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The Adventures of "Fish Guy" (Superhero fiction)

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(Continued things weird and wonderful)

 

 

"Anyway," I told the giant rabbit sitting on top of the box as I drank, "I really screwed up. Just when I thought I had some possible solutions to get my personal life back on track, I let my zeal for taking down Apocalyptic blind me- or is it deafen?"

"Normal, I reckon I'd say deafen, but seeing how Slime talks, blinded is probably more apt, what with that individual having a gift or cinematic displays of calligraphy," The rabbit took a drink. His accent was terrible, like some Hollywood actor trying really hard to sound Southern. Oddly familiar somehow.

 

"Right, I let it blind me," I went on, "And some innocent people almost got launched into whatever debtor's planet the Fumians have. The Fumians moved the bulk of their operations to who knows where because my theft from Mister Brute gave them a head's up.  I've probably lost some of Lady Obsidian's trust too. "

"Well, can't rightly blame her if that is indeed the case, now can you?" Rabbit on the box pointed out, "You were good with her running the train until you run into the folks that kicked your caboose? No wonder she's fixin to take you to the woodshed."

 

"Yeah, I deserve it," I took a shot of whiskey in my own glass, which someone had etched 'Not going to waste my shot' with a Hamilton the musical symbol on it, "And it could always be worse."

 

"Oh yeah, you could be have a 105 degree fever dreams while your friends are out there doing all the work while you thrash in a medbay bed," The Rabbit said, "See you later. I need to go back into the box now."

 

"-seems to be coming out of it," a voice, not the rabbit's echoed in the distance.

 

"Some folks will do anything to get out of an ass chewing," Another voice but despite the jibe it sounded concerned, "The antidote is working at least."

"Why don't you go tell Ariana? I promised we'd wake her when he revived," The first voice said.

 

"He'd probably tell us not to," the second voice said, "But a promise is a promise."

Waking Ariana? Wait, no, I thought, she probably needs her sleep.

 

But the thoughts didn't want to turn into words. I strained mightily, and my eyelids moved. Light flooded in, and slowly the blurred view sharpened into focus.

"God, Doctor Vernon, you look like hell," I finally said.

 

That was perhaps an exaggeration. She looked like a woman who hadn't gotten enough sleep and could use a shower. She was disheveled, bordering on slovenly.  Doctor Vivian Vernon was never slovenly.

 

"Well, I'm sorry young man, the stylist wasn't available at three in the morning, and my beauty cream is running low," She arched a brow.

"Three in the morning? How long have I been out," I said looking about as more memories flooded in of just where my consciousness left off, "Oh god, are people the Fumians kidnapped okay? Unshrunk and awake and everything? The Fumian transport pilot, did he share anything? Is Slime alright?  Apocalyptic, they were going to attack and endanger people to pull us out, have you guys had to fight them yet? I need to get back to work-"

 

I started to rise only to realize that two things were preventing it. One was the tubes going in and out of my left arm. I don't know what the needles were made of, but they were sharp enough to make an IV possible. The other was a gorgeous Latina lady wearing a very ugly robe which was not enough to hide her charms as she leaned over me, and pressed a hand down to pin me. I don't know how dense she made herself, but it was enough that I couldn't just casually get up.

"Ariana? " I said rather thickly. Of course, it was Ariana, but she wasn't really letting me get a word in edge wise. A stream of Spanish was bubbling angrily from her like a tea kettle threatening to spill over from a boil.

 

I really have been trying to learn, but it was coming so quickly and so angry that I was sure I was missing a lot. Something about ripping something off and seeing if it grew back? No, I couldn't be reading that right. Definite insults to my intelligence there laced within. And maybe a few endearments, which did not match her flaring eyes. Ariana isn't a neurotic girl by any means. She's as solid as a rock, often in the literal sense and almost always in the metaphorical. But she's not neurotic, and she doesn't fit the 'Fiery Latina' stereotype.

 

But she was ticked at me.

 

"Thank you, Ariana," Lady Obsidian said before I could ask for a translation that I might not have wanted. Then she turned back to me and went on "The former prisoners of the Fumians appear in better shape than you do, are understandably weirded out but healthy and home. We learned how to neutralize the poison in you thanks to the Fumian we took prisoner. He didn't know as much as we hoped, he was supposed to be heading to space, he's just the pilot. As he's trapped here, he's not happy. Slime was trapped, but Pinprick freed him. He had more information for us, I'll tell you about that later. He seems kind of down. I think a part of him wonders if he should have gone back to space. Anyone can get home sick."

 

"The poor guy," Sympathy rose up in me, "I hadn't thought of it that way. We really must be like a pack of savages to him somedays, and ugly savages by his standards."

I took a breath "And Apocalyptic? Have they-?"

"Caused some trouble? Yes, but we will tell you about that later," Doctor Vernon said in a tone that was absolutely aggravating in that it was not about to budge.

I looked up at Ariana, "Miss me?"

 

More Spanish, which I was increasingly sure I was glad I did not understand, and then, "You're supposed to be the toughest member on the team. So, this getting poisoned and things? Not funny, mister. Not at all funny."

 

"You did miss me," I smiled at that, then I added in a more somber tone, "I'm sorry I blew it guys. I was so sure I knew what was going on. I grabbed that weapon when I should have helped Slime. I disobeyed orders, and thought I knew better.  And then I scared folks. I will never ever do anything like this again."

 

"Don't make promises you can't keep," Lady Obsidian advised me, "You're an idealistic young man on the headstrong side."

"That's putting it mildly," Ariana said, but she had returned to her normal weight and the pressure that had been pinning me down was little more than a way to feel my heartbeat as If assuring her that, yes, I was still going.

 

"Okay, I won't mess up this exact same way again?"  I tried a different probably more honest tact.

"It's a start," Lady Obsidian informed me, then she sighed, "Fine. I suppose you do seem better, and you'll find out eventually anyway.  That gas you stole? It's not a weapon. It's a medicine. Meant to isolate certain cells though out the body and suspend them. That version is temporary. There's a liquid version that destroys them."

"I'm a little shocky still," I said, "But it sounds like you're saying that Mister Brute wanted," I had to say this slow otherwise I would not get myself to believe it, "You're saying he's buying a cure for cancer?"

 

"Enough for one person," She nodded, "the real question is? Who?"

"It's got to be a family member, or some loved one, I just don't see him as caring that much about humanity in general. Whoever it is, she or he has to be special to him," I realized, "And I stole the sample to test.  And I bet the Fumians aren't feeling very happy about me finding their operation just after they made a bargain to prevent that sort of thing. I wonder if I'm lucky enough to have caused a rift between "business partners"?"

 

Ariana took a deep breath, then looked over at Doctor Vernon. Clearly, she knew something I didn't, and it wasn't good.

"Go ahead, fill him in," The team leader said, "Nothing he can do about it now. All we can do I hope, and pray."

 

Ariana nodded then said, "Viewpoint is in the hospital, in intensive care. They don't know if he'll make it through the night. Apocalyptic tore him apart."

I almost broke sat up again, "What? Why? Did he foil their plans or start something not knowing who they were?" Viewpoint is one of those supers who is not respected that much in the superhero community at large. While a lot of superheroes, heck, including our team, are forced to at least establish a trademark of sorts, or might get some royalties from action figures; Viewpoint took on sponsors, any sponsor, and promoted the heck out of whatever they were selling. It didn't matter if it was hamburgers or Floorwax. Worse, given a choice between protecting those who threw a little money his way or their property, or those that did not fund him? Well, he'd save both but it was never in doubt who he would prioritize.

 

I tried not to judge the guy. He did save lives after all. And his powers were impressive. Blasting away with eyebeams certainly looked good on camera. That said, he'd be no match for any two of the Apocalyptics. Heck, probably not anyone of them, though that might be unfair of me.

"He didn't do anything," Ariana explained, "They hunted him down because he was easy to find, and they hurt him because they could, and," A deep breath, "Well, the police tried to keep the media from releasing this but someone at the hospital released footage of the message anyway on social media so there was no point."

"What message?" I got a suddenly sinking feeling.

 

"They cut and burned the words 'FISHGUY, RETURN WHAT YOU HAVE STOLEN, OR THE NEXT HERO GETS IT WORSE!' into his chest, " Arian finished, "This is not your fault. They did this." She said it, and looked like she might begin repeating it like a mantra.

"They nearly killed another super just to send me a message. A man could be dying so they can prove a point," I tried not just to word it that way, but to think of that way, because what I almost said, despite Ariana's assurances, was 'because of what I did'.  She was right, they did this to Viewpoint. Further, it had been done to him while I was recovering from an alien poison.

 

But that didn't mean I didn't feel helpless.

"There are only so many other superheroes in this city of an independent nature," Lady Obsidian pointed out, "And Viewpoint was the most easily found. Slime is with us, which means we need to get a warning to Pogo and offer her our protection. And," she sighed, "There's one more they might go after."

