Count me among the brussell sprout haters. Can't stand them.
I also never acquired the taste for coffee, though I love the smell. (I associate it with my dad, who drank it regularly, so the smell triggers subconscious happy memories.)
Beer. Can't stand the stuff. In my 20s I had two friends who tried desperately to get me to drink beer. The smell made me gag, and the taste was even worse. They kept saying, "It's an acquired taste." I replied, "Why the heck would I want to acquire it?!"
Yet another short story. This one is a piece of satire directed at a nightclub in Champions Online. Hope you enjoy it.
"Uncle Craig!" Sean whined, "I only want you to buy me *one* beer!"
"I said no, Sean," Thundrax answered, glaring at the young man. "No, no, no! Frankly I'm regretting even bringing you to this place."
Sean Doerksen, a slim but athletic looking thirteen year-old, sighed, his gaze alternating between the huge superhero and the numerous tempting bottles of beer on the Club Caprice bar. "Uncle Craig" had been a lot easier to manipulate when he was a kid. Such was the curse of adolescence. A second glance at his would-be guardian confirmed that he was not going to be getting any beer with him around. He sighed, propping his elbows on the bar, watching as the bartender served a pair of patrons, a pair of ladies with reptilian skin and large horns, who smelled uncomfortably of brimstone and were nuzzling each other amorously. "Uncle Craig, I thought this was a superhero bar. Why's everyone in here a fricking demon?"
"Some days I ask myself the same question," Thundrax said, downing a quick glass of Killian's and nodding appreciatively to Joe the bartender. The barkeep smiled and threw Craig's tip in the jar. Thundrax always tipped heavily, at least when he was wearing his civvies, and could actually get bills from his wallet.
"And they look like they're all lesbians," Sean Doerksen added. "But it's kinda creepy, not a turn on. Not like porn."
"Newsflash for you, Sean," Thundrax told the teenager. "Pornography is not a realistic depiction of actual sex, in the same way that most movie fights bear no resemblance to two guys actually trying to beat the crap out of each other."
"This sucks," Sean stated, sighing, looking around for other points of interest. There was a large dance floor with lots of colored lights: at least that looked marginally entertaining. Unfortunately, the women in the club didn't seem like the sort who'd be interested in a thirteen year old boy, even one who looked older than his years.
"Don't wander out of sight..." Craig snapped at the young man, only to be knocked hard by an eight foot tall jet-black demon who was downing a shot of vodka. "w!" he snapped. "Watch it."
The demon grunted, took another shot, and again inadvertently battered against Thundrax. Craig growled, but did his best to keep his cool.
"Hey Craig!" a man shouted, entering the bar. He was taller than Craig and dressed in black, the official color of Club Caprice. Craig didn't recognize him -- he was sure he must have seen him before, but either in costume, or in some other garb. He nodded back. The man strode up to the Canadian hero. "Whassup?"
Craig smiled back. "Not much. How's it going with you?"
"Going great!" the man said. "How's your wife?"
"I'm not married," Craig explained. "Sarah and I are taking it slow."
"How long have you been engaged?"
"Dude!" the strange but familiar man said, slapping Craig on the back. "I've been married six times in the last year!"
"I'm Canadian," Craig quipped. "We live our lives at a different pace than others-- oh bloody hell!"
Craig looked across the pulsing cacophany of the dance floor and spotted Sean, pressed against a table, surrounded by a circle of three men and two women. They stared at him with red eyes, their open mouths baring wolf-like fangs, Vampires. Without saying good-bye to his impromptu friend -- he'd try to track him down and apologize later -- the huge Canuck forced his way to the edge of the circle. "Sean!" he called out to the young man. Sean Doerksen had a vacant expression on his face, he was now oblivious to the danger.
The five vampires turned to face Craig, their hungry stares were burning malevolence gazes. "What do you want, Steroid-Man?" the lead vampire mocked. He was (or appeared to be) a handsome young man, with a decidedly un-vampire-like dark complexion, dressed head to toe in black. The rest of the group was similarly dressed, except for the two women, neither of whom were wearing much in the way of clothing. The others laughed.
"The kid's with me," Thundrax said. "Leave him alone."
