Well, here’s the first part. It’s just a sort of character introduction set at a wedding between characters I’m not planning on bringing back later in the story.
Even though this was the first trans-human wedding he had attended, Eric was prepared for certain eventualities. He was not shocked when the flowers held in the bride’s hands began to sprout additional shoots, nor was he alarmed when he noticed the growing ring of charred grass underneath the best man. Being a trans-human himself, his line of work exposed him to stranger happenings and individuals than even these.
He could make out several other supers in the crowd as well. The huge man in the surgical mask, scrubs, and wrap-around sunglasses was the Good Doctor, a man Eric had worked with in his first, and so far only, major attack. Next to him was his wife, a norm-human with brown hair and a pretty face. Across the aisle from Eric was his friend Jack, his muscles arranged into a slim-fit physiology. The flock of ravens perched in the surrounding trees indicated Cameron was somewhere in the assembly.
The bride reached the front of the aisle and held onto the groom’s hand. The minister smiled at each of them in turn and began the ceremony. It was unnaturally sunny, thanks to Eric’s girlfriend. The prediction had been for rain and lightning but Dawn had done her best to make it enjoyable. As far as Eric was concerned she had succeeded; the wedding area sat within a mile-wide circle of sunlight while it rained around them.
The minister continued to drone on, only interrupted by the occasional hymn or scripture reading. Eric began to sweat through his suit; Dawn must have increased the heat in the area a little too much.
“Dawn, would it be too much to ask for a light breeze?” he asked his girlfriend.
“Let me see what I can do,” she whispered back. She closed her eyes and Eric already felt cooler as the stifling air was replaced by a slight breeze. He could feel the collective sigh from the attendants.
The minister finished delivering his sermon and the couple began to take their vows. The best man fidgeted as the ashes beneath him began to blow away, revealing a brown scar in the otherwise pristine green lawn. Just when Eric thought the wedding would be an uninteresting affair, the vows were interrupted by the best man swearing as the now-dangling roots of the bridal bouquet burst into flame from the heat radiating off his body.
The bride yelped and dropped the flowers as the groom tried to stomp the flame out. The best man backed up against a tree and recoiled when he realized that it would eventually burn too, but with more severe consequences. The groom was having a less-than-successful time trying to smother the fire when a ball of water materialized over the flame and fell, quenching it. The groom shook his now wet and charred foot out and thanked the man in the third row. After the brief excitement, the wedding continued on.
The rest of the wedding went as planned, with the best man being more careful to avoid anything flammable. The bride and groom left after being declared officially married and the crowd moved to the reception before the surrounding weather moved back into the area. The flock of ravens roosting in the trees lifted off as one and settled on the roof of the reception building, cawing at the wedding guests as they entered. Eric heard a man complain about the possibility of bird whatsit on his suit.
Dawn leaned on Eric’s arm as they walked in the building. Keeping the weather off for so long had drained her. “That was a long ceremony,” Eric said.
“Mmhmm,” she said.
“You ok?” Eric asked.
“I’m tired. I just want to sit down.”
They walked past the gift table with its appliance-shaped tents of wrapping paper into the main room. The band on stage had a transparent bass player, and various members of Disaster Control were stationed around the room, prepared for any sort of property damage. The best man was apologizing to the couple’s families. “I swear it was an accident. It must have been the sunlight, I can normally control it much better than that.”
Eric leaned close to Dawn. “Think maybe you should take some of the blame for that?”
She scoffed. “Let him sweat. He’ll be flirting with the bridesmaids within the hour.”
A group of Dawn’s friends waved at her from across the room. She kissed Eric and left to sit with them. Eric got a glass of water and saw Jack on the other side of the room talking to Cameron. When he got in sight of them, they broke off the conversation and smiled. “Hey, man. It’s been too long,” Jack said as they shook hands. “Last time I saw you, you were about to take on General Ripper mano-a-mano. I heard that went well.”
Eric smiled. “I didn’t even get to him in time, Mad Dog got in front of me and ripped him a new one. I heard as soon as his name was mentioned, you ran off to deal with the survivors; real heroic of you.”
“They needed a heavy-lifter, and Doc was out taking care of the really big guys,” Jack replied. “No one else on hand could have lifted that rubble. Besides, wasn’t that your first real fight? I didn’t want to cheat you out of a legitimate brawl.”
“All I got out of it was front-row seats to a one-on-one punch-fest.” The three trans-humans sat at a table and watched the people dance.
Jack motioned at Eric. “So what have you been up to?”
Eric shrugged. “I haven’t been doing much heroism. There have been a few bank robberies, but they were all easily taken care of. Other than that, things have been pretty slow since that last attack. How about you?” he asked Cameron. “What are you and the flock doing?”
Cameron shrugged. “We run a sort of air-mail service, delivering mail and packages and such.”
Jack laughed. “That seems a little mundane after all the action we’ve had.”
“You have to get by with what resources you have,” Cameron replied. He turned to Eric. “What about Dawn? Isn’t she a news anchor or something?”
“She’s a meteorologist, actually,” Eric said, “for the Cincinnati 13 News.”
“Isn’t that kind of cheating?” Jack asked.
Eric shook his head. “Everyone loves it, actually. She’s never wrong and we actually have four seasons, which is unusual for southern Ohio.”
Jack scoffed. “While the rest of us are stuck with the Ohio Trifecta: Summer, Winter, Rainy.”
“You guys should really consider moving to—” Cameron started to say before he stopped and got a faraway look in his eyes.
Jack tapped Cameron on the shoulder. “What?”
“Crap,” Eric said. “Something’s about to happen.”
Cameron snapped out of it. He looked at Eric and Jack who immediately understood. They both reached into their pockets and put on their domino masks. Across the reception, several of the psychic trans-humans were rising and putting on their masks as well. Seeing this, the rest of the heroes stood and placed their masks over their eyes.
Even though it was the third time Eric had put the mask on, he still felt the change in his identity as it stuck to his face. When the mask went on, he felt like he was shedding a bit of his mortality, like he was joining the stuff legends were made of. He ceased to be Eric and became Standstill.
He turned to Cameron, who was now Conspiracy. The look on his face was one of concentration and anger. Whatever he had seen through his birds had him frustrated. Cameron had always been easily frustrated, a problem Eric believed stemmed from him being a control freak. His powers had manifested early, making him a prime target for elementary and middle school bullying, giving him, in Cameron’s own words, “deep psychological scars” which he brought up every once in a while. Eric was half-convinced he was just attention-starved.
Next to him was Jack. Jack had been a friend of Eric’s for a few years now, since Eric’s senior year in high school. Even back then Jack had been the kid no one wanted to mess with. He had been bounced between foster homes for so long he could not remember his actual family, which probably accounted for why he had never created separate identities for his civilian life and his super life. To Jack, those two were one and the same.
The conversation and music stopped when the majority of trans-humans stood up and masked. The norm-humans and supers without extra-sensory perception or some other way of knowing what was happening outside shifted nervously from one foot to the other. Finally, someone broke the silence by shouting, “What the hell is going on?”
The outburst broke the ice and groups of trans-humans began to whisper amongst themselves. Standstill and Jack looked questioningly at Conspiracy. He leaned towards them, but before he could tell them what he had seen, the majority of supers moved towards the doors and outside into the storm. Conspiracy stopped and just pointed, motioning them to follow the crowd.
The thunderstorm Dawn had been warding off during the ceremony was in full swing now, rain lashing the ground and thunder rolling in the distance. When Standstill stepped outside he saw the crowd of supers at the wedding was mirrored by a group outside, seemingly standing in the rain as if it did not bother them. Upon closer inspection, Standstill saw they stood in a bubble of calm air, the rain sliding off the dome as if they were under a rounded roof.
The Good Doctor was standing outside of the wedding’s group, talking animatedly with a lone figure aside from the opposite cluster of people. The trans-human opposite Doc was wearing an old-fashioned gas mask and dark gray trench coat. Standstill felt someone tap his shoulder and turned to find a super he did not know whispering, “Who’s Doc talking with?”
“That’s Captain Trips,” Standstill growled. “How do you not know who Captain Trips is?”