"Who?"

 

 I'm glad Ariana asked because I was stumped as well. Besides our team, with Valorous out of business, there really was only Slime, Pogo, and poor Viewpoint. Was there a new rookie in the city I didn't know about?

 

"Bloodwatch," Lady Obsidian informed me, "He's not a superhero by our standards, but would Apocalyptic really understand the difference?"

My mouth must have fallen open because it went dry fast, "Geeze, they might. He's dangerously skilled and ruthless, but no match for them," I sighed "great, we're going to have to help a murderer."

 

"Being a superhero means never choosing easy mode," Lady Obsidian informed me, "Frankly, Caleb, what I want to do is hit you with enough sedatives to knock you out for another few hours," She eyed the IV "But I need every member up and running, we are now understaffed for the sheer amount of work awaiting. Let's not forget, behind Apocalyptic, are the Fumians. My plan includes exposing them, and capturing them all."

 

"Then we turn them over to the Hyadesians," I thought out loud, "And Apocalyptic will have less reason to hang in a town where then have to face the full force of the New Samaritans without the prize," I nodded.

"You think I plan to turn them over to the Hyadesians?" Lady Obsidian gave me a look of utter surprise.

"We're not? But you said they were the bigger threat, and even with a powerful supervillain team making threats you didn't sound like were going to negotiate so," I shrugged, unsure how much further to go from there.

 

"They are, and I'm not. But, monkey's paw mentality or not, if there is even a chance those mercantile marauders really have something that can permanently cure cancer? There is no way in hell I'm letting them off the planet until I have such a cure. I'm all for keeping some genies in their bottle until it's time, but millions suffer under the big C in one form or another. Let folks judge me how they like, I'm about to universal healthcare all over their asses. I'm hoping the rest of the team is okay with that."

She looked at Ariana and I as if expecting our answer yay or nay.

 

Finally, I cleared my throat and asked something I really had to be sure of before I committed to anything, "Did you just say 'mercantile marauders'?'

For a moment, I thought the grandame of the superhero set, the doctor with more PHDs that I had pairs of shoes, a civil rights leader and idol of many, was going to strangle me right then and there.

 

Instead, she took a deep breath, "I'm tired, Ariana, sweet, could you?"

Ariana nodded to her, "On it," And thwacked my ear with a finger.

 

"Ow," I said obligingly.

 

"You're such a sweet girl," Doctor Vernon approved.

 

"De Nada," She assured, "Speaking just for myself? I lost a grandfather to cancer. I'm in. I bet the others feel the same."

"in," I replied, thinking of the horrible death of one of my neighbors. Over the course of a year I had watched Mr. Dearborn go from a hardy figure to a withered rasping husk. I didn't want to play God, but at the same time, I was pretty sure the good lord above would have some pretty strong words for me if I arrived at the Pearly gates with a chance to bring a cure to so many, and I didn't even try.

 

The idea was so overwhelming in its way, I actually forgot about Apocalyptic for a moment.

 

Well, the IV was undone, and Ariana fussed over me in a way that made me feel pretty good inside, though I was careful not to smile too much where she could see me.

Maybe I would get the hang of this boyfriend job yet?

 

Within an hour we were all at the meeting room again. I had showered, switched into a fresh costume again, and gotten some coffee into me. I was hardly the only one. Superheroes, like cops on the third shift, live on caffeine. Well, those of us who have blood systems.

Slime had joined us. He had chosen a spot about three spaces from me, and I winced. He'd tried to warn me about needing back up. Because I had ignored him, he'd been just minutes away from a new life of slave labor himself.

 

Lady Obsidian laid out the very plans she had told us. While everyone agreed it was taking a terrible gamble with an untrustworthy source of technology that might end up being essentially snake oil or worse by the end of it, the possible reward for humanity outweighed the risk. Besides, it wasn't like we would trust it outright. Tests would be run, rats would get poked, whatever it took to be sure. This did, of course, lead to another complication.

 

"The technology may dissolve on us," Tornado reminded us, "I remind everyone the powered armor given those three girls dissolved after a very short time, and tests on the remains yielded nothing reproducible. The chicken? That's obviously not a mechanical change but if the government has learned anything on how to replicate it, Mabel hasn't found out through her back door into their files."

 

"I still don't always like us doing that," I admitted.

"I still hold a grudge," Dr. Vernon confessed, "But Pinprick also got a blood sample for me before getting into that tussle with Dark Lord Charming."

Pinprick grumbled at the mention of that name.

 

"Unfortunately," Lady Obsidian continued, "When I tried to do some readings on that sample, it dissolved. I don't know if it's a certain level of heat, somehow triggered by Ultraviolet rays, or what, but yes, the Fumians are very good at protecting their intellectual property."

"So, if we get our hands on the cure, assuming it's real, we may never be able to reproduce it," Tornado nodded "Which is why you want to hold onto the Fumians themselves so they'll tell us how to get around it."

 

"That was the plan, yes," Lady Obsidian admitted.

"And if they don't tell us?" he raised a brow, "if they say no? Do we hold them forever until we do without the interstellar equivalent of a trial?  I know we aren't going to torture them.  We're heroes, and none of us would stand for that, not even at your orders."

 

Rather than be offended, Dr. Vernon seemed rather pleased, perhaps catching Valentino off guard, "If I ever order that we all know I've crossed a line anyway. To answer question on what we will do if we have to? I'm not certain. It's late, I'm tired. Mabel and I have been working on at least three projects at once, and barring honing up our acting skills, I'm not sure how to trick the Fumians into thinking not telling us how they do it and recreating it for us is a bad idea. Fortunately, we have someone with us who might be able to give us a perspective on the Fumians from the point of view of his people. Slime?" She asked the azure ooze now in our midst, "If you would?"

 

Slime stood up (Well, propped up?) and spread like a wide screen television, and the words began to roll on as the alien took over the conversation, We have discussed much on the lack of ethics the Fumians display in their quest for cheap labor and profit in any other form. Lady Obsidian has managed to isolate their frequency. While I realize the irony in a life form such as myself saying this- Most humans would find the Fumians rather ugly. It maybe revealing them city wide all at once would certainly hinder their attempts to sell. Of course, it could lead to panic, How Slime managed to shrug while still maintaining the font scrolling up I wasn't sure. It wasn't like shoulders were really involved, The Fumians pretend to be masters of trade, but in truth? Their species would rather have a market all to itself. While most other extraterrestrial governments are held in check by ethical or political concerns from offering Earthlings what the Fumians offer, if the Fumians discovered another species was on the way to do the same, they might attempt to remove the competition.

 

"Wait, are you saying that if exposing them outright didn't work, we could try to lure them out by asking for someone else to sell Lemonade on the same street they thought they had cornered?" I thought about it, "You know, back in a small town in North Carolina-"

 

"There are large towns in North Carolina?" Arctic Fox looked dubious.

 

I ignored her and continued on, "-  there was this restaurant chain that moved in. Nothing wrong with that, but there was another place that served similar fare, family owned and operated. Anyway, when the bigbiz chain set up shop, the food wasn’t as good, and the prices were jacked up. Suddenly, the family business started getting calls into health inspectors and police on some pretty trumped up charges from 'anonymous' sources. It became such a hassle, that it almost drove the family out of business."

"Not hard to guess who got dirty there," Pinprick observed, "So what did the family do?"

 

"They didn't do anything, they were law abiding citizens, but it's possible that all their relations and the folks who drank beer with them went to the new place's parking lot and threw tailgate parties so there was no place for anyone else to park, grills on the back of trucks that sort of thing, and if anyone asked, they told them the food in there was so bad that they decided to have a cook out instead. Police would show up, tell them to scoot, they'd say yes, and then the second wave of party goers would come into their place. Word got around on social media –"

 

"They have Social Media in North Carolina?" Arctic Fox's brow rose again.

"Be nice," Lady Obsidian told her, "I think I see where he's going with this. Maybe?"

"Anyway, they closed up. We're doing our best to cover up what these jerks have done not to cause a panic, maybe we can do the reverse. Mention all the stuff we know about the Fumians devices going to hell, nearly killing people? Folks out there know aliens are real. They've seen a giant chicken, they know about a shooting at school. Why don't we get the word out and trash these bastards' reputation, warn folks about their holo gear? What's going to happen? Bad guys get drawn in hoping for stuff that' s high tech? That's happening anyway."

 

"Am I really that tired, or does that sound like It has merit?" Lady Obsidian asked the group.

"Actually, it's brilliant," Arctic Fox said before she could realize she'd complimented one of my ideas, "Because of the Fumians, Apocalyptic just trashed a popular superhero. Folks know the villains, but they don't know on whose behalf. All of us, except for Valorosa, Sorry Ariana but you're just too new, have fan followings in this city. Folks who, at the very least, trust us. We might be able to frustrate the hell out of the Fumians attempts through the power of public service announcements, and the best thing? What are they going to do? Sue us for Slander? We can get this moving and wreck them."