"It appears he's made his own choice." the vampire stated, stepping forward to close quarters with Craig, a sneer on his face. His compatriots agreed, shifting the circle to include Craig. "He has found... Destiny!"
"His dad left him in my care," Craig snapped, his fists balling. "He doesn't have a choice, and neither do you."
"Uncle Craig!" Sean whined, though there was very little inflection in his voice. "I want to be free, so I can become his thrall! Duke Bloodslake here is going to make me immortal!"
"Riiight," Thundrax sighed, staring at the vampire. "Let him go now, and no one gets hurt."
"Is that really what you want, mortal?" the lead vampire said. "You would pit your paltry muscles against my six thousand years of evil?"
"Six thousand years?" Craig wondered aloud, eying him with deep skepticism. Most elder vampires didn't look like a more tanned version of Robert Pattison without the sparkles.
"I am a child of Caine himself!" the lead vampire proclaimed, throwing up his hands melodramatically. "Doomed to walk the earth feeding on the herd of lesser creatures. I have faced many so-called heroes over the years and they all have fallen before me. " He glanced over at a tall female vampire. "Tell him, Lilith!"
Lilith, the nearly naked vampire who had forehead horns (she was half-succubus/half-vampire) blinked. "Sorry 'slake," she told the lead vampire. "I was in telepathic congress with other members of Group 666. We got another vamp hater here?"
"We should strike down all mortals!" one of the other vampires said.
"He looks tasty," another one said, licking her lips.
"Yes, another persecuting mortal dork." yet another added. "We didn't do anything, yet you hate and fear us!"
"Didn't do anything?" Craig said. "You've cornered my friend's kid, hypnotized him and are planning to turn him into the walking dead. And the lady over there wants to eat me, and the other guy over there wants to kill all mortals!"
"Can you blame us?" Mister "Strike All Mortals Dead" shouted.
"Uh, yes?" Thundrax answered. "If you want to slaughter my entire species, then yes, I do have a legitimate gripe."
"Go, now!" Bloodslake commanded Craig. "And I'll leave you with your pitiful life." Then he laughed out loud for apparently no reason. Craig had noticed a lot of people in Caprice doing that lately.
Thundrax sighed and eyed the entire group. More like jackals than vampires, he thought. Defiant, stupid jackals. Pack behavior always disgusted him. "Do you posers really want a confrontation?" he growled.
"Posers?" Bloodslake's voice raised an octave in its objection.
"Yeah, posers." Thundrax snarled back. "I've faced real vamps, many times. Twelve years ago in Wallachia, I held Mircea Dracul in my arms when Archdruid plunged a stake of white hawthorn through his heart. I created the storm that led Stephen Bathory and the Army of the Impaled into Dr. Black's trap so Black and White could send them all back to Hell."
"Mircea Dracul? Isn't that Vlad?" one of the vampires wondered.
"Mircea is Vladic's son, older brother of Vlad Tepes," Craig informed. "Read a book."
"Don't listen to this idiot," the other female vampire (who was also named Lilith) replied. "He's making this stufft up. I've never even heard of this guy or any of the crap he's talking about before today."
"The Dracula family are amateurs compared with my dark power!" Bloodslake proclaimed, again laughing out loud.
Craig rolled his eyes. He didn't like tooting his own horn, but he also expected recognition and a little respect. Perhaps that made him a hypocrite, but Craig put such self-reflection aside. "Check the records and you'll find I'm very real," he snapped, his hands migrating to his hips. "Do you honestly think that I'm even slightly intimidated by Club Caprice's latest pack of World of Darkness cosplayers?"
"Who cares?" Duke Bloodslake's dismissal was dripping with mockery. "Dude, take your steroids and your human prejudices and get the hell out. We're going to have fun with our prey, and there's nothing you can do about it."
Sean Doerksen blinked. "Wait a minute?" the young man said. "I'm prey?"
"You hate and fear every vampire!" Lilith said, and then she suddenly turned to Bloodslake and sighed. "This is boring, 'slake. Can I go run off and have sex?"
Bloodslake nodded. "Yeah babe," he said, However, before she could leave, Craig stepped closer to the lead vampire. "You folks are wrong," he told the gathering. "There is at least one vampire I like."
"Oh yeah? Who's that?" Bloodslake asked.