The younger trans-human shrugged. “My powers only manifested last year, I’m only here because my parents dragged me.”
Standstill sighed. “That’s no excuse for not knowing. Don’t you watch the news?” The kid’s face told him no. “He’s a Rogue. Been active for about twenty years. His last big heist involved gassing an entire town with the Black Plague and making off with everything of value. I’m surprised the Doc isn’t pounding his ass into the pavement. God knows he deserves it.” He looked sidelong at the kid. “What’s your name?”
The kid blinked. “I’m Fra-”
“Not your civvie name, your mask-name.”
“Oh.” The kid shrugged. “I don’t have one yet. My parents won’t let me use in public. What’s Captain Trips doing here, anyways?”
Standstill was about to answer when Jack pushed his way through the crowd and stepped next to the Good Doctor. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing here?” he shouted at Captain Trips. The crowd of wedding guests shouted in agreement. Lightning flashed, seemingly in agreement.
The collection of rogue supers took a step forward as a group before Captain Trips raised a hand to stop them. Thunder rolled, taking the side of the Rogues.
“We’re here to join the celebration. Ain’t too often some of our kind get married, especially to each other.” Even though his voice was muffled behind the mask, Standstill could hear the malice behind the words. The statement was met with scoffs and more shouts from the Masks.
“Stop,” Doc called out over his shoulder. Both groups of trans-humans quieted. The Good Doctor was one of the few full post-humans in the world, a super who had a list of abilities so powerful he was often called a member of the next stage of humanity. He was well-respected amongst other Masks and feared amongst the Rogues. He turned to Captain Trips. “Listen. You aren’t welcome here, Trips. There’s nothing you can do here that’s going to change what’s happened. She doesn’t want to see you.”
Captain Trips pushed a finger against the Good Doctor’s chest. “If I were you I wouldn’t be talking about what you don’t know.”
Standstill shoved his way to the front of the group. “You idiot, you really think she’s gonna change her mind now? I have a hard time making the connection between you two.”
Both groups of supers started shouting at each other again before the Good Doctor could quiet them down. “If you came here for a fight, you’re more insane than I thought,” he said.
Captain Trips clenched his fists. “Idiots. If we came here looking for a fight, would we have waited outside for you or would we have just demolished the building?”
The Good Doctor shrugged. “I don’t know how your mind works, Burke, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you pulled us out here just to fight us. You never were the stablest of folk.”
Captain Trips advanced on the Good Doctor. “Do not call me by that name.”
Standstill subtly grabbed Captain Trips’ momentum and stopped it, causing him to stumble. “Leave. You aren’t welcome here.”
“Especially him,” a Mask shouted, pointing at a man with a jagged red line on his chest. The sound of a shotgun being cocked echoed in the sudden silence. The Mask, a man Standstill knew only by name as Buckshot stepped forward and leveled his weapon at the man with the red symbol. “You bastard,” he yelled. “I’ve been waiting for this, Hemorrhage.”
Hemorrhage frowned and cocked his head. “You still angry about me beating you around, Buckshot? You always did have such a fragile little ego.”
Buckshot peered down the barrel of his weapon. “Don’t try me, Hemorrhage. That was a fluke, this is the real deal.”
Hemorrhage yawned. “I’m pretty sure I saw the ‘real deal’ when I handed you your ass in Seattle—”
Buckshot pulled the trigger on his shotgun at the same time Hemorrhage drew a knife across his wrist. The first round smashed against the barricade of blood Hemorrhage created and forced him back a step. Before the second shot struck home Standstill grabbed the momentum of the pellets and removed it, causing them to fall to the ground in a dead stop. The Good Doctor grabbed Buckshot and threw him backwards while Captain Trips tried to hold the group of villains back. It looked like there would be a fight, despite everyone’s intentions.
Standstill had been in only one full-out super brawl before. The fight in the New York streets had involved dozens of Masks, Rogues, and other supers flying, running, jumping, and otherwise ripping the city apart. Sometimes Standstill would still wake up in the night, sweating, the smell of energy bolts and burned asphalt in his nostrils. Compared to that time, this would be a relatively minor struggle, if minor could even describe a fight where ozone and scorched earth were the predominate scents and one wrong move could not only bruise, but shatter bones and remove limbs.
Standstill could hear a low-pitched whine as several supers warmed up their powers in anticipation. Rain sizzled and evaporated as it came into contact with raw energy, fire, and electricity. Several supers took to the air, drawing weapons, bursting into flames, or otherwise preparing for a fight. He could hear some sort of gibbering on the edge of his hearing, faintly coming through. A trans-human floating above the crowd began to open a rift to the Other dimension.
“One more stunt like that and I don’t care who I hit,” the Good Doctor shouted at the assembled supers. He pointed at the group of Rogues, who visibly recoiled. “Leave before I make you wish you had.”
Captain Trips shrugged. “Bit clichéd, ain’t it? Offering me an option like that. Doesn’t mean I have to take either one, though.”
Before the Rogue could continue, a woman’s shout went up from the doorway to the reception hall. Everyone turned to look and saw the bride walk out, followed by the groom and several others. The mud around her sprouted into dry, clean grass and the best man began to project a heat bubble over the wedding supers to dry them off.
When Captain Trips caught sight of the bride, he stopped. “Susanne.”
The Good Doctor stepped aside, letting the bride through. Susanne stopped in front of Captain Trips with her arms crossed. “Randall.”
Conspiracy stepped next to Standstill. A raven was perched on his shoulder, and Standstill could now see the rest of the birds had taken off from the roof of the reception hall and were balanced on tree branches, road signs, and whatever else they could land on. “How does Susanne know Captain Trips’s name?”
Standstill shrugged. He was just as much in the dark as his friend.
“Oh, I guess you don’t go by Randall now, do you?” Susanne finished.
“It’s Captain Trips now,” the Rogue replied. “You do know—”
Standstill’s eyes widened as Susanne shoved the trans-human back, interrupting his question. “Believe me, I know all about your death threats. I know you’re going to count me among your enemies, and guess what?” Her arms fell to her waist. “I really don’t give a damn. I’ve made my choice to leave the family, and everyone here knows that.” Conspiracy shrugged at Standstill. “It’s not for me, Randall.”
Captain Trips stood still for a moment before responding. “Keep an eye out. Just because we’re family don’t mean I’ll pull my punches.”
Susanne glared at him. “Just get out of here.” She turned away and began walking back to the shelter house.
Before Captain Trips could respond, Standstill saw movement at the back of the assembled Rogues. Shouts of alarm rang out as several large, dark shapes rose from the direction of the parking lot and flew towards the wedding guests. Several of the larger heroes prepared to catch the cars as they landed, those who were in the air tried to intercept them, and those who could knock them off course tried to do so. One was blown to pieces, one was reduced to the size of a matchbox, and several more were swallowed by a sudden rift in reality. Standstill could see it would not stop every car, though. He decided to step in.
Standstill focused on each individual car and fell into his trance, into himself. The sounds of rain and thunder and shouts died down as his mind retreated inwards, towards the center where he kept his power. He reached out to each missile, viewing the indescribable and forceful waves and motions of velocity, inertia, momentum, and other primal forces of the universe. He focused on each individual car, pinpointing the areas where force was located. With a mental push, he grasped the momentum, wrapped it around his mind, and tugged. The vicious waves vanished to his sight, stealing the cars’ motion, causing each vehicle to stop in midair and immediately fall to the ground.
Through his trance Standstill could hear the supers who had been on the ground yelp. He cringed, hoping no one was hurt by a car. ‘That would be very bad,’ he thought. He pulled himself out of the trance and saw the cars fall to the ground. The area underneath each vehicle was clear of people, both trans- and norm. Standstill stumbled and almost fell, but was caught by Jack and Conspiracy under each arm.
He could hear the wedding guests shout approval behind him and saw the Good Doctor begin advancing on the Rogues, shouting something Standstill could not hear over the cheering and thunder. The trans-humans standing behind Captain Trips were backing up, extinguishing various energy weapons or turning off flame and electric powers. Captain Trips himself appeared anxious, though Standstill was having a hard time telling through the gas mask.