"I think she's drooling," Tornado muttered to Ariana.

 

"She gets to ravage freely the delicate egos and reputations of an entire species," Ariana muttered back, "After this is done, we may find her purring."

Arctic Fox made a sniffing expression, but the smile slipped free anyway.

"I think it's safe to say Fox is taking the lead on that one," Lady Obsidian smiled tiredly, and fought a yawn, "Is there any thing else anyone else has to bring up?"

Pinprick nodded, "Glad you asked, Viv. We got a real problem going on that could endanger the operation. We're piping at least three different projects through this one area, and fatigue is wearing away at the infrastructure. I think we need to provide suitable maintenance time, put the system at rest, and let it recharge all at once. We can restart in case of emergency."

 

Doctor Vernon's brows knit, "If we're having a technical problem like that you should have told me before now. Mabel, did you do a diagnostic?"

"As point of fact, yes," Mabel answered, "It's pretty much as Pinprick said. The ah hmm system is overtaxed. I second his suggestion."

"Just what system are we talking about?" Lady Obsidian waved her hands as if trying to clear the air.

 

"You," Pinprick said throwing his hands up, "You've been going almost two days on zero sleep. Go to bed, Viv!"

"Excuse you?" Vivian said crankily, "I have too many projects to go. Do you see any other technologically inclined members of the team around here?"

"Hurtful," Mabel gave a high-quality surround sound sniff, albeit on the melodramatic side.

 

"Now Mabel, I didn't mean it that way, it's just," the normally brilliant woman flustered, another sure sign she was indeed tired if that threw her off.

"I've got the media situation, remember?" Arctic Fox said, "Mabel's got technical. Pinprick can run herd on the rookies, and we can keep patrols strong. You're not going to be good to anyone if you're dead on your feet."

 

"Agreed," I nodded, "Like you said in your second book," I started to quote, but was cut off.

"If you quote my own book to me right now I will find a copy and slap you with it, so help me," The heroine I idolized said testily.

"Yes, ma'am," I wisely replied.

 

"Lady Obsidian," Tornado joined in, "We've got this. You trained us well."

"And we worry about you," Ariana hit her with the big eyes.

"The only reason I am complying with this bullying," Vivian said testily, "Is because my tolerance for obvious attempts to manipulate is incredibly low right now and the sooner I go to bed, the sooner it ends."

 

"Don't go away mad, Viv," Pinprick said gently, then threw in, "Just go away."

"Fine. Pinprick, you're in charge while I rest. Don't get too clever, that always gets you into trouble," Wrapping her metaphorical dignity around her like a shawl, Lady Obsidian left the room to go embrace sleep, perchance to dream of a less unruly team.

"How do you get away with it?"  Arctic Fox stared at Pinprick, "I mean, really, how are you not adhered to the celling in a force bubble."

"And how come you're the only one who gets to call her Viv?" Tornado said.

 

"Because if anyone else calls her that I'll shrink just their lips so they end up sounding like a kazoo when they talk," Pinprick warned Tornado then answered Fox, "Viv and I have an understanding. Always have. I give everyone some grief, but when I come down on her? She knows why and where I'm coming from."

No one really voiced a disagreement with that, or even, oddly, a complaint. I knew them the shortest time (No pun intended) and even I knew that Pinprick's loyalty was unquestioned when it came to her. Anyone of us would storm through hell's gates for Doctor Vernon. Pinprick? He would be the first one in, the last one out, and probably bring back the devil's wisdom teeth.

 

"So, uh, new boss, shorter than the old boss," Tornado smiled, "Any further orders?"

 

"Glad you asked, Oh, volunteer number one," Pinprick said, "We already have the plans in general, now for a few more specifics. Here's what we're all gonna do."

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(When it comes to marketing- Don't mess with Earth!)

 

 

"Hi," I stared into the camera, but tried not to stare too much, "I'm Eel of the New Samaritans, you may know me better as Fish Guy, In my short time in Costa Sagrado, I've done everything from finding cats to fighting terrorists to helping to subdue a giant chicken. I do my best to use my gifts to help others, and I know a lot of folks in this city do the same in their own way. But one thing I can't protect you from? Scammers. In this case, alien scammers. They're called the Fumians, and they've infiltrated Earth to rob our resources, trick people into being enslaved or enslaving your loved ones. And, their products don't even work. In fact, they can ruin your life."

 

"Take Sancho here, not his real name, and when you hear his story, you may realize why," I gestured to the side and Tornado came out onto the set. Of course, with the photomanipulation we were using, CGI rewrites that Hollywood would envy, it wouldn't look like Tornado. A very nondescript middle-aged gent of Latino heritage, almost generic in fact, and a bit slumping, "This poor man is a victim of Fumian scamming."

 

He came out, looking miserable and said, "I didn't know the man was a Fumian. I just knew that he had these amazing devices and sciences, or so it seemed to me. When he offered me a little, ah, help with performance, I jumped at the chance. The Free sample worked better than anything on the legal market. But, after a mere twenty four hours, I began to realize it was working less and less until I didn't , I couldn't," He hung his head, "And, I noticed something else. My …manhood, was getting, smaller."

 

"Sterility," I said patting 'Sancho' on the shoulder, "Impotency, and finally, diminishment. Buyer Beware indeed. If someone offers you something too good to be true, it probably is. Many good beings exist in this galaxy, and there are, I'm sure, even good Fumians, but these cosmic con artists are the ones that are here now. For more information, go to our website wwwdotfumianscammersdotNSdotnet. Knowing might just save what's most precious to you," I said.

 

"I know it would have for me," Sancho gave a miserable look to the camera.

 

"And we're done," Fox said as we stopped filming, a smile on her face, "Thank you, Eel, thank you, 'Sancho'. It only took like six takes. Now we set up the next one."

"Mabel, you're going to make sure no one knows it's me, RIIIGHT?" Tornado asked, and not for the first time.

 

The response from the audio speakers was a sultry set of chuckles, "give, give me a moment, it was all I could do not to laugh during the shooting."

 

I couldn't help but grin myself but sobered long enough to ask, "So these things we're using, they all really happened with others who dealt with the Fumians? Call me a sap, but I want at least a little truth in our advertising if we can arrange it."

 

It is all true, Slime assured me. The guy had been invaluable in giving us tales of Fumian customers being ruined for life by the results of their deals. Though I am unsure why you wished to use this anecdote. Is reproduction and performance so tied to the human male ego?

 

"Absolutely," Arctic Fox said.

"Pretty much," I admitted.

"Fair cop," Tornado agreed.

Odd, Slime wrote upon himself, clearly still mystified, Well, if it will discourage them, so be it.

 

Hours had passed since Doctor Vernon had hit the hay, and yes, Mabel made sure she did. We'd been busy as hell between patrolling, investigating, patching up incidents caused by Fumian tech, and hoping to find a glimpse of Apocalyptic.  And, of course, we were looking for the other independent superheroes.

 

Which is where I was heading next while we changed who was doing what commercials. Ariana and I had an idea on how to flush out Bloodwatch. We would pretend to be a criminal and his victim. The problem is we had a big disagreement on what the crime should be.

 

"Purse snatching is weak sauce, Caleb," She protested slipping on the wig of red hair to go with the business casual clothing she had ready. The prosthetic changed her nose shape just a bit, and the contacts turned her delicious chocolate eyes into a deep green, "If you really want to get his attention, then it needs to look more serious, a lot more serious."

 

My own outfit was fashioned from materials from an army navy store and I hoped looked sufficiently like what a mugger was wearing this year. I had died my hair, and had my face half obscured by a fake but realistic mustache.

 

"I do not want to even pretend to be a rapist," I stated flatly, "I can't even act out doing that. Call me weird, but no, not with any woman, but certainly not with you."

"Caleb," Ariana said, "I assure you, my kinks do not run," She made a face, "in that vein, but we've fought before. Heck, I kicked you through a wall in the training room last week, remember? And you threw me through another one."

 

"Yeah, and I felt bad about that," I reminded, "But this? This is different. Purse snatching? Yes. Heck, I'll even pretend to hit you, but I will not sexually assault you or even act it out. I've got ancestors, southern gentlemen of past ages, that would rise out of the grave and get me. Nuh uh." I crossed my arms and gave her that 'so there' look.

"You're adorable," She said after a bit, "Fine, if we don't end up drawing Bloodwatch's attention we'll know it's because we didn't compare to whatever else he found. I hope your acting is good."

 

I pretend to find your talk about your favorite actress and who she's dating fascinating. I deserve an Oscar for that. I thought wryly.  I thought it, but I didn't say it. Whether I was a good actor or not, I was not stupid by any stretch.

 

She eyeballed me as if somehow, she'd gained telepathy, "Huh" She said.

