Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ripples

Hard to believe this is my first post of 2016. I'm still writing fiction and working on a Power Club sequel. In the meantime, here's a poem that really has nothing to do with PC. Enjoy!


Ripples
I have no manifest destiny,
No higher calling
That makes me better than you.
The work I struggle to perfect
May not live on.
It may wither and die
Like yesterday’s songs.
It may change lives,
But, if it does,
It will be as ripples of love and hope.
Those grazed by the ripples
Will think my grand ideas theirs,
And so they should.
Take ownership of life;
If you remember me at all,
Remember me with kindness.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Damon and the Forbidden Neighborhood: A Power Club Halloween Story (Part 2 of 2)


        When Damon reached the curb, he took a shallow breath. This trick he had recently learned made the darkspace thin enough so he could see if any cars were coming. There were none, so he burst into a run. As he crossed the street, he heard the voices of the others. It sounded like they were cheering him on, so he ran faster.
          It took longer to reach the other side of the street than Damon had thought. Sometimes it was difficult for him to judge distances inside the darkspace, and there were no bushes or trees or houses to indicate how close he was to the other side. Finally, he reached the other curb. A fireplug appeared in view, as his darkspace surrounded it to let him know he had made it.
           Damon walked up the street a ways, thinking he must surely be where the others were by now. Why hadn’t they appeared inside his darkspace? Then he realized they were probably scared of it, like people sometimes were, and were making sure they stayed outside of it. He decided to make the darkspace go away and tell everyone it was safe to be inside the darkness. Then maybe they could go trick-or treating inside the darkspace. He laughed as he imagined going up to someone’s house, knocking on the door, and scaring people, who would only see a cloud of darkness! That, he decided, would be the best trick ever!
          But when he inhaled and made the darkspace go away, he was stunned.
          None of the houses on this block looked familiar, and none of them had their porch lights on.
          Oh, no! I’ve crossed the boulevard, he realized. That’s why it took so long to cross the street. It wasn’t the street at all. I’m in the Forbidden Neighborhood.
          But it was no big deal, he thought. He’d just go back the way he came. He turned to walk down the hill, but something blocked his path. In the darkness—no streetlights were even on—he strained to see what was ambling toward him. The figure looked no bigger than a kid, maybe a year or two older than he was, but it was very skinny and lurched as it walked. Damon thought it was just some guy out trick or treating, but when the figure was close enough to see clearly, Damon jumped back.
          The first thing he noticed was a toothless mouth drawn tight across a bony face. Dead eyes stared at him from underneath wisps of hair which hung limp across an exposed skull. The figure was clad in what must have once been a tee-shirt and jeans but were now rags. A bony, rotted hand reached out toward Damon.
          “Th-that’s a neat costume!” Damon said, hoping it was a costume.
          The figure strained to speak. “Giiiiimmeeee caaaan-dee!”
          Damon realized the figure was pointing to his bag of candy. Too terrified to move, Damon could only joke, “D-don’t zombies eat brains?”       
          The figure lunged, moving faster than Damon thought possible. But it was off-balance and Damon easily stepped aside. All Damon would have to do now, he thought, was run back toward his side of the district. But before he could take another step, he heard a scraping sound from the middle of the street. He glanced over and saw a manhole cover being shifted. Then, to Damon’s horror, another figure much like the first emerged.
          This zombie had no hair at all, and its jaw hung lopsided on the bottom of its skull. The sight so revolted Damon, he thought he might throw up. But now a third zombie appeared from somewhere behind Damon—this one was missing its head, but its exposed rib cage, outstretched arms and bony legs were coming right toward him. The zombies made a noise which sounded like chanting and moaning, and a horrible smell permeated the air. To Damon, it smelled like rotten eggs and bad breath—the smell of death.
          Damon wanted to run as fast as he could back to his side of the district, but he was too scared to move. Instead, he exhaled and the darkspace came, surrounding him. He felt safe, at last. The zombies would not be able to find him in the cloud of darkness.
          The second zombie wandered inside the darkspace and appeared momentarily confused. A noseless face sniffed the air, and then it reached out and grabbed Damon by the sleeve of his costume. “Weee smeeeellll youuu!” it taunted through its lopsided jaw.
          Damon somehow shook loose and found he could move again. The darkspace was not helping him, so he inhaled, making it go away. Then he tossed the bag of candy on the ground in front of the second zombie. “Here! Take it!” he screamed.
          “Tooo laaaate!” said the third zombie, whose somehow seemed to be talking without a mouth or even head. “Waaaant toooo eaaaat youuuu!”
          Damon screamed as loud as he could, thinking he might scare the zombies away, but they did not leave.
          Someone—or something—landed on the sidewalk a few feet away from him. It snarled as it grabbled the headless zombie and tossed him into a nearby yard. The new arrival moved so fast Damon couldn’t see what it was at first, but, finally it stopped and growled at the two remaining zombies. Fangs protruded from a maw below a ridged snout. Yellow eyes peered out from dark fur, as the creature swiped at the two zombies with huge claws.
          A werewolf! Damon thought, his heart pounding faster than ever.
          The zombies ambled away as fast as they could. But now the werewolf turned and faced Damon.
***
          Damon remembered seeing a movie about a werewolf when he was a little kid. It had given him nightmares for a week. Now the nightmare was standing before him. Damon was too scared to even exhale.
          But there was something odd about this werewolf. Its eyes consisted of round, black circles surrounded by deep yellow, yet somehow they looked kind. A large, hairy paw scooped Damon’s bag of candy off the sidewalk. I guess werewolves like candy, too, Damon thought. But then the werewolf did something totally unexpected. It held the bag out toward Damon. Is . . . is it giving it back to me?
          The werewolf glanced over its shoulder and then nodded urgently toward the bag. Damon carefully reached forward to take the bag, but something appeared in the sky. It looked like a flaming bottle rocket. It flew between Damon and the werewolf and struck the bag of candy, causing it to burst into flames. The werewolf dropped the bag, and Damon could only watch as fire consumed all the candy he had gotten.  Damon glanced warily at the werewolf, who seemed just puzzled as he was.
          From the yard where the headless zombie had been thrown, a new creature appeared. Damon rubbed his eyes. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The new creature was clad in an old-time suit with a vest and trousers. It appeared human except for its head, which looked just like a jack-o-lantern with an evil grin. Damon didn’t know whether to laugh or be scared. In one of the creature’s hands, it appeared to be carrying something on fire. It made an eerie sound as it reached back like a ball player and tossed the ball of flame, which barely missed Damon.
          Damon and the werewolf ran in opposite directions, but Damon got only a few feet when he saw second jack-o-lantern coming toward him, its arms outstretched to make sure Damon couldn’t get away. He looked back and saw the werewolf confronting a third jack-o-lantern.