The Good Doctor stopped in front of the rogue trans-human and jabbed a finger into his chest. He leaned in close to the gas mask and snarled something Standstill could not make out, and shoved Captain Trips backwards. Before he could stumble and fall, he rose into the air and called out to the assembled Rogues, “Come on, boys, we’re outta here.” He turned in the air and flew towards the horizon, followed by the majority of the uninvited trans-humans. A few stayed behind a few seconds and made empty, grandiose threats about the Mask’s families, but they too left after they received an angry look from the Good Doctor and several stinging missiles from the assembled heroes.
After the last villain left, the wedding guests made their way inside. As Standstill was helped through the doors, members of Disaster Control hurried past him to assess the damages to the property. Standstill shed his mask and became Eric again, tucking it back into his chest pocket. He was exhausted. His powers had definitely grown over the past few years since he had been forced to use them in earnest, but the act of manipulating multiple objects weighing around a ton each was still very tiring work. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. His father had always told him he had a minor Messiah complex, and Eric was beginning to see the drawbacks.
His rest was interrupted by Dawn appearing and forcing a glass of ice water into his hand. “Drink,” she said.
Eric brought the glass to his lips and downed the contents in one swallow. He pulled an ice cube into his mouth and swished it around. “Where were you, huh?” he asked her. “You could have hit those idiots with lightning or something.”
Dawn punched him on the shoulder. “I wouldn’t’ve been much help, and you know it.”
“You could have at least kept us dry,” Eric said. “The Rogues had someone on their side taking care of the rain.”
“I was helping keep everyone in here calm. Besides, Gabe got outside eventually, didn’t he dry you all off?” Eric nodded.
Dawn winked. “You gonna to be okay, then? Nothing permanently worn out?”
Eric nodded. “I should be okay in a little while. I’m just sorta out of it.” The band started playing again and people slowly filtered back into a reception mood.
Dawn stood up. “In that case, I’m going to go find Sheryl and Carmen.” She rubbed his shoulder. “Just let me know if you start feeling worse, okay?”
Eric smiled at her. “Will do. I’ll see you later.”
As she was walking off, Jack and Cameron found him and sat at his table. Jack leaned across the table and said, “Holy shit, man, that was awesome. You just grabbed onto those cars and stopped them in midair, I didn’t know you could do that.”
Cameron nodded agreement. “I didn’t know you could screw with so many things at once, either. You caught that one car heading for the doors and just stopped it, I heard Doc talking about it, he sounded impressed.”
Cameron and Jack were talking about the confrontation when Eric felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around and saw a short woman with jet-black hair and brown eyes. “Eric Young?” she asked.
“Yeah, that’s me,” Eric replied. He held out his hand and she shook it.
“The Good Doctor would like to ask you some questions, if that’s okay with you,” she said.
“Oh, yeah, sure,” Eric mumbled. He stood up slowly, trying to avoid getting dizzy. He failed. Before he pitched to the floor he grabbed onto the table and let it pass. “I’m fine,” he said in response to her questioning look. The black-haired woman led Eric across the room to where the Good Doctor was talking on his cell phone. He saw Eric being led there and hastily hung up. “You’re Eric Young, right?” he asked, extending his hand.
Eric took the Doctor’s hand and shook it, feeling the massive strength the man was holding at bay. He was surprised at how large it was. “Right. It’s an honor to meet you, Mr.…Good…if you don’t mind me asking, what should I call you?”
The Good Doctor laughed. “Please, just call me Doc. I didn’t think about being addressed when I picked my name, and it was stuck before I could change it. You go by Standstill while under the mask, right?”
Eric nodded. “Yeah, that’s what I call myself.”
“You look familiar. Were you in New York during Omnicide’s attack a few years ago?”
“Yeah, I helped out with that a little. I helped bring down General-”
“General Ripper, of course, that’s where I recognize you from. So how long have you been a Mask, Eric?”
Eric coughed. “Uh, I’m not actually a full Mask. I applied to one of the Ohio teams but they never got back to me.”
Doc cocked an eyebrow. “You one of those vigilantes?”
Eric coughed again. “I’ll help an old woman being mugged, but I don’t actively go out and fight crime, if that’s what you’re asking.”
The Good Doctor laughed. “I’m just messin’ with you, Eric. Vigilantism can be good in moderation, as long as you don’t take it too far. We don’t want another Mad Dog running around, right?” Mad Dog, Eric remembered, had finished his trans-human career (and life) as a vigilante, using increasingly extreme practices to put down criminals. Eventually the Coalition had to take notice, and the vigilante had not gone quietly. Eric had heard the mortician had only been given half a burned thumb for the viewing. He had also heard it was a closed-casket affair.
Doc nodded. “I understand. That’s actually the reason I want to talk to you. I saw what you did back there with the cars, and I think you might have what it takes to join the Coalition. Would you be interested?”
Eric looked at Doc skeptically. “What, seriously? If the Crusaders won’t accept me, why would the Coalition?”
Doc laughed. “You applied to the Crusaders? Those guys are jokes. Every one of them applied to the Coalition at one point and was turned down for various reasons. Now they run a team and turn people down just for spite.” He pulled a packet of papers from the briefcase he had on a table next to him. “Here,” he said, handing them to Eric. “The information is all there, just read it through, mail in the application, go to the website and make an account. You’ll get an email in a few days about a demonstration if we want to see what you can do.”
Eric took the packet and flipped through the first pages. Name, address, social security number, the standard fields were all there. “Wow, thank you,” he said. Doc extended his hand again, and Eric shook it. The Doc turned and pulled out his cell and dialed a number. Somewhat disarmed at the sudden dismissal, Eric found his way back to his table. Cameron and Jack were playing some card game amongst themselves. When Eric sat down the conversation quieted somewhat and the cards stopped moving.
“What’s in the folder?” Jack asked.
Cameron pointed to the stylized C embossed on the front. “It’s a Coalition application. Holy shit, Eric, is that what Doc wanted to talk to you about?”
“He said he liked how I handled the fight outside,” Eric said. “I’m not sure how real this is, considering my application to the Crusaders was turned down-”
“It’s the Crusaders, man,” Jack said. “Of course they turned you down, they’re a bunch of dicks.”
Cameron nodded in agreement. “I honestly think you’re better off not being in the Crusaders,” Cameron said. “If you were you’d be facing down the terrible Matador and other bottom-of-the-barrel Rogues. The Coalition is where the big boys play.”
“I got an application in the mail a few years ago,” Jack said. “I just never turned it in. I figured if they wanted me bad enough, they could wait until I wanted to join. If you turn yours in, I might as well turn in mine.”
“Will they still let you apply after it’s been so long?” Cameron asked.
“The application said ‘turn in any time’. I’ll take them up on the offer.” Jack jabbed his finger down on the paper. “Apply. Seriously, you have what it takes, power-wise. Obviously I do. All we need to do is some sort of audition thing, and even if they don’t want us, who cares? Vigilantism isn’t bad at all.” After that the conversation lapsed into small talk.
The rest of the celebration went on without too many interesting moments. The bride and groom danced, the father and the bride danced, the couple left under a hail of fake rice, and the guests began to disperse. Eric and Dawn were leaving when she asked what he had in the folder. He passed it over to her. “Oh, wow, Eric this is awesome!” she said, looking at its contents.
Eric shrugged. “It’s a big opportunity,” he said. “It’ll mean I’ll have to go to New York for a few days. I don’t know if I can afford missing them, though.”
Dawn laughed. “What’s there to miss? A few days of skippin’ classes won’t kill you, and the professors will definitely understand, especially Montoya. He’s a freak for the history aspect of the Coalition.”
Eric smiled. “I guess…”
Dawn punched him on the arm. “There’s nothing to guess about. You’re filling out that application and mailing it in, and that’s final.”
“Fine, fine,” Eric caved. “You do know there’s a greater chance I’ll die if I get accepted right?”
“Oh be quiet,” Dawn said.
“No, seriously,” Eric continued. “I might get vaporized in a huge energy cannon blast from a hovering mothership-”
“Yeah, yeah, I got it,” Dawn laughed. “Knock on wood, of course.”
“Right,” said Eric. “You never do know in this world.”
