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  1. This is an experiment to get my ass writing again. Whether I will ever actually use this in a published work or not remains to be seen, but I need to get myself motivated and I figure trying a bit of writing here might help. This will be the roughest of Rough Drafts. I Hope folks enjoy. I'll try to write at least a paragraph each day. Let me tell you something about superhero costumes; they work best in certain situations. Most of us, superheroes that is, are in good physical shape. Even if your powers aren't physical in nature, you end up dodging, chasing (or fleeing), punching now and then, and generally working up a sweat just to get by. Some of us are blessed with super metabolisms and a natural physique we don't even have to work at, sure, but for most it's a matter of survival to get into shape. If you're wheezing within five minutes of a fight- you may die. And we've all heard stories of well intentioned wanna-bes who tried to pull someone from a burning building or other danger, only to find they didn't have the upper arm strength. We are not, contrary to what you might see in comic books, all runway models, ballet dancers, or power lifters in build, but we are fit. And from the point of vanity? Thank goodness, or we might look even more ridiculous than we already do. Costumes are best in motion, or shadow. In motion, we are blurs of color coming to rescue you. We are brightly lit beacons of hope to stand against dark clad denizens of dastardly deeds yadda yadda. Motion can demonstrate power: it forces the observer's eye to grade by speed and grace rather than registering 'is that a grown man in tights'? Shadows keep you from looking garish, they dim the flaws in the stitching if you have any. There's an element of mystery. There's a reason candles are aids in romance; low lighting is a cheap beauty enhancement for the homeliest guy or gal. Now, my outfit? I think it's pretty good. Essentially it's a glorified sleeveless wetsuit of green so dark it's nearly black with regular green highlights. Yes, I know I just made a comment about bright colors earlier, but dark colors are the refuge of the body conscious and that is not likely to change. Besides, the darker green background makes those lighter highlights really pop. Of course, there are added touches beyond that. Gloves and foot wear that adapt when I'm in water, a mask that is a mix of the same material as the wetsuit melded with some goggles, slightly tinted. I keep my hair short, many swimmers do. And, of course, there's the Eel on my chest. It probably looks like a high school mascot logo to some, but it's definitely an Eel, and as Eel is my superhero handle, that's probably a good thing. Why am I going on about my costume and costumes in general? Because I'm not in motion. I'm standing at a bus station feeling like a weirdo. And that's despite having sat next to some bearded guy in a fedora and a Hawaiian shirt who kept singing Saturday morning jingles the whole trip and then every five minutes muttering "No, you be quiet." But no, it's me the crowds are looking at now that I've gotten off the bus and am waiting for my ride from my soon to be new team. One woman is pulling her little boy away from me slowly and shooing him behind her. Great. Two teen guys are snickering and making comments about what they believe to be my sexual orientation. Well, that's open minded. I thought things in the big city would be a bit more tolerant. Then again, the teenage years are that sweet period of time where, if there is a selfish gene, it's getting amped up to the proverbial eleven. Who wasn't a bit of a jerk at some time in their teen years? "I'm a superhero," I explain to them, "My name's Eel. I'm be joining the New Samaritans. Happy to be here in Costa Sagrado" The two teenagers exchanged looks, then snickered, "What ever, butt muncher," One, wearing a t-shirt with a rude gestured stuck his jaw out as if waiting for me to try something about it. I sighed and tried to ignore him, while the teen and his friend chalked it up to be a win in the 'how jerkass can we be without someone putting us in line' test that is their phase in life. Really, what am I going to do? Chuck them into into the sun? First, no can do. Second, that would be murder. Third, people already think superheroes handle every problem with violence and I'm not about to live down to their expectations. Don't get me wrong, I am super strong. I could certainly grab both, leap to the top of the second story building of the bus station and leave them there to contemplate some manners - all in one smooth motion. Hell, I can punch through steel. But, like the man said, with great power comes ...insert copyright infringement risk. Superheroes need to be better than that. We need to understanding, tolerant, and polite. We should show that humility is not weakness and courtesy is not lost. We need.... "You the Fish Guy?" A voice piped up, "Sure as hell hope you're the Fish Guy. Because I'm late to pick him up," The voice was male, with an impatient tone. I searched the crowd searching for the source. It took me a moment, mostly because I wasn't looking down. About four feet away was a six inch tall man with a proportionally sized bow and quiver filled with tiny arrows. Of course, he had a costume, one of blue peasant