he pinned me, "I mean, this is the boonies, I don't expect to find a Krav Maga practitioner, but surely you considered learning something beyond the basics?"

I arced up trying to break him with a sudden movement, but he kept the grip.

"Now assuming I'd be surprised by that is an insult to a man of my talents and experience," He frowned, "I don't like insults."

And he broke my arm.

I screamed. This had happened before, but the pain was no phantom. This wasn't fiction, this was real, it was memory, and it was a fact!

"I'm going to test your resolve," he offered, "Now, if you can last  one minute of what we're about to do to you without begging for mercy. I will only kill one person here. If you can last five… no one , with the possible exception of yourself dies. See, I want to teach you a lesson about numbers, and the value of team work. I want to teach you to respect experience. But first… I want to see what you're made of. And just how dedicated you are to this protection of the innocent. If you agree to this little test, we'll begin. Refuse it, and I'll have Firebug torch every building on this block and send slice loose. Do we have a bargain?"

Firebug landed nearby. I couldn't reach her.

"You're insane," I sputtered at them all.

"With a name like Apocalyptic you expected warm and fuzzy?" Firebug turned her fingers towards the nearest building and flames built up.

"Three, two…" Mr. Brute said as calmly as you might time an egg.

"Fine!" I said, these nuts would really do it, just to make a lesson clear to other heroes, "I agree!"

"Brave choice," he nodded sounding like he almost admired it.

"It's not a choice at all," I spat at his face. The glob hit the side of his cheek, "Go fu…"

"Oh, now you've made it personal," He nodded to Firebug, her hand burst into flame and touched my wounds.

And I screamed and I screamed and I…

 

"Wake up," Doctor Salem informed me! "The ritual, we can't let it slip!"

 

I was in a fetal position again. I was too scared to touch the last two spears. I was terrified, "I can't…" I shivered, "I can't experience that again, the pain the helplessness... the… I'll rather die."

 

"Young man, when the last one in your possession breaks the other heroes will be able to destroy the spears themselves without the curse striking them! They'll be able to stop this at the source! The connection of the conduits will see to that! Without it, they will be helpless at best, and most likely some of them will die as the rage eventually turns them upon each other. The choice isn't would you rather die… the choice is would you rather them die?"

 

"You're wrong," I said, reaching for the next, "That's not a choice at all." And when she said break it, I did.

 

My brother didn't hear me. The car came streaking by and I raced towards it… ready to pull him to safety. I would save the day, I would save…

I was seven years old, and seven-year-old don't out race speeding cars.

"Kevin!" I cried out.

 

More chanting, and a voice telling me "Break it!"

 

I grabbed the last one, numb, on autopilot. My brother was dead all over again.  And the feeling that it was my fault somehow was as strong as it was the first time.

I was tempted to plunge the last spear in my chest and end it all.

 

I don't know where I found the strength to break it.

 

I don't remember what vision I saw after that. I think… I think I retreated into catatonia for a moment. Only dimly did I catch a glimpse of  Dr. Salem taking the spear she had been using and snapping it between her own spindly fingers.

 

I had made that possible.

 

And now it would be possible for all the spears—everywhere.

 

I blacked out unable to feel victory, satisfaction, or even hope.

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Sorry for the delay - I didn't have a chance to read this yesterday. 

 

Well done!  I like the use of the visions, both false visions and real memories, to try and break his spirit and resolve.  I also like the way you showed his vacillating feelings of anger and self-loathing, depending on whether he was holding a spear or had broken one, in the first half of this one.  

 

I'm really looking forward to the next installment in.. The Adventures of Fish Guy!

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Sorry for the delay - I didn't have a chance to read this yesterday. 

 

Well done!  I like the use of the visions, both false visions and real memories, to try and break his spirit and resolve.  I also like the way you showed his vacillating feelings of anger and self-loathing, depending on whether he was holding a spear or had broken one, in the first half of this one.  

 

I'm really looking forward to the next installment in.. The Adventures of Fish Guy!