A majority of the beginning feels like backstory. I’m not hearing much of Eric’s voice here. Also, we have a lot of characters introduced here – Good Doctor, Dawn, Conspiracy/Cameron, Jack, the bride and groom, the best man and the villains. I’d recommend cutting some of these out. I think Doc, Jack and maybe Dawn are the most important people here. Conspiracy/Cameron can probably be introduced later. I didn’t feel like he was needed in this scene. (Jack and Cameron are probably equally needed, but since we’re being introduced to a lot of names here I think it will be easier to remember the character with one name.)
The scene with Cameron and Jack feels full of polite conversation. If they’re friends, I think this could be spiced up more.
I think the kid is a good way of briefly explaining who Captain Trips is. Also, the “how do you not know him?” makes it clear he’s a big villain. I think this could be shortened though.
Rogues would probably smoother in lower-case letters. Similarly with Masks.
I would recommend cutting the part with Buckshot and Hemorrhage. These characters don’t seem to have a part otherwise and it feels unneccesary. If this is needed, I think you could use a more important character in this role (Conspiracy/Cameron or Jack).
Eric’s remembering of the huge super-fight could probably shortened dramatically or cut altogether. It could be introduced later.
I’m confused about some of the terminology. Is there a difference between a trans-human and a super? This could probably be explained later.
Eric’s personality seems a little bland. I’m concerned that he’s not going to be interesting enough. What personality traits do you have in mind?
Yeah, I originally made most of the characters named here just backstory characters who show up only for now, such as the bride, groom, Buckshot, etc. As for Eric, I’m somewhat modelling him after Spider-man, in that he’s inexperienced and is suddenly introduced into this line of work he never really considered. I was thinking he’d be a funny, (relatively) normal guy who doesn’t take rejection too well but stays an optimist. Raised in a smaller town in Ohio.
Well it’s a super-hero story that involves a zombie infection as the main plot conflict. It focuses on how a superhero new to the scene of big-city crime-fighting suddenly goes from stopping crime gangs and city-wide issues to helping to save the entire world from something no one saw coming.
I’m having his backstory and the attack be introduced in some dream sequences. I’m not too…good yet at writing pure origin stories, so I thought I’d break it up a bit throughout the story. Any ideas on whether that would work or not? I’m thinking the second part will start with a dream sequence.
Dream sequences can be dangerous. If you are going to do one, make sure that the reader knows it’s a dream. If they don’t and then are snapped into reality, the reader probably won’t like the trickery. And make sure you focus on the relevant, otherwise, it will seem like expositive musing.
When is the next chapter coming?I really liked this and i cant wait for more. On a different note that im not sure has been addresed or not,won’t publishers reject a story if people can already read it for free on the interweb?
If an author is concerned that a publisher might be worried that a few chapters are available here, I can create a password or delete the chapters when he’s ready to submit to publishers. However, I don’t think that those security measures are necessary for an author that’s only posting a few chapters here. A publisher probably wouldn’t care that an author posted 5000-10000 words as a teaser.
Hey I changed my name since I couldn’t find one that I liked[I was triple-zero]. But if most, if not all of the book was reviewed on a forum on this site,i think the publisher would probably not like it.So deleting the chapters might be a good idea. May I get a review forum please? It’s always been my ambition yo write,but i am a bit lazy,so a forum would give me an incentive to actually put down my ideas and start that novel. One caution though, I’ll be away at CTYI for all of July and the last ten days of June, and I’ll be starting sixth year i9n September, so my posts may be only once a week or so once school restarts. But in spite of this,may I have a forum to help with my novel?
Sorry about the typos.That should be “to”instead of “yo” and “in” not “i9n”. I will also post a request on a different page so someone important will see it. Oh and I’m really sorry for hi-jacking your forum Call of cthullu.I would recommend a book, the zombie survival guide, i think it’s by Max Brooks but i may be wrong.It gives some usefull information on how to survive a zombie attack and how to kill them
Yeah, what I’m doing with the dream sequences is that I’m making them fairly surreal, as in he’s in a street fighting someone in New York when he gets punched through a wall and suddenly he’s in his high school gymnasium. Kind of a way to get exposition through and show he still has some fears about the invasion.
And Sandman, it’s not a problem. I’ve checked out the Survival Guide and I found it pretty helpful.
Though here’s a question about the zombies in my story: I’ve been thinking about using the fast, 28 Day Later type zombies, in order to make zombified supers more…intimidating. Would fast or slow zombies fit better with this?
Well, if they have superpowers you need some weakness for them, so slowness could be a useful weakness. And if they’re flesheaters, explain it by saying zombism is an intelligent virus, and zombies bite others to spread the virus. I’ve never liked how it’s just assumed zombies want to eat people for no good reason.
I, personally, would go with slow or at least slow-ish zombies. Not only does it give them some sort of weakness, as Sandman said, but you can utterly surprise both the reader and the characters when a superhero-turned-zombie with increased speed takes them by surprise.
Also, I have to say . . . superhero zombies is an idea made of win. Please don’t abandon this story, because I really want to see how this turns out.
It could also lead to a hilarious moment when a flying zombie hero takes to the skies… and starts flying at about one meter a minute.
And I agree with Holliequ, please post another bit soon. It’s way too good an idea to be abandoned.
Finally, here it is: the second chapter of the story.
It grew from what I thought would be moderate in length to 27 pages. I’m still not sure how it happened.
This is the raw, unedited version that I’ve reread only a few times. Let me know what you think.
The New York Streets were strewn with rubble and bodies. Standstill stood atop an abandoned car, listening to the sounds of fighting and buildings crumbling to dust. Above him Masks were battling Rogues, shrugging off blows that would lay waste to tanks, throwing each other through buildings, and laying waste to the surrounding area. The sky above was streaked with red and black.
Standstill felt something fly towards him and turned just in time to see a minivan flying through the air at him. He reached out and tried to grab hold of its flight, but time failed to slow down, the momentum lines failed to appear, and the vehicle’s flight path failed to change. He jumped from the back of the car just as the van smashed through where he had just been, taking the top of the vehicle off in the process. He landed on a twisted scrap of metal and tripped, falling to the ground and cracking his knee against the asphalt. For some reason it did not hurt.
Standstill got to his hands and knees and looked for the source of the missile. Instead of finding the cause, he saw another projectile, this time a chunk of cement complete with rebar ends sticking out, descending towards his position. He tried again to get a grasp on the weapon’s momentum, but could not find the right hold. He quickly got to his feet and ran as fast as his knee would allow.
The mass of cement and metal crashed into the asphalt behind him, peppering his back with splinters of metal and blacktop. He gasped at the impacts and turned to see General Ripper climbing over the masonry embedded in the road. He was decked out in full military uniform, with double bandoliers, a longsword at each hip, and a massive gun in his right hand. He was wearing combat goggles and had a lit cigar in his mouth. He let loose a spray of gunfire into the air before lowering it to hold in both hands, aiming it at Standstill. “I can see my two little warning shots went unheeded,” he growled around the cigar. “Makes my job easier,” he continued, punctuating the sentence with short bursts of gunfire.
Standstill ran, dodging behind the burning husks of cars. This was not how he remembered it, where was Mad Dog? And why weren’t his powers working? His line of thought was interrupted by the front of the building vanishing completely, to be replaced by the figure of General Ripper. Standstill picked up a brick and threw it at the Rogue, willing it to become super-sonic, but it merely bounced off the man’s chest. General Ripper laughed before rushing forward, grabbing Standstill around the neck, and throwing him through the back wall.
Eric landed on a clean, polished wooden floor marked with straight and curved lines. He looked up and realized he was in his high school gym, wearing his old gym shorts and a t-shirt. The wall he had just come through was in one piece and there was no debris scattered along the ground. Before he could think about it, he heard someone shout “Eric!” and looked up just in time to catch a flying red ball with his face. He fell to the ground and gasped.
“Young! Get up!” shouted Mr. Grimes, the gym teacher. Eric stood up, looking around in confusion. “You’re out, get on the sideline!”
