Reveal

To my surprise, I woke up. And believe me, when you get suffocated into unconsciousness, waking up is a BIG surprise.

I knew I should have killed that bulldog-looking jackhole when I had the chance.

Chains dangling from a ceiling wrapped my wrists, holding me off the ground. I only had my pants on as I hung there. A single bulb cast shadows along the windowless walls of some type of dungeon. My gear lay in a corner. How cliche. Whatever happened to originality in villains. I half-expected a car battery and some jumper cables to be sitting on a stool.

I cleared my throat. “I’m awake,” I yelled. “You can reveal your nefarious plans anytime now.” I’m not a very good kidnappee.

The door behind me creaked open. I didn’t hear anyone come in. Not only that, I didn’t see or smell anything either. Not even a shadow.

Nothing until a face popped right in front of mine. It was young and looked more seductive than her picture. The braces were gone and the hair straight and lustrous.

But there was no doubt it was Lisa Brannigan. And she hung from the ceiling upside down.

She smiled and her incisors, elongated into fangs, flashed. “Ooooh,” she cooed. “You’re my hero.” She cackled in my face.

“I’m sorry this happened to you,” I told her. “I can try to help you, if you…”

She laughed again and dropped from the ceiling to the floor. She ran her hand along my face, then down my torso. I didn’t bother to hide the shudder. She leaned in and whispered, “Like you helped Torrie?”

I could feel my face burning. She kept going. “And why would I want help? Look at me.” She stepped away, stood on her tiptoes, and did a little pirouette.

“I’m so sorry,” I said again.

“You keep saying that!” she screamed. “Stop it!”

The door creaked open again and this time I heard footsteps and smelled perfume. I realized I had been played from the word go.

Mrs. Brannigan stepped in front of me, whatever spell she had used to hide her necromantic energies from me expired. I could see death hanging around her. The same death that fueled the spell on Torrie.

“How nice to see you again, Mr. Douzeper,” she said. She practically oozed false cheer. “You’re probably wondering why you right about now, hmmm?”

My jaw clenched so hard it hurt. I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction.

She grinned at my intransigence. Only once have I ever wanted to punch someone so badly. “You see, my baby had a serious genetic condition, inherited from her father’s side, of course. I had to change her to save her life.”

“So you changed her into a monster?” I spat out.

She slapped me. “She is NOT a monster. She is better. She is everything humanity should aspire to.” She stroked her daughter’s hair in a mockery of motherly affection.

I wanted to puke. Instead, I ground out, “And what did Torrie ever do to you?”

The false cheer fell from her face and twisted into a mask of hate. “Don’t mention that little whore’s name to me,” she hissed. “Her and her mother got exactly what they deserved.”

She waved her hand and several different footsteps came through the door. Ice Diamond and Aeromancer shoved a hooded Mr. Brannigan into the room, while Aeromancer’s goons, RapidFire, Umber, and Tek-Knight followed. Mrs. Brannigan went over to where her husband knelt and ripped off the hood.

Mr. Brannigan blinked at the sudden light. “T-T-Tara, what’s going on?” he asked.

She cupped his chin and squeezed. “What’s happening, Bill, is that your sins are coming back to haunt you.”

She shoved him away and went back to her daughter. “Tell Lisa who Torrie was. Go ahead. I want her to hear it from your lips.”

“I don’t know what you’re talk…” Ice Diamond’s fist crashed into Mr. Brannigan’s mouth. I didn’t react when blood flew from his mouth. I had figured where she was going with this, and found my pity in short supply.

“Don’t lie!” Mrs. Brannigan screamed. “You slept with that whore and Torrie was your daughter! Then you had the nerve to rub it in my face by allowing that harlot’s child to be Lisa’s friend!” Flecks of spittle flew from her mouth and whitened the corners of her lips.

Figures. I decided to interrupt. “Excuse me.” Every eye turned toward me. “Why am I here?”