 

Always nice to get input. At first I was unsure how to make this a bit more...shall we say, exciting? but you know... it's an action focused genre so there's no reason at least on vision wouldn't involve punching things (or getting punched). Hopefully it also fleshed out more why Fish Guy sought out a team and why Lady O plucked him up. One day, the Apocolyptics and Fish Guy will meet again, but this time Eel will have some team mates too. 

 

But that would be for another book.

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Wow. OK, I'm in for the long haul. Get this printed and I'll buy it. And the sequel too.

 

The visions and memories were well-thought out; adding character development and history, while increasing the suspense of the ceremony scene.

 

:thumbup: :thumbup:

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Wow. OK, I'm in for the long haul. Get this printed and I'll buy it. And the sequel too.

 

The visions and memories were well-thought out; adding character development and history, while increasing the suspense of the ceremony scene.

 

:thumbup: :thumbup:

 

Thank you very much.

 

I shall have more up tomorrow.

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New one up today. Mystics can get annoyed, and while its wrong to stereotype, some Bricks just wanna hit the the bad guy already.

 

I don't know how long I drifted there in the Balance. The first time, time Dr. Salem had taken the unnatural self-loathing away from me even before I woke. That made sense, the hatred turned inward, the feelings of insignificance, were all artificial constructs enforced by the Eldest as a means to 'discourage' me from ever trying anything like that again. So, a quick soul rinse (or whatever you'd call it) and I was soon back on my feet.

 

 

This time, I'd been hit by not just emotional turmoil but insecurities from within me brought to life, and some of the most unpleasant memories I'd ever known relived. This time, the emotions weren't just from the Eldest. They had been dug up from my own subconscious. These feelings were real, and fresh. It was like any closure I had achieved over them was shattered.

 

A childhood trauma from when I was seven, and I had the urge to go home to mom and dad and blubber how sorry I hadn't been able to save my little brother who had been dead all this time. I shook with fear at the memory of the worst beat down I had ever gotten in my life as if I were still bearing the broken arm and burn marks. This was now, and it was in me.

 

Honestly, if this was a normal day job, I would have called into work and lied if necessary to get out of going anywhere. But no, Mister and Misuses' Lambert's bright eyed boy had to go out and be a superhero.  I staggered up, and looked around, expecting to find Doctor Salem over me with glowing hands or something.

 

I was only half right, she was glowing, but she was floating like a volunteer in a magician's act about five feet off ground level in a pose normally reserved for those in caskets. She looked serene, dignified, and, well, frankly dead.

 

"Doctor Salem?" I said, then "Doc?"

 

I touched her shoulder, half way expecting her to suddenly fall to the ground so I braced to catch her. She didn't.

 

Eel, her voice came into my head though her lips did not move, They're doing it. All over the world, the heroes are facing the servants of the Eldest and shattering the conduits. We are winning.

 

I smiled at that, despite my sorrow. Yes, the wounds were fresh, but it hadn't been for nothing, "Thanks for letting me know. I guess my part is done."

 

How are you feeling? She asked.

 

"Fine," I lied kind of sort of.

 

Let's try again, the the voice in my head asked in a 'not buying it' tone, How do you really feel?

 

"Like I need a stiff drink or six and some good self pity songs," I admitted, "It's not like before…it wasn't' all illusion. But," I added, "I'll be okay."

 

Better, she said, I see the vow and wards took much of it, but I am sorry there is only so much they could do.

 

"That's all right, two six packs and some Willie Nelson and I'll be fine," I shrugged then thought about what she said, "What vow?"

 

You promised to help break the seven spears, and help me with the ritual. Pretty much in those exact words, she reminded.

 

"I knew, I knew I had heard a chime," I grumbled, "Why didn't you just ask me and tell me that a promise here would have helped shield me instead of tricking me into it?"

 

The magic wouldn't have worked so well if you'd made the promise for selfish ends, no movement from the body, but I could still easily imagine a raised eyebrow to go along with that 'trust me to know my business' tone.

 

Instead of conceding the point I subtly changed the subject, "So what's with the floating at rest state?"