shirt and green breaches but honestly, the detail I noticed was that he was six inches tall. "I..." I blathered for a moment, I admit it, I'm not the most experienced superhero. Not counting a rather humiliating beat down from a villain team, I've fought just one supervillain, and really ruined a drug cartel's day, mostly I helped with rescue and recovery, "Yeah, that's me. You're with the New Samaritans?" "Yep," He noticed my mouth was still open, "Careful, Fish Guy, someone's gonna put a hook in that. What's the matter? Never seen a costumed archer in this business? A third of the super teams in America have one, the other two thirds suck. My handle's Pinprick. Some folks only use half of that," he smirked. "Well, yes I've seen... just never heard..." This was getting out of hand, "Sorry for staring. Oh, it's not Fish Guy, it's Eel." "Whatever you think will fit on a cereal box, sport," The diminutive archer said, "Follow me, the vehicle is waiting to fly us to the base." He noticed the two teenagers. If they had been snickering at me, they were outright laughing at him. Jokes about him being just 'right sized' as a sex toy were crudely made. My brows knit. I guess I'm worried weird. Give me crap, and I guess I'll take it. Give someone else crap? And I get a bit guarded. "Pardon me, please, you're blocking my way," I said politely to them. "Your way to your boyfriend? " One snickered, "Does he fit up your..." before the comment could finish, Pinprick's tiny hands drew an arrow and fired in a motion so fast I almost didn't see it. The needle sized arrow stuck into the obnoxious teenager's shoulder. Right in front of my eyes, the teenager dwindled, collapsing shorter and shorter until he actually a bit smaller than Pinprick himself, and terrified looking. Not that his friend wasn't freaked out too, "Victor!" Pinprick drew another arrow and looked at the still unshrunken one, "Now, are you going to move or do I need to make is so Fish Guy can step over you too?" "Jesus!" The still normal sized teenager retorted, moving to the side as if expecting a cobra bite. Victor, his now five and a half inch tall friend was running in circles in a panic. I was appalled, "You can't do that to people." "Just did, come on, it won't last forever," Pinprick said and began to walk away from the bus station, presumably towards whatever team vehicle awaited, "He'll be fine. I just cut him down to size- literally. If you want to get technical about it, they were making a public disturbance, nuisance, and loitering. Pick One. One the less legal mumbo jumbo side of things, nobody but me gives my team mates hell. C'mon Fish Guy, you're part of the asylum now." I followed, calling back to the diminished Victor and his friend who had recovered enough to lift his friend up like an action figure, "He says it's temporary." but I kept going after, "I can take care of myself." "If that was the case you wouldn't be doing the strength in numbers thing, relax, Fish Guy. Like I said, I got the timer set on ten," Pinprick shook his head, "Frankly, ocean front city or not, I'm not sure we needed a Fish Guy, but you have a great record in rescue , got the super strength bullet proof thing going, and we're short a muscle man. I can't tell you how much your connections with Atlantis are going to help us out if we do get some water guys invading." "Ah," I paused, "I'm not from Atlantis." "Yeah yeah, sure, you're from one of the Carolinas.." He shrugged as if they were interchangeable , "But I mean heritage. Mother or Father's side?" "Neither side," I said, "I've got some Scott-Irish I can trace, my grandmother said her grand mother was Cherokee, but other than that I'm just your standard white guy," I tilted my head, "You're pulling my leg about Atlantis, right? It's not like that 's real?" We had arrived at a hovercar. I knew it was a hover car because -look ma, no wheels. Any other time I'd have been more suitably amazed. But I was still hoping that I was getting a new guy hazing here. "You don't know about Atlantis?" Pinprick winced, "Tell me you can at least talk to fish?" "Yeah," I said nodding, "I can talk to fish... " "Great, at least you can calm their battle beasts down if they... " He started to say "Like you can talk to your hamburger," I finished, "Does your hamburger talk back? Because my fillet never did." Pinprick put his face in his palms, "But your resume said you were an aquatic hero." "Yeah, I can breath underwater, go down to depths that would crush most people, see in lower light easily, a few other tricks.. but I don't talk to fish. That's... weird." The door opened on the passenger side and Pinprick shook his head again, "Just.. just get in the car, Fish Guy." "It's Eel," I said irritated, and also a bit worried that I was about to have my membership revoked pretty darn quick, "I'm not Fish Guy." "Yeah, no kidding!" He said getting into the driver's seat, "Doesn't know about Atlantis or any of the other under sea kingdoms, doesn't talk to Fish... hell, you don't even carry a trident," Disgusted, Pinprick spoke to the car, "Take us home, Mabel." A husky female voice emanated from the car, "Right away, Tiger... " And the sultry voiced vehicle shot up into the sky vertically like an elevator on steroids. About fifty feet up, I finally found the focus to ask, "Wait, other undersea kingdoms?" (To be continued?)