Mrs. Brannigan inhaled and blew out a deep breath to collect herself. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“Well, yes, but I want to hear it anyway,” I said.

That Cheshire smile came back. “Very well. I need a fall guy. It will be horrible. You will have found out that Bill molested his darling daughter, and, in a rage, you murdered him. Aeromancer,” she gestured to her bulldog, who grinned, “and his team will defeat you. Unfortunately, you won’t survive your apprehension.”

She actually seemed to do a little dance. “After a suitable period, I will take control of my husband’s business. With the help of my new associates, I will soon rule the city from behind the scenes.”

I shook my head. “There’s just one problem.”

She cocked an eyebrow at me. “If you are talking about your little friend or Boost, rest assured they will be taken care of.”

It was my turn to Cheshire grin. “Nah. Not worried about them. The problem is you left my gear in here. It’s activated by the sound of my voice. The comm links directly to my blog, so every word you just said has been posted online.”

Mrs. Brannigan paled. I kept going. “Further, while the lone hero that relies on no one but himself makes good copy, reality is a little different.” I nodded toward my pile of gear. “My Diavel has been homing in on my bracer’s signal since I woke up. Lady Aether, Boost, and the Keepers of the Gateway should be following right behind.”

I love great timing. A boom resounded above us. The building shook and dust fell from the dungeon ceiling.

In the interest of keeping the length down, I’ll let you know what happened next time.

Douzeper

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On The Way To The Office…

Ugh. Whoever scripts my life is a sadistic smurf.

So, Lady Aether (she really should have consulted someone on name choice) and I are cruising beside Boost on our way to the FBSA office.

Everything was going great. I managed to avoid a fight with one of the few powereds I admire, she actually believed our story (it helps when you’re the Empowered of a truth God), and I got to know one of my idols as a person.

Guess what happened.

Go on, guess. I’ll wait.

Give the man/woman/other a prize. Of course we were attacked by a powered-villain because originality sucks. I swear there must be a handbook called So You’re a Megalomaniac-12 Steps to Bringing Out the Supervillain in You.

Step 1: Have some kind of tragic origin. This particular 12-stepper is a villain called Ice Diamond (and who comes up with these names?). Her whole family died in an explosion at her cryo-research lab. Check.

Step 2: Murder various innocents in some misguided revenge plot. She destroyed an almost empty lab. Notice I said almost. Check.

Step 3: Up your game and attack a major target. She went after some corporate headquarters bigwigs during the middle of the day. Check.

Step 4: Get beat by a powered hero; swear eternal revenge while being sent to prison. Boost beat her and sent her off to Ravenswood Institute. Check.

She was at Step 5, apparently. Break out of prison and surprise attack your nemesis.

The first warning sign came when my wheels started spinning on the road. If I have to explain what was causing it, you haven’t been paying attention to any of the clues. Velma would be so disappointed in you.

Boost slid on the ice, the change in traction throwing her off-balance. Ice shards shaped like, you guessed it, hailed down on her. She managed to avoid many of them, but here and there rents in her uniform and thin red lines showed.

So I did what any right-thinking person would do. I switched my Diavel to hover-mode, blasted some Hail the Villain “Runaway“, activated my shield and placed us between the storm of shards and Boost.

Okay, I was showing off for my crush. Sue me.

A woman dressed like a bondagist’s wet dream stepped out of an alleyway. She raised some future-rifle and the intensity of the shards increased. The tinkling sound as they shattered reminded me of  wind-chimes during a tornado.

Over the noise I heard Steph-I mean Lady Aether-chanting. A fireball flew past me toward Ice. Who promptly flipped a switch and fired a sphere of pure cryogenic energy. The two opposing forces met and a cloud of steam obscured the field.

A shadow that looked suspiciously like a fire hydrant zoomed through the cloud toward us. And what do you know, it was a fire hydrant. It crashed into my shield at a velocity that sent me flying off my bike and through some store’s plate-glass window. You know, after I broke through the iron gate supposedly protecting it.