 

"I didn't say anything," I protested. Somehow this had just gotten spooky.

 

"No, you didn't say anything," She agreed, "Let's just hope those public service announcements have honed you as a thespian."

 

"You're a Thespian," I countered with a petulant tone.

 

"What?" She blinked.

 

"It sounded funnier in my head," I confessed sheepishly.

 

"It would have to," She clattered away on her sensible yet fashionable shoes towards the vehicle with which we would head to our patrol and performance, "Come on, hopefully this will work and get you shot in the head."

 

"Yaaaaaay?" I said and followed along.

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I'm kinda surprised Tornado didn't pull rank / seniority and make Eel be the "impotent one." 

 

I'm also surprised that Eel didn't ask Mabel for an unaltered video... even if just joking.

 

And Ariana is not only a thespian... I hear that she masticates every day, even in public!

 

Seriously though, Eel, you DON'T want to get into an acting discussion with your girlfriend.  The restaurant scene from When Harry Met Sally comes to mind.

 

 

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1 minute ago, BoloOfEarth said:

I'm kinda surprised Tornado didn't pull rank / seniority and make Eel be the "impotent one." 

 

I'm also surprised that Eel didn't ask Mabel for an unaltered video... even if just joking.

 

And Ariana is not only a thespian... I hear that she masticates every day, even in public!

 

Seriously though, Eel, you DON'T want to get into an acting discussion with your girlfriend.  The restaurant scene from When Harry Met Sally comes to mind.

 

 

 

You may have noticed  Pinprick was now in charge. Rest assured 'new boss, shorter than the old boss' got noticed. Hence Pinprick's comment on volunteer number one :D

 

I have to check, but I think maybe it does get mentioned in the later parts. But oh yeah, who wouldn't want that? 

 

As for the rest I'm not sure I can post that in a family friendly superhero story :angel:

 

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I do hope you aren't planning to leave this hanging, Hermit. 

 

BTW do you have the characters written up for Champions? If so It would be nice to have a look at them. Not here obviously, but maybe a thread in the Champions forum.

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(And for the one or two of you that are still reading, I'm finally resuming)

 

 

"Gimmie your purse, Lady," I drew the empty gun and pointed it at the face of the woman I loved.

 

This was the fifth try, we went one block, moved another two or so, and then tried again. By now we had crossed from one end of the worst neighborhoods to another and still no dice. And this was an area that was one of Bloodwatch's favorite hunting grounds for punks, muggers, and worse.  Maybe Bloodwatch was laying low thanks to Apocalyptic giving a warning he was a target. Assuming he saw himself as a superhero?

 

That didn't quite fit the mentality of the man I had met. He'd be cautious, but give up on his crusade against crime as he saw it? No. He was too obsessed for that.

"No, please, I have to pay my bills or I'll lose my coverage," Ariana adlibbed, even as I refocused on take five of the 'let's mug your girlfriend' skit.

That's when a green and yellow figure slammed down from above and hit my head before bouncing off!

 

"No means no!" my attacker rebounded for another swing, "Get back, miss! Superhero to the rescue! Girl power! Women unite! And yet she persisted!" Pogo landed almost as many springy blows and punches as she did sentences, which meant the attacks were adding up.

 

"Pogo," I tried to explain, but she wasn't having it and I didn't get to explain until she bounced off a nearby wall and smashed her elbow into my nose moving like a deranged dodgeball.

 

"Shame on you," She lectured as she walloped and thumped me all over, "Shame shame shame, sir! Times are hard, yes, but that doesn't give you the right to mug people. Is it drugs? Are you on the opioids? The crack? There are clinics, there are ways to get help, twelve step programs and support groups, after you wake up maybe the police can help you get your life straight, but first you must pay your time for the mugging. Might for right! JUUUUUSTIICE!" She was now a green and yellow blur thumping and bumping and striking and kicking, my eyes were having trouble finding her.

 

"Pogo, stop," Ariana said, "It's okay, he's not a bad guy, we're both-"

 

But no, she wasn't getting a full sentence in either.

 

"OMG! He Stockholm syndromed you, don't worry miss, we'll get you help too," Pogo assured her, "As soon as he falls I," bounce spring beat beat beat, "Okay, he's one tough mugger, miss. I mean, he should have been out like three whomps ago. If he's a supervillain he's breaking a few rules not wearing a costume."

"I'm Eel," I hissed at her hoping she could hear but no one else stumbling onto the scene would.

 

"Ill? Sir, if you have a mental condition that drives you to crime than I'll make sure you get the best therapist I can if the lady refuses to press charges but-"

"EEL," I said a bit louder as she planted a bouncy foot in my face.

 

"Heel? Oh, you do not treat women like some kind of dog you mugging misogynist," she said, and rained down another four blows, "not on my watch! Get woke or get broke!"

"Oh Christ," I muttered, figuring Jesus would forgive me the slip. Traditionally our lord and savior is a pretty good sport, "Fish Guy. I'm FISHGUY, we met?"

And just like that, the attacks stopped as the superpowered Asian-American teenager finally ceased her attacks and settled for bouncing around, "Fish Guy? You're undercover? Cool, why didn't you say it was you? I'm not a telepath you know, though I don't think I'd want to be, all that talk in my head constantly, not able to shut it out, can you imagine what that would be like?"

 

"Getting an idea," I managed to slip in, "Pogo, you're in danger."

 

"Ooo, is it because you stole something from Mister Brute?" She inquired, "It's all on Supranow what he did to Viewpoint, but he can't hurt me, I bounce back from wrecking balls."

"Can you be cut?" Valorosa said.

 

"Well," She looked worried.

 

"Or burned?" I asked before she went back in chatterbox mode, "They have a lot of ways of hurting someone, Pogo. And even with raw strength alone, Mister Brute could grapple with you and then suffocate you by covering your mouth and nose until you die."

 

"Eeep," She squeaked as she thought about it, "So, got a spare bunk at your base?"

 

"You didn't have to scare her," Ariana muttered to me, then answered Pogo, "Sure thing, Pogo."

 

"Great, just, uhm, who are you?" Pogo asked Ariana, "Are you like his sidekick or something?"

 

I snerked and looked to the side.

 

Avoid eye contact, Caleb. Avoid eye contact and live.

 

"No," Ariana said taking a moment to collect herself, "I'm undercover too. I'm the newest member of the New Samaritans, they call me Valorosa," She offered a hand.

 

"So, uhm, the New Samaritans brought on female minority superheroine, that's, very diverse of them," Pogo said shaking the hand and sighing, "Of course, they have women, and they have a latino so you know, if I were Lady Obsidian I might try to squeeze in, and I'm just spitballing here, maybe say a younger Asian-American superheroine? But good, good on them, I just you know, been trying for a while now, and it's hard not to take this the wrong way. Kind of hurts, a little, in here. Got big dreams. Yup. Pocket full of dreams and a thirst for justice. If justice were a juice I'd be a twelve can a day girl. But I guess there's some ceilings left to crack, not saying you put it there, just you know, the old green-eyed monster at play here and-"

 

"You're still too young, Pogo," Ariana interrupted.

 

"Darn it," Pogo muttered.

 

"Okay, not to rush things," I said, "But we need to get her to base, and see if we can find Bloodwatch already."

 

"Bloodwatch? Why do you want that nutbar?" Pogo said, "He should be in jail. I mean, we all might be a little loose on some laws, but he thinks Deathwish is a how to guide. I tried to capture him once and he blew me up. I mean, it didn't hurt, but I ended up in the suburbs in a backyard with really yappy, what do you call those little wiener dogs?"

 

"Dachshunds," I told her.

 

"Gesundheit" Pogo said and continued, "Anyway, it really eats me up how many folks he's killed, sure, they're usually bad people but gosh darn it, I've been behind on library book returns and I don't want to die."

 

"I think he's the least of your problems right now," I said, "Now come on, let's escort you to the base and-" I almost didn't see her I'm pretty sure I didn't. It was more like the sound you might hear with a high wind rushing up a narrow alleyway, "Move!" I pushed Pogo and sent her flying against a wall.

 

Slice's blade carved through the space where Pogo had been. Pogo meanwhile rebounded off said wall and sprung into the air. Slice didn't seem to know who to go after, and if she had just left then we never would have caught her, instead she arched around and nearly sheared my head off as I hastily slipped on a mask from underneath my shirt. Secret Identities are important, assuming you don't have other ways to keep your loved ones protected twenty-four seven it can be the best defense they have.

"You're not some street thug," Slice observed which is the most I recall her speaking compared to the others of her team.

 

"It's the Jersey accent, isn't it?" I told her, "They told me that it was a stupid idea to do in California, and I wasn't pulling it off anyway." I talked to distract her from Pogo, who was hopefully well on her way to safety.