          “We was just havin’ fun with the kid, wolfie” the third jack-o-lantern said. “You shoulda’ minded your own business!”
          It struck Damon as odd that the jack-o-lantern didn’t have a creepy voice. It had the deep-nasal voice of a boy in his early teens.
          “Yeah,” the second jack-o-lantern said, “now we’ll just have our fun with you!” This creature, too, sounded like a teenager. It made another pitcher toss, and hurled a ball of flame past the werewolf, grazing its shoulder. The werewolf howled in pain as it danced around, trying to put out the fire in its fur.
          Damon didn’t know what to do. He turned to run, but the third jack-o-lantern cut him off. “Not so fast, kid,” it said. “You’re in the wrong neighborhood, so you’re next!”
          A strange idea occurred to Damon: These weren’t real monsters at all, but powered kids, like him, who probably had some sort of shape-changing power. Real monsters don’t make threats, he concluded. Zombies may be able to smell him in the dark, but he wondered if jack-o-lanterns could. He exhaled, and the darkspace came—spreading over him, the werewolf, and all three jack-o-lanterns. The first two stopped advancing on the werewolf, and the third, likewise, stopped moving behind Damon.  Their hands flailed about in a vain attempt to grab onto something.
          Damon realized he could run back to his side now, and he would reach the boulevard before the monster-kids had a chance to react. But then he noticed the werewolf, who had managed to put out the fire on its shoulder and was also feeling around in the dark, confused. Whatever this creature was—another kid or something else—it had tried to help Damon. He couldn’t just leave it.
          He concentrated, opening a soundspace directly to the werewolf. He didn’t know if the werewolf could even understand speech, but he tried anyway. “Hey! Follow me! Follow the sound of my voice!” The werewolf perked up and nodded. Damon then turned and ran as fast as he could down the hill, occasionally saying “This way! This way!” so the werewolf wouldn’t get lost. Damon did not slow down until the fireplug he had seen before reappeared inside the darkspace.
          He came to a stop at the edge of the curb, but, once again, he did not know what to do. If he sent the darkspace away, would the werewolf turn on him? Damon was trying to remember the movie he had seen so long ago. In it, the werewolf was just like an animal; it couldn’t control itself or think like a person. Yet this werewolf had tried to help him.
          But as Damon turned to tell the creature it could stop running, he noticed it no longer looked like a werewolf. It looked like a kid, about his age—a very hairy kid, to be sure, with mounds of hair shedding on the sidewalk behind him. The snout had shrunk into a normal-sized nose, and the fangs had become smaller, less menacing. “Please,” the boy said in a voice which was half growl, half human, “whatever you’re doing, make it go away so I can see again.” He sounded almost afraid.
          Damon inhaled, and the darkspace vanished.
          The boy blinked several times as his eyes grew accustomed to the bright light under the street lamp. Damon watched, amazed, as the boy continued to transform. The dark fur was replaced by blonde hair, cut neatly in bangs. His yellow and black eyes were now green. Most importantly, the boy stood before him almost naked, expect for some cut-off shorts.
          Not knowing what else to say, Damon asked, “Aren’t you cold?”
          The boy shrugged. “Not yet. I still have some of the wolf blood in me. I’ll transform back in a few minutes, as soon as you’re safely across the street.  But that’s a neat trick you did back there. Did you make the Pickett brothers blind, too?
          “Pickett brothers?”
          “Those three guys. First they were zombies and then they were jack-o-lanterns. They love to terrorize the neighborhood on Halloween. That’s why no one goes out trick-or-treating.”
          Damon smiled, realizing he was right after all: Those kids weren’t monsters. They were just powered kids, like him. Damon explained what his darkspace could do, and then asked the boy if he was a shape-shifter, too.
          “Sort of,” the boy said, sounding dejected. “But I can only turn into something like a werewolf. It’s good for Halloween, I suppose. I may not be able to go trick-or-treating, but I can still get out. I was leaping across some rooftops when I heard you scream.”
          Leaping across rooftops. The idea thrilled Damon. He recalled how Kyle could teleport and Vee could run at super-speed. “I wish I could leap across rooftops,” he said, absently.
          “I wish I could do what you can do,” the boy replied. “Then  I could live in the regular part of the district instead of here, in the Forbidden Neighborhood.”
          Damon wished he still had his bag of candy so he could offer the boy some candy for helping him. Instead, he said, “Why don’t you come across the boulevard with me? We’ll pick up some more Halloween bags at my house and go trick-or-treating together?”
          The boy shook his head. “I can’t,” he said, pointing to his leg. Damon hadn’t noticed the boy was wearing a metal ankle bracelet with a single, glowing red light in the center. “All the powered kids in the Forbidden Neighborhood have to wear them,” he said. “It’s how the district keeps us on this side.”
          Damon suddenly felt angry. All the rules he had to live by—like not being allowed to use his power in public—were nothing compared to what this poor kid had to live with. Damon could at least go where he pleased and could go out trick-or-treating with his friends.
          Speaking of his friends, Damon thought they must have wondered what had happened to him by now. So Damon and the boy said their goodbyes. Before he ran back across the boulevard, however, Damon asked the boy, “What’s your name?”
          The boy’s face lit up, as if it had been a long time since anyone had asked him his name. “Eduardo," he answered. "Call me Eddie."
          Damon told the boy his name and wondered if they would ever meet again as he ran back to his side of the district. When he reached the curb, he found his brother waiting for him.
          “Damon! There you are!” Eldon shouted with a sigh of relief. “Where’ve you been? We saw your darkspace cross the boulevard and yelled that you were going the wrong way. Didn’t you hear us?”
          Damon admitted he had, but the thin darkspace had garbled their voices. “I thought you were cheering me on,” he said sheepishly.
          “Cheering you on!” Eldon seemed more annoyed than angry. “Don’t ever do that again! You almost gave me a heart attack.”
          Damon didn’t know if it was possible for a kid Eldon’s age to have a heart attack. He looked around. “Hey, where are the others?”
          “Oh, they got bored waiting for you,” was the answer. “They went to Kyle’s house to play video games.”
          “Why did you wait for me?”
          Eldon looked dumbfounded. “Damon, you’re my brother. If anything happened to you, I don’t know what I’d do.”
          Damon was genuinely touched, and he felt ashamed that he had earlier thought of “losing” Eldon while trick-or-treating by running ahead of him. Suddenly, going out dressed as a twin skeleton didn’t seem so bad, after all.
          “Come on,” Damon said, as he started up the street.
          “Where are we going?” asked Eldon.
          “Back home. I need to get another bag so we can keep trick or treating.”
          Eldon stared at him in disbelief. “Trick-or-treating? Just you and me?”
          “Sure,” Damon said. “I’ll race ya!” He took off, but he deliberately ran slowly so Eldon could catch up. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Damon and the Forbidden Neighborhood: A Power Club Halloween Story (Part 1 of 2)

