(Presented here below, a Side Story from the archives. The narrator is NOT Psycho Gecko on this one.)
I don’t usually indulge in such megalomaniacal displays, but it’s perfect timing and my plan is brilliant. Brilliant, I tell you!
I, Rex, have just finished transmitting my challenge to the city. Its preeminent superhero, my archnemesis, is sure to have heard it. My message wasn’t really for Degonville’s number one hero, however. His teammates were the true targets.
I challenged my enemy, The Auxiliary, to prove who is the better man at the Mall at the Fall and claimed to have finally devised a way to negate Auxiliary’s powers with my own masterful genius. Not that he has any real weakness, like lead or radiation, but most don’t know that. I threw in some sufficiently sci fi-style lingo to make things believable to the whole lot of them. Auxiliary and his superhero friends are only in high school, after all, and they spend a lot of their time playing hero or hanging out or partying. Whatever mere reactionary forces to a genius such as mine do in their spare time. The Auxiliary even has a girlfriend that he DOESN’T DESERVE!
The jerk doesn’t even hide his face or his identity with a mask. The cops know exactly who he is and cooperate with him, of all things. This is not the way things are meant to be.
I power down the machine I used to make my announcement and arm a mine under the keyboard. I need a decoy more now than I need a lure. I can always build another transmission resolver.
In the minutes after my broadcast, I check my power armor and equipment again. My armor isn’t bulky, but it’s hardly smooth or skintight. The material is meant to react instantly to a certain range of hostile behaviors and alter itself a little to provide added protection, usually adding physical resistance, conducting electricity safely away, or by insulating me from excessive heat. I must confess to some conceit in my suit’s decoration. The armor’s network of grooves is colored a rich Tyrian purple, as are the pointed shoulder pads and the accents of my helmet. It contrasts well with the grey. There is a short purple cape as well, but I have a way of disconnecting it should it be grabbed or caught on anything.
I have only a single weapon system on the power armor, my left forearm laser. However, I make sure to carry a pistol and several grenades based on my advanced energy research. I have also set down a few innocent-looking crates that convert into automated gun turrets when I give them the signal, but I don’t expect much out of them. They’re slow and clunky, and who ever heard of a mere bullet stopping a superhero?
Aside from that, my powers consist of low-level enhanced durability, strength, and the ability to fly. To my knowledge the heroes and police consider those to be a product of my armor, and my knowledge is considerable. I had to build myself up as a threat using my intellect, unlike the drooling power dependent teen gossipmongers who will show up any minute now to dare pit themselves against my genius.
I hope they arrive soon. They wouldn’t realize that time is of the essence. After last week’s fiasco at the planetarium, those two city detectives have DNA and perhaps my face on camera if they do the due diligence. I want my scheme completed before the revelation of my identity complicates matters. I may not know when that will be but I do know that I’m planning to finally defeat the superheroes tonight.
Yep, as soon as they decide to show.
Any minute now.
After a half hour of waiting, I begin to suspect that my future victims are putting actual thought into how to approach this situation. Then a wall bursts inward and proves otherwise. There they are, the light of the moon and streetlamps framing them. The girl with the horned helmet, the one whose name I never remember, says something along the lines of “Blah, blah, blah now your reign of terror is at an end, evildoer” before her head snaps back thanks to a blast of plasma to the face. Eat hot plasma, whatever your name is!
Since they’re all grouped up, I press a button on my gauntlet and activate the guns. Before I can watch the crossfire chew into the teen attention brigade, my face takes a sharp right turn, courtesy of Manicman the superspeedster. While he’s stopped to gloat and reverse position, I swing my left arm up and activate the laser. He rushes at and past me in a burst of speed. I have to fight against doubling over from the force of the blow to my stomach, but I hear a voice call out for him to disable the guns. He zips off to leave me for his more threatening friends.