 

It may surprise you to know, but acting as a counter-conduit against all those conduits and channeling more magic in the last five hours than I have in the last five years tends to take a lot out of one.

 

"Five hours," I said, startled, "I was laid up for nearly twelve after the first one. And this time there were more spears. Wards, vow, turf of your choosing or not, Doctor, I'm impressed."

 

I won't lie, I'd be insulted if you weren't, the Doctor said, I'm afraid you're stuck with me another hour or two before I can summon the door. I have very little energy left.

 

"Oh man," I exclaimed before I could think better of it, "Sorry… I hate being benched."

 

Oh screw you.

 

"Pardon?" I sputtered.

 

A mental sigh, Sorry, I didn't mean to send that one. But really?  You just went through a mental and spiritual onslaught that would have killed you if not for your own strength of will, purity of heart, and my own hard efforts of preparation and skill. You took the hammer blows, but I felt punches. Thanks to that, everyone else is destroying the conduits safely and setting the plans of the Eldest decades if not centuries back and likely helping the undersea rebels reclaim their homewaters from invaders.  The price is I am laid out hard, and you might want to talk to a therapist for a week or two and reheal some old wounds. Let me try this in terms the young might understand, you lowered the shields. The alliance can now stop the planet wrecker. You were not benched, you were crucial! Now dance with the teddy bears already! Really!  

 

 

 

She sounded put out.

 

"Sorry," I said a bit sheepishly. Okay, okay… I kept telling myself I'd get my priorities right and I was still having trouble. Another thought occurred to me, "Hey, that makes me Harrison Ford!"

 

There was a mental scoff from the mystic. Another 'slip' no doubt.

 

"I apologize," I said, "I know I keep doing that. In my defense, more action would distract me from the whammy after effects the Eldest put me through….and it would be nice to see the Princess."

 

 

Oh, her you can see.

 

"What? I can see how Ariana is doing from here?"

 

 

That takes no energy at all, especially not here in the Balance, Doctor Salem informed me, she is still on the base after all. Windows are easier than doors.

 

"Please," I said, "A few so I could at least check on the base while I wait for the door would be great."

 

Unlike the weird zoom in zoom out effects that were more natural the Balance, actual windows, well, in appearence anyway, appeared all over the place. Like the door, the windowsills appeared old fashioned, with locks of brass, and multi panes.

 

I smiled as not just sights but sounds were going through the symbolic glass. That smile died almost instantly at the scenes they displayed.

 

 

The base, and the few people in it were under attack!

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Sorry folks, today is my birthday and some celebrations are staggered thanks to Mother's  Day so Monday at earliest for the next chapter most likely

 

Happy Mother's Day, Hermit?

 

Well known forum personality actually transsexual maternalist? Channel 3 investigates!

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Thanks for the well wishes folks. As always, this is a rough draft fresh from the typing, English Teachers, Librarians, Newspaper editors, and other lovers of the  written word may wish to shield their eyes as they read.

 

 

 

The images in the mystic windows played like scenes from some demented reality show from my nightmares. Each window displayed a different section of the base just one dimensional wall away. In each scene, numerous drones and robots lay shattered: Mabel's guardians that she had used to defend against siege. In this case to little avail. The lights had dimmed on the ceiling but there were circles of red shining on the walls.

 

The window that caught my attention first explained everything.

 

Even in the dimmer lights, Valorous stood out in his crimson and gold costume. He was walking up to the sealed door entrance that would lead to the top security areas Mabel had told me of. His presence was alarming, what he was doing set my blood to boil. Tornado wasn't there. Mabel's defenses had been countered, so the only one who was in his way was Ariana!

 

She had on jeans, a pull over blouse, and one of her uncle's spare masks. Her feet were spread for fighting balance and her fists poised.

 

"I don't know why you bothered with the mask, young lady," Valorous said, "It's not like I don't know who you are. Get out of my way. I've got a mission to finish, and you're no match for me."

 

He started to brush past her only to find himself on the end of a leg sweep that knocked him to the floor!