A story I am working on for Halloween . . . 



Damon and the Forbidden Neighborhood
by
Greg Gildersleeve 

© 2015, Greg Gildersleeve. All rights reserved.


For Reagan.


Note: This story takes place after False Alarmbut before The Power Club™.


          Damon stared at his costume in the mirror. The costume was a simple black suit with the body of skeleton painted on it. He twirled the skull mask in his hand, its eyeholes making a good place to stick his finger and spin the plastic mask, which, when worn, would cover only his face, not his entire head, as he had wanted.
          “I don’t see why I have to wear this stupid costume,” he said. “I’m a super-hero.”
          Nearby, Damon’s mother tailored an identical skeleton costume for Eldon, his younger brother, who fidgeted while his mother adjusted the black suit to his shorter height. “You’re not a super-hero,” she corrected Damon. “And I told you, all the good costumes were picked over at the district costume shop. That’s what you get for waiting until the last minute to go shopping.”
          “Not a super-hero, huh?” he said, studying his mischievous grin in the mirror. “But I can do this.” He exhaled sharply. Within seconds, the entire upstairs bedroom he shared with Eldon had been plunged into darkness. Damon’s “night vision” immediately activated, and he marveled at how strange the twin beds, the dresser, and the posters of racing cars (his brother’s idea) on the wall looked in black and white.
          Damon’s mother and brother, who could not see in the darkness, stopped what they were doing and looked angrily in Damon’s general direction.
          “Mom! Make him stop!” Eldon wailed. "Make him turn off his darkspace!"
          Almost at the same time, Damon’s mother snapped, “Damon! I told you not to do that in the house.”
          Damon reluctantly inhaled, and the darkspace vanished as soon as it had appeared. “But I can’t do it in public, either,” he complained. “What’s the use of having a power if I can’t use it?”
          Damon already knew the answer. It was because of his power that he and his family had to live in the district. He had to go to the district school, where teachers taught him and other powered kids how to control their powers, whereas Eldon—who had no powers at all—was bussed to a regular school outside the district. Having a power could be fun, but Damon envied his brother’s freedom.
          “Never mind,” his mother said as she finished hemming the cuffs of Eldon’s costume. “That ought to do.” She leaned back on her heels and admired her handiwork. “Now you’re both ready to go trick-or-treating with your friends.”

***
          Damon ran across his back yard and the alley to reach the neighbors’ house. He ran as if he were being chased by a zombie, but, in truth, he just didn’t want to be seen by other kids who might be out trick-or-treating. He knew they would take one look at his and Eldon’s identical costumes and burst into laughter.
          Eldon ran behind Damon. “Hey! Don’t go so fast!” he shouted. His smaller legs had trouble keeping up.
          For a moment, Damon thought it wouldn’t be so bad if he “lost” Eldon while they were out trick or treating. Perhaps Damon could run ahead and visit different houses before Eldon could get there. But Eldon would just complain to Mom and Dad when they got back home. Besides, they had been given strict orders to stay with their group.
          Their group would include Vee Evans and his sister, Denise, who lived just across the alley. Damon and Eldon reached the porch and rapped on the door. When it opened, Vee stared at them in a spider costume. “What are supposed to be? Twin skeletons?” he jeered.
          Damon was glad to be wearing his facemask so his embarrassment wouldn’t show. He looked at Vee’s costume and said, “Why are you going as a spider? With your power, shouldn’t you go as a tornado or something?”
          “A tornado!” Vee shouted. “How would I go as a tornado? Besides, I’m a super-fast spider. Watch me weave my web around you.” Faster than Damon could see, Vee ran around the two boys, the wind generated from his speed chilling them in the October air.
          “Vee, stop that!” called his older sister, Denise, who appeared in the doorway. She was dressed like a space princess with a sequined costume and a mask that covered only her eyes. Instead of carrying a wand, as Damon might have expected, she sported a toy blaster gun.
          Vee stopped running. “Sorry,” he said.
          “You know we’re not supposed to use our powers in public,” Denise scolded him, and then looked embarrassed. “I mean you aren’t supposed to use your power in public.”
          Damon had caught her slip of the tongue. He knew Denise had started attending the district school, but this wasn’t unusual. Kids with powered brothers and sisters sometimes attended the district school so the teachers could watch them and see if they exhibited any signs of developing a power, too. But, so far as Damon knew, Denise was an ord, just like Eldon.
          “Hey, Denise,” Damon ventured, “do you have a power, too?” Damon secretly had a crush on Denise, so he liked the idea of her having a special power, just like he did.
          But she looked at him sharply. “Damon, that’s not a polite question.” Before Damon could apologize, she turned back to Vee. “Mom and Dad said we could go trick or treating without supervision only if we agreed to obey the rules, so that means you and Damon can’t use your powers.”
          Damon felt crestfallen, but he didn’t know what bothered him more, the notion that he couldn’t use his darkspace on this night—Halloween, of all nights—or that Denise had appointed herself the one in charge. Perhaps that just came with being a space princess.
          “Now, let’s go pick up Kyle,” she said, but as they started to leave the porch, the air in front of them shimmered. Then with a pfft! Kyle Powell stood before them.
          “Not you, too!” Denise scolded him. “No powers!”
          Kyle, whose mother had painted his face so he looked like a wolf, and who sported plastic claws taped to the backs of his hands, looked taken aback. “Oh, come on,” he said in the casual tone of someone who, as the oldest, didn’t feel like he really had to follow directions. “It’s Halloween, the one night we can get away with doing things. Now, are we ready to go trick or treating or not?”     
         