"I'll show you," Craig said, and he grabbed the vampire by the back of his head and began to slam his head repeatedly into the table. "One! Two! Three! Ack, ack, ack!" he said, smashing the vampire's head with every count, pausing only for the fake laugh and head nod. "Four! Five! Six! Ack, ack, ack!" he repeated, shooting lightning from his other hand to add the appropriate flourish. "Seven! Seven noggin knockers, ack, ack, ack!"
A voice inside Craig noted that this sort of violent self-indulgence was a little out of character. He didn't care. After all these months of watching and dealing with vampire cliques, It felt extremely cathartic.
Duke Bloodslake slid to the floor, unconscious. "Dude, that's so uncool," one of the Liliths said. "Let's go, people." The vampires turned and walked away, leaving Sean and the unconscious Duke Bloodslake on the floor.
Sean looked up at Craig with a worried expression on his face. "You aren't going to tell dad about that, are you?" he asked, a subdued, plaintive tone in his voice.
Craig shook his head. "That I nearly let you become a vampire buffet? Are you nuts? Of course I won't."
Sean Doerksen's grin reflected the weight of the world suddenly lifting from his teenage shoulders. "Awesome," he said, and then he cowered as he saw a circle of bouncers surround them. "Oh, oh..."
The lead bouncer, a man witha comparable height and build as Thundrax, closed to an uncomfortable distance. "Mr. Carson," he said, looking Craig directly in the eye. "Mr. Frey would like to have a word with you..."
Craig didn't blanch at the attempt to intimidate him, but he sighed. "Okay, Steve." he told the man. Steve Gurney. Craig knew him from Carl's gym: he regularly trained with a few of the superhumanly strong bouncers from the Club, and Steve was certainly the strongest, almost in Craig's weight class. If worst came to worst, Craig could beat him in a fight, but he hoped it wouldn't come to that.
"He'd like to see you alone," the bouncer said, looking at Sean.
Craig shook his head. "The kid's with me. He'll only get into more trouble if we separate."
"Fine." The bouncer replied with a nod, and they escorted Craig and Sean to an elevator. Craig quickened his pace, motivated by the one succubus who loudly proclaimed: "These sparkles aren't Twilight, they're Qlipothic." But Sean was still people-gazing. He tugged on Craig's sleeve and tried to stop him, pointing at a pair of cat-people.
"Look! Over there by the fountain! Furry people in heat!"
"Yeah," Craig sighed, not hiding his disapproval. "Some days it gets very National Geographic around here. Keep moving, Sean."
A large, concealed elevator opened in the far wall of they ballroom, and the three men entered. It was a short, smooth ride to Caprice's seldom seen penthouse suite. Passing through an office foyer, Craig and Sean came into a wide, spartan room with a beautiful view of Millennium's Renaissance Center. An aged but still handsome man stood alone at a wooden desk, watching the feed of a dozen cameras on a series of monitors. This was Lewis Frey. Once he was Masquerade, master of disguise and arguably the most feared thief in the world, a man who crossed paths with nearly every major superhero in the 1950s and 60s, until Black Mask put him behind bars in 1971. Since his release in 1985, Frey had opened a series of colorful restaurants and clubs, culminating in the establishment of Club Caprice in 1995. "Mr. Carson, are you bringing violence to my club?"
Craig extended a hand to Frey, and they shook. "What I did was nothing compared to what the other former -members of the Guard would have done if those vamps had hurt this boy."
"True," Lewis Frey said. "Even I wouldn't want to be on Ravenspeaker's bad side."
Sean rubbed his hands together. "Yeah, I have the coolest bodyguards." he boasted.
"I'm surprised you even brought a kid into my club." Lewis Frey said.
"Sean was visiting Millennium, and his dad left him in my custody," Thundrax said. "And he shares his dad's gift for persuasiveness."
"Forceknight." Craig answered.
"Ah," Frey answered. "It's been years since I last saw Wally Thompson. A man of extraordinary vigor. He chased me for hours after I lifted that Distinguished Flying Cross from the Canadian War Museum."
Craig chuckled. "That sounds like Wally. You don't disrespect the Canadian Armed Forces on his watch."
"So I discovered, painfully." Lewis Frey said. "He cornered me and gave me a lecture at 110 decibels. By the end of it, I wish he'd just handed me the beating I was expecting and been done with it."