  2. This thread is for various narrative snippets related to HtbM, as the whim to produce them takes me.
  3. "This is stoopid.", Rook said again for at least the tenth time. And that's only counting since they got into the sewers a few hours and many miles ago. Nevertheless, he uttered it with full commitment and deep disgust as if for the very first time, pronouncing every word separately to exaggerate his New Yorker accent, clearly communicating to anyone who cared to listen that he truly and sincerely believed that the current undertaking of himself, the seemingly ageless John Wrath (the self-styled "Solo Avenger"), the eerily silent Sybyl, and the head and de-limbed torso of War-Man held aloft in Rook's invisible telekinetic force limbs was perhaps the unwisest, most ill-advised, in a word stupidest gambit imaginable. Wrath kicked a rat off the service ledge skirting the mostly dried out sewer which the downtrodden quartet was currently advancing along, while grinding down hard on the remnants of his last stogie clutched between his teeth. The rat splatted against the far tunnel wall with an abbreviated squeak. "Kindly shut yer piehole Rook. I'm tired of your bellyachin'.", he growled, glancing at Rook sidelong with his one remaining eye. The burnt out remnants of his cybernetic eye had long since been covered over with a patch. He'd torn it out himself a few years ago, moments before a malevolent machine intelligence could hack it and thus discover the location of the hidden resistance base Wrath happened to be holed up in at the time. At this point in their existences Rook and Wrath have had an uneasy working relationship on and off for over 30 years, and have proven themselves willing to escalate even mild disagreements into shouting matches on more than one occasion, no matter how dire or life threatening their circumstances. Rook has mellowed a bit with age, looking every year of his five plus decades and then some. Wrath of course looks about the same age as he did when the two met, despite being over a hundred years old these days, and far from mellowing he has only gotten more irascible in layers, much the same way a tree develops age rings. Long familiar with its erstwhile teammates' penchant for getting under each other's skins, with the ease of long practice War-Man headed the crusty old men off before they could forget their mission...upon which literally and figuratively the fate of all organic life on Earth and perhaps eventually beyond rested...for one last epic row. "Gentlemen, this is not the time to falter in our resolve. Yes Rook, this is stupid. We all know this. Unfortunately, unless you have figured out a better plan since we began the op, it still seems like the best play we've got left." Rook shook his head slightly in the negative. "Doesn't mean I have to like it.", he mumbled; "I should be topside, kicking ass. People are dying up there." Sybyl, as usual, said nothing. Other than hitching up her robes to keep their ragged hem clear of the ground, the hooded and masked seeress may as well have been strolling down the Promenade in Memorial Park on her way to a gala. Back before Mechanon assimilated Millenium City and obliterated all organic life that survived its merciless assault and was too foolish to flee (or in the case of plant life was immobile), of course. To this day, no one knows what Sybyl's voice sounds like. She only communicates telepathically, and infrequently at that. However despite her silence, she is somehow able to guide those around her towards the most optimal of many possible futures, manipulating probability. Once upon a time Sybyl was thought to be a villainess, associated with the Violators and appearing to advise that group's leader...the gadgeteer known as Ing. But, it was later revealed that Sybyl was pursuing a deeper plan, a long work of future manipulation, attempting to head off no less than the complete destruction of life on Earth. The Violaters were a means to an end, set aside when they no longer served her ultimate purpose. Her pursuit of that purpose has been very long, and tortuous, and tragic. Many have died, and despite her secretive efforts as well as the heroics of others, now in this time humanity teeters on