***
          They went down the street, hitting every house with porch lights on. This was a signal everyone knew that indicated which houses were open for trick or treating. They skipped the houses with no lights on.
          Vee ran ahead—as usual—and banged on each door. The others would catch up with him just as the door opened, and then Damon and the rest would yell “Trick or treat!” The person who opened the door always pretended to be scared of their costumes and dump a few pieces of candy into their Halloween bags. Damon and the rest would yell “Thank you!” and then go on to the next house.
             At the end of the block, they paused to decide which street to go up next. Several other trick-or-treaters were out, and Vee complained that all of the best candy would be gone, no matter where they went. Kyle suggested they go back to his house and play video games.
          Damon glanced across the wide boulevard which separated his neighborhood from another. In all the time he had lived in the district, Damon had never crossed the boulevard to visit that side of the district. He noticed that none of the houses had their porch lights on, which he thought was odd because he knew kids lived in that neighborhood. Why, he wondered, weren’t they out trick-or-treating?
          “Hey,” he suggested, “why don’t we go over there?”
          Kyle, Denise, and Vee looked as if Damon had asked something stupid.
          “That’s the Forbidden Neighborhood” Vee explained.
          “Why is it forbidden?” Damon asked.
          “Zombies and werewolves live there,” Kyle explained.
          Damon rolled his eyes. “Those things don’t exist!”
          “Oh yeah?” Vee challenged him. “Then you go over there.”
          Damon had been dared before. He knew better than to fall for it. “After you,” he said.
          Vee looked as if might consider it, but then demurred. “Nah, I want to stay on this side.”    
          But now Damon was curious to see what was on the other side of the boulevard and why no kids appeared to be over there trick or treating.
          “I’m bored!” Kyle said suddenly. “I’m going to keep trick-or-treating for awhile, but I’m going to make it interesting.”  He raised his plastic claws in a animal-like stance and then—with a pfft!—he vanished.  He reappeared across the street, and taunted the others to catch up with him.
          “If he can use his powers, so can I!” said Vee. He stuck his tongue out at his sister and then ran at super-speed across the street.
          Almost at the same time, Denise and Eldon took off running, too. Damon was alone.
          “Hey! Wait for me!” he called. Then he thought if Kyle and Vee were going to use their powers, there was no reason he couldn’t. The trouble was, his darkspace didn’t help him travel. It was just a cloud of darkness that covered him and his immediate surroundings. Still, it was a power, and he didn’t want to be left out, so he exhaled and the darkspace came.

          From where he stood, the world turned into a darkness in which only he could see. Objects around him—a bush, the base of a streetlight, the sidewalk—all appeared in black and white—a beautiful and strange site. Damon knew it would be hard for him to walk inside the darkspace, without being able to see more than a few feet in any direction, so he started walking slowly. He was sure the others would wait for him. 

Stay Tuned  . . .

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes Fanfic: "Myriad," Chapters 8 and 9 of 9

Chapter Eight

One of the Myriads had done the unthinkable.  She had slipped past Superboy and Mon-El.  While her replicates kept the two Legion titans busy, she alone accessed the corridor to the main lab.  It had been easier than she thought.  Blame it on male egos – they probably never thought a mere Carggite girl would outsmart them.

But there was no time to be overconfident.  The sheer number of replicates had taken a serious toll.  Myriad found it difficult to focus on her mission or to even remember why she was there in the first place.  But in a few minutes, her mission would all be over and no one would ever stop her again.

She found the door to the main lab strangely unguarded.  Surely the Legionnaires knew where she was heading by now.  Why hadn’t they posted more Legionnaires outside, or even automated sentries?  Perhaps she had already encountered all of the available Legionnaires.  

No matter.  She placed Invisible Kid's flight ring in front of the scanner.  The door whisked open.

The main lab sprawled out before her like a mini-citadel of its own, with rows and rows of objects she couldn’t begin to recognize.  She could get lost for days trying to find what she wanted.

But there it was, right in front of her. The upright diagnostic bed was unmistakable, as were the cylindrical apertures extending from its side.

Starfinger’s psonic analyzer.

She went cold.  Repressed memories came flooding back.  Why in the galaxy did she want to expose herself to such agony again?

“My deductions were correct,” came a voice from behind her.  Myriad spun around and came face to face with Brainiac 5, the Legion’s super-genius.  He stood with his arms folded, looking not the least surprised.  “It is the Hanscom cellular duplicating ray you are after.”

“H-Hanscom?”  Myriad said, the name dimly familiar.

“Dr. Lars Hanscom. Better known as Starfinger.  You know Starfinger very well, don’t you, Thleka Caredi?”

“Y-You know my name?”

