“What do you think?”
I stood in front of a mirror in a dressing room booth, looking upon the horror that was myself.
“We tried to go with something regal,” said one of the tailors, a young woman in the costuming program at Master Academy.
Regal in this case meant Tyrian purple, aka Imperial or Royal Purple. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a horrible color, but I’d have preferred electric purple. Something to assault the eyes while I’m assaulting the ass.
So Tyrian purple with those swirly, twirly silver-colored marks at the elbows, knee pads, and skirt. It wasn’t skintight. Leggings, a skirt, and a top that didn’t show anything off under the vest. They agreed to give me something like a vest with extra armor after I pointed out I’d been shot recently, and that had an E in calligraphy on it, black and silver. I’d slipped on the silver boots and the flared silver gloves, which I folded back down so they’d look slightly less stupid.
They gave me a cape that fell to mid-back, probably because I mentioned having had a cape before. A mask covered my face fairly well, but I could at least break that up with a visor that used to belong to a Ronin-Go ninja. He’s not even dead, just in jail. I didn’t have to fish the visor from a colon before I began messing with it.
“Please say something,” said the teen boy from outside the dressing room. I believe he was in the costume program as well. I had him to blame. And myself. Instead of robbing a bunch of places for money, laundering the money, establishing a digital identity, and slowly making the stuff I need to make the stuff I need, I’m taking a shortcut. I’m letting the heroes think I’m…
No, I can’t.
It’s too horrible.
I’m letting them think I’m a… ok, stopped myself throwing up. They think I’m a superhero. What happens in Timeline 2 stays in Timeline 2!
I’ve played hero before, even while staying at a Master Academy. But it was obviously temporary then. I was going to get away, even if they had measures in place to try and keep me around. Now, I can walk away whenever I want. Maybe go get myself eaten by Mot or stomped by the Claw. No, the plan involves staying here.
Between Forcelight and myself, I’ve got Blackstone on track to be treated like a supervillain. I can find him if I really try, but that’s just part of the battle. I have some groundwork to lay with his wife. If I can convince her he’s not really her husband, that’d be good. I’m also open to painting her beloved as a supervillain to force her away from him. Anything to ruin the main thing keeping him here.
Now, when I went through that doorway portal that dropped me elsewhere with Facelight, I lost my connection to his phone. Magic’s a bitch. Unfortunately for him, magic didn’t erase Marivel Blackstone’s phone number from my memory.
Back in meatspace, I sighed and forced on a smile to play nice with fucking superheroes. “Sorry, I was just so overwhelmed. It’s really different from my costume in my world.”
“We hope it’s not a bad difference,” the woman said.
“Oh no. Just different. There’s a lot messing with my head lately. A whole new world. The outfit reminds me of that.” At least I get to lie to them still. I took a deep breath, whirled, and walked out of that dressing room like I owned the place.
“Your Eminence,” said the teen boy, bowing low.
“That’s what the letter on the chest is for,” I said. Eminence. Can’t use some of my other identities without the equipment. No rockets to be Missile Patriot, no armor and motorcycle to be the Hussar, and no drones to be the Free Radical. Note to self: hall with mannequins wearing all my various alternate identity costumes.
An alert beeped on their phones simultaneously, saving me from commenting on the odd turn of events here while I inspected the woman’s pink dreadlocks. She and the teen looked up at the me at the same time, drawing my attention away from the inspection. “We got you ready just in time,” she said.
I cracked my knuckles. “Time to get Eminent on some asses.”
“That doesn’t really work,” the teenager said.
“Don’t step on my lines,” I said, snapping my fingers once with a flourish. “This is my house now. Eminent Domain.” I left them to mourn the English language and headed for Victor Mender’s office.
The headmaster of the Master Academy himself was no less wheelchair-bound, but he was less patient with me. I didn’t know the layout of this admin building so well and got there late and was kept out by the crowd of emerging heroes.
“Too slow!” said a guy in a domino mask with a dark brown costume and a yellow spiral going down it, the arms of his costume yellow arms and legs. He grabbed one of my hands and tried to pull me back with them. I didn’t budge and instead raised an eyebrow. “You’re heavy,” he said, then stopped. “Sorry, about your weight. We have to go now. You’ll be briefed on the way.”