 

"No hero left behind!" Pogo declared as she narrowly missed landing on Slice, and then managed to get a punch on her anyway. Pogo didn't have super-strength, but she could certainly move someone thanks to her natural knack for kinetic reactions. Slice actually stumbled.

 

"Pogo get out of here!" I called out and slammed my foot down creating a shockwave even as I ordered her, "Where there's one member of the Apocalyptic team there's more," I wanted nothing more than to finish Slice off, but I wasn't about to make the same mistake twice.

 

The fact that a burning figure was appearing in the distance proved my point. Even as Slice slammed against a wall and seethed with her razor-sharp weapons ready. Now that she was slowed down, I saw they were knives. The abundance of sharp things that could cut through anything lately was really starting to annoy me. 

 

"Alleyoop?" Valorosa asked in the com.

 

I smiled, and hoped this would work, "Alley Oop."

 

Valorosa threw a garbage can, a pretty full one, at the speedster, who could have dodged but instead resorted to cutting it in half. She should have just avoided as refuse rained down over her. Fast or not, that was going to stain.

 

"Can't smell worse than your perfume," Ariana told her trying her best, I thought, to emulate Arctic Fox's style, "Come on,  miss stabby, by the time I'm done with you you'll be lucky if you're in shape to sell cutlery on an infomercial."

 

Slice charged Valorosa, and Valorosa , who could be denser than steel, took another option, and went ghost like. Slice rushed through full tilt boogie for injustice, where I was waiting.  That's when I seized Slice's arm, whirled her around applying as much pressure as I could, took a cut from her free hand for my trouble but snapped her wrist in return. She screamed, one of her blades dropped, and I threw her into the flaming figure of Firebug.

 

It was possibly one of the best throws of my life. The results were truly spectacular. I didn't just mope when someone kicked my ass, I tried to learn about them, and I knew Slice, like a lot of speedsters, was a quick healer. But I imagine a broken wrist, and a crash into a fellow team mate who routinely burned at fifteen hundred degrees Celsius would leave a mark.  Firebug dimmed just a bit at the contact, though whether it was to keep from burning a team make terribly or because she just been hit hard herself I didn't know.

"Souvenir, dibs!"  Pogo grabbed the fallen knife, and bounced up again, "Wow this is so sharp you could shave with it."

 

"Be careful with that, and let's get moving," Valorosa said, her voice softer in her ghost state than at normal density.

 

"But we can take em!" Pogo protested.

 

"Right now, young lady," a stronger voice as she grew solid, then she turned, "Eel, I know you want to take them down but- hey!"

 

The reason the lady of my life was startled as because I had wasted no time in getting the hovercycle and was now in the driver's seat, "Pogo, Valorosa, get in," I said as I brought it down ground level, "Fast."

 

Ariana slipped behind me and put her arms around me even as she kept an eye on the foes who were recovering, "I think Mister Brute and Dice are in the distance."

 

That seemed to be enough to discourage even Pogo's exuberance, and she bounded into the sidecar, "Okay, we'll get them another day?"

 

"We or we?" I inquired, "Sorry, Pogo, don't let a lucky break fool you into thinking we've got them easily beat." I gunned the cycle and we were off like a shot. However badly hurt Slice was, she was the only one who might catch us right now, and she was still recovering it seemed. Thank goodness.

 

"Mabel," I said, "We've got Pogo, despite a clash with two of Apocalyptic. No Fumian activity here. How about the others?"

 

Mabel replied, "Plenty of action, actually, Tornado, Fox, and Pinprick had an encounter with a Fumian dealing technology to a group of gamers wanting access to the alpha test to some MMORPG. I had to help them detach the poor idiots because their brain patterns became interrogated into the wiring. In short, they almost became a collective Artificial Intelligence. Eventually their personalities would have merged, probably gone crazy, but even if they hadn't they would be dead as individuals."

 

"Well, that's just all kinds of disturbing," I admitted.

 

Ariana shuddered as well.

 

"Cool," Pogo exclaimed, then noticed us looking at her, "I mean, terrible. Absolutely terrible."

 

I couldn't help but chuckle, "It's a little bit both," I admitted to Pogo, then said "Mabel, get your scanners ready. We've got one of Slice's knives"

"I was the one who called dibs," Pogo wanted to be sure we understood that.

 

"Yes, yes," I agreed, "But I want to make sure we're not being tracked. I mean, they might figure out where the base is, but let's make them work for it, huh?"

Mabel assured me, "Not to worry, the hovercycle has scanners too, and I'm having them do a run down now. Nasty knife, but no transmissions or odd energy signatures. I'll want to study in more in the base, but I think it's safe."

 

"Huh," I grew thoughtful, "damn things cut through me pretty nastily," I said looking at the wound I'd gotten from the other one.

"Yes, it's getting annoying," Valorosa said testily.

 

"Not like I intend to get cut on purpose. I'm used to most sharp things not being able to pierce or lacerate my thick hide," I told Ariana, "Then I come to this city, and everything from magic spears to alien squid bots to giant chickens to knives worn by killer speedsters has something. You think it annoys you? Get in line. Besides, nothing a –"

"Good soak in the tub won't take care of," Ariana chimed then added, "I know, I know, but that doesn't mean I have to like it." She looked at my reflection in the glass in front of me, "And stop smiling."

 

"Sorry," I said, not quite able to manage full sincerity. I knew she worried, but I was used to folks worrying back home. For her to do it? It made me feel, well, darn it, warm and fuzzy inside, not that I'd ever mention that aloud.

 

"Are you two dating?" Pogo gasped, "Oh my gosh, you're dating," She squeed a bit, "That's so romantic, the heat of battle stirring your passions, respect growing into longing, I am so putting this in my fan-fic"

 

I had no idea what to say to that. I had done an internet search on myself once, and stumbled into some truly dark corners of fandom's collective imagination that I could not unsee. It would probably be best to not ask Pogo how far her fan-fic went.

 

"Robots," Valorosa said.

 

"You want Robots in fan-fic with us?" I said.

 

"No, Robots are swarming a building over there," Valorosa gestured towards a squat building, "They look a lot like Fumian tech to me."

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Yay! 
 

I've been craving more adventures of Fish Guy as well, but given how busy the season can get I didn't want to push.  I'm amused that their faux mugging netted the wrong target, and it's always great to see (or hear) Pogo in action.  And kudos on portraying her (well-expected) jealousy that they added a new heroine to the team and it's not her.  Overall, a nice addition to the story.

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12 hours ago, BoloOfEarth said:

Yay! 
 

I've been craving more adventures of Fish Guy as well, but given how busy the season can get I didn't want to push.  I'm amused that their faux mugging netted the wrong target, and it's always great to see (or hear) Pogo in action.  And kudos on portraying her (well-expected) jealousy that they added a new heroine to the team and it's not her.  Overall, a nice addition to the story.

 

Pogo's kind of fun to write to be honest. I feel like I'm cheating and padding my word count whenever I use her though :D

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So, not trying to rush or put too much pressure, but it's been over 3 weeks without an update, and Fish Guy and Phenomenal Lass** don't want to give those robots too much time to get entrenched.

 

** Stolen directly from Evil Inc -- say "Phenomenal Lass" out loud for best effect.

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(Meant to do this this weekend but hey, here we go)

 

 

"No, Robots are swarming a building over there," Valorosa gestured towards a squat building, "They look a lot like Fumian tech to me."

Dozens of multilimbed robots, rather spider like in design, were swarming a building. Each robot appeared to be about a foot wide if you counted leg span. Some were swarming over the entry way so I couldn't make out details but the last word 'clinic' was revealed on the sign. Bleeding and not feeling too hot, I nevertheless figured we had no choice but to engage. The only question was would I send Pogo on to the base or have her wait here in the vehicle.

 

Then she took the choice from me.

 

Screaming "Justice springs eternal and so do I!" Pogo leaped from the damn hovercycle and crashed down below smashing and mashing the robots. They weren't as durable as some we'd faced, thank goodness, and her frenetic pacing meant they had difficulty swarming her.

 

"We are never having kids," Valorosa jumped off after descending at a slow glide to join the fray, calling out, "I'm going in the building since she's got the outside."

 

"Great," I lowered the vehicle and did my own less spectacular landing, the ground shaking as I did so. My leg took it all right, but was weaker than usual thanks to the wound. I punched one robot and broke it easily. After all the heavy hitters, it was nice to have something go crunch right away like it was supposed to.

"Gross gross gross," Pogo grunted as she rammed her shoulder against one bugbot, then back to another only to kick a third. It was obvious to me that she was already way ahead of me when it came to sheer number of bugbots she had destroyed, "Why do they have to have so many legs? Who needs that many legs?"

 

I grabbed a newspaper dispenser, uprooted it, and began to beat some of the other bots on the wall, "Welcome to the glamourous life, Pogo," I declared and smashed more and then called out "How bad is it in there, Valorosa?"

