Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Ebook Edition!

Graven is now in ebook format!

You can still read the entire story for free here on this blog, but if you have enjoyed this story, please consider supporting my work by purchasing a copy of the ebook!

You can the novel in digital and paperback copies on Amazon:

Monday, August 20, 2018

50 : Team


It was touch-and-go there for quite a while. The moment Strider managed to teleport Xyla into the ground, my power kicked back on. Even as my flesh flowed to fill the huge wound in my side, I was springing to my feet and launching my skin-threads at my teammates.

49 : Xyla the Excelsior


I’d been a frail child, sickly with an autoimmune disease and half-functioning organs. Stuck in hospitals for weeks at a time, constantly in and out, only able to live in the outside world by wearing special suits and taking expensive medicines that still made me feel ill. I looked out upon the world like a fragile doll in a glass cage.

48 : Echo


The street that bordered the south side of Kilika’s tower was now apparently an open-air church. Several hundred people had gathered for a morning service. I stood at the very edges of the throng, pretending to be part of the crowd. Strider remained in the basement of an apartment, while I had eyes out for our two targets. If our teammates failed, the two tyrants were likely to come storming out and raise some hell.

47 : Hitchhiker


As Shoggoth dealt with Kilika, I was to find and deal with Ojau. He was one of the few men on the whole continent who was actually respected by the Queens. Most, apparently, were kept out of the cities to manage smaller settlements or told to keep watch over the Doorways. A precedent had been set that any male superhuman who even hinted at displeasure with his position was cut down viciously by his female cohorts. When the female supers who supported the Queendom system outnumbered the males five hundred to one, there was little a man could do other than die or know their place.

46 : Shoggoth


Though the strobing effect of Strider’s teleport could be disorienting, you couldn’t say it wasn’t just about the most overpowered ability we had. Aside from its offensive potential, the speed of travel was frankly insane. Even assuming that the continental force field had not a problem to get through, any other group of would-be assassins might have had to spend days, if not weeks, working their way across the length of the continent, braving god knows how many dangers, between untamed wilderness, roving bandits, superhuman warlords and soldiers, etc.

45 : Strider


I started from the southernmost shore of Barbados, followed the ocean floor until I sensed the edge of the Great Shield. I plunged deep into the Earth until I reached the ten mile limit, cut over, and terraported us back up. The heat and pressure were intense, but I was just tough enough to take it. I jumped us to the top of a rocky sea-side cliff where I sensed no people.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

44 : Team


“And with this, we are seeing the last of the accessible Doorways sealed away for good. All eleven Doorways, even those hovering over the oceans since the formation of New Gondwana, have been filled with concrete and sealed inside three-foot thick walls of solid steel. Some have been further protected by superhuman force fields. With this, the American States and Provinces completes its first cooperative effort with a foreign power since the United States’ ban from the UN six years ago.”

43 : Echo


The Department of Superhuman Affairs office was a large facility in Washington, DC, a perfectly square, three story fortress of concrete and mirrored glass. I used my SFF ID Card to gain access through the gated entry. The guard gave me a salute with a solemn expression as I passed. I saluted back.

42 : Cero


I am a synthetic biological construct designed to resemble one of you. My creators were a species that would be utterly alien to you. The closest creature on your planet they resemble would be a Portuguese Man O’ War, but with sturdier appendages. The closest equivalent name that the human vocal chords can produce is the Riuktoouluvasoli.

Yes, it is difficult for you to pronounce. They communicated through psycho-chemical transference as well as low frequency radio wave pulses.

I use the past tense, because they are all dead, thanks to your species and the ones you call the Masters.

41 : Team


Before the Villain Maker could complete the word “them”, Echo whirled and used a “gentle” palm strike to send me flying into the lantern boy. When I saw the kid, I figured she would do something like the moment a fight started, so I was ready. I possessed him on contact. He must have been powerful, because I immediately felt the strain.

40 : Echo


Following the formation of New Gondwana and the Extinction Wave, Madagascar found itself in isolation from the rest of the planet. Expeditions from Australia, Japan, and Scotland revealed that the population had survived the Wave, but the still developing nation, cut off from the support of the global market, was doomed to severe recession. Likewise, it was initially feared that the island might fall under threat from New Gondwana, as it was the closest landmass to the supercontinent, and no one knew what the Queens had planned next.

39 : Strider


I came to a stop at the southernmost tip of the shores of Yemen, the closest point to Madagascar, which I’d left behind when helping form New Gondwana. I wanted to go further, but of course, we hadn’t actually taken the time work out how we were going to cross the ocean. I’d gotten us this far in just a couple of minutes, but the island nation was thousands of miles south across the ocean.