We ran off to where the grounds were opening up. I expected a giant jet, but a bunch of heroes were running back and forth to smooth alien shuttles, the type the Fluidic aliens use. I don’t know what their formal name is; I call them Fluidics because their bodies are composed of thick black fluid controlled by a central crystal core. The ones who had come to Earth were the losing side of a civil war who tried to infect and mind control people to serve as soldiers in a second effort. I wiped them out with a well-placed Dimension Bomb. More of them made it in this timeline, with fights still ongoing.
“Fluidic shuttles. Nifty way to get where you need to go,” I said.
Spiral guy led me to one in particular where a woman in a pale blue robe and white rabbit mask stood by the door. “Can you get on our radio channel?” the spiral guy asked. He turned and showed off the earpiece built into his domino mask. I sorted through the myriad other channels of the scrambling heroes and found it.
“Got it,” I said.
“Good,” he said and headed into the shuttle, leaving me with the rabbit woman.
“I’m Eminence,” I said.
She pointed to her chest. “Rabbit.”
I nodded back toward the spiral guy, “And that guy?”
“Rabbit,” she said again.
“Rabbit is a woman of few words,” said another guy who stepped into view inside the shuttle. “Hop in, I’ll get you sorted.”
I stepped in and let Rabbit close the door behind us. Spiral guy sat up front in some chairs of human design that had been added to it. The other three of us strapped ourselves into seats. “Drillbit’s our pilot.”
“Yo!” Drillbit called out from up front. We lifted off.
“And I’m Advocate. I can shield people and take a hit from a train if I need to,” he said. “I block for people. Rabbit’s agile, good at sneaking, good at illusions. God gave Drillbit a gift. He digs holes.”
Drillbit gave a strained fake laugh. “Ha ha!”
“Everyone, this is Eminence. Technopath, four arms, laser eye, really good fighter.”
“Why do they call you Eminence?” Drillbit asked.
“Because I fucking rule,” I answered. “What’s the big deal? Where’s everyone going?”
Advocate shook his head. “Everyone’s going different places. It’s like the entire supervillain community went active at once. Ricca’s probing to the South. The alien traditionalists took over a pair of towns in the Midwest. There’s also been a werewolf sighting in London, Ohio. There’s a lot more going on, but we’re focused on a detention center in the city where members of the Reich are being held. We received a tip that members of Oligarch’s Army of Evil are going to release them.”
Look at that. Another guy I killed is back. I raised a hand. “Who are The Reich?”
“Super Neo-Nazis. They started as a militia of vigilantes until it turned out their leader was a clone of Hitler. We caught these guys when they attacked a protest earlier this year.”
“Lovely,” I said.
“The garden’s overrun with dickweeds!” Drillbit called back. “We’re here. Looks like we’re early.”
I reached out to get a sense of the situation. Lots of automated traffic. Robo-cars. The way of the future. The jail opened up to me because nobody gave a damn about their network security over here. I didn’t have the cameras. Oddly enough, I couldn’t get the alarm system, which is usually connected to phone lines.
“Eminence, can you call in, let them know we’re coming?” Advocate asked.
I scrunched my brow. “No, I can’t. Phone lines are disconnected. I don’t think we’re early.”
“Rabbit,” Rabbit said in a low voice.
Advocate nodded toward her. Drillbit called back as we set down. “We have guards out here to greet us. They don’t look happy.”
Advocate shrugged. “We parked an alien spaceship in their parking lot. Keep an eye out. The guards could be replacements. We might be just in time. Stay alert everyone. Rabbit, you’re up front with me. Eminence, let me do the talking. You’re our newbie. Drillbit, take the rear and keep your eye out for the blindside.”
We walked out to meet the guards, who were packing SMGs. Seems a bit excessive for guards standing out front at a jail. Seems I don’t often remember guards out front at a jail. Most of the security is focused inward rather than outward. When I saw they had earphones, I went ahead and started checking for chatter. “Stop right there,” said one of the guards. “What’s going on?”
Advocate held up his hands. “Master Academy sent us. We’re checking in on your security with the Reich villains in there.”
“Security’s fine,” said the guard who took the lead. His compatriot turned away.
Instead of grabbing at the clunky radio on his hip, he pressed a button on the earphone. “It’s Master Academy wanting to check security. Can anyone fit inside the warden’s suit?”
I spoke without opening my mouth. “They’re henchmen. Listen.” I played the recording of what the one guy had just said.