“Once I deduced that our intruder was Carggite, it was simply a matter of scanning the holo-news from your world.” Brainiac 5 stepped forward slightly. "One report, several months old, told of a young woman being abducted in broad daylight by a winged creature which teleported out of nowhere.  It had to be Warxxi, Starfinger’s winged servant.”

Myriad blinked as the memory resurfaced. She had been on her way to the Temple of the Three Suns when the creature appeared out of nowhere. Its scaly wings blotted out the sky. People around her ran, but she couldn't move. It's raw power, it's sheer grace and beauty transfixed her. She didn't realize it was coming for her until it was too late.

"Starfinger wanted to know the secret of Carggite replication," Brainiac 5 continued, "so he could create more replicates of himself. "He must have experimented on you, a random citizen of Cargg, before he perfected the process and tried again by recently kidnapping Duo Damsel."

"He tortured me with that device!" Myriad pointed to the psonic analyzer. "It felt like he was splitting me apart atom by atom, and then he just returned me to Cargg, as if nothing ever happened."

"But something did happen afterwards, didn't it?" Brainiac 5's tone was sympathetic, even compassionate. "You split into four, and then five, and then six bodies. Replicating more than twice is not unknown on Cargg, but it is rare. You were regarded as a freak, an abomination . . ."

"They shunned me!  I didn't ask for any of this, but it didn't matter."

"And yet you want to expose yourself to the psonic analyzer again."

 Myriad realized the Coluan probably already knew of the toll creating so many replicates was taking on her. "If I can correct the imbalance, I can create even more replicates of myself without straining," she admitted.

"And then what will you do?"

 “I’ll create an army and return to Cargg! I'll make them pay for shunning me."

“So, that’s what you want, simple revenge?”  Brainiac 5 asked, rhetorically.  “You are a sick woman, Thleka.  The sheer number of replicates is taking its toll on you.  Surrender and we can help--”

Before the Coluan could finish, Myriad replicated two more of herself and jumped him.  But all three were immediately repelled.  As they picked themselves off the floor, Brainiac 5 glowered at them.  “Did you truly think that I would confront you without activating my force field belt first?”

“It doesn’t matter!” one of the Myriads shouted.  “This is what we want!”  All three flew toward the psonic analyzer, and then watched in horror as it changed.  The analyzer morphed into Chameleon Boy, the Durlan Legionnaire who could imitate the appearance of anything.  Myriad had been tricked.

Chameleon Boy next turned into a Dakledian spider and ensnared one of the Myriads in his 14 arms.  The other two Myriads also found themselves busy.  Shrinking Violet, who had been hiding in tiny size, resumed her full height and slugged one Myriad, while Phantom Girl phased out from a wall of consoles and, turning solid, grabbed the third Myriad, judo-flipping her (a move Karate Kid had taught her).

“You fools!” the Myriad who was ensnared by Chameleon Boy blurted.  “I can replicate more ... as many as it takes ... to defeat you!”

“I doubt it,” Brainiac 5 said, as he activated a nearby console.  Giant video screens appeared around them, showing Legionnaires fighting Myriads replicates throughout the headquarters.  Myriad watched in horror as her sea of selves started to thin out, then vanish altogether, leaving only perplexed Legionnaires.  “The actual psonic analyzer,” Brainiac 5 explained, “is hidden elsewhere in this room. As well as being able to replicate cells, it can also subtract them.  You have been exposed to its invisible rays from the moment you entered the lab.”

“What Brainy’s trying to tell you,” Chameleon Boy said, “is that what Starfinger gave you, the Legion has taken away.”

“That’s right,” Phantom Girl added.  “There are only three of you left.”

“You’re just a normal Carggite, now,” said Shrinking Violet.

Myriad’s scream echoed throughout the lab, reverberating off the walls before she wore herself out.


Chapter Nine

Invisible Kid’s shift at monitor duty was just beginning.  Perhaps this is all he’s good for anymore, he thought.  By the time he had woken up in the alley behind the Crev Café and flagged down a Science Police cruiser, the action was all over.  He had missed the whole thing.  Fortunately, no real damage was done, and Myriad had been apprehended and turned over to UP authorities.  Even Invisible Kid’s injuries were slight, though enough to delay his mission to Pasnic. 

But the damage to his pride had been severe. A deranged woman had invaded Legion HQ using his flight ring.  His flight ring.  Perhaps his days as a Legionnaire were truly over.

 “Hey, Lyle,” Matter-Eater Lad said, bounding into the monitor room. “Here’s the report on the applicants who are trying out next week.  Looks like a bunch of losers, if you ask me. One of them looks kind of interesting though, if you’re into mucus.”

Lyle took the report and glumly tossed it over on a console.

“Hey, cheer up,” Matter-Eater Lad said.  “It could happen to anybody.  We’re Legionnaires, not gods.”

“How would you know?”  Lyle said.  “It would probably never happen to you.”

“What?  Getting clobbered by a girl?”  Tenz replied, wistfully.  “Probably not.” 

Invisible Kid rolled his eyes.

“What I don’t get is,” Tenz added, “what were you doing in that nightclub by yourself?  Don’t you know the Crev is in a rough neighborhood?”

“No,” Lyle admitted, “I didn’t.”

“Well, why don’t you come along with Val and me when you get off duty?  We’ll show you where the classy spots are.  Then you can pick up some real girls who won’t turn out to be super-villains.”

“Thanks, but I have a paper to finish.”                

“Suit yourself,” Tenz replied, shrugging, and started to walk out.  “But you spend way too much time writing research holos, if you ask me.  You’re not Brainy, you know.”

Lyle bristled.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Coluans have wet dreams about test tubes, but the rest of us are human.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m officially off-duty, so I’m going to go be human for a while.”

Lyle pondered this.  His career as a Legionnaire had been rewarding and eventful.  But there was more to life than saving the universe from the Fatal Five and writing research papers.  As a Legionnaire, Invisible Kid was expected to be well organized and precise.  But without Lyle Norg, the spontaneous brat who created an invisibility serum because he wanted to skip school, there would be no Invisible Kid.  And, just like that, Lyle made another spontaneous decision.