 

"Dozens of the little monsters, they're trying to steal stuff from the freezers," She called out.

 

"Freezers?" I smashed another that was trying to escape, and yes, it squirted. Then I glanced up. By now Pogo and I had cleared up enough on the outside that I could read the rest of that sign, "Holy cow," I read the now revealed words, "It's a fertility clinic."

 

Pogo blushed, "So these things want people's, you know, stuff? For, for babies?"

 

"That's the G-rated version," I agreed, and hammered at more of the things, a sinking sensation falling into my gut, "Valorosa, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

 

"That there are only so many reasons for gathering human genetic material? Si," She actually sounded offended, greatly so, "We can't let even one of them escape, Eel. Not one."

 

"Roger that," I said, increasingly alarmed as dozen of old sci fi and horror plots of yesteryear rekindled in my brain. Slave labor could be achieved a lot of ways for a species as high tech as the Fumians. If you couldn't get people, why not steal people to be?

 

And what had been a cakewalk became a desperate search and destroy mission that, frankly, managed to mix the worst aspects of creepy and gross. I kept my newspaper dispenser weapon handy and slammed as many of the things as I could, "Pogo, keep an eye out for the windows and other exits. If you see one trying to escape, smash it. We'll get the ones inside."

 

Unless, I thought, the little bastards were slipping down through the grates and vents where we couldn't fit. That would bring a whole new world of challenges if I had to rip the foundations of this place apart.

 

And, of course, the thought of 'what if Apocalyptic found us like this?' also came to mind. No, Mister Brute would look after Slice first. He fancied himself classy like that. We had time.

 

Honestly, I wasn't sure what time it was when we got what I hoped was the last machine. I looked up, and said "Let's get to the base, and get a shower. I think, I think I have an idea. But we're going to have to wake Lady Obsidian."

 

"She needs a full eight hours at least," Mabel protested, "Whatever it is, we can start it up without her and then get it going right?"

"Fine, Mabel, how are you at knifeforging and electronics?" I finally asked.

 

"That," she observed, "Is an interesting combination."

 

"I know," I told our computer friend, "I'm creative like that," then I glanced at Pogo, "Sorry, Pogo, we're going to need that knife after all."

 

Pogo grumbled, "Could you at least put in a good word for me with Lady Obsidian so when I do get old enough she'll consider me for the team?"

 

"I think she was considering you for the team when you got older anyway, but no promises," Ariana offered the girl a carrot with strings.

 

"Well, good," Pogo cheered up, "I mean, it'll be cool for you guys to get someone young on the team for a change."

 

My twenty-year-old girlfriend gave Pogo a look, then whispered to me, "She does know I'm not some old witch, doesn't she?"

 

"Of course, she doesn't," I assured her in a whisper back, "She's just a teenager, and a half decade seems like forever. You are a very sexy young woman, I'm a hot young stud, and we make the older people jealous."

 

Her smile was dazzling.

"Now," I added, "let's get back on our broom and get to the base."

She gave my arm a swat and took the main driver seat to boot.

Eh, worth it.

 

It turned out that thanks to the science labs, waldos, and workshops; Mabel was indeed able to start work on my little project. Compared to the usual technology Lady Obsidian and she worked with, this would be low tech, but I still got my two cents in.

 

"The balance has to be perfect, they have to feel identical or this won't work," I said.

 

"Pinprick, would you please tell tiger here to ease off and let me handle this?" Mabel groused.

"Speaking as someone who uses a weapon?" Pinprick said, "Fish Guy's right."

"Look, I know I'm being pushy but –" I blinked, "I am?"

 

"Slice has used this thing for years, she's going to know if the balance is off that it's a fake," Pinprick said, "You've got to get all of it right down to the last gram and that's not counting the balance."

 

Several zeroes and ones dashed along a display.

 

"I don't know what she's saying but I'm pretty sure it wasn't polite," I muttered.

"Fish Guy," Pinprick he said, "go soak, shower, clean up, and get some sleep. Lady O isn't the only one who has been pulling hard hours, and we've got the plan. The only thing we'll need later is your john Hancock."

 

"But," I started to protest.

"The only reason I'm not hitting you with a sleep arrow now is I don't want to have to wash you myself. Do you want me to wash you?" Pinprick gave me a look, "My little hands getting every square inch?"

 

I shuddered, "I think I'll shower and go to bed now."

 

"This team leader stuff is a breeze," I heard him mutter as I walked off.

 

And I almost stepped on Slime, the Alien was slithering through the hallway. Arctic Fox had grumbled about the sulfur smells but even she had been grateful for all his help. I wondered if we were considering expanding the team again at this rate.

 

And, tired as I was, it occurred to me, I was long overdue on a talk with him, "Uhm, Slime, got a minute?"

The good alien shifted its attention and bulk of its form to me and again words scrolled along, Yes, Eel? What is it your want to talk about?

 

Despite Slime's willingness to talk, he seemed cautious around me in a way he hadn't before. And I knew why.

 

"I want to apologize for not listening to you when you warned me about the delivery the Fumians were doing. I tuned you out, ignored you, and let my obsession with Mister Brute carry me off. I failed everyone, but I could have gotten you killed," I finished lamely, "I'm sorry."

 

I realize, Slime scrolled slowly, I should have explained that their transport would have your fellow Earthlings on it. I should have stressed that. Had I done it, I know you would never have abandoned them and me. We both made mistakes.

 

I nodded, "Still on me, but thank you for understanding," I told Slime.

 

I do understand. But, that is a matter of reason. Taking what I know of you, what occurred, and evaluating, Slime continued, but reason is only part of who we are. And, while it may not be reasonable. It will take time to regain my trust of you, Eel. I am sorry, but, I would be lying to say things are exactly as they were before between us, or will be right away. I hope you can be patient?

 

I felt stunned. For a juvenile moment I was tempted to point out that it hadn't been easy for me to apologize, and given he had agreed it was partly his fault, he had a lot of nerve shooting me down and acting like it was nothing.

 

But that was a lack of sleep and maybe a currently fragile ego combining there. Slime had just been honest with me, nothing more, and nothing less.

And I owed it to him to be the same.

 

"Well, I can't say I wasn't hoping for an immediate 'it's okay' and mutual hand-" I glanced down "Ah pseudopod shake? But I guess I can't blame you for needing time, and I hope we can rebuild the bridge I burned. It stings, but I'll try to respect your space."

 

Not burned, Slime assured me, We just need to put a few bricks back into place. Hopefully stronger than before. Besides, we are superheroes yes? We'll probably save each other's lives quite a few times over the next year.

 

"We probably will," I took the comment as the positive spin it was intended to be, "Uhm, catch you later, Slime. Thanks again for the help."

 

You are welcome, And Slime slithered off even as I? I went to bed.

 

Sleep took me, though I wasn't as sure I needed it as much as others. I think I got more sleep than they did; certainly, more than Lady Obsidian, but Pinprick was determined I get at least a four-hour break. I guess I needed it more than I thought, because I did not want to wake up.

 

Want or not, I rolled slowly getting to my feet. The Boxers that said 'Sea World' on them were a gag gift from the team, but had proven to be incredibly comfortable to snooze in. Ariana had a hard time looking at them without laughing.

 

And I was secure enough to deal with that.

"Mabel," I said cueing her in with a voice activation that it was okay to listen in and converse, "Could I get an update again?"

"It's ready," She chimed in helpfully, "And Lady Obsidian has approved of your plan."

"Great, let's hope they find it sooner rather than later," I said, "I'm going to need that flare gun with the special attachment."

"You don't need the special option," She snorted, "You just want to say you had one. Yes, it's ready."

"Awesome," I smiled for a moment, "Any other news?"

 

"Oh, it's still been crazy, of course, but the commercials appear to be working, we've gotten more reports of shifty scams and tricks, and the Fumians are finding it much harder to make their bargains. Our response time goes up, incidents go down. Overall, it is working," She would have smiled if she had a visible face.

 

"That is good to hear," I said, "I'll talk to Lady O since she's up again, shortly," I replied.

 

I took a deep breath, and forced myself to deal with fifteen minutes of checking on the Caleb side of things. Nothing that took a lot of time mind you, e-mails and accounts, that kind of thing. And I had to actively consider that I might not be the one on the 'take down the Apocalyptic side of things as the Fumians were still priority number one, but at least she liked the idea, or so it appeared.

 

When I looked up, I noticed the visitor light was on. Masks would be required, "Who has come in?"

 

"Doctor Salem, her apprentice, and –"

 

"Mayo's here?" I grinned. Mayo was a friend, a member of the undersea races who had lost his sight, but found a new calling. He'd started out as a reluctant draftee for the Eldest, and ended up taking out an intruder into the base- rather ruthlessly in fact. He liked to say he was not like me, that he was not a hero. But he was most definitely a friend.