Eric walked to the edge of the gym floor and waited near where the “out” people lined up for dodgeball. He was the first and only one out right now, of course. He watched his classmates continue playing until someone on his team caught a ball, which allowed him back in. He walked out and stood ready to duck if any balls came his way.
“Hey Standstill!” someone shouted. Eric looked up and saw another ball come flying towards him. Before his hands could react, he felt everything slow down. The sounds faded to low rumbles, and Eric could just make out what looked like faint wave movements on the ball’s surface. He reached out instinctively with his mind and stopped the ball altogether. The world suddenly resumed its normal speed and the ball dropped to the ground in the middle of the gym. The talk in the gym suddenly stopped as the students and Mr. Grimes realized the implications of an occurrence like this. There was a scuffling sound behind Eric, and he turned around to see Captain Trips standing there, wreathed in noxious white vapor. A blast of white smoke and vapor that smelled vaguely of death and decay wafted across his face and into his nostrils before—
Eric woke up.
Eric rubbed his eyes and sat up in his bed. Three years later and he still had nightmares about the invasion. He looked around and was glad to see he was still in his room at the hotel in New York and the alarm clock on the bed-side table showed it was 8:17 in glowing green digits. Figuring that thirteen minutes would give him a bit more time to wake up fully, he turned the alarm off prematurely and got out of bed. He took a longer shower than normal and got dressed, putting on his best tie and dress clothes for the interview.
He pulled the curtains in front of the windows back, looking down at the street. The last time Eric had been in New York the roads had been choked with wreckage and bodies, the results of Omnicide’s failed attack. It had been nice to see the city being rebuilt and improved, though there were entire areas that were still blackened and charred after three years, too unsafe yet to repair due to the energy residues left over.
Eric’s application had said to be at Lancaster Tower by 4 o’clock, so he spent the majority of the day watching television or telling his grandmother that no, he was not in any danger from any super villains.
Around 3:30, Eric heard a knock at the door and quickly grabbed his travel mask off the bedside table and put it in his chest pocket. He answered the door and found Jack, wearing jeans and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt.
Eric left the hotel room and shut the door. “You’re wearing that to your interview, man? Don’t you think that’s a bit…casual?”
Jack scoffed. “Shouldn’t matter what I wear, long as I make them happy and promise to abide by Uncle Sam’s rules.” He pressed the button for the elevator and they rode down in silence. If Jack felt the same apprehension Eric did, he did not show it. The two left the hotel and began walking to the Lancaster Tower, headquarters and business offices of the Coalition. The street leading up to the building was much less crowded than others in the city, partially due to the strict security surrounding the plaza; being the headquarters of the United States premier superhero team came with certain dangers.
Lancaster Tower was a massive steel and glass skyscraper, rearing up over a thousand feet high. Starting on the sixtieth floor there were small ledges protruding from the sides of the building every ten floors for supers with flight or other transportation options to land in order to access the higher floors without going through the elevator or stairs. The top of the tower tapered to a point and had the Coalition symbol on the North side.
The pair was stopped at a checkpoint outside the building by a man wearing the blue and grey Coalition guard uniform. He stepped in front of them and held his hand out. “Identification, please.” Eric felt something shift in the back of his mind, but could not identify what the feeling signified. He shook it off.
Eric and Jack handed the man their IDs and he looked them over before handing them back. “What are your reasons for visiting Lancaster Tower? More interviewees?”
The two supers nodded.
“I’ll need to see your passes, if that’s the case.” The guard sounded like he was supremely bored.
Eric pulled his pass out of his wallet and showed it to the guard, who nodded. Jack held his up impatiently.
“Right, seems you’re both good to go.” The guard waved them on and leaned back against the wall, pulling his hat’s visor down over his eyes.
As the two walked through the gate, Eric leaned across to Jack and asked, “You felt…whatever it was he did, right?”
Jack nodded and glanced back at the guard. “Yeah. He must be a super, one of the ones that nulls powers. I couldn’t shift anything around when we were around him.”
“It makes sense,” Eric said as the two walked through the huge glass doors and into the lobby. “You’d want someone up front who could—” he cut himself short when he noticed the entrance hall.
The room inside the doors was part museum, part exhibit hall, with a multitude of newspaper printings, cut-outs, and pictures behind glass shields on the walls. There were articles about the invasion, about foreign operations and rescues, about charitable contributions, about movie deals, about almost anything the Coalition had done on the levels above rescuing kittens from trees. In glass cases situated in rows and clusters were various trophies from different villains and plots vanquished. The entire wall on the right was occupied by a countertop with employees behind it. There were elevators along the back wall with a crowd of other Supers in front of them, waiting.
Eric and Jack pulled themselves away from the glass cases; they could come back and look at them any time, right now they had interviews to get to. They made their way towards the crowd of people by the elevators. The majority of the Supers had normal physical human bodies, but there were a few with fiery skin or glowing eyes or pointed ears. There was even one who looked like he was made of vapor. Half of the interviewees had worn formal clothing like Eric while the other half was wearing their uniforms.
Eric and Jack waited until an elevator opened up. They climbed in with three other Supers, two guys and one girl, all around his age. The girl pushed the button for the seventy-fifth floor. The doors closed and immediately Eric, Jack, and everyone else started stealthily sizing each other up.
One of the guys was wearing formal clothing, a long-sleeved red dress shirt, black tie, and black pants. He had no outward physical signs of what his powers would be, but his body type indicated it was something heavy. He had his blond hair gelled up and forward. He caught Eric’s eye and gave him a small nod.
The other guy had on a blue dress shirt, khaki pants, and leather shoes. Around his neck he had a small silver chain, and what looked like a mechanical eye-patch over his right eye. His natural right arm stopped at the elbow and continued as a silver-bronze clockwork limb that ended in a mechanical hand. He saw everyone looking at it and tapped his mechanical arm against his right thigh. It thudded dully through the cloth. “Most of my right side,” he said. His voice was young but had a slight machine-like quality to it. Eric guessed he was some sort of technopath.
The one girl in the elevator was wearing what could either have been street clothes or her uniform. She wore a long, open black duster coat, dark gray shirt with a silhouette of a small bird on her chest in white. On her hands were fingerless black gloves and on her head was a pair of blue-lensed, brass-rimmed aviation goggles. Her hair was a very dark brown and tied back in two braids. She broke the silence by asking, “So does anyone want to introduce themselves? Seems a little awkward right now.”
The mood in the elevator immediately lightened. Even with the invitation no one wanted to step forward. Around floor 15, Eric decided to take the initiative. “Hi. I’m Eric Young. Um…I’m twenty-one years old, and I’m terrible at things like this.” The other people in the elevator, sans Jack, laughed quietly.
Next it was his turn. “I’m Jack. I am also twenty-one years old.” The other four people in the elevator waited for more. Nothing else came. Jack shrugged.
The guy in the red shirt went next. “My name is Myles Hudson, I am twenty-seven, and I went to college to become a doctor. You can see how well that’s going.” Everyone, again sans Jack, chuckled.
The guy with the mechanical limbs nodded his head when it became apparent everyone expected him to start. “My name is Kraig Campbell. I’m twenty-three. When I was fifteen I got in a massive car crash that wrecked my right side. My powers manifested and I made these-” he gestured to his metal limbs- “and have had them ever since.”
Jack snorted. “Thanks for a life story. Real interesting.”
Kraig frowned. “Thanks for your opinion, dick. Next time I’ll ask for it.”
Jack rolled up his shirt sleeves. His arms bulged noticeably larger.
“Dude, come on,” Eric said to Jack. “Not in the elevator. Besides, it was kind of a dick comment.” Jack shrugged, but rolled his sleeves back down and thinned out his arms.
“Fine. Sorry,” he said nonchalantly.
The girl, who had been watching the entire scene as if from a distance, raised her hand. “Can I go now?” When no one objected, she continued, “Hi, my name is Roxanne Manson. Please don’t judge me on my powers, they don’t reflect me.”
Before anyone could ask what she meant, the elevator dinged to signal it had reached the seventy-fifth floor. The doors opened and the awkward group shuffled out. The room beyond seemed to take up the entire floor of the building. There were a few half-glass walls at the far end and rows and rows of padded chairs and small tables. It reminded Eric of an airport gate area crossed with a chaotic dental waiting room. It looked like it had been specifically designed to hold a large number of supers; the chairs and tables seemed like they were made of some material that did not react to either flames, cold, electricity, or other various energy forms.