Boost took the distraction we provided and managed to get back on non-ice covered ground. She picked her angle and went barreling toward Ice.

Almost instantly an ice wall appeared along her trajectory and she had to shift to avoid slamming into it. Right into another patch of ice. Down she went again.

Then it was over.

As the kids would say: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Ice Diamond cackled and disappeared.

She’s not supposed to be able to do that.

And I’m sure I don’t like the implications.

Until next time,

Douzeper

Death from Above and Below and All Sides

Stephanie and I are back at Chez Venereal after what can only be described as a massive cluster-flit (man, Jules is thorough on this swearing thing).

Both of us need to recover a bit before I even think about going to see Torrie’s mother.

Stephanie: “This place is horrible! I feel like I need a VD test just from sitting down.”

Excuse me.

“Sorry, Miss Public University dorm-living scholarship woman, that the accommodations are not to your liking. Feel free to take the some of the massive bankroll you undoubtedly have and stay at the Waldorf or something more suitable to your refined tastes.”

Stephanie: “Please. I heard you call it Chez Venereal. You’re just trying to be a jackhole.”

Stephanie: “Wow! You weren’t kidding about the swearing thing, huh? Can’t even say jackhole.”

“Will you knock it off. I’m trying to give my two readers a thrilling tale of derring-do or whatever nonsense people call it.”

Stephanie: “Whatever. Listen, I’m going to take a shower. No peeking.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. By the way, do you have shower shoes or something. I only ask because, you know, things can get kind of sticky.”

Stephanie: “GROSS! HOW DO YOU STAND STAYING HERE?”

“I’m a firm believer in the adage “Ignorance is Bliss” when it comes to staying here, or any hotel, really. Plus, I have shower shoes. And no, I don’t want your gnarly feet in them.”

Stephanie: “I don’t have gnarly feet!”

“You won’t have any teeth either if you keep grinding them like that.”

noise identified as door slamming

Ah, blessed silence. Except for, you know, me talking.

Where was I?

Oh, right.

So, I’m following I-57 back to Chicago and we’re right at the point where it changes to I-94 near West Chesterfield when I spot Aeromancer and his goon-squad, the Preservers.

I made for the ground because I am definitely at a disadvantage in air-to-air combat with someone who can control air. Road pizza, I’ve found, is not a good look for most people, me especially.

We land in Abbott Park…and it’s full of people because of course it is. Serendipity and I had a nasty break-up long ago.

A crowd starts to gather around us. Which is understandable. I would be curious about someone landing a flying motorcycle as well. Unfortunately, it is the exact wrong move for these people.

“EVERYONE EVACUATE!” I scream. “THERE’S ABOUT TO BE A POWER-BATTLE!”

Necks crane into the sky to see if they can spot some well-known power.

I blame media glorification of super-fights for the lack of survival instinct. They mention civilian casualties, but it is glossed over in favor of “in-depth” analysis of the individual powers involved and political ramifications of said battles (which is a whole ‘nother post).

I even saw some intrepid reporter wannabe’s bringing out their camera phones to try to get video.

“It’s the Preservers,” an anonymous voice rang out. Clapping and cheering started from the crowd.

Ah, the benefits of having a massive PR firm behind you.

Having determined I was already going to be the “bad guy” of this particular piece, I decided to play the role to the hilt. I pulled my blaster, set it on Destructo-ray, and blasted a jungle gym into slag.

“GET THE H E DOUBLE-HOCKEY STICKS OUT OF HERE!” I roared.

The crowd scattered and I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d deal with the consequences later.

“Get some spells ready,” I told Stephanie. I pointed her over to a copse of trees that would serve as decent cover. She looked pale and scared, but nodded and ran off to her position.

She’ll make a heck of a hero.

The wind picked up a couple of minutes later. I looked up to see Aeromancer hovering in the air, his power giving his team the ability to fly to the battle.

I suppose I should introduce his team.