 

"You're not getting in!" Ariana said and tried to follow up with a blow to his solar plexus, I could see the floor bend a little under her as she gathered mass going to a density that matched concrete and used what she'd learned from Tornado to land a blow with what would, to anybody else, stopped them but good, "You traitor!"

 

All he did was grunt, and then fly upright, feet slightly off the ground now so she couldn't do that leg sweep a second time "Nice punch, I even felt it a bit. Traitor? No, Ariana. When a government agent infiltrates a group of dangerous individuals, it's called going undercover. I bear you no malice, you least of all, to be honest, but there are several weapons of mass destruction and technology holding mankind back from the stars themselves within. So, I need you to sit down," And he backhanded her, "And stay down."

 

Even now weighting over a ton she staggered back into the nearest wall, making a divot. I don't know what she said in Spanish, but I'm pretty sure it was vile.

 

I had few choice words myself inside the Balance which had become my prison, "Son of ####ing #####!" I seethed!

 

Ariana lunged forward again this time moving in what looked like a beautiful circular kick. He tried to raise his hand, but it connected before he could. Flying or not, this time he didn't budge. Valorous' head twisted as if he had gotten nothing more than a slap from a weak armed date, more surprise than harm.

 

"Ariana," He said, "You can't win this. Your training is okay but as a partial you're trapped in the minor leagues, believe me. I know the frustration!"

 

"After how you led on Arctic Fox all this time making her think you loved her," Ariana spat at him, "I wouldn't believe you if you told me water was wet!" She tried for another blow, this time a punch, but he caught her fist in his own hand.

 

"Yes, I had my doubts on being on that side of a honeytrap. You wouldn't believe the hours of acting lessons went into to that. I didn't like doing it, but what could I do? Lady Obsidian never took a liking to me. Maybe I came on too strong with the flattery, maybe they should have put some sort of sympathetic beat down in my records? Who knows? But with her refusal to give me a chance I had to focus on Fox. She was easier. For all her alpha queen attitude, she actually is quite soft. She wants to believe in love. Me? I believe in duty and take pride in my work, so… I played her along as I had to. She'll mend in time, and maybe I'll help her become a little wiser," He considered, "Maybe I'm doing her a favor?"

 

"So am I!" Ariana couldn't free her hand so she snapped her rock-hard knee cap up into the groin of her captor. Valorous winced and cursed, but didn't let go of her hand.

 

"Alright," He said through gritted teeth, "Enough of that. I could shatter you, you know that right? You only get as tough as concrete! I can break that easily, I can shatter steel. Unlike you I've been given a way of surpassing my partial limitations! So it is only because I have sympathy for your plight…." He began to squeeze her hand causing her to gasp in pain, "That I am not breaking this hand into a hundred pieces and letting you glue them back together!'

 

Then he flipped her with it onto her back creating a woman shaped divot with her and let go of her hand.

 

"So, stay down there and let me get what we came to get!" He warned.

 

Ariana lay there helpless, struggling to get up, but too weak and dazed to try again yet. I knew as soon as she got her second wind, she'd try again though. She would force him to break her. Mask or not, I could see it in her eyes.

 

"I'll kill him!" Fury filled me. There was no mystic spear involved. Maybe I was talking out of my ass when I said the words, but the rage I felt towards that walking Trojan horse was very real, "Doctor Salem you've got to let me out of here!"

 

I can't, her mental voice said, I don’t have the energy.

 

"Don't you get it?" I announced, "It's not just about Ariana. Tornado, Mayo…. Mabel too, they're all in danger. He said 'we'!"

 

 

Indeed, another scene was playing out in another window, two figures in dark blue generic uniforms and helmets with tinted visors were in the medbay. In fact, the only thing they seemed to have in common with Valorous looks wise was their bulky belts. Tornado may have been out of the woods for the worst of it, but he still hadn't fully recovered; a fact his two assailants were taking full advantage of. Tornado was weaving between the strands of some kind of energy web that was constantly closing the already limited space of the room. The lines of energy seemed to be the work of the woman in uniform who was making gestures as she worked not unlike a conductor leading a symphony. The other invader was vanishing and reappearing rapidly allowing little time for Tornado to adjust.