“Hey, Tenz,” he shouted as his teammate was almost out the door.  “Can you wait for a moment?”

“Sure,” Matter-Eater Lad replied.

Lyle hit the intercom, ringing the dorm room of his friend, Chemical King.

“Whassup?”  a sleepy Condo Arlik answered.

“Chem,” Lyle began, “something's come up.  Can you fill in for me on monitor duty tonight?”

Chemical King perked up.  “Sure.  For you, Lyle, anything.”

“Thanks,” Lyle replied.  “I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”  He then toggled off the intercom, and turned back to an amazed Matter-Eater Lad.  “So, while we’re waiting for Chem to get here, tell me more about these classy night spots.”


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes Fanfic: "Myriad," Chapters 6 and 7 of 9

Chapter Six

An instant later, Superboy appeared above Legion Headquarters, emerging through the time barrier from the 20th century.  The “teen of steel” – one day destined to become the greatest hero earth would ever know – found he wasn’t alone.  Mon-El and Ultra Boy were also flying toward the citadel.

“What’s going on?”  Superboy asked. “It must be a major threat for the three of us to be summoned together.”

Mon-El nodded grimly. They were the three most powerful Legionnaires. He turned to Ultra Boy.  “We need to know what we're getting into. Jo?"

Ultra Boy, who had the same powers as the other two but could use only one at a time, switched from flight to penetra-vision.  His flight ring would keep him aloft while he scanned inside the inertron walls of the HQ -- an ability not shared by Superboy or Mon’s x-ray vision.  After a moment, Ultra Boy exclaimed, “You won’t believe this.  We’ve been invaded by an army of girls!”

“Girls?”  Superboy said.

“Yes, and ... wait!  There’s more of them than there were a second ago.  They seem to be replicating at will.”

“Carggites?”  Superboy said.

“Sounds like it,” Mon-El replied.  “What are they doing?”

Ultra Boy scanned deeper.  “They’ve overrun much of the HQ, but they seem to be heading in the same general direction,” he said.  Ultra Boy turned off his penetra-vision and faced the other two, his face pale.  “Brainy’s lab!”

“What do you suppose they want?” Superboy said.

“Who knows?” Mon said.  “Brainy was studying the Miracle Machine and Tharok’s robot brain, among other things.  Whatever they’re after,  they've got to be stopped.”

"Let's go in from different angles," Superboy offered, "and round them up."

Mon-El considered this. As Legion leader, it was his call. "No," he decided. "We know where they're headed. What do they say back in the 20th century? 'Let's cut them off at the pass.'"

Flying at super-speed, the three entered Legion HQ, blocking the main path to the laboratory.

But even they were not enough.  Within seconds, they were overrun by Myriads, who managed to defy even their super-strength and invulnerability.

Superboy breathed deep and exhaled, blowing dozens of Myriads down the hallway.  Three dozen more appeared in their place.

Mon-El flew circles around several Myriads, cutting off their oxygen and forcing them to pass out.  But more jumped him and held on as he zig-zagged through the winding corridors.

Ultra Boy switched from super-speed to flash vision to invulnerability as fast as he could.  But he was swamped by legions of young women.  Any other time, he might have enjoyed this (though he would never admit it to Phantom Girl), but this was taxing even his powers.

“They seem to be getting stronger the more they multiply,” he shouted.

“Yes, and the more they replicate, the less rational they seem,” Superboy replied, as he encircled several Myriads in his super-stretchable cape.  “Look at their eyes!”

But Jo didn’t have time to look in their eyes.  It was all he could do to keep pace with the army of young women.  Switching powers back and forth exhausted him.  If he kept this up, he would make a mistake – switch to super-strength when he needed super-speed, perhaps -- and they would have him.  Finally, he decided on a plan: He would switch to invulnerability and let the young women wear themselves out trying to subdue him.  When they were exhausted, he would be refreshed and continue the fight.  

Instead, it turned out to be fateful mistake.  Jo found himself pushed down into a ball-shaped position, as the Myriads huddled over him like players in a moopsball tournament.  There must have been hundreds on top of him, he thought.  He couldn’t move without switching back to super-strength.  But if he did, they would crush him in an instant.  Like it or not, Ultra Boy was out of this fight.

Mon-El held his own, but he was not succeeding at pushing the invaders back.  “Who are you?”  he demanded of one of the invaders.  “What do you want?”

The woman’s lips turned up in a crooked smile.  Her eyes widened into dark pools.  “I want to be more.”

Chapter Seven

“I want to be more,” Brainiac 5 repeated, as he watched the video screen. 

“What does that mean?”  Phantom Girl asked.  She had been summoned to Brainy’s lab to serve as a last line of defense, as had Shrinking Violet and Chameleon Boy.  All three had powers which would enable them to hide quickly and take an attacker by surprise, if need be.  Not that Phantom Girl believed they would do much good against a mass of enemies who could keep Superboy and Mon-El in check.  But if that was Brainy’s plan, she was not about to argue.

“Why would she want to be more?”  Chameleon Boy echoed.  “She can already replicate as many times as she wants.”

“Perhaps,” Brainy said, stroking his chin, “but not without cost.  Observe.”

He pointed to another video screen.  Karate Kid was now in the sub-basement, far removed from Superboy and Mon-El’s fight.  The master of martial arts judo-flipped one Myriad into several others.  They fell and did not replicate further.  “She’s growing tired,” Brainy continued.  “Replicating countless times takes a toll on her.”

“Then what do we do?”  Violet asked.

“We keep it up,” Brainy replied, toggling another signal device.  “We overrun her with our own Legions.”

Within minutes, the call was answered by Legion’s reserve branch, the Legion of Substitute-Heroes: Polar Boy, Night Girl, Color Kid, Chlorophyll Kid, Stone Boy and Fire Lad.  Their powers were not strong enough for the regular Legion, but their valor was unquestioned.  They had overcome their own limitations and assisted the Legion on many occasions.