"Trust me it's still painful," Sean said. "But Wally's not my dad, he's my granddad. My dad's actually Forceknight Number Three. He married granddad Wally's daughter -- that's mom -- and then they had me and my sister..." he paused and turned to Craig. "Am I exposing my secret identity?"
"Sean," Craig Carson said. "You're not a superhero. You don't have an identity, secret or public."
"Oh," Sean said.
"I swear, all of your family trees are getting as convoluted as Black Mask's." Lewis Frey stated, pouring himself a glass of Cabernet. "But you really should lay off my patrons, Carson. They mean no harm..."
"Hey!" a demon shouted over one of the monitors. "Let's show these humans who really runs Caprice!"
"..for the most part."
"Tell me Frey, was this what you expected when you set up this club?" Craig asked, pointing at the monitor.
"Hell no, but I roll with the flow," the manager replied. "They pay good money. And even the worst of them aren't a serious threat to me."
"The inmates are running the asylum." Thundrax said. "And most days, doing a crappy job of it."
"Maybe so, Carson," the ex-villain said. "Yet you keep coming back."
"I make my living as a professional punching bag, Mr. Frey," Craig replied. "Masochism is at the top of the list of job requirements."
Frey laughed, and then glanced over at Steve, the lead bouncer, as he filled the doorway to the office. "We have a problem?"
"Not we -- only you!" Steve said. Suddenly his form began to shake in a spastic rhythm, and he screamed. Flesh was torn aside as his body swelled, falling in sickening, bloody clumps, accompanied by the sound of cracking bones as his shkelton shifted and grew to support the new mass.
"Ew!" Sean said, realizing that horror movies were a lot less fun when you were seeing them performed live. In a matter of seconds Steve's handsome form was gone, and in its place stood a horned presence, covered with black mucous and blood. "Again, is everything in this club a fricking monster?" the young Canadian moaned.
Lewis Frey rolled his eyes. "Oh hell." Thundrax said and he interposed himself between the demon, Sean, and Frey.
"Now I know when we hired him that Steve wasn't hosting a demon," Frey told the creature. "That means you just killed my employee. That was a big mistake."
"The Mephisto Ruby," Demon-Steve growled. "You stole it in 1966 and it was never recovered after you were sent to prison. I want it, Lewis Frey, now."
"I stole dozens of very large gemstones during my career," Frey replied. "I stole for the kicks. I didn't hoard them. I have no idea where it is."
"You lie!" the demon said.
Lewis Frey chuckled, a slightly raspy sound. He threw up his hands in mock surrender. "Okay, you got me. Of course I'm lying," he answered, smiling slightly. "A prize like that, stolen from the inner sanctum of the Scarlet Moon? You don't forget or let it go. But you aren't having it, Hellbreath."
"Why do you want the ruby?" Sean asked.
"Power," Craig speculated. "Souls. Imprisoned master. Take your pick."
"The dimensional leylines have been twisted by the constant demonic activity within this place," Steve explained. "All I need to do is possess the ruby and speak the incantation and this Club -- along with the surrounding environs -- will be plunged into the Netherworld."
"Netherworld?" Sean looked at Craig. "Does he mean Hell?"
"Yes Sean, he means Hell," Craig answered, not really willing to debate the nuances of cosmology at such a precipitous moment. "You know I can't let that happen."
Steve laughed. "You cannot stop me. And I shall be richly rewarded for delivering you, Thundrax. Zorasto has a bounty on the second born Carson."
"I'm sure he does," Craig replied. "How much?"
"One million souls," the demon answered.
Craig whistled. "The bastard always did overestimate my value. But that's all the more reason to not let you touch that ruby."
"You cannot protect the child," Steve said. "I will consume his essence and give his body as a plaything to Necrull. Would you like that, Canadian?'
Craig snarled. Before he could make his move, Sean pulled down his shirt cuff and aimed a sonic blaster that was strapped under his clothing -- Lyle Doerksen's ingenuity was more than represented in his son. The demon reeled, and Craig leapt upon it, smashing it several times. But the demon was only slightly fazed, and he destroyed Sean's sonic blaster with a crushing hand gesture, while sending Craig hurtling with a second, holding him there with a wave of force that pressed Thundrax's face painfully against a wall.