 

This despite the fact Doctor Salem and he had run me ragged while the former recovered from her mystic excursions. I'd griped about some of the weird mystic incidents she had me covering to the others. They jokingly referred it to as the Twelve Tasks of Fish Guy, which given the incident with the carnival cruise that was a convention for necromancers, demonologists, and warlocks was quite surreal. You have not known fear until someone polymorphs you into a shuttlecock.

 

"Yes, and so is Dr. Bench," Mabel answered, "And before you ask, because I know you will, Dr. Bench is a leading expert on cancer. Lady Obsidian trusts him, but obviously she's not going to risk the secret identities of others hence the warning light."

"Understood," I said, "Where are they located?"

 

"The Bio-Science lab, they're talking about the sample, but nothing that you can't come in on," She said.

"Thanks, I think I will," I figured, "Maybe Mayo will have a moment for Breakfast."

 

Lady Obsidian was looking much better when I came into the Bio-Science Lab. She could probably use another six or seven hours on snooze but still, there was some of the old energy back. Of course, she had aged well. Doctor Salem, not so much. Sometimes, I worried the energy she had spent in letting me out of the Balance (Long story) had aged the already crone like mystic even further. Not that I would use the term crone to her face.

 

Mayo was still as white as his namesake, and the injury to his once dark eyes had still rendered them pale and unseeing as well. Two things surprised me. One was the fancy Chinese style man's robe but with Greek designs and a scrimshaw torc about his neck. The other thing that surprised me? He was breathing air.

Since when did he breathe air?

 

Doctor Bench was a middle-aged man with seventy percent of his hair gone, which, at that point, someone might ask why would you keep the last thirty percent? Just shave it and let it go. But then, I've got an uncle down to a tuft behind each ear and I half way expect him to try to braid that eventually. The man's a big believer in making the most of what you got.

 

"Hello, Eel," Mayo said turning to hold out a hand.

 

"How did you know I was here?" I asked as we clasped each other's elbows. What can I say? It was an undersea draftee bond thang, "I mean, I know you read auras, but you weren't even looking my direction."

 

"I still did it by reading auras," His smile betrayed his attempt at aloof composure, "It took me time to move beyond my perceived limitation, but as soon as I realized I was mistaken in associating with it my eyes, I made the adjustment. Now I sense the auras all about me. Of course, at first there is only awareness, then basic specifics come to me, and at the last, details."

 

"Details?" I raised a brow.

"Moods, emotional undercurrents, the harmony of the heart if you would," He explained in that semi-poetical way of his. Then he tilted his head, "Speaking of harmony of the heart, you are troubled my friend. What is wrong?"

 

"Personal stuff that can wait," I blushed a bit. I was not about to get into the subject of my relationship with Ariana, the ties it had to my sense of self identity, and the screwups I had made that had alienated Slime and perhaps damaged Lady Obsidian's trust in me. At least not in front of others, "The important thing is you guys are here and- " I realized, "I'm being rude." I moved to Dr. Bench, "Sir, I'm Eel. It's an honor to meet you." I gave a nod to Doctor Salem, "Doctor Salem, how's Sindrila?"

 

"She is fine, thank you," Doctor Salem said, "Despite your rather dubious rescue of her, she seems to have a fondness of you."

 

"Ah, thanks," I was glad Ariana wasn’t' in the room on that one. There had been a severe misunderstanding between Sindrila and I, and it had gotten awkward for all involved. Sindrilla was a dwarf, and I don't mean like a person with the condition of dwarfism, I mean her father helped craft Thor's hammer. If you don't know how dangerous smithing knowledge like she has could be, you haven't read your Bullfinch's.

 

In retrospect, I almost wished she was available for hire, she could have not only made a copy of Slice's blade, she could have put a whammy on it to hex the speedster hard and neutralized her.

 

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Eel," Doctor Bench smiled as he shook my hand, "My son is a big fan. You're his third and a half favorite hero."

 

"And a half?" I raised a brow, "Third I understand but half?  you got me there."

 

"Sometimes you are number four, sometimes you're ranked at number three," He admitted.

 

"Ah, fickle fandom," I joked, "Thank you for lending your expertise to the cause at it were."

 

"I was just thanking Lady Obsidian for the opportunity this might present," Doctor Bench said and his eyes lit up, "If there is even a decade of progress in finding the cure for cancer because of this endeavor, then any price is worth it."

 

"That is dangerous thinking, Doctor Bench," Doctor Salem intoned, "The Fumians take advantage of that kind of mindset. That's why Lady Obsidian wants to do this on our terms."

 

"Rather brutishly, to be honest," Lady Obsidian admitted, "The important thing is the dish is in place. On the signal, all the Fumians all over the city will lose their holographic disguises. Now this may cause panic, but if we're lucky, we'll find the fumians fast. When the holograms fracture, they'll release a small signature that hopefully we can pick up on the enhanced scanners. We'll have a brief burst of dots on the proverbial city map. If we can seize the opportunity fast enough, we'll have them. I even have another hovercycle ready to go and the car is fixed."

 

A smile slipped out of me despite the grim stakes involved, "No wonder you were tired. Mabel said you liked my plan for the other side of things. Your choice when and where, but the pay off could be big. I blew it earlier, but the Apocalyptic crew still scares the hell out of me. And I guess getting spooked makes me angry and getting angry makes me rash. Still, that admission aside," I shrugged, letting her finish the obvious unspoken.

 

"We can't ignore the group of killer supervillains or eventually they'll start hunting more than superheroes, they'll destroy entire buildings or the like," Lady Obsidian took the obvious up and continued, "Yes, I think it has merit. But for this plan to work, I'm going to have to ask you to do something that no sane person would agree to."

 

"Oh, sanity is a luxury item in this lifestyle anyway," I shrugged, "Shoot."

 

"I need you to face them for as long as you're able," She said, "Delay them, draw them out, run like hell. Do what you've got to do but buy the rest of us time to retrieve the Fumians."

 

I stared at her, "Forget about me, are you crazy? They nearly killed me the first time and only didn't because they were playing a sadistic game of let's torture the superhero."

 

"I know I'm asking a lot," Lady Obsidian said, "But if we can get you near water, you can get away like before, of course, if you jump straight into the water you might lose them too soon."

 

"Right, a probability manipulator, a speedster who by now may have healed, a person who can boil water, and a man who is both better at hand to hand and stronger than I am," I stared at her, "I appreciate that you seem to think I've improved but, with the exception of yourself, I cannot imagine anyone on the team being able to hold against them alone."

 

"I'm flattered," Lady Obsidian smiled, "Dice is a problem we may have a solution to, but it isn't ready yet," She glanced over at Doctor Salem.

"I'm afraid not, Vivian," Doctor Salem confirmed, "Should have something soon, but not yet. Enchantments take time."

 

"And we're back to no chance of blind luck saving me," I muttered before speaking up, "I know I regenerate, but I'm not sure how I'm going to survive this."

"Well, in truth," She confessed, "I considered sending someone with you, even thought about asking for a volunteer, but that's foolish because-"

 

"Because Valorosa would insist on being the one and she could get killed," escaped my mouth before I realized it.

 

"I was going to say because whoever volunteers might not be the best selection to ensuring your and whoever it is' survival," Lady Obsidian corrected me before going on, "Frankly, if I thought Valorosa could shift both of your densities at the same time and ghost you with her she would be the one I picked to try. But even with the booster she's not shown that level of ability. I need Tornado for his speed, Arctic Fox for her ability to entrap, and, of course, I should be there to identify the tech. That would leave Valorosa and Pinprick but I'm not sure I can spare them. Our mystic guests will be working on certain rituals. Slime knows the Fumians and is looking for a little payback. We're stretched so thin."

 

"I imagine there's no time to call in other supers from other cities on this is there?" I asked recalling the coalition they managed to assemble for the battle against the Eldest's undersea army.

 

"Afraid not," Lady Obsidian shook her head, "Point of fact, one of the teams I normally would ask for help is neck deep in their own problems fighting Major Domo Roboto again."

 

"I can help!" chimed a teenage voice which startled me. I had forgotten Pogo was there, bounding in, and I mean that quite literally. Gushing, she explained, "I want to help I'm going a bit crazy here, and my family thinks I'm on a sleep over with a friend so isn't like they'd know so maybe I can help out. It will be like I'm trying out for the team, I mean, not right away but kind of like it," Pogo rambled on like she was ready to fall over from happiness at the chance to die.

"I am not having you face Apocalyptic with me, Pogo," I said firmly, "They were already threatening to hunt you down."

 

"Agreed, it really does defeat the purpose, honey," Lady Obsidian said kindly.

 

"Nooooo," Pogo said tone that substituted for an eyeroll when the eyeroll might get them in trouble, "I mean, I could help you with the Fuminans, and then maybe free someone else to help Eel survive? I mean, he's big and strong but compared to Mister Brute he's on the puny side-"

 

I winced.