“Are you nuts, Brainy?”  Chameleon Boy protested, as he watched the Subs wade into the sea of Myriads.  “If our buddies can’t overcome her, what makes you think they can?”

“They don’t have to,” Brainy snapped.  It always bothered him when the other Legionnaires questioned his sanity, as if having a super-intellect went hand in hand with mental defects.  It wasn’t Brainy’s fault if they neither knew nor understood his strategies. 

“I think I see,” Phantom Girl said, as she stepped forward to study the viewscreen.  On it, Chlorophyll Kid had turned the houseplants in the Green Room into an oversized, thorny maze.  The Myriads attacked it with wild abandon, cutting themselves, yet not seeming to care.  It would be only a matter of time before the bloodied replicates reached the startled Sub.  “She’s becoming careless,” Phantom Girl continued.


Brainy nodded.  “Take your places,” he said.  “She will be here in seconds.”

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes Fanfic: "Myriad," Chapters 4 and 5 of 9


Chapter Four

Myriad looked at the bloody and beaten Legionnaire before her.  In his unconsciousness, Invisible Kid had slowly turned visible.  He was helpless, just as she had been.  But no more.  She would never be a victim again, and anyone who stood in her way would suffer the same fate as the man before her.  She concentrated, and each of her replicates merged back into her.  The remaining girl bent down to claim her prize: the Legion flight ring.

Legion Headquarters was exceptionally well guarded.  That was common knowledge.  But Myriad’s underworld contacts had given her some clues of what to expect.  Only someone wearing a flight ring could enter the complex, they had said.  

As she approached the main entrance and waved the ring in front of the identi-scan, it registered Invisible Kid.  The doors slid opened.

Inside, Myriad split into two bodies.  One waited at the entrance while the other walked across the tiled floor toward the inner doorway.  The second Myriad made it only three feet when she was overcome by gas that spewed from the tiles.  The first Myriad covered her nose and mouth and replicated again.  This time, using her replicated flight ring, the third Myriad flew over the tiles – only to be caught in a metal clamp that emerged from a hidden location in the ceiling.

By now, silent alarms had no doubt alerted the Legionnaires to her presence.  She replicated into thirty Myriads; surely, one of them would reach the inner entrance.  Twenty of them immediately were caught by the knockout gas, metal clamps, and plasti-nets.  The first to reach the door on the other side received an electric shock as she touched it.  This was going to be harder than Myriad thought.

Next to the inner door, one of the Myriads noticed a display with various symbols, some Interlac, some other languages – a combination keypad, she realized.  She replicated several more times, and each of  her replicates in turn began punching random symbols.  Most were knocked out by electric shocks.  But, finally, one succeeded.

The inner door opened.  Myriad was inside Legion Headquarters.

Chapter Five

Shadow Lass had been expecting a quiet evening on monitor duty when the alarm sounded. She told herself she should have known there was no such thing as a quiet evening at Legion HQ, but her knowing smile rapidly faded once she saw the nature of the emergency. The unthinkable had happened – Legion headquarters was being invaded.  She adjusted the monitors to see who would be so audacious. But the hidden monitors in the foyer revealed only that a shadowy figure had just walked through the front door.  Then another figure appeared out of nowhere.  When the second figure was overcome by knockout gas, more figures appeared – until the foyer was so full of gas, she couldn't tell what was happening.  Legion’s security devices weren’t supposed to work this way.  Most intruders would be nailed instantly.

She alerted all available Legionnaires, but it frustrated her that she couldn’t tell them what to expect.  The irony that Shadow Lass, mistress of shadows, could not penetrate the shadowy gas in the foyer was not lost on her.

***

Colossal Boy reached the foyer just as the inner door opened.  He prepared to expect the worst – the Fatal Five?  the LSV?  Universo?  Would any of them be dumb enough to just waltz through the front door?  Instead, he found himself face to face with – a girl.

“Hey you!” he shouted.  “You shouldn’t be here” – and immediately chided himself for his assumption that she had just wandered in like a lost tourist.  This young woman, whoever she was, had breached Legion security.  There had to be more to her than met the eye.

Much more, Colossal Boy learned instantly, when the girl replicated into several selves.  He grew to a height of 18 feet, the largest he could manage within the confines of the hallway – but more than enough to deal with most menaces.  

But it wasn’t enough this time.  

The young women seemed to grow stronger each time they replicated, dragging him down and piling on top of him.  His last thought was that he hoped no one would tell Timber Wolf that he got beaten by a girl.

***

From his laboratory deep within the complex, Brainiac 5 watched with incredulity.  On one monitor, Colossal Boy had already fallen. On another, Chemical King and Princess Projectra were being overrun.  In the main meeting hall, Element Lad caused several of the invaders to fall through the floor, which he had turned into nitrogen, but more appeared out of nowhere.  Karate Kid stood his ground in the armory, but for how long?  Nearby, Cosmic Boy’s magnetism had proven futile against a sea of opponents with no obvious metal trappings.

Brainiac 5's comrades were being taken unawares, divided and conquered in their own headquarters. He wanted to respond to the alarm and help them. As deputy leader, he could coordinate their efforts. But he knew he needed to remain behind and analyze the situation before deducing the appropriate course of action. The only concrete information he had learned so far had startled even him.

All of this chaos was created by one girl.

The DNA analyzers in the security database revealed that the invader was Carggite.  More, she was replicating herself to an unimaginable degree. How was this possible? He had to figure out who she was and what she wanted.

"Computer," he called out, activating the voice-recognition command, "search recent news files from the planet Cargg. Focus on crimes with an emphasis on disappearances."  Call it a hunch, he thought . . .

A series of images flashed before his eyes. "Stop!" he called when one captured his attention. He scanned the news item and then permitted himself a brief smile. It was gratifying to have a hunch confirmed.