38 : Echo


When I exited the New York Doorway, the world had slowed to a crawl. Unlike James and Max, I couldn’t dial my speed up or down. I was stuck at what would later be categorized as Class 2 speed, in both movement and perception.

It taught me a level of patience and self-discipline beyond what I’d learned in the military. It gave me the luxury of thinking my actions through before most people could begin to act. Sometimes, I wondered if it gave me too much time to think, too much time to turn things over and over in my mind, rationalizing actions that surely a normal person, even a soldier, would find reprehensible. I felt a sense of isolation most people couldn’t really understand, and there were times I wondered it if would drive me crazy.

37 : Team


One moment, the Super Fem Force was standing before us. The next, Glorifica and James were gone, shooting into the sky faster than I could react. I had started with my durability at Level 3, but as soon as I realized what Glorifica was holding, I switched all my power to speed.

36 : Earth Mage


Lisa’s lips left mine. For a woman who can shatter a mountain to pieces with a single punch, she can give the most tender kisses. I blinked as the visions left me as quickly as they had flooded my mind. I realized that only a couple seconds had actually passed.

Lisa let go of me, letting me hover on my own. She still held the memory device. “You understand now, James?” she said. “You understand why this all must be done.”

Saturday, August 18, 2018

35 : James McLeod


I step towards the doorway of the Tower, my heart pounding. I know that no one who has entered this strange structure has ever returned. Due to the lack of an sort of gore or even residue, some of the scientists think that they are being teleported, though no on knows where to. I am, to my knowledge, the last of the volunteers.

34 : Earth Mage


We stepped across two whole continents, going north up through Alaska, crossing the Bering Strait, and cutting down across Asia. Technically, we did trespass on Pacific Alliance territory when we stepped through the still (barely) inhabited easternmost part of Russia, but we were gone in the next instant.

33 : Max-Out


We reported the incident and turned over the bodies to the Department of Superhuman Affairs. As usual, I acted as the spokesperson when the authorities came to the scene. Agents from the DSA came out personally to speak to us, and their questioning always took longer than it probably needed to.

32 : Shoggoth


Hitchhiker appeared in our midst a quarter of a second before a massive explosion obliterated the farmhouse in the distance. From our vantage point tucked away behind the tall grass, with a line of trees in the way, we didn’t see the structure itself shatter, but a small mushroom cloud bloomed where it had been. James already had his hand up, deflecting the shockwave, and the debris it carried, to go around us.

31 : Hitchhiker


“Hey!” said James, looking at Strider disapprovingly. “That was it!”

We were now standing in the middle of a field of wild wheat, a wide circle having been cleared away for us to stand in.

“They’re beneath the farm, in a fortified structure,” she said. “I sensed a lot of wires around, so I figured they probably had security cameras set up.”

30 : Strider


Megan’s house was the “slab home” type, so it didn’t have a basement, enabling me to use my power on her floor. I’d teleported us to another park a couple blocks away, partially hidden between a cluster of trees. Hitchhiker fell on her ass, but managed to recover into a backwards somersault. She rolled onto her feet and whirled to face me.

29 : Hitchhiker


La Luste, whose real name was Megan, was almost frantic as she ran to her front door and scrambled for her keys. James had told her that he suspected someone was behind the supervillain outbreaks, leading her to fear for her boyfriend’s safety. Not wasting a second, Strider got her address, plugged it into her GPS to map it, and then bounced us all over there.

28 : Shoggoth


I didn’t really know what I was doing. Certainly, it was easy enough for me to force the body to produce the chemicals necessary to influence the brain. I could put someone to sleep, influence moods, stress levels, cause hallucinations, etc. It was a complex organ, however, and not one I could manipulate with fine precision to unlock memories or such like. I wasn’t a telepath, I couldn’t just read the bio-electric activity in the mind to see what a person was thinking. In that way, it was not like I could just forcibly trigger memories the way a person could access a computer file.

27 : Earth Mage


I spotted her atop the Arch, a tall woman with wild red hair and an outlandish purple costume. Around her body, large steel plates revolved, forming a rotating shield. She actually hovered several feet above the structure, enabling these plates to cover the whole of her body, while leaving a steady opening for her to see out of.

26 : Hitchhiker


I came to with the feeling of having my face slapped about. With an embarrassing little snort, I jolted into a sitting position. “Hwuh—what?” I shook my head and forced myself to roll to my feet.

Blinking, I saw Max-Out shaking Strider and Shoggoth. The former teleported into a standing position a hundred feet down the sidewalk as soon as her eyes snapped open. Shoggoth likewise roused quickly, leaping to his feet.