 

"-Probably the slower side, Brute can really move," She continued.

 

"Well, yes maybe reflexes wise he is quicker," I agreed reluctantly.

 

"-And Mister Brute fights a lot better," She says repeating things I myself had mentioned, but somehow it came out as more annoying from her.

 

"Gee, thanks," I muttered.

 

"Heck, Mister Brute is probably even smarter!" She finished.

 

"Standing right here," I stated slightly gruffer than before.

 

"Oops," Pogo gave me a sheepish glance, "Sorry?"

 

Lady Obsidian looked her over, as if struggling, then finally said, "Desperate times I suppose. If you don't follow my orders, any order, I will send you packing back to the base and you will never ever even have a chance to join my Young Heroes of Tomorrow Program, you understand me?"

 

"Young Heroes of Tomorrow Program?" Her eyes widened like someone being told that golden tickets could be found in a select few chocolate bars.

I gave our leader a confused look and mouthed 'Young Heroes of Tomorrow Program?'

 

Our team leader shot me a very quick glare where Pogo couldn't see it, and then said, "Yes, Pogo.  A Trainee program for young heroes who aren't ready for certain threats, but will be one day. When they finally join a full super team, be it the New Samaritans or some other team. They will be ready. So, can you follow orders? Because we don't need Mavericks on the YHoT," She tapped her foot expectantly.

 

"Yes, ma'am, I mean Doctor, I mean Lady I mean, yes I can follow orders, I've good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it people like me," The girl snapped a salute that was completely off kilter. But it was utterly sincere, and that meant a lot.

 

"Fine, you're with us," Lady Obsidian said, "Go on and tell Pinprick I need him. You should find him in the monitor area."

 

Pogo bounded off, and once Lady Obsidian was sure the girl was out of range, she said, "Pinprick will be by your side on this one."

 

"Thank you," I said taking a deep breath that I hadn't realized I had been holding.

 

"I didn't do it because Valorosa and you have feelings for each other. I did it because despite her training, she's still a rookie next to Pinprick, and you're going to need his experience as well as his very weird powers. Besides, you're risking your life against overwhelming odds. You deserve my right hand."

 

Doctor Salem raised a brow, "His ego would be quite swelled to hear you say that."

 

"Why do you think I never say it when he's in earshot?" Vivian replied wryly, "I love my boys to death, but there's not one of them that doesn't have at least ten pounds of cocky in a five-pound bag."

 

I nodded, thinking of Tornado's swagger and Pinprick's braggadocio, "They can get pretty full of themselves."

 

She gave me a long look.

 

"I'm the modest one," I assured her.

 

A longer look.

 

"Relatively speaking," I amended.

 

She sighed, then turned to the mystics, "We've set up an occult lab in the same room as last time."

 

"Thank you, Vivian, we shall make the most of it," Doctor Salem said and made to head there, Mayo looked less decisive.  Without missing a beat, Doctor Salem said, "Yes, my apprentice, talk to your friend. Much does indeed weigh on him beyond the obvious and we should not become so focused on the forest we neglect the individual trees, if you will pardon a land-walker metaphor."

 

"It is a good one, thank you, my mentor," And the blind man from the depths put a hand on my shoulder, "Let's go have a brief meal, my friend."

I smiled, "How did you know I was going to, is this a magic thing?"

 

"Friendship and empathy only," He answered, "So yes, magic. Lead on."

 

And we talked, I meant to ask him how he was breathing air now, but instead, I chattered about me, I'm a bit embarrassed to say. I talked about Ariana's apparent concerns, how I had started wondering if Caleb had a place in Eel's life, and the screw ups I had done as both.  We had breakfast, a brief one, and finally I said, "And that's what's going on with me."

 

"It sounds like you are already working on a solution to your own problems," Mayo assured me, "You are looking within to discover yourself. That is rarely a bad thing, particularly if you also be aware of how others see you as well and consider why."

 

"I thought I wasn't supposed to care what the world thought of me?" I said, "Isn't that the zen guru kind of way?"

"Are you living in some deep private rift where you may meditate in solitude for decades at a time?" He inquired of me, "Or , for a more traditional surface take, are you on some mountain top where almost no one will find you and if it is it is because they actually want your opinion?"

"Obviously not," I replied.

 

"Then you need to care what other people think, Caleb. Not as much as some other things, but it is a factor, and it does affect you. If you neglect the world, you neglect yourself," He assured me.

 

"I save lives," I reminded.

 

"Yes, you should thank them more often for letting you do it," He nodded and stroked his chin. I didn't know if he was going for a faux beard stroke deliberately or not.

 

I gave him a look. Sure, he can't read my facial expressions, but if he picked up moods and emotions in my aura I'm pretty sure he got the gist.

 

"I thought you wanted the zen guru 'kind of thing'," he reminded, a thin smile of those weird teeth of his.

 

"Point," I conceded, "sorry to monopolize the conversation. How have you been?"

 

"Well, I learn more every day, and my loss has lead, ironically, to many gains. I believe there is an ebb and flow to life itself, not just the oceans. The undersea peoples, the Atlantians, the Lyonese, and more, well, they're each recovering from the control of the eldest. His cultists have been driven out from most of the great undersea kingdoms. Most of them, I fear are withdrawing too deeply in isolation, refusing to even interact with each other, let alone with a surface world that will never understand them. Too many old prejudices, old hatred. It would be nice to blame what is worst on us on the likes of the Eldest and his cultists, but no, there is no easy way to discard all our wrongs onto another. I have tried, when not teaching, to interact with some."

 

"Did you go back to your own village?" I asked, remembering how he and many others had been drafted there and he had wondered about returning.

"Once," He confessed, "they were happy to see me, but I suspect they were happier I left. They cannot understand that I have a surfacer mentor, that I have even taken up certain surface ways. It frightens them. They want to forget the horrors ever happened. I fear my village is incredibly provincial. They are good people, understand, capable of dealing with great hardships but they are cautious about change to their culture."

 

"I've been in small towns too, strong, but slow to –" I shrugged, "It can be pretty much a toss up whether you want to admire it or if it vexes the hell out of you."

 

My friend smiled, "Exactly so."

 

"So, what are you and Doctor Salem working on, if it can be said?" I was curious after all, and it might give him a chance to roll with it and change the subject if he'd like.

 

"A luck charm for your group to help counteract this Dice fellow," He answered, "Something to either balance his powers out, or counter them all together."

"Nice," I beamed, then sobered, "But you won't be able to get it in time for Pinprick and I to lure them?"

"I'm afraid not, though I do have something that might be of use to you in another way," Mayo reached into his pocket and drew forth a tiny crystal. I could see my reflection in each of the eight facets, clear as a high definition screen, "This crystal is empowered with an illusion of many. Call on it's power once by saying Istvha Mirro, and it will create many illusions of you."

 

"Decoys," I grinned, "thanks man, this could buy me some time. Maybe even save my life."

 

"What good is magic if it cannot help a friend?" He gestured expansively.

 

"Now, if only you had a spell helped me understand women," I smiled weakly and pocketed the item.

 

"I think I'd have better luck learning how to turn sea foam into pearls," Mayo shrugged.

 

"Oh lord, the young ones are complaining about women," Pinprick grumbled as he came onto the scene of our meal.

 

"What, we're not allowed?" I raised a brow.

 

"Either of you two been married?" He asked rhetorically knowing darned well we hadn't, "No? Then consider it a Saint Crispin's day thing. You weren't there in the trenches of Agincourt and you got no scars under your sleeves, so I don't wanna hear about it. Women are the worst best thing and the best worst thing that will ever happen to a man. Roll with it, learn from it, move on. You ready to go, Fish Guy?"

 

"Yeah," I said, getting up, "Later, Mayo. Thanks again. Alright, Pinprick, let's go, get ourselves killed."

 

"Relax kid, I'm pretty sure I'm smart enough to get out of this alive," He said and motioned me to follow.

 

"Don't you mean ' get us out of this alive'?" I inquired following the more experienced hero.

 

"You ask a lot," He said as we went down the hallway to our, make that my, almost certain doom.

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Woot!  That's like two chapters in one! 

 

Well done. 

 

I like how Pogo was included, without putting her in extreme danger.  And I loved her statements about Mister Brute vs. Eel.  "Standing right here" made me laugh out loud.

 

Keep up the good work.  I look forward to the next installment.

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Pogo seems to have some fans. :) She's a great way to fill in some word count thanks to her motor mouth nature so I'm glad she's well received. Mayo, as you guys can tell, has had his own adventures, and is still Fish Guy's go to friend for discussing the heavier stuff. 

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I haven't stopped by in quite a while, but I just finished the last couple of installments. Thoroughly enjoyable, as usual. All of the characters are individuals, and have their own vibe, if you will.

 

Keep up the great work. The hopefully forthcoming books are still on my wishlist. :yes:

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