Myles, Kraig, disappeared into the crowd and Roxanne followed, but not before waving goodbye to Eric and Jack. “Any idea what her powers are?” Eric asked.
Jack shrugged. “Dunno. Not really our business, though.”
Eric shrugged this time. “I guess not, but if we all get accepted we’ll need to know.”
“Well we’ll just have to wait for that, then, won’t we?” Jack gave a rare smile and put his arm around Eric’s shoulder mockingly. “Don’t get too obsessed with the cute girl from the elevator, man. We’re here to sign up for a team that will let us get away with lots of property damage. Focus on that right now.”
Eric shoved Jack back. “Shut up,” he said over the sounds of his friend’s laughter. “Let’s find where we’re supposed to go.” Aside from a small stand sign saying “Please check in and wait until your name is called”, there was no indication of what the applicants were expected or supposed to do while waiting for interviews. Eric and Jack followed the arrow on the sign which lead to a small wooden table. The woman sitting at the table asked, “Names?” without looking up at them.
“Eric Young,” Eric replied. She nodded and crossed his name off the list.
“Yours?” she asked, looking at Jack.
“Jack,” he said.
She looked at him, expecting more. When he said nothing else, she said, “I’ll need your last name, too.”
“Check under super-names.”
The woman checking people in slowly looked back at her list and flipped through a few pages. She pointed at a name on her list and said, “Alright, found it. Just wait for your names to be called for your interviews.”
The other supers in the room were either sitting down or milling about aimlessly. Everyone seemed to be checking the clock at five minute intervals. There were magazines and other reading material on the tables, nearly all having something to do with supers. After around forty minutes of reading about the Coalition’s role in Iraq, one of the doors along the glass wall opened and a voice came over the speaker system, “Eric Young, to room 003. Eric Young to room 003.” Eric stood up from his chair and adjusted his tie.
“Good luck, man,” Jack said.
Eric nodded nervously and made his way to the doorway. The man at the entrance regarded him with little interest. After Eric entered the man shut the door behind him. Inside the room there was nothing more than a small table, two chairs, and a desk lamp. The wall opposite the door was one large window, looking over the city. The man indicated Eric should sit in the chair opposite from the window and then sat in the chair in front of it. There were a few pages of paper and a pen in front of him with the usual form areas that required filling out.
The man conducting the interview was wearing a suit jacket over a t-shirt and blue jeans. He had a pair of glasses perched on his nose, and his eyes were two different colors; his left one blue and his right one brown. On his jacket was a sticky nametag that said “Hi, my name is” followed by something illegible scribbled after. “Alright,” he said in a tone that said he was bored of doing this. “Name?”
“Eric Young,” Eric replied.
“I’m twenty-one years old,” he said for the second time that morning.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but don’t you guys have this information already?” Eric asked.
The interviewer sighed. “It’s a requirement to weed out any possible shape-shifts or doppelgangers. At least, that’s what the up-and-ups said. Of course, if a shape-shift was actually determined or intelligent, they’d be able to know all this. Home-town?” he asked again.
“I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio,” Eric answered.
Al wrote this down. “Parents’ or guardians’ names?”
“Father’s name was Charles. Mother’s name was Meredith.”
“Alive or dead?”
Eric took in a breath. “They’re both dead. Since I was thirteen years old.”
The interviewer’s pen scratched on the paper. “And what was their causes of death?”
“They were both on vacation in San Francisco when Tremor’s powers manifested.” Eight years ago in San Francisco, California, thousands of people were killed when a super’s powers manifested. The super in question was a young girl who was called Tremor, and her powers allowed her to control stone and other earthy materials. However, when she manifested, a large series of very powerful earthquakes rocked California. The largest and worst struck San Francisco at a 9.1 on the Richter Scale, destroying much of the city and killing over 400,000 people, including Eric’s parents who were on vacation.
“Does this relate in any way to your joining the Coalition?” the interviewer asked.
“No,” Eric said. “They’re dead, but you can’t control when you manifest, or how. It’s not her fault.”
“In that case, what are your reasons for this interview?” the man asked.
Eric sighed. “I’m not really sure. I’m at college for engineering, but my dad was a police chief and he regularly told me about how important it was to help people. I guess I just don’t really see what help engineering can do to help people when I could be out saving them, you know?”
The interviewer nodded. “Any living relatives?”
Eric nodded, decided to go along with the subject change. “My sister, Dawn, and my grandma. Dawn is in Cincinnati and my grandma is in Michigan.”
“Do you have a name chosen for when you are under the mask, and if so, what is it?”
Eric nodded. “Yes I do. Standstill.”
“Does your name reflect your powers, personality, personal tastes, or other?” the interviewer asked.
Eric paused. The interviewer looked at him and said, “You’d be surprised how often people choose names that have nothing to do with their powers.”
Eric laughed. “It reflects my powers.”
The interviewer nodded approvingly. “And your powers are?”
“I have mental control over momentum and intertia,” Eric said.
The interviewer nodded. “Are your powers telekinetically-based?”
Eric shrugged. “I have no idea. I don’t have to physically do anything, if that’s what you mean.”
“So you have control over motion?” the interviewer asked.
“Somewhat,” Eric responded.
The interviewer motioned to the desk lamp. “Can you move this lamp around?”
Eric frowned. “It doesn’t work that way. I can’t make things start moving, but I can control them to some extent once they start.”
The interviewer leaned back in his chair. “So if I picked up the lamp and dropped it, you could move it around.” It sounded more like a statement than a question.
“Right,” Eric said. “Though only to a certain extent. The maximum speed I can accelerate objects to depends on the object itself. Weight is normally the most important issue.”
The interviewer reached over and unplugged the lamp from its socket in the side of the desk. He held it up in one hand and said, “Please don’t break this lamp,” and dropped it.
As soon as the desk lamp left the interviewer’s hand, Eric grabbed onto the lines of momentum. He bent the lines away from the floor, making the lamp perform a short loop and land back on top of the desk. The interviewer scribbled something at the bottom of the interview form.
“Okay,” the interviewer said. “When did you first notice your powers manifesting?”
Eric smiled. “The first time I noticed, I was a freshman in high school. It was the year after my parents died and my sister and I were staying with my grandparents. I was the kid who was always mocked, you know the type.”The interviewer nodded. “One day in gym class we were playing dodgeball. The bully, whose name I can’t remember, got a bunch of his friends on his team and was trying to knock me out with the balls. I had already been hit hard already, so I really didn’t want to be hit again. All five of them threw the dodgeballs at me and I somehow made them all just stop in midair and fall to the ground.”
The interviewer nodded as if this was a common manifestation. “You stressed that this was the first time you noticed them. Had your powers manifested at all before this incident?”
Eric nodded slowly. “I think so, at least according to my grandmother. When I was very little I was in a car with my family when we were in an accident. Apparently the car should have flipped with us inside it, but it just settled back to the ground. Before they died, my parents said they felt all the motion just leave the car and the vehicle hit the ground gently. My grandmother still swears I saved my parent’s lives that day.” The interviewer nodded.
The rest of the interview talked about various parts of Eric’s past and mental condition, which hostage Eric would save when presented with a certain situation, and how best he would organize a charity organization for various causes. After a question asking whether Eric would accept sex in return for an act of super-heroing, the interviewer gathered his papers up, offered Eric his hand to shake, and motioned to follow him outside the office. Outside, the man stopped him before he walked away. “Demonstrations are tomorrow at noon on the seventy-sixth floor. The demonstrations are arena-style combat against other applicants, in order to both test your handling of stressful situations against fellow supers and to see your powers in action.”
“Arena combat?” Eric asked. “Are you serious?”
The man did not respond.
“Right,” Eric said. “See you tomorrow, then.” Eric walked back to where he had previously been seated while they called a new applicant in. Jack must have started his interview while Eric was busy; his seat was occupied by a man with pointed ears and four arms.