The next few minutes are a furious interplay of melee and plasma bolts as I simultaneously fight off the team and divert Manicman’s attempts to get close enough to destroy my turrets with my laser. I admit I have a lot of fun in this base conflict, but my poor armor pays for it. When that horned girl closes with me while I’m too busy blowing off one of her friends’ arms, I chuckle at how easily I’m countering them. It DID hurt when she drove her knee into my face, but my visor prevented a broken nose. As I crash into a hanger of skinny jeans, I smile at the explosion of the grenade I dropped at her feet during the blow that knocked me to my current position. Of course, an anthropomorphized saber-tooth tiger then jumps me and shreds one arm of my armor, but I notice my transmission resolver nearby and tackle her against it. Cats hate fiery explosions at least as much as they hate water.
At this point, the fight is down to just four on one, with Manicman still on the board. My guns are down, but so are most of my enemies. I’ve got maybe five shots left in my plasma pistol’s energy cell, one grenade, it’s dark, and my helmet has a cracked visor. I know just how to beat that superspeedster.
I aim first for the guy holding his arm across his stomach and squeeze the trigger. I recognize him. Mike Andre, 17, plays basketball, can focus sound with his mouth to use as a sonic weapon. Then I fire at the brunette next to him, Jessica Monday, a nice 15 year old pyrokinetic on the student council who hasn’t done anything mean to me that I know of. Last, I squeeze off a bolt at Tracy Padgett, whose red, white, and blue costume is a stark contrast to her goth civilian identity and the numerous piercings she normally wears. She has no powers.
At that range, all of them within 10 feet of me, they don’t stand much of a chance. Manicman comes to their rescue. Unable to push them out of the way without injuring them further, he darts in front of them and blocks the blasts. Hurt, he then crashes into a perfume display case, throwing up a horrible stink. Note to self: look into perfume-based weaponry.
Yeah, I used his own heroism against him.
The three heroes look to their fallen savior, then back to me. I too looked at their fallen savior, then back to them. Mike opened his mouth, only to have his powered shout cut off with one of pain as I burn a hole in his foot with my laser. I step toward him and cut the flow of coherent light to his extremity so I can increase the uppercut of coherent fist to his chin. Egads, even fighting them is making me sound moronic.
A blue and white arm comes down through my line of sight and wraps around my neck as a heavy weight settles on my back. I call out “Get off, fatty!” That’s right, I’m insulting her weight in the middle of a fight. What’s she going to do, choke me?
While she’s trying to choke me from behind, I spin, attempting to locate Jessica. There’s resistance as I attempt to do so the first couple of times, then I notice her on the ground with a bleeding nose and a bootprint on her face that probably matches that of Tracy.
I reach behind me to hold Tracy on and fly up, then flip and drop so that I come down on my back. Despite what any of the heroes would likely imagine took place, I don’t grab her ass at any point while I gain altitude, lose altitude, or just before I stand over her and the rest of her fallen team in victory. Slander and lies, I tell you!
I stand triumphant. They had played into my plan perfectly. Sure, I have a way to disable Auxiliary’s powers, but I want a fair fight between the two of us. So I made my announcement and counted on his teammates to come after me instead, since they expected me to be expecting him. I hurry to unpack my greatest invention from its case behind the customer service desk and ignore the inquisitive squawking of my absent archenemy from horned girl’s radio. The Metawave Manipulator’s time has come! Thanks to my knowledge of the shared origin of myself and the Auxiliary, and with the origins of these lesser super beings a result of the same burst of energy from that meteorite affecting the community, I created a device capable of shifting the loci of meta-empowered quantum strings. Tiny words for tiny people: I can steal superpowers.
Luckily, the tight mask under my normal helmet protects my identity as I swap the helm for my secret weapon.
Sonic blasts, super speed, super strength, pyrokinesis, electricity generation, forcefields, skin of stone, the ability to partially or wholly shift into a sabertooth tiger, and flashbang bursts are all mine now, as opposed to their owners. I also pull out the length of rope I brought to hold them in their powerless states. Yes, ropes. What, you expect me to invent a super rope when cheaper conventional rope will do just fine? Ha!
I hear the squawk of a radio coming from the horned girl once more, then the voice of my greatest enemy, “Everything looks quiet now. Is he down? Is his machine destroyed?”