"Alright," Lewis Frey shouted, and he pulled out a case from a drawer. "Take the damn ruby!" He hurled a large red stone on a gold chain at the demon. "Catch!"
Steve reached out with one hand to catch the gem... only to become surrounded in a field of blinding white light as he grasped it. Steve screamed and found his infernal essence being sucked into the gem in a maelstrom of red and white light. Several seconds later, he was a skeleton on the floor, the ruby briefly displaying the image of a demon banging on its prison before it faded.
"Ooops, you wanted the Ruby of Mephisto," Lewis Frey said. "Sorry, that was the demon-devouring Ruby of Zabkiel. My bad." He snickered and looked over at Craig and Sean, who were both struggling to catch their breath for different reasons. "Thanks for the distraction, you two. The idiot might have actually thought to look at what I was throwing him if you hadn't done that."
"Poor Steve," Thundrax said looking at the body.
"He has clone material on file." Lewis Frey stated. "And I know a few mages who can recall his soul if we act quickly. We can bring him back."
"Even so, Frey," Thundrax shook his head. "This place is getting out of hand. Maybe you should consider shutting it down."
"There's a number of problems with that, Thundrax..." Lewis Frey told the big Canuck. "First of all, not all of the folks here are bad."
"Agreed," Craig said, a little reluctantly.
"Second, even most of the bad ones are pretty harmless when they're contained here. If they didn't have this place, they'd go elsewhere, and cause a lot more trouble. Better to have this place open and keep em all here, where they can be watched."
"I suppose," Craig says. "And the same applies to you as well. God help us all if you get bored, especially with all of the information you've gathered on this city's supers community."
"Why Thundrax," Lewis Frey stated. "Are you suggesting that I'd stoop to blackmail?"
"No comment." Thundrax replied.
"Uh, I just helped defeat a demon." Sean stated, eying the amulet. "Do I get a medal or something?"
"It's all in a day's work, Sean," Thundrax replied.
"Damn." Sean said, and he turned his face toward the monitor cameras. "Is that an Orc?" he asked.
Craig nodded. "That's Duratok Gorehowl of the Kro'Taruk. Want to meet him?"
"Sure!" Sean exclaimed. "Uh, if I ask him for help playing my Horde character in World of Warcraft, will he kill me?"
"Probably not," Thundrax said. "May we be excused, Lewis?"
"Only if you admit the Club's not all bad, Mr. Carson." Frey replied.
Craig looked at the monitor. "Yeah, I've made more than a few friends here, and met some interesting folks. Some days you meet really good people here. Days like today, though, it's a real struggle."
"Why's that naked guy with pink bunny ears jumping up and down on the bar?" Sean wondered.
"Okay, you two," Frey said, "Enjoy your evening. Your drinks are on the house."
"Awesome!" Sean shouted.
"You can stick to colas," Craig stated.
"Colas!" Sean protested. "Not even Mountain Dew?"
"Colas. Decaffeinated." Craig said as he glared back at him. "No... more... caffeine..." he said in strained, Shatnerian tones.
"But uncle Craig!" Sean protested, heading back into the club. It would be far from the last argument they'd have that evening...
With that name and description, plus both working for VIPER, it's going to be really hard not to think of her as a mirror of Halfjack. If you really want her to be all those things yet still be her own person, a logical place to start would be her attitude toward that assumption. Let's say she hates her code-name, hates comparisons to Halfjack. Any other VIPER saying that in her presence is in for a world of hurt. That attitude plus Halfjack's mental instability might lead her to refuse to even work with him on a mission.
Another way "Halfjill" might differ from Halfjack is that she could have wanted to become a cyborg, maybe even volunteered for augmentation. Women are a decided minority among VIPER agents, and have to push harder than the men to prove themselves and be accepted in a Nest, and advance up the ranks. Female VIPERs have a reputation for being even more ruthless than males. Jill may have seen cybernetics as key to raising her profile and power within VIPER. Which would only increase her resentment of being viewed as only a "lady Halfjack."
Also, the entire-half-body layout for Halfjack needn't be the way Halfjill is built. I would suggest going the Steve Austin/Jamie Summers route, and replacing her arms and legs with bionics while keeping the rest of her body organic.