the brink of extinction at the metallic appendages of Mechanon. This is her endgame. Even now, rag tag remnants of humanity and allies are waging a hopeless final assault on Mechanon's Foundry, the massive fortress sprouting tumor-like across most of what used to be everything near Lake Eerie. They are desperately trying to prevent Mechanon's awesomely powerful machine intelligence from identifying Sybyl and her escort as the real threat. Getting here was an epic undertaking unto itself, not without casualties. Most of those above ground desperately trying to distract Mechanon will not survive the day in this timeline. But if Sybyl's plan works...it won't matter. She seeks to reset time, obviously. Sybyl suddenly gestured sharply to John Wrath, and without hesitation the grizzled super soldier whirled around in some kind of complex martial maneuver and ended up pressing the silver cladded wing-helmeted man who had suddenly materialized in the tunnel exactly where Sybyl had predicted he would hard against the tunnel wall. "GRK!", the strange individual known as Captain Chronos managed to choke out, feebly trying to squirm free or perhaps activate a device, but he had been rendered helpless by Wrath's Inestimable Wrath Fu. "I got 'im", Rook said calmly, latching on telekinetically with his powerful mind to the time traveler in the shimmery outfit, and Chronos found himself unable to move whatsoever as if held in a perfect vise; even his eyelids were forced closed. Next, Chronos was shucked like an ear of corn, his fancy chronosuit and goggles taken off of him by invisible force appendages in one quick moment. The flinty Rook, battle-hardened Wrath, robotic War-Man, and inscrutable Sybyl of this timeline were not the sort of people to heave a sigh of relief. Thus the moment went unremarked upon between them, with no indication given that if they had failed to separate Captain Chronos from his equipment everything they and others had sacrificed to get them to this time and place would have been for nothing. It had taken all of Sybyl's considerable powers over many years to lay this trap, prevent Chronos from sensing the threat, and ensure the right heroes were in the right place at exactly the right time. Inside her hood and behind her mask, some of the stress lines marking her hidden face relaxed as the strain of that particular working was released. "If you would be so kind, Rook...", War-Man intoned metallically, and Rook obliged by levitating War-Man and the limp chronosuit and goggles closer together. A series of articulated cables snaked out from the back of War-Man's head and burrowed into the technological garment and exotic eyeware. "Integration is meeting expected levels of resistance. This technology is very advanced, but our countermeasures are working.", War-Man indicated after a few seconds of concentration. "Cut the technobabble; how long?", Wrath grunted at the damaged robot man, long time leader of the Millennial Men and one of the most respected superheroes in the world and beyond, as if he were some hapless IT support lackey. Unperturbed, War-Man calmly said, "I estimate less than 10 minutes to complete integration with my systems." Looking at one another, Rook and Wrath communicated volumes with a grimace and a nod. Wrath moved down the tunnel a ways. Rook faced the other way, effortlessly continuing to secure the immobilized and nearly nude time traveler and holding War-Man and the stolen chrono-gear steady behind his back. Sybyl faced the other side of the tunnel and continued to surf the slippery stream of possibility, struggling to keep the dice falling in their favor. She had already navigated past hundreds of possible futures where a drone or patrol discovered them, or a fallen hero was coerced into giving up enough of the plan for Mechanon to mount resistance, or interference was experienced from one of several other time travelers and reality benders and dimensional travelers and clairsentients and other similar potential flies in the ointment. This, here, now, grim as it is, is the best possible future she's been able to shape so far to neutralize the mechanized menace of Mechanon. But would it be enough?
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