More heroes have been appearing. Yippy. The market is saturated. Master Academy, amnestied heroes, and now these newbies. Not all new ones seem to be these guys I’m looking into, which makes it tougher to separate them all. Plus, several of the former villains who continued on as heroes have issues with property damage. My point is that it’s not quite so clear cut who is who, but chances are good that the former villains aren’t working with them. Unless they cloned Hitler again, maybe.
I’m also making guesses based on the kinds of powers. Somebody flying around as a skeleton that wields a scythe made of fire is unlikely to be one of them. Someone with mechanical piston knuckles and a cybernetic spine that releases a blinding flash is more likely to be their type. I’m finding out more and more, and not just as I expand my own little private pieces of surveillance. I used to be able to listen into anything by forcing myself into pre-existing systems from afar. Now, I have to go in manually, being a backdoor man and otherwise doing dirty deeds dirt cheap.
I got a bit of an edge on that since the heroes still can’t completely compartmentalize things from me. School’s back, and that apparently means younger supers who intend to be older supers are going on journeyman patrols. I assume that they don’t make future cake decorators go out and fight people. Anyway, I hear things from teenagers. And possibly because I slipped a bug onto someone. But in this case, eavesdropping.
A couple of students were talking. “These unfair douches show up and start blasting the place. One guy had this helmet that shot lasers out of the eyes. Another one had an arm that was a flamethrower.”
“You mean he shot fire out of his hand?” asked the other.
“No. Bro’s arm is like a gun that shoots balls of fire.”
Hmm. I swung over between those stacks. “Now, when you say fire-”
“Ah!” They yelled in unison.
I held a finger up to my lips. “Shh. This is a library. Now, as I was asking, was the fire chemical in nature, like napalm? Or perhaps plasma? Or what?”
“What’s plasma look like?” Asked one of the many interchangeable body shields I freely invite into my current lair. Like, average build, dirty blond or light brown hair. Penis.
I shrugged. “It’s not exactly the same color as normal flame. They can be a variety of colors due to energy states and ions. Also, some plasma weapons go off prematurely as they get really excited.”
“They looked like fire,” said the one I didn’t answer. Dreadlocks. Hispanic. Also penis-equipped.
I nodded. “Good. So the first guy’s helmet, was that all mechanical and/or high tech? Or just a helmet for protection, like for biking or motorcycling or reclaiming the holy land from the Muslims?”
“It looked like something a scientist made. Sci fi, with glowy bits up here,” he answered, pointing to the sides of his head.
“Hmm. Thanks. Compiling information. Don’t mind me. Just go about your business.” I slowly swung back around the corner. “Don’t mind me at all. Talk all you like.”
“Hey,” called the dirty blond. “Which supervillain were you, anyway?”
“No supervillains here. Nope. I’m just a simple librarian.” I grabbed my helmet off a table as I pulled myself by and carried it over to the mannequin with the rest of my armor. I reached under a nearby table to press a sequence to disable the booby traps around the armor. Anyone expecting a single button will not be happy.
I heard loud muttering from behind me as they walked out. “Whatever. I bet he’s a bad guy who doesn’t want to be a good guy, but he won’t be able to stop himself and he’s going to help out the heroes. Because he cares for us deep down and has a core of humanity that can’t help but empathize with people. He’ll discover how good it feels and decide he wants to be a hero, probably falling in love with one of our heroines or maybe a really nice and shy civilian woman who makes him want to be a better person.”
“Twenty bucks says you’re wrong,” said the other.
Thanks for believing in me, random person whose name I don’t know. I’m gonna get you that twenty dollars, little buddy. You can count on me. Whoever you are.
I did consider intervening, or going out to shadow a patrol to help out in one of these conflicts. It’d certainly be fun to tear one of the new guys apart. On the other hand, that’d also solidify the relationship of this mysterious killer in the power armor. They could make a good case for me being part of the Academy. There is another concern as well.
It can be iffy determining when someone’s a superhero. Someone like Captain Lightning, flying around and throwing lightning bolts, can’t be easily mistaken for a regular human. But what about someone with a gun? What’s the difference between someone with a fifty caliber anti-material rifle and someone with a less-powerful helmet that shoots lasers? What’s the difference between a really good martial artist in a costume and one who merely trains suburban kids for money? It’s really iffy, to be academic about it.