Quick rundown:

Rapidfire- An Enhanced. Cybernetic systems give him super strength, speed and agility. Fully cybernetic arms allow him to change them into a variety of weapons including lasers, swords, axes, or whatever suits him.

Umbra- An Empowered of the Egyptian God Kuk. This particular Empowered is female, so she takes on the female aspect of Kuk, that of a snake-headed woman. She controls darkness and carries a gold-plated ax as her power-focus.

Tek-Knight- A Machinist of the Gadgeteer subset. He always has several drones flying about him filled with various offensive and defensive packages.

There’s our contestants, Johnny. Tell them what they’ve won.

One ticked off Douzeper. And one newbie Magician.

I put my shield on standby and opened my arms up, inviting them to make their move.

Aeromancer dropped his hold on his team and Rapidfire dropped, arms in cannon-mode, blasting away. I snapped my shield on and charged toward the falling man, blocking each blast. I pulled my sword handle and activated the blade.

While it kills monsters, it won’t kill people. What it will do, however, is make whoever I hit with it face the truth about themselves. It may not sound like much, but it can shatter a person’s mind. Take away all the rationalizations, all the little and big lies we tell ourselves about our motives and actions.

Most people don’t want to know the truth about themselves. Those that say they do are usually engaging in lying to themselves.

Rapidfire was one of those people.

I run fast enough that I met Rapidfire as he touched down. He changed his left arm into a shield to try to block the blade.

Fool.

My blade rammed into his chest and he screamed. I have no idea what he saw, but it was enough to drop him gibbering to the ground.

One.

Tek-Knight hovered near a tree using jet-boots. The tree swayed and branches lashed out at him, damaging one of the boots and sending him into an uncontrolled spin toward the ground.

Unfortunately for him, a tree trunk met his face before the ground did.

Two.

“MAGE!” Umbra shouted.

A miniature tornado sprang up and raced along the ground to the copse of trees sheltering Stephanie. Umbra raced toward me.

I pulled my blaster and fired off a shot at Aeromancer before Umbra reached me. It forced him to collapse the whirlwind and increase the density of the air around him into a shield.

The blast couldn’t penetrate, but Stephanie, in a wonderful display of tactics, threw a massive fireball at him immediately after. The magical fire engulfed Aeromancer and pulled all the oxygen away from him, leaving a singed and breathless target.

Umbra reached me just as I fired my second shot, her ax biting into my side. Blood spurted out and I screamed. Yet, my shot flew true and hit Aeromancer, knocking him out for the second time in a day.

He fell from the sky and pancaked into a children’s playset. Taking him out bought me a moment as Umbra watched him fall. I placed my hand over the wound and Utu’s power flowed through me, closing the wound. It left an angry red scar across my side, but I can live with scars.

My blade flashed and she blocked with her ax. Our movements became a blur of strike and counter-strike. She would create a globe of darkness around us, and I would burn it away. Day and night battled it out, with no clear decision.

Luckily for me, my teammate is better than hers.

Stephanie stepped from behind the trees. She gestured and stone hands grew from the ground to hold our fallen opponents. After they were secure, she strode over to the two of us. I could see her coming. Umbra couldn’t.

She didn’t even have to hit her from behind. All she did was clear her throat.

The noise distracted Umbra for a fraction of a second. At the speed we were moving, that was all I needed.

I knocked the ax from her grasp and my fist met her jaw. I heard a crack and her eyes fluttered up into her skull.

Teamwork works, folks. The Preservers fought as individuals and lost.

Intent is also key in a fight. They intended to teach me a lesson and didn’t press their advantages. We intended to win and win quick.

We won. And without killing any of them, which I am strangely ambivalent about.

The battle did take its toll on us and so we went back to the room to rest up a bit. Magic takes it out of a person, and the adrenaline crash after a fight doesn’t help.

Stephanie, in her first real battle, shook like a leaf. I was a bloody mess from all the nicks and cuts received from Umbra. So we took some time.

Which brings us to now. I’m sure we’ll be seeing the Preservers again.

