Mar 09 2010

Roseaponi’s Review Forum

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One Response to “Roseaponi’s Review Forum”

  1. roseaponion 17 Mar 2010 at 5:00 am

    Penance Copper, a.k.a. “Pretty Penny” is the daughter of Prudence Copper, a woman with a psychic ability to control small amounts of energy – enough for party tricks, and “Acid” Spiller, who has the ability to secrete a corrosive substance through his skin.

    Penance has inherited a variation of each of their abilities, which complement each other – a more powerful ability to control energy, and she secretes an oil in her skin that insulates her from the energy. This means that she can create a force field around her own body without burning herself alive in the process. (“Force field” here doesn’t mean a solid shield – it’s more like a covering of energy that she can manipulate with her mind. Think of the static on the tv screen, only thicker and more useful for defense – stopping or melting projectiles, preventing opponents from getting a grip on her – and offense – shocking or burning opponents.) She can convert energy to a degree, using ambient energy or heat to generate static electricity, for instance, or use her field to absorb and hold radioactive energy while remaining safe from it herself. However, all this requires concentration and self-control, and she’s as subject to fatigue, hunger, and stress as a normal person. Her training puts her at an advantage here, but she’s still human.

    When Penance (yes, her real name) was six years old, Acid kidnapped her and began using her as his accomplice and hiring her out to other villains. She acquired the nickname “Pretty Penny” and began learning martial arts from various instructors, most of who had little patience for children. By the time she’s sixteen years old, she’s well-known as a mercenary and henchman. What most people don’t know is that Acid terrorizes her into compliance – he alone is able to get through her force field, and he can burn her skin so that she isn’t insulated, leaving her unable to use her field without hurting herself.

    Story (About PG-13 for language, etc.)

    Penance Copper: the story of a supervillain gone good.


    And then, after all the prep and plotting, Vector went down. Twenty minutes into an all-or-nothing showdown, and the good guy, champ of the world, went down.

    And I was the winner.

    Oh, hell.

    I backed off – he was still breathing, but he wouldn’t be if I kept sparking rads in his vicinity. I tightened up the control on my field and tried to stop the _oh hell, oh hell, oh hell_ track playing in my mind. For one thing, I ought to stop cussing. Thing two, panic makes my energy spike, and reining in my field while panicking hurts me and damages my clothes. Thing three, new clothes weren’t in the budget and I’d just resolved to stop stealing things. Thing four, killing people is definitely worse than stealing things, and if I didn’t calm down in a hurry, I’d have that to deal with too.

    Oh _hell_.

    It wasn’t like I wanted to kill the guy. It wasn’t my fault. Except that it was my fault for going along with the whole kill-the-superhero plot. And I’d pulled it off. I’d prepared – cheated, actually. Used my inside knowledge to figure out his big weakness, pumped myself up with radiation that I knew would kill him, and then sallied forth to meet him after he’d just finished a major battle with a few other people I knew. That I’d set up, in fact, knowing they’d lose but that the fight would weaken him.

    I had set myself to the task of killing Vector, and then it turned out to be so easy. Too late, it occurred to me that this was a setback to my new identity as a born-again Christian. Killing is right there in the list of thou shalt nots and I’d taken on a fight to the death my second day.

    At least he wasn’t dead yet.

    I could just leave him there. Go back, say the job’s done, trust that whatever guardian angel these heroes have will scoop him up and deposit him in that lab-slash-infirmary they think is so top-secret, and play dumb when he’s hale and whole in a week or so. Take my beating then, unless I’m found out first. I crossed my arms and rubbed my sides, where the skin was still puckered from last week’s burns.

    Or, I could just not go back.

    For a moment my mind reeled. If Acid could read my mind after all, I was dead. Not just bruises and burns and a few broken ribs. Dead. I couldn’t dare to leave him and never look back. I’d be looking behind me and in all the shadows the rest of my likely-to-be-short life. As soon as he caught me, he’d kill me, nice and slow.

    If he caught me.

    After all, I was done early, and supercharged. I could maybe get an eight-hour head start, be halfway around the world by the time he realized I was gone. Though I’d leave a trail if I left now – better to wait until I stopped glowing first.

    No more assignments. No more crimes. No more getting beaten and burned and patching myself back up so that I could be in shape to be sent out again to do more damage to people who never hurt me. People like Vector, who I actually admired for his unbending ethics and rather hot bod. Not enough to be miffed that he already had a girlfriend, but he was nice to look at and I always knew where I stood with him.

    I heard a car, coming up fast. Speak of the devil -Vector’s girlfriend always drove like a maniac. That’s how they met, I knew. She’d misjudged a mountain curve in a bad storm and he’d come to her rescue. The spoiled daughter of a government hotshot, she tended to get into trouble with her amateur detective work and connections to semi-private R&D companies and think tanks and all kinds of other people highly interested in and useful to superheroes. Vector needed her to pick up the pieces whenever he got in over his head, but was afraid she’d find out his secret identity. Honestly I figured she really didn’t want to know. It wasn’t that hard to figure out.

    But then, it hadn’t been that hard to figure out how to beat him, and I’d been the first to do it.

    I backed away a few more steps and sat down. What’s-her-name… Lily? came up over the ridge and slung the car between me and Vector, spraying me with dirt. She leaped out of the car and faced me down.

    “Pretty Penny,” she snarled, and by God, her lip actually curled. I wondered if she was going to try to take me down with her own hands. From what I’d seen, she walked a fine line between spunky and psycho.