He now knew who the intruder was and what she wanted. He also knew she had to be stopped at all costs.  He reached over to a console and pressed the trans-time signal device.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes Fanfic: "Myriad," Chapters 2 and 3 of 9



Chapter Two

The Crev Café was already crowded when Lyle arrived, even though it was early evening.  The presence of so many people disconcerted him.  It wasn’t that he didn’t like being around people –unlike Brainy, he constantly reminded his fellow Legionnaires, Lyle didn’t mind being in a crowd.  He didn’t always interact with others, but he liked to observe.  It occurred to him that even when he wasn’t literally invisible, he liked the pretend he was: just observing, not participating.  

Tonight that was going to change.

Yet once inside the sprawling, glittering dance club, he reverted to form.  He wandered around a bit and then, feeling awkward, sat at the bar.

“What’ll it be?” a two-headed bartender asked.

Lyle looked around for a menu.  He had no idea what to order.

“Try a Venusian latte,” one of the heads said.  “It boils your insides!”

The prospect didn’t sound appealing, so Lyle ordered a Daxamite Mocha, a beverage he’d heard Mon-El talking about.

“Leaded or unleaded?” the other head asked.

Lyle glared.  Lead jokes were not funny to Legionnaires.

***

Lyle sipped his unleaded (alcohol-free) Daxamite Mocha and went about observing people.  Then, amid the gyrating bodies on the dance floor, he noticed someone staring at him: a girl with long, brown hair and dark eyes.  At first, he thought she was Duo Damsel, the Legionnaire who had recently married and retired.  But this girl was younger and stunning.

Confidently, she walked up to him.

“Want to dance?”

She didn’t waste time.  Lyle liked that.

“I don’t know how,” he said.

“Never learned?”

“I’ve been busy,” he replied.  Sure, he thought, if battling the Fatal Five and Dr. Regulus isn’t “busy,” what is?

She smiled widely, baring perfectly formed and pristine white teeth.  For a moment, Lyle thought she might be Venusian carnivore, sizing up her prey before eating him.  He dismissed that thought quickly.

“Don’t worry,” she said.  “I’ll teach you.  Unless you’re afraid to try.”

Lyle smiled to himself.  Yep, she didn’t waste time.  

“What’s your name?”  he finally said.

The girl looked away, mysteriously.  “Call me ... Myriad.”

“Myriad?”  Lyle repeated.  “As in multitudes?  Tens of thousands?”

“If need be,” she replied, her smile mysterious and inviting.

Lyle found himself grinning and wondered if he looked as silly as Matter-Eater Lad did when he was about to partake of something only he could eat.  Still, flirting seemed to agree with him.  “Well, Tens of Thousands,” he said, as he climbed off the barstool, “show me one of your dances.”


Chapter Three

An hour later, Lyle thanked her for the dance and left.  Any hopes that something more would happen didn’t materialize.  Lyle believed his habit of observing people was the culprit.  Something about Myriad didn’t add up.  After the dance, they sat down at a table, and Lyle ordered drinks – Tequila Sunbursts, this time, something more daring than Daxamite Mochas.  

She asked him questions about what he did for a living.  He was a scientist, he said, not wanting to draw attention to being a Legionnaire.  She wanted to know where he worked and how far from here it was.  He answered as best he could without giving away specifics.  But she was cagey when he asked her about herself.  

This was odd, he thought, considering how much else she wanted to know about him.  Lyle tried to dismiss his suspicions – being a Legionnaire had taught him to be wary of those who asked too many questions.  But the warning signs were too powerful to ignore.  

Under the light above the table, he looked into her eyes.  She had the blackest eyes he had ever seen.  Psychiatry was not one of his specialties, but he had done some reading on the subject; such eyes, certain theorists believed, were the mark of insanity.

Nothing else about her demeanor suggested something was wrong, but it proved enough for him to lose interest.  He made a lame excuse about having to go out of town in the morning (which was true – he was due to leave for a Legion diplomatic mission to the planet Pasnic), and left.

As he passed the alley next to the Crev, something caught his eye.  It was Myriad.

“How did you – ?” he asked.  He had left her inside the club less than a minute ago.

“I know who you are,” she said, forcefully.  “You’re Invisible Kid of the Legion.” Lyle wasn’t really surprised that she recognized him – it’s not like Legionnaires wore masks. “The Legion has something I want, and you’re going to help me get it.”

Before Lyle could respond, someone shoved him from behind.  He stumbled into the alley and turned to face another Myriad, accompanied by yet a third.

“A Carggite!”  he exclaimed.  That’s why she at first reminded him of Duo Damsel.  She was from the same world, Cargg, where all natives could replicate two identical bodies at will.  Duo Damsel, in fact, had first joined the Legion as Triplicate Girl.  Later, one of her three bodies was killed by a Legion enemy; nevertheless, she had been a credit to both the Legion and to her world.  Myriad, obviously, had no intention of being a credit to anything.  “If you expect me to help you, you’re wrong,” he said.  He sized up all three Myriads – none had weapons that he could see.

“Oh, you will help us,” one of the Myriads replied.  Then all three added, “whether you like it or not,” in a stereo voice that sent chills down his spine.

As the three closed in on him, Lyle turned invisible.  While they looked around for some sign of where he was, he could easily walk past them and notify the nearest sci cop that some Carggite nut was on the loose. 

But he never got the chance.  Lyle watched in amazement as the three Myriads stretched out their arms, and a fourth Myriad appeared, then a fifth, then a sixth.  Even though Carggites could only split into three bodies, Lyle found himself surrounded by ten identical young women.

He had one recourse left – the open sky.  He would simply activate his Legion flight ring and take off before the Myriads knew what had happened.  But she had anticipated that, too.  From a nearby fire escape, an eleventh Myriad leaped into the center of the ring, landing on Lyle’s shoulder.

He hit the ground with enough noise to alert a Saturnian thought-beast. 

Instantly, the Myriads were on top of him.  The last thing he remembered was the sensation that the Myriads kept multiplying with delight as they pounded and kicked him.

Next Chapter