I just hope it isn’t soon.

Until next time,

Douzeper

Stephanie

Stephanie’s grabbing some regeants and assorted paraphenalia for out trip back to Chi-town.

I’m swaddling Torrie’s body in some blankets. I’ve already called for her body to be collected and taken to the Medical Examiner.

I’m not looking forward to going back and telling Torrie’s mother I failed. I could call her and tell her, but that is the coward’s way…

Stephanie: “What are you doing?”

“I’m running a blog. My headset converts speech into text.”

Stephanie: “Huh, an online diary. Neat. Did you make all of that?”

“No. My friend, Stargazer, gave it to me.”

Stephanie: “So that’s how you knew about me.”

“Nope. Well, sort of. You were in my bracer’s database.”

Stephanie: “She never mentioned me?”

“Don’t look so hurt. To be honest, she’s been busy. And when I did get to see her, we had other things to discuss.”

“Besides, if she told me about everyone  she’s met, we would never talk about anything else.”

Stephanie: “Oh. Well, feel free to talk to yourself all you want. You should see what weird habits some wizards have.”

“Some?”

Stephanie: “Fine. All.”

“By the way, when you speak the mike catches it and puts it down as well.”

Stephanie: “Wonderful. I always wanted to be semi-famous.”

She bows and gestures me ahead. I find if I murmur my words it just looks like I’m a homeless person off his meds.

We hop on my Diavel and she is actually squealing…

Stephanie: “I AM NOT SQUEALING!”

“You know when you yell like that it shows up in all caps, right?”

Stephanie: “How would I know that? And anyway, don’t lie and I won’t yell.”

“Hate to tell you this, but I can’t lie.”

Stephanie: “Crap.”

I switch over to flight-mode, and the higher we ascend the tighter her grip becomes. Not an unpleasant feeling.

And with her having normal human strength, I can barely feel the punches when I say something she doesn’t like.

We’re heading back to Chicago, and I hope…

Stephanie: “What is this design on the back of your jacket?”

“It’s a unit patch of a World War II fighter squadron called the Hellcats.”

Stephanie: “Cool. You a history buff?”

“Not exactly. And definitely not a first-date story.”

Stephanie: “You do realize I can do horrible things to you, right?”

“Sarcasm doesn’t become you. Plus, we’re currently about “oh, smurf” feet above the ground.”

Stephanie: “You have to land sometime.”

“Ignoring that. What’s your specialty anyway. The database is kind of light on info for you.”

Stephanie: “I’m an elementalist.”

“Sweet. How good are you with the air element?”

Stephanie: “Not great. Why?”

“Because we’re about to have company. A particularly idiotic piece of work called Aeromancer. And it looks like he brought friends.”

I take the Diavel down and try to reach ground level. I’m going to be busy, so I’ll let you know what happens.

If I’m alive.

Until next time,

Douzeper

 

There’s Never Enough Time

With The Magus gone to Gods know where, I admit I began to panic. This girl would die horrible and I couldn’t do a thing about it. My healing powers wouldn’t even begin to touch this.

I needed a wizard.

There were exactly two. One was gone. The other, a wet-nosed newbie, lived at the University of Illinois campus in Urbana-Champaign. A couple of hours away flying at a safe speed.

Torrie’s only hope.

I input the campus coordinates and let the autopilot kick in. “I’m sorry, Torrie. The one I wanted to bring you to left. I need to take you to Urbana-Champaign and it’ll be a bit of a ride. You up for it?”

She nodded at me and tried to smile.

She’s a brave kid.

We changed course and headed toward the edge of Chicago.

The wind picked up.

Damn. Aeromancer must be a quicker healer than I thought.

I pulled out my trusty old brand-new blaster and scanned the skies for incoming.

And saw exactly nothing. I must be getting paranoid in my old age.

Of course, it’s not really paranoia if people are actually trying to kill you.

Wonder of wonders, the trip to the U of I campus proved uneventful, if you call the magical rapid aging of a teenage girl uneventful.