Rabbit, who had her head cocked to the side, straightened up.
“We’d really like to see for ourselves. We’re all on the same side here. It’s not like we’re going to call the company you work for,” Advocate said.
“Fat fuck got blood everywhere when we shot him. Keep them outside. Don’t let them see anything.”
“Hey, look!” the door opened and a trio of guards stepped out in uniform, still holding their guns. “Superheros! Hey, bunny lady, my daughter loves you. Can I get a picture?”
As far as stall tactics went, it was pretty. They kept us in the parking lot while more and more “guards” noticed or were told and came for the meet and greet. All told, I think we had a good twenty out there to greet us.
“Who are you?” asked one of them, looking me over. “You new?”
I nodded. “I’m Eminence.”
“Eminence, eh? What do you do?” asked another.
I winked at him. “I rule.”
At a nod from Advocate, Drillbit spoke loudly to get everyone’s attention. “Hey, before we go in there, does anyone want to surrender?”
All the smiles and laughter stopped. Fake guards on either side of me pushed the safeties into unsafe.
I raised a hand as I reached out mentally, connecting to a nice weapon. “Just curious, what is it rabbits do really well?”
A self-driving car skidded through the parking lot and drifted to the side right at the crowd. Rabbit and I jumped. Drillbit’s arms spun and he disappeared into a person-sized hole in the ground. Advocate, like a bunch of the guards, was hit by the car. I’d say that probably took out a good dozen. Rabbit landed with her boots on the upper back of another. Drillbit pulled a couple underground. And I landed in between two guards, to raised their guns to my midsection. One split later, they fell with bloody crotches courtesy of some unfriendly friendly fire.
Rabbit was kicking the crap out of some when I saw another guard standing off to the side, aiming at her. I zoomed in with my non-laser eye and fired the laser. The man’s trigger finger and trigger both fell to the pavement moments before Advocate ran up and clocked him across the jaw.
The front of the jail blew off in flames. Drillbit ducked underground. Rabbit jumped for cover, and Advocate tanked the blast.
“I am the master of the elements, Elemaster!” said a woman who stepped out of the flames. Men and women in red, blue, white, and brown uniforms backed her up, wielding SMGs. Dirt rose up to form a short wall to provide cover for them. Pulling up the rear were a foursome of men in prison outfits.
Drillbit poked his head out of a hole. “Oh crap.”
I looked down at him, then back up at Elemaster and announced, “Surrender now and you’ll receive decent treatment. Snuggling may be involved.” Elemaster gets real huggy when she’s drunk. I thought it was just a crush on me, but I’ve seen her latch onto some real slimeballs. Like, people with some amphibian in ’em.
She laughed. “Who’s going to make me?”
“I am Eminence, and you may address me a such!”
“I’ve never heard of you, Eminence,” she said my latest codename mockingly. “What can you do?”
I smiled and said, “I rule.” I sent the paralysis signal through their earphones. I’d once been imprisoned in an incredibly secure super prison called The Cube where the guards used a specific sound to control me. It’s capable of paralyzing the human body. When I managed to escape, I made sure to take a full analysis of it with me to throw it right back at people while modifying my ears to block it out. I didn’t even have to worry about that part now that I sent it along their personal channel while not even listening to it.
All the minions fell to the ground. Elemaster looked back at them. “What the hell?” When she turned back around, she found a car zooming at her. She raised her hands and threw a fireball, which meant she got hit by a flaming self-driving car instead of a non-flaming one.
“Eminence!” called Advocate, running over to her.
“Relax, it probably wasn’t a lethal speed,” I said. “The others are just paralyzed. It’s something I did to their comms.”
Drillbit and Rabbit, meanwhile, approached the escaped prisoners. They all raised their hands, one of them saying, “Please don’t hit me with a car.”
All in all, I’d say a fairly successful mission. I even had time, when we alerted the police, to sneak over and get hands-on with one cruiser’s cop computer. Just adding some state crime warrants to go along with some federal ones I hacked in and created for Douglas Blackstone, just in case he ever visits.
I’m going to make a villain of him. He can complain about me all he wants, but now everyone thinks I’m a superhero. I wonder what his dear, new wife will think. Who is she likely to trust, a hero who knows her husband’s not acting right, or a husband who’s wanted for all sorts of nasty business?
The main question on my mind is if I should kill her, or make sure she breaks his heart first.