Now, armed militia guys? Probably not that big a deal that a supervillain killed them. That kind of thing happens. Just like a regular criminal can die if they attempt to engage a superhero in combat, though the heroes generally try to prevent that. But we go back to the thing I’m really good at: killing superheroes. More than that, it’s the thing very few villains would ever do. It changes things. Ups the stakes. There’s probably a certain idea of supers treating each other better, too. A mild bit of prejudice. Still, a villain who runs around killing superheroes, even these new ones with their agenda, is going to stand out and gain infamy. Or he’d be suspected of being one of the already-infamous ones.
Stupid brain with all its thinking. Times like this are when I miss fighting killer chickens. So it’s a bad thing for me to show up and wreck some faces whenever Master Academy patrols are hassled by these new guys. That doesn’t mean I can’t look into them more.
So we’ve figured out where any extra super weapons have likely gone. They used them to make their own supers. Why? Based on their rhetoric, they aren’t big fans of current supers, but the main area of super protest around here is Master Academy. There could be a few different reasons for that. Replacement? Making them look like they’re the ones out of control somehow? Eh, I’d say I favor the replacement theory out of that. I can’t help but think we’re in a war over morale and PR.
…This is stupid. Fighting morons on behalf of children. I don’t want to play this game, on the defensive. That’s the superhero way. Villains have to be proactive. There’s no crime until we make it happen. I undid myself from my library harness and dropped down onto the floor. No fancy landing, just on the upper portion of my back. Didn’t put me in a chair, otherwise I’d have never caught up to Victor Mender, the disabled leader of the Master Academy.
“Yo, Vicky baby, do I have a proposal for you?” I asked him, showing him my best and currently only smile. I haven’t had time to assemble any new ones out of knocked out teeth.
He stopped his wheelchair and shot me what I assume to be a look. To the student next to him, he said, “Go on to class. We will continue this meeting another time.” She hurried off with her backpack to whatever kids these days do in school. Read, maybe? Why, back in my day, we did school entirely differently. We had to walk through three feet of snow and strangle a hooker. Up hill, both ways.
“Okily dokily, I have an idea to use my unique set of skills to go all Liam Neeson on these guys who’ve been dogging your students on patrol,” I said.
“How did you find out about that?” he asked. Hey, I think he upgraded his voice module on the computer. I actually heard question inflection. Or perhaps there’s a virus and he’s got a question inflection infection.
“You guys are bad at keeping secrets,” I said. Some little kid stuck his tongue out as he walked by us. “Bed wetter!” I called out to him. His eyes widened and he ran off. “So I was thinking, instead of sitting around here doing things the hero way, where nothing gets done, I could do a little something to help us all out.”
“Will you kill anyone?” he asked.
I played up a wince. “That’s a rather results-based question. I was thinking more intention-based. I don’t intend to kill anyone. Just do something that’s a bit of that voodoo that I do, in the hopes of drawing out some of those you-know-who’s, take a little pressure off you, and let your people return the things of value. I’ll lay off the ultraviolence, keep it down to maybe extreme violence, mild violence, or even guacamole violence.”
“Guacamole?” he asked.
“I hit people with avocados. It gets messy. I’ve gotten complaints for People For The Ethical Treatment of Plants. They’re opposed to violence against plants just because the little buggers can do advanced math and communicate by sound.” I understand feeling sympathy for life forms that aren’t me, but I’m against the idea of advancing their interests in place of my own. Doubly so for members of my species. Aw, crap, I’m human. “Anyway, you know it’s problematic for me to attack people who aren’t a threat to me. Doubly-so after Pyschsaur’s little visit. This is part of why you bothered to keep me around after everything you did personally to kill me.”
In the end, I think it was the part where I pretended to still be under Psychsaur’s mental compulsion that did it. I got the go-ahead to start engaging in crimes that might possibly draw these new heroes to me, which were to be ignored by the Master Academy heroes and anyone they let in on it. I really don’t intend to use it to do just anything I want, however. I have a few ideas on targets, too.
Number one on the list is this event that I hit upon while searching for gun-related events in the area. Madison Square Garden, in the midst of its renovations, is hosting a big Martin Luther King Jr. Day “Victory of Freedom Rally,” that, according to the flyers and poorly-made web page, is all about showing Empyreal City how to learn to love God and their country again. For some reason, I’m reminded of the year 1939. Anyway, something tells me that interrupting that will draw the speedster with the Nascar jumpsuit out again. And when he shows, his face is going to know what a race car feels like after I wreck it.
After all, the human body is amazingly resilient. You can do all sorts of things to a person without killing them.