    “Stay back,” I said. “I’m kinda radioactive right now. So’s he, actually.”

    “Shut up. You are a sick, evil bitch, you know that? I hope your guts dissolve from plutonium poisoning.”

    “It wasn’t plutonium. And my skin keeps the energy from reaching my internal organs. But thanks for the tip,” I said.

    Her face screwed up and her eyes got really red. Before she could cry I said, “He’s not dead, you know.” I looked down and hugged my knees to my chest. “I… I’m not gonna finish him off. I’m done. I quit.”

    “Isn’t that nice to know,” she shot back. “Right when the entire planet really needs him, he’s not dead, he’s just beat up and unconscious and suffering radiation poisoning.”

    I raised an eyebrow. “Is today special?” I had my own impending doom to worry about, and she was standing there being a drama queen. It wasn’t like he’d never come off the worse in a fight before – he’d even looked like this a time or two. Except that those times he’d won first and then collapsed. But superheroes don’t live safe – I’d have thought she’d have realized that by now.

    “Yes,” she said, and then slapped her hands over her mouth.

    Oh… shoot. “Excuse me for not reading his day planner,” I said. “I was hired to do him today, and I nearly did. The entire planet’s just going to have to settle for having him alive.”

    Lily looked a little confused. “Hired?”

    “What, you think I have something against superheroes? Like they ever bother with me. On my own time, the worst thing I’ve ever done is shoplift. No, I’m hired out for this junk. Ask me how much money I get for a job like this.”

    She backed away and leaned against her car. I guess she realized that I was in a prime position to kidnap her or something like had already happened to her a dozen times since she met Vector. I probably did sound like I was doing the supervillain thing, the monologue-before-dastardly-deeds deal. “How much?” she whispered.

    “Nothing,” I said. I looked her in the eyes. “Ask how much my _father_ gets paid for pimping me out as an assassin-slash-evildoer.”

    “How much?” she whispered again.

    I gave her a small, grim smile. “Nothing today. Nothing anymore. I told you, I’m done.” I shrugged. “Won’t be long before I’m dead as well, I guess.”

    She shook her head slowly. “So you aren’t evil.”

    “Everybody’s some shade of evil,” I said. “We all do stuff and we know better. I’m just not gonna do other people’s evil anymore.” I took a deep breath before I could get all teary-eyed too. “What did he need to be conscious for today?”

    Lily crossed her arms tightly and bit her lip. Whatever she knew, she wasn’t supposed to know it, and she sure wasn’t supposed to tell it.

    So I was surprised when she did. “There’s an alien invasion. Vector contacted them – stopped them before they could invade. He figured out the way they do things, their code of honor, their traditions, that kind of thing. He said the only way to save Earth is by challenging them one-on-one. Their champion against Earth’s champion. If they win, Earth surrenders without a fight. If we win, they go home and leave us alone forever.”

    She wasn’t lying. Or else, she was a better actress than anybody I’d seen in my life. Well, I’d heard crazier, and seen crazier, too.

    “Aliens,” I said. It wasn’t that surprising – I’d fought a couple heroes who were aliens. It was only a matter of time before Earth ran into some hostile ones.

    She nodded.

    “And Vector was supposed to be the champion for Earth.”

    She nodded again.

    “Of all the bone-headed, idiotic, conceited things to do! He isn’t the most powerful superhero on the planet. I mean, I think I just proved that,” I said, waving one hand in his direction. “He goes and stakes the entire planet on his abilities and doesn’t even consider that one of his many enemies might do him in before his appointment?” I shook my head. “Tell me he had a second. Like a backup, or a substitute champion.”

    But Lily was shaking her head. “No. There’s nobody. He hasn’t had a chance to contact any other heroes.”

    That was probably my fault, I realized. I’d rounded up a rogue’s list of his worst enemies to keep him busy for the last ten hours straight, before strolling in to deliver the knockout once they were carted off.

    And now, Lily was giving me a really weird look. “Hey,” she said. “You don’t want to be hired for… for evil anymore, right?”

    I nodded warily.

    “How about if you’re hired to do some good? Maybe make up for some of the things you did wrong?” She reached in her car and grabbed her purse.

    I stared. I could see where she was headed with this, but she’d have to be completely insane – or desperate. Spunky versus psycho.

    “I’ve got fifty bucks,” she said, pulling a wad of cash out. “How’s that for a deposit? Then I can pay you fifty more after the fight. If you win, anyway. If Earth’s invaded, money’s not going to matter anymore.”

    “You want me to save the Earth for a hundred bucks?” I asked, just to be sure.

    “Well, yeah. You live here too, you know. Don’t you want to protect your own planet? Vector would do it for free.”

    “Vector gets his super-suit as swag from ResearchStar Corporation,” I said. It was stupid to be jealous about that, but I couldn’t help it. My clothes tended to dissolve after a few fights, hence all the shoplifting. And the stupid nickname. People thought “Pretty Penny” must have closets full of expensive clothes stashed somewhere, but no, I just trash stuff almost as soon as I wear it. And I get good clothes because I don’t want them to crisp off in the _middle_ of a fight.

    Lily cocked her head and really looked at me then, squinting through the glow at my clothes. “I’ll get one for you too. And medical benefits, just like the heroes get. Because you will be, if you do this.” She must have seen me waver, because she added, “You said it yourself. You’re the one who just proved he’s not the most powerful super. That makes you the new champion.”

    _Oh hell,_ I thought. But what I said was, “Sure, why not?”

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