The crowd in the waiting room was quite smaller than it had been when his interview had started. The clock on the wall indicated it was 5:54. He had not known the meeting would last so long. He decided to sit and wait for Jack to get out of his interview. After another half hour, Jack walked up and sat in the row across from him. Eric looked up and asked, “How’d it go?”
Jack shrugged. “I answered their questions. They weren’t so hot about my answer to why I was joining up, but oh well.”
“What was your answer?” Eric asked.
Jack smiled wryly. “They asked me why I was joining the Coalition. I told them it was so I could beat the shit out of whoever I wanted on the government’s time and payroll. They seemed to have a problem with it, but oh well.”
Eric smiled. “Unfortunately, their problems decide who gets in.”
Jack shrugged again. “It’s not my problem if I don’t get in. They sent me the application. It’s not like I’m banking on this, I’ll just go back to vigilantism.”
Eric looked around and leaned forward. “Dude, it’s probably not a good idea to mention that around here. It’s still illegal, remember?”
“Whatever,” Jack said. He looked around. “I’m just looking forward to the ‘demonstrations’ tomorrow.” The two of them stood up.
“You hungry?” Eric asked, stretching.
Jack nodded his head. “I’m fucking starving. Let’s find some eats.”
They started walking towards the elevator and waited in line. They eventually joined a less social group than they were in going up and rode down in silence. At the bottom they got out and walked past the glass booths of trophies and exhibits and out the front doors. Before they got very far, they heard a voice call out, “Hey, you guys! Uh…Eric and Jake!”
“It’s Jack, asshole,” Jack said as he and Eric turned around. Myles, Kraig, and Roxanne were there, motioning for the two to join them. Myles patted the air in front of him. “Sorry, man, it was an honest mistake.”
“It’s fine,” Jack said.
Nodding, Myles turned to Eric and said, “You guys want to join us for dinner? We’re going to this powered bar-restaurant place down the street.”
“Yeah, sure,” Eric said.
Jack shrugged, then said, “Why not?”
Kraig crossed his arms. “Would it hurt to be a bit more…personable?”
Jack’s eyes narrowed. “It would hurt you a fair bit.”
Before the two could come to blows, Roxanne jumped in. “Come on guys, don’t be dicks. Let’s just go eat.” At the prompt, the group began walking towards the gate. Eric felt his mind shift as they walked past the guard, who tipped his hat sarcastically and then went back to leaning. Eric motioned for the other three to lead on, and he and Jack followed as they turned right. Jack walked a little to the side and separated from the main group, while Eric sped up a little bit and walked between Kraig and Roxanne.
“So do you three know each other?” he asked.
Kraig nodded. “We all went to the same high school in Pennsylvania. Our graduating class had a huge amount of supers in it; it was somewhere around…maybe a full third of our class had some sort of ability.”
“That’s nuts,” Eric said. “How large was your class?”
“It was around five hundred people,” Roxanne said.
Eric’s eyebrows lifted. “Geeze. I guess the Genome Project was right.”
“About trans-human numbers increasing?” Roxanne cut in. “Well, yeah. There are tons more of us than before; even five years ago.”
“I’ve never liked the phrase ‘trans-human,’” said Myles. “I spent nearly eight years studying to be a doctor and whenever they said ‘trans-human’ I always took it as ‘not-human’. I’m not a fan of that type of thing, even if we are ‘higher-evolved.’”
“That’s a load of bullshit, though,” Jack replied. “We aren’t any higher-evolved than a normal human, people just began calling us trans-humans because of Nietzsche and those nutjobs. You really think evolution lets people control momentum or destroy a building without moving a muscle?”
“It’s the best explanation they’ve come up with,” said Myles. “Though I still don’t buy it.”
Eric snorted. “Personally I don’t really care. Finding out what lets us do what we do isn’t going to change it.”
“I don’t know,” said Kraig. “Aren’t you just a little bit interested in why we can do this stuff?”
“Not really,” Eric replied. “I mean, if they find out, cool. Otherwise, it’s not like I’ll die if I never find out. I just don’t think it’s that important.”
“I agree completely,” said Roxanne, nodding. “I think there are better things they can spend their time on.”
“Whatever,” Kraig said. “Let’s just continue this inside.” They had reached the bar, an average-looking place called, appropriately for their conversation, U-bar-mensch. Eric snorted when he saw the pun. He followed Kraig through the door.
The inside of the building was roughly half-bar, half-restaurant with the middle line very blurry. It was dimly-lit and seemed larger inside than it looked on the outside, with maybe eighteen tables and several booths along the wall to the left of the door. The wall to the right was the bar itself, tended to by a bartender who was currently handing out drinks. It was very busy, with a very large variety of supers, both humanoid and otherwise, gathered around the bar and the tables in the main room. At the far end of the building was a group of pool tables currently occupied by some of the largest men Eric had ever seen.
The five of them sat at an unoccupied booth and ordered food, the majority of which was burgers. The conversation hit a lull which was filled for a few minutes by the jukebox playing Pinball Wizard by The Who. “So…” Eric said.
“Yeah,” Myles replied.
“So what powers does everyone have?” Roxanne asked suddenly. She looked around at the table. “What? I thought it would be a good idea to help us get to know each other.” She blushed and looked at her feet.
Again, Eric took the initiative. “Well, I’m more a controller than a brawler. I can control momentum and inertia, all that stuff.”
“So you can move my glass around?” Myles asked.
“No,” Eric explained for the second time that day. “I can’t create it, I can only manipulate it. If the glass was already moving, then yes, I could move it around.”
“Alright,” Mules said. “Guess I’ll go next. I’m a brawler, to use Eric’s terminology. I’m extremely strong, and when I clap my hands together hard enough, the shock waves can blast things backwards if I direct them to.”
The group nodded. Kraig went next. He motioned to his metal hand and eye-patch and said, “I’m a technopath. I can ‘build advanced technology for personal use and control technological implements with my mind’, to use the dictionary definition.”
Almost before he was done, Jack spoke. “I can shift my muscles around if I want to e stronger somewhere. You know, like to my legs to run faster, et cetera.”
“I bet that helps with the ladies, huh?” Myles asked slyly.
Jack snorted. “Don’t need any help in that department, bud.”
“Wow, seriously, guys?” Roxanne asked. “I feel like I’m back in high school.”
Everyone, even Jack, laughed at that.
“So, Roxanne,” Eric said. “What can you do?”
Roxanne seemed to withdraw. “It’s…I’m not comfortable talking about it.”
Myles leaned forward. “Hey, you’re in good company. It’s not like we’re going to hate you for it.”
“No, guys,” Roxanne said. “It’s seriously…just…you don’t want to know.”
Eric’s brow furrowed. “Roxanne, it’s-”
“When I use my powers, people get hurt,” Roxanne said. Her eyes were beginning to tear up. “If you really, really want to know, watch the demonstrations tomorrow.”
The other people at the table dropped the subject. “Alright, Roxanne,” Kraig said. “That’s fine.” He patted her on the shoulder. Eric felt a small pang of jealousy.
‘Damn,’ Eric thought. ‘Jack was right.’
The food came shortly after and Roxanne seemed to be recovering. The conversation was turning towards the unrest in the Middle East when the door opened and a group of supers walked in. At first no one seemed to notice anything different, but the noise level in the bar dropped quickly until it was only the jukebox playing. Eric, Jack, and the other three turned to see who it was.
Standing in the doorway were three supers. The one on the right was wearing a plain black tuxedo with a red rose tucked in his chest pocket. His hair was combed back slick and black. The left one was a larger, bald man who seemed to be built of pure muscle. He wore an orange jumpsuit and had a tattoo of a serpentine dragon snaking up his right arm.
It was the one in the middle who caused the silence.
He wore his usual trench coat with the long tails and the old-fashioned gas mask over his face. On his head was a fedora matching his trench coat, and his hands were in his pockets. The aura of death and decay was all around him, almost a visible miasma of black smoke emanating from his body. His head slowly turned from left to right, taking in the entire bar and its patronage.