 

"We're having a little trouble here, Valorous!" The woman was yelling, presumably into an ear piece communicator not so different from what the New Samaritans had, "He's not sedated like we hoped any recommendations would be welcome."

 

I was too focused on this window now to hear what he was saying in the other, but she nodded, "You're right, I don't really have to trap him…" And the glowing web became more diffuse spreading out, but also thinning until it was less strands, and more sheets.

 

Tornado, while not at the top of his game, blocked the blow from the tonfa the teleporter was using for some really forceful strikes by intercepting at the wrist.

 

"I don't just teleport, Tornado!" The vanishing agent announced, "Superfast repetitive actions! " And his free hand shot another three blows almost too fast to see towards the side of Tornado's head. The first one hit, the others didn't as the Latino whirlwind weaved his head at precise moments.

 

"If you mean your lips won't stop flapping, I can see why I should be concerned," Tornado said, "Tell me, does that teleporting cancel your velocity?" And he grabbed the man and spun him and spun him faster and faster before releasing him. The teleporter flew one way, flickered and reappeared to slam into another wall hard.

 

"Guess not," Tornado pressed his attack, diving through the sheets of energy which slowed him down, but not enough to prevent him from performing a whirling kick on the teleporter and putting him out hard, "Next time, be man enough to fight your own battles, eh?"

 

Tornado turned and found the goo on him now accompanied by strands.

 

"Stand down!" The woman who made the webs said, "You are half trapped anyway, and still recovering from previous injuries. Stand down"

 

"El Zorro never surrenders!" Tornado whipped through the goo and strands tearing ripping across the room and …ended up encased like a fly in amber, his fist just an inch from landing the blow.

 

She reached to the side of her belt, and drew forth a needle, injecting him, "This is B Unit. Tornado is neutralized.  Agent Ambush is down, repeat, Agent Ambush is down as well."

 

I gnashed my teeth in helpless frustration, "Doctor Salem, we just lost Tornado…"

 

I turned to move to another window waiting for her to answer.

 

The next view was of the pool!  The Agent there really stood out, then agian he would, he was glowing, allowing him to view the formerly dim room easily. And Mayo lay in the pool floating like a dead goldfish, his back breaking the surface, his body limp.

 

"Well, I found 'a' Fish Guy," The glowing agent was saying, "But no sign of the Fish Guy. He sure is one ugly ####er though, he told me he was no hero but would be obliged to protect his hosts…  so I gave him a love tap with a photonic burst of light. He went down easily actually. Must be one of the undersea guys that has all those teams in a scramble. Assuming he's still alive, I can pick him up for study later. Roger that. I'll just head onto the next area. Agent L out." He turned his back to the pool to do just that drifting up a few inches.

 

 

The formerly limp and 'downed' Mayo leapt up into action and seized Agent L yanking them both into the water. He had grabbed Agent L by the gut, and squeezed the wind out of him as best as he could as he drew both back towards the pool's deeper end.

 

Bubbles escaped from Agent L's mouth in a stream of air!

 

There was a wave of light from the agent, slamming Mayo loose and against the wall. Mayo scraped along the wall, then turned, "We should talk yes?"

 

A beam of light sheared towards Mayo, missing him and burning along the walls.

 

"I prefer the dark, you make the light," Mayo said, "But the waters don't like the light either. Ever notice how it bends it? Your aim is not normally this bad….but I know what you are thinking," Mayo scuttled along, "You will eventually hit me and then you will win."

 

A barrage of more slightly askew blasts from Agent L confirmed that Mayo was right. The man looked pissed that he'd been tricked and closed on Mayo. Mayo had been clever, but Agent L was ready for him now. My favorite undersea guru had no weapons, and I doubt his punches could get through even a diffused photonic field.

 

What he did do was talk, which confused me. Mayo was the sort to pontificate, to think the deep thoughts out loud, wax a little nostalgic one second and a bit philosophical the next, but he wasn't a chatterbox.