Imagine his surprise when I answer instead, “Get in here, oh great hero. Let me show you how I beat up your friends.”
It takes him thirty seconds to crash in via a skylight and land in front of me.
“You’ve hurt my friends over this sick rivalry between us, Rex?” he growls.
I grin, shrug, then rush forward before he can react, trying to shove my fist through his chest as hard as my speed and strength will allow before returning to my original position. He’s knocked back and through a wall, tiles launching into the air as he skids along the floor.
I call out to him tauntingly, electricity arcing from my hands to crackle against him, “They started it you know, just like I knew would happen. I was banking on you being too much a coward and now the playing field is leveled as a result.”
He launches himself through the air at me, his fist seeking my jaw. I juke to the side and hook his arm with mine, diverting his trajectory into a spin that flings him against a different, as yet unbroken, wall. I speed forward and stop to ready a mighty haymaker, but he takes advantage of the time this takes. He yanks me around by my armor, tearing pieces off in the process, then pins me against the wall I threw him into and pushes me through. Pushes, not throws. It’s much more painful when done that slowly. “This is the last time you will ever hurt anyone for this insane rivalry!” he yells at me.
I have enough room to maneuver in the parking lot outside, however, and slam my fists into both his ears at the same time, setting off a burst of light and sound to stun him. Then I shove my shin up between his legs. I’ve wanted to do that for 16 years. Unfortunately, I doubt he hears me when I tell him, “The last time? Just like every other time? Face it, you can’t catch me, nor can you kill me!”
He smacks my arms away, crushing my laser in the process. Then he knocks my jaw all the way to the small rise of concrete at the top of the arch-shaped dam nearby that gives the Mall at the Fall its name. Being attached, my body feels obliged to follow. I gather my wits about me and realize my helmet felt no such obligation. At least I still have the mask. I may have figured out the identities of the various teen superheroes I go to school with based on body shape, voice, and as much of their face as the mask does show, but their mental abilities can’t be held up to my personal standards. Naturally.
The Auxiliary speaks as he approaches, “I’m a protector, not a killer.” So smug and confident. The favorite of everyone, from the girl who should know better to the school that rewards his physical exertions far more than it has ever rewarded my intellectual ones. That arrogant face that’s gotten the better of me my entire life. We exchange more blows at the dam and even knock a guard rail off into the reservoir below.
“You’ll be a failure when I’m through with you!” I call as I prepare to attack again.
It feels as something snaps away from me and I fall to my knees. The fight catches up to me quickly without the stolen powers to compensate for it. That’s when I notice Tracy and the horned helmet girl holding my ingenious device. I avert my gaze to the ground in frustration at the unfairness of such a sudden reversal of fortune. Am I destined to always lose to a higher quantity of designated heroes?
Fuzziness, achiness, and tiredness overwhelm me. I’m unable to focus on the taunts, until I hear “Did we get everything he stole?” I look up to find Tracy settling my helmet on her head. “Yeah,” she says, “but this thing says he still has some of his own. How about we take those too?”
“No. If you do that, you’re just as bad as he is,” answers Auxiliary, wind blowing through his cape.
Why does he have to defend me too? Why?!
I roll back off my knees and hover in the air over the side of the dam. “You feel like killing me in the process?”
Then, a voice cries out. Tracy jumps at the sound and I feel my superpowers wrenched away from me, even as the rest of the group turns to see those two long-awaited detectives. All I can make out before I drop out of hearing is “He’s your br-!”
Look at that. He’s flying down after me to catch me. Oh so ‘sorry’ but I don’t take losing well. You should know that after our whole lives, and especially after…her. I detach my cape as he closes in on me. It whips into his face and stays, forcing him to slow as he struggles with it. Even when he manages to pull it off his face, my last grenade detonates at point blank range. Not enough to kill him or really hurt him. Just enough to slow him down.
I look down at the rapidly approaching water, sure that he’ll be too slow to catch me, save me. He’ll just have to watch as I smack into the water and get swallowed up by it at the end of a fall caused by his friends. I smile one last time at the thought.