“Gentlemen. Ladies. I hope y’all are doin’ well on this swell evening,” Captain Trips said. “I hope y’all can overcome your prejudices against me and allow me and my friends to have some dinner in piece.” When no response was forthcoming, he and his companions walked through the crowd towards an empty table near the pool tables. The people near he passed by moved back or got up and left the bar altogether. His cohorts and him sat and waited patiently until a waitress, who looked like she would literally do anything else except serve them, approached with a pad of paper and a pen.
“How are you doing today, darling?” Captain Trips asked innocently; or at least as innocently as a mass-murderer could appear.
“Fine,” the waitress said. Even from where Eric was sitting he could see her shaking.
“I’d like a ten-ounce steak, medium rare,” Captain Trips said. “And a cup of coffee, black.”
The waitress wrote down the order in what must have been nearly illegible handwriting. It probably didn’t matter; the kitchen staff had come out when they heard the sudden lack of commotion and a pin dropping could easily have been heard.
“Burger. No pickles,” said the man in the orange jumpsuit.
“I’d also like a cup of coffee, please,” said the man in the suit. “Cream and sugar, in mine, though.”
“Thank you, miss,” Captain Trips said.
The waitress rushed off so fast Eric thought she might have been a super herself. The conversation in the bar slowly grew, though it leveled off at nowhere near the level it had been before Captain Trips had entered.
The waitress attending Eric’s table brought out their food. They commenced eating it, though no one felt much of an appetite with three mass killers in the same room as them. The conversation died again a few minutes later when the first waitress approached Captain Trips table and placed their coffees in front of them. Instead of leaving, she stood next to their table. The trio stopped their conversation and looked at her expectantly.
“Th-th-the man-manager would li-like me to tell you that your or-order is free of cha-charge,” the waitress said. She was stammering so hard it was incredibly difficult to understand her.
“Well thank you,” Captain Trips said, “but please tell the manager we don’t need to be treated any different. We’re happy to pay.”
“Puh-please, he in-insists-” the waitress responded.
“No,” Captain Trips said firmly. Eric thought the waitress might faint, she was so pale. “We’ll pay like everybody else. Now go.” The waitress shot off like a rocket.
“What the fuck is he doing here?” Jack asked finally. The people at the tables near them looked at him as if he was insane.
“The manager has a deal with Rogues,” Myles answered. “They’ll be served and offered a peaceful place to eat, and his building won’t be destroyed. It’s a wonder how he enforces it, considering he’s just a norm.”
As if Jack’s mind had been read, one of the big men who had been playing pool placed his cue in one of the racks on the wall and walked up to stand behind Captain Trips. His friends tried to pull him back, but the dead man walking just shoved their hands off. What little conversation taking place in the bar stopped so the only sound was “Don’t Fear the Reaper” coming from the jukebox. Eric found it strangely appropriate.
“Sir,” Captain Trips said without turning around. “I kindly ask you to go back to your game.” He raised the bottom of his gas mask and took a sip of his coffee.
“Shut the fuck up,” the pool man said. “This is a good place. Your kind aren’t welcome here.”
“We ain’t, eh?” Captain Trips said. He set his coffee down and stood up in one fluid motion. “You gonna make us leave, then?”
“Certainly am,” the man said. He threw a right hook at Captain Trips with a fist that would have surely punched through a thick wooden door.
In a blur of movement, Captain Trips ducked under the punch, grabbed the left jab with both his hands, and broke the man’s arm with as much effort as it would have taken to snap a twig. He then spun around behind the man, grabbed him around the neck with one hand, and placed his other hand in front of his assailant’s face. A thick white smoke appeared from Captain Trips wrist and made it’s way into the big man’s nose. Within seconds he began shaking violently and bleeding from his nose. Then his ears. Then his eyes. Eventually he collapsed forwards onto Captain Trips’ table, upending it. His companion in the business suit just managed to grab his own coffee before it was catapulted. Captain Trips’ coffee, however, flew through the air and splattered all over the people nearest them. The crowd in the restaurant erupted in cries of shock. Someone vomited in the corner.
“My apologies,” Captain Trips said. He turned towards the bar manager who had his hand underneath the bar, either on a weapon or a button to summon some form of security. “I will reimburse you for the table, sir. And you for the clothes,” he said to the man who had been on the receiving end of the coffee. “Johnson,” he said to the man in the orange jumpsuit. “Get rid of this sack of shit,” he indicated the body. The orange-suited man got up and grabbed the body by the back of the shirt and took it out the front door. Moments later he came back, sans body.
The bar manager spoke, “Sir, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I’ll give you your food free of charge and to go, but I insist you leave.” He was extremely pale. “I’m just trying to keep the peace, please.”
Captain Trips sighed. “I understand, sir. I apologize for the disturbance,” he said in a manner indicating no such thing. It seemed as if Captain Trips was smiling. The Rogue turned towards the waitress who was serving them and handed her a hundred dollar bill. “A tip, miss,” he said. She took the bill as if it was the deadliest thing on earth. “And now, I am afraid we must be leavin’ y’all,” Captain Trips announced to the crowd. “I’m deeply sorry for ruining your night, however,” he pointed his finger around the room. “He brought it upon himself.” He and his companions collected their food in white Styrofoam containers and exited through the front door, leaving only a broken table and a puddle of blood on the floor.
“Is there a hydropath of some sort in here?” the bartender asked. When no one volunteered, he muttered something vulgar under his breath and got a mop and bucket out. The waitress walked shakily back to the counter.
The conversation level in the bar stayed at a minimum for the rest of the time Eric and the rest were there. They left most of their food on their plates and a larger-than-usual tip on the table and left. Once they reached outside, the five of them just stood for a few minutes, letting the shivers and adrenaline out.
“Holy shit,” Jack said. “What the hell did he do to that guy?”
“He gave him something,” Eric replied. “Some sort of disease he either made up or changed.”
“Whatever it was, it was fucked up,” Kraig said in his pseudo-mechanical voice. “Trips is a madman, that’s for sure.”
“I don’t think anyone will contest that,” Myles answered.
Roxanne yawned, interrupting the conversation. “Sorry, guys, I need sleep. I’m gonna head back to my hotel. I’ll see you all tomorrow for the demonstrations.” After a chorus of goodbyes and waves, she left.
“On that note, I think I’ll head back too,” Myles said. “Need to flush all this adrenaline out of my system.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Eric said. The four supers made plans to find each other in the arena at the demonstrations the following day and went their separate ways. Jack and Eric walked back to their hotel. Eric entered his room and closed the door behind him and heard Jack do the same thing across the hall. He took his shoes off and unfastened his tie. He stretched out and television on for background noise.
Just as he began to feel himself drift off, his phone rang. Sighing, he flipped it open and saw it was his sister calling. “Hello?” he answered.
“Hey brother,” Dawn said. “How was your interview?”
“I think it went well,” Eric answered. “Though the guy giving it was one of those ‘I wish I was anywhere else’ guys.”
Dawn laughed. “Did you make any friends?” Eric was used to her rapid subject changes. He used to say she would give him whiplash.
“I think I did. Some guys named Myles and Kraig and a girl named Roxanne.”
“Is Roxanne cute?” Dawn asked.
Eric was used to this line of questioning too. “Yeah, she’s cool. She’s upset about her powers, though. She wouldn’t even tell us what they were, she just said we’d have to watch tomorrow at the demonstrations.”
“Hmm. Well good luck with that, brother,” Dawn said. “I’m going to dinner with some girls, so I will talk to you tomorrow. Let me know how your demonstration thingie goes. Bye, love you.”
“Love you, too, Dawn,” Eric said. He put his phone on the table and leaned back again. It was only 8:21, but Eric was tired as he’d ever remembered being. He closed his eyes, just intending to rest for a few minutes, but he quickly slipped off to sleep.
Crap. I hope you scrolled all the way down to see what was down here before you read that.
I changed some things around in the first chapter that you should probably know.
First off, Eric and Dawn are no longer dating, they are brother and sister. I figured this would allow me to expand different characters in different ways and allow for more options with the new characters.
Second…actually that’s about it. But it’s a big one. Please read this first.
Under what circumstances (if any) would it be possible to make a grossly incompetent main character likable and engaging? Are there any cases where making the main character consistently incompetent would make a story more interesting?
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