 

"I notice your uniform is not so colorful… you are soldier, yes? Me too," Mayo said, "That is your misfortune. If you had met Fish Guy … I suppose I should not tell you his real name, you might have lived. He is a good man, but not a soldier."

 

A sneer crossed Agent L's face and he 'flew' under the water to give another burst. This one clipped and burned Mayo.

 

Was he hoping to make Agent L run out of air just by talking?

 

"He didn't know the difference between a hero and a soldier," Mayo said his right hand tight, his shoulder burned, "Sometimes they coincide. Not always. But we know the difference, don't we?"

 

Agent L closed on him, then looked up noticing what I, with my tight view on the scene, had failed to. Above them, the pool had been closing, going into Tennis Court mode!

 

Panic filled his face and he looked about to the far end of the wall where Mayo had headed with him in the first place. The knob that was pressed to open or close it from down here had been torn off!

 

Mayo opened his hand to reveal the knob, twisted and bent in it, "Heroes will give up their lives to protect the lives of others, soldiers will do the same, if they must… but if they can think of a way to have he enemy pay the price instead, they will. That is…how wars are won. I'm told. This may end as a draw between us, but… I'm at peace with that. Let's see the next fathom of the great mystery reveals together, shall we?"

 

Agent L shot towards the closing floor/ceiling, but not in time. His flight, like most of his powers, were thrown off by refraction! He slammed against the thick barrier and fired, but his lasers, diffused as they were, could damage it, but not break through it! More air escaped him.

 

"Beyond stopping you, I suppose the real benefit of this is that my surface friend is not here to see it," Mayo averted his already sensitive eyes to the increasing intensity of the light, "He'd be very disappointed in me, give me those big seal pup eyes, and I'd feel bad. If I could do it all over again, I'd probably be chasing Tinlu about the coral bed, but at least if I'm dying as a soldier, I'm dying for a good cause.  You may wish to make peace with yourself and whatever belief system you hold onto. You don't have long left."

 

L whirled realizing he was about to die, rage and desperation filled his eyes and the glow about him intensified.

 

"I can no longer see you," Mayo said, "But I know what you're demanding. The answer… is no."

 

The last of the bubbles escaped Agent L's mouth and there was a burst of light that filled the window, and then blackness! I couldn't see a thing!

 

 

"MAYO!!" I called out, then looked, "Doctor Salem! People are dying! Valorous and his goons are about to get their hands on everything Lady Obsidian has stored away! PLEASE!"

 

This… is going to cost me, Doctor Salem groaned, Move fast when the door opens… it won't be there long!

 

Her body no longer floated but fell…. And a door appeared, and swung open. Almost as quickly, it started to close, but I was already diving through it.

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Well done on adding a twist to the sudden yet inevitable betrayal.  We'd all guessed partial and looking to get his hands on the forbidden tech - but I, for one, thought it was only for himself.  I didn't even consider any greater power behind his actions.  :thumbup:

 

Well, you guys are all intimately acquainted with the genre and its more popular tropes so I figured many of you would be ahead of me anyway. What I thought would be subtle clues would be glaring to others, and so on . So any twists that worked to surprise at all are good to hear :)  I am probably abusing magic badly as an excuse to force Eel into a spectator role for a moment, but obviously he'll be there for the end.

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Well done on adding a twist to the sudden yet inevitable betrayal. We'd all guessed partial and looking to get his hands on the forbidden tech - but I, for one, thought it was only for himself. I didn't even consider any greater power behind his actions. :thumbup:

I was going to post almost exactly this. Right down to "sudden but inevitable". Really nice work Hermit.

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I'd assumed Valorous was working with someone, though I didn't particularly expect it to be the Gov't (and I should have, since I've been in some of your games).

 

I'd like to have a long talk with Mayo (both in character and not).

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This sort of thing is why I wish you were EIC at Marvel Comics, Hermit.  Nicely done, and you do a great job of covering each scene without either overdoing or underdoing any of them. 

 

Now, the question becomes... who will Fish Guy bring back?  I'm betting...

 

 

Arctic Fox.  I just hope / wish she could be fully privy to what Valodorous said.  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

 

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