According to the database on my bracer, one Stephanie Unger lived currently lived in the Busey-Evans Residence Hall on campus. An all woman dorm.

Wonderful. Nothing like charging in to a dorm full of women to get the police, or worse, called on you. No help for it though.

Night fell before we got to the hall. I am so going to jail sooner or later.

I changed over to ground mode and rode up to the front entrance. I cradled Torrie in my arms and strode up to the door, using my foot to “knock”.

I decided to try the “nice” way first. I was not filled with confidence, but stranger things have happened.

The door opened and a young woman, not more than twenty opened the door. Before she could say anything I asked for Stephanie.

The door slammed in my face. From the look on the woman’s face I would be seeing security before Stephanie.

I should make it clear. I believe women have a right to be safe and keep anyone out of an area set aside specifically for them.

That being said, I also believe that the girl’s life I was trying to save superseded that prior belief. Plus, I have no problems being thought a wiener.

Wiener? Really, Jules?

I sharpened my vision and saw campus security making its way toward me. So I did what any reasonable person would do; I kicked in the door (hoping no one was on the other side) and started screaming my brains out for Stephanie.

Women screamed, yelled and generally treated me like they should. I kept screaming over the tumult.

Finally, a petite blonde I can only describe as “perky” showed up. I figured it was Stephanie as she had a ball of some undoubtedly nasty magic ready in her hand.

“Don’t fire!” I yelled. “Open your senses and scan this girl!”

All I can say is bless those that don’t use violence as their first, second and last resorts.

I say her eyes glow briefly and a look of confusion cross her face. She strode up to me and held out her hand with an authority unusual for anyone that young.

I certainly don’t have that aura and I’m older and more experienced.

The other ladies calmed somewhat as she spoke to me. “Did you do this to her?” Her arched eyebrow promised many unpleasant things if I were to blame.

In a rush I laid out who I was and what was going on. Stephanie is very quick on the uptake, and I must have looked suitably desperate, for she just nodded. “Wait here,” she said.

She smoothed things over with security and came back into the common area. “Follow me. No male is allowed in the halls without an escort. Do what I say, when I say it. Got it?”

She led me up the stairs to a lab area. “Put her in here and wait out in the hall,” Stephanie said. “I’ll see what I can do.”

So that brings me to now. I’m sitting in the hallway and waiting.

And waiting.

Wait. She’s coming out.

“Oh, no. Please, tell me you can fix her.”

Stephanie: “I’m sorry. I’ve never come across anything like this before. Even if I had, I don’t think my power is strong enough to counteract it. When I tried, the process seemed to speed up. She doesn’t have much time if you want to say goodbye.”

footsteps

“Hey, Torrie.”

Torrie: “She can’t fix me, can she?”

“No.”

Torrie: “You promised to fix me.”

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“Torrie?” “TORRIE!”

Stephanie: “Who did this to her?”

“I have no idea. But when I find out…They. Are. Dead. You want in? I have a feeling I’m going to need some magic on my side.”

“Yes.”

Douzeper

 

Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs: Power File #002-Magus

Roger Cormoran aka The Magus

Gender: Male

Power Classification: Magician

Sub-category: Generalist

Power Level: A-class

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Affiliations: None

Powers: The Magus is the premier magic user among the powers. He has access to spells unknown to other magicians, as well as innumerable magic items. With his magic he can imitate any known power.

Synopsis:

The Magus is the “Master-Mage” of our dimension, or at least that is the claim. He is a Boston native that has transplanted himself to a “magical nexus” conveniently located near his beloved Chicago Cubs. Not much is known about The Magus and it is believed Roger Cormoran is also an alias to hide his “true name”.

Relationships: The Magus is acquainted with most of the powers, but there is no evidence of any deeper relationships.

Threat Level: White

The Magus is unregistered and unaffiliated with any groups. His motives and purpose are unknown. Due to his power level we are assigning him the highest threat level.