25 : Max-Out


All in all, we got to enjoy the house for about three days, before the next supervillain attack. In that time, I tried to run the group through some combat teamwork exercises, and it went slightly better than expected.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

24 : Hitchhiker


We took our places in the living room, James claiming a large chair to one side of the old, stiff couch. Max and Shoggoth came down and took the couch, leaving two other wooden chairs free. As I pulled up the short-backed chair, Strider came in through the front door and claimed the rocking chair.

It amused me that she must have figured it would save a few steps to teleport to the front door and walk in, rather than coming up from the basement, to the back of the kitchen, and through the dining room, to reach the living room.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

23 : Max-Out


I tossed my backpack on the bed in the corner and flopped onto it, face up. On the small table beside the bed, I noticed there was a dirty old baseball resting against the lamp. I picked it up and started tossing it lightly in the air, seeing how close I could get it to the ceiling without actually hitting it.

This room was clearly meant for a smaller individual, as halfway in the ceiling slanted sharply downward along the outer wall. The bed was tucked within this slant, meaning that if I sat up too fast on the inner side when my strength was activated, I might very well pop my head right out through the roof.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

22 : Shoggoth


I unpacked my suitcase, laying out some clothes Max had helped me scavenge from my apartment. There wasn’t much, but I still made use of the dresser and closet. I was a little done with living like a slob.

The house was really nice once the Earth Mage spruced it up. The rooms were a little on the small side from what I was used to, but that’s just how these old houses tended to be. Maybe it would have been smarter for me to get a place like this out in the countryside. A lot more privacy, no gang violence.

Yeah, as if. Land wasn’t cheap, jobs out in the country weren’t that plentiful if you didn’t work for Big Agriculture, and for all my desires to be left alone, I’d been a city girl and a suburbanite at heart. A place like this was nice to visit, maddening to live in.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

21 : Strider


I’d had a little time to take a nap, sleeping on the floor as I usually did. My durability meant that a bed didn’t really make things any more comfortable. I could snooze on hard, cold concrete as easily as a warm, soft mattress. Moreover, I definitely felt a lot more safe being in contact with the ground as much as possible. It was a simple, but very necessary precaution. Even the few times I’d made love, I insisted on doing it on the floor. You never knew when danger may strike, I wanted to both sense it coming if possible and be able to terraport away immediately.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

20 : Earth Mage


The building was an old farm house, long abandoned and dilapidated, about three miles north of Granville, North Dakota. It was a tiny town mostly untouched by the ravages of superhuman conflict. This old farm had once belonged to my grandfather, Ian James McLeod. I regret to say that I never got to know the man while he was still alive. I vaguely remembered having visited this place a couple times when I was a small child, but who really gets to know their elders at that age? Unfortunately, I had never been back since, and he passed away shortly after I fled the country. My father had technically inherited the property, but clearly hadn’t done anything with it.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

19 : Earth Mage


I was the world’s first superhuman. I suppose in some ways, that makes me responsible for everything that has happened since the Doorways appeared. Not that it was my fault that I was sent back with these strange powers, but that my actions which followed could easily be what kept more people going in.

If I hadn’t run away from the authorities, allowed myself to be tested, maybe we could have figured more out about the Doorways before it was too late.

If I hadn’t tried to follow some idiotic notion of being a superhero, made such a public spectacle of my abilities, maybe I wouldn’t have galvanized so many people to take their chance.

If I hadn’t been so squeamish about stopping my opponents for good, if I hadn’t abandoned my country for an easier life in a foreign land, maybe the women I had cared about would still be alive right now.

If I hadn’t…

If I hadn’t…

If I hadn’t…

18 : Hitchhiker


I’d only had three prior chances to possess a male superhuman, and it taught me several important things: One, that my own powers did not stack onto theirs, so the body didn’t get a strength boost from my joining them. Two, that while I still did not learn anything about the man I possessed, I had an innate knowledge of their powers and how to use them. Three, that the time limit on my possession was much shorter than with regular men.

My possession power got, for lack of a better word, “tired” after a while. I could stay in the body of a normal man for almost three days, before eventually I’d just pop out, feeling utterly exhausted. Even if I only spent one day in a man, I could feel fatigue start to set in; the host body also couldn’t go unconscious, either by sleep or by knock-out, or I’d pop out automatically. Holding the possession was like keeping a fist clenched indefinitely. It wasn’t difficult, precisely, but you had to put at least a little conscious effort keep it clenched, and eventually, your hand was going to get tired and cramped and be forced to relax.

I could, if I had to, jump from body to body to body in rapid succession, but the more times I jumped in a row, or the longer I stayed in a possession, the more I’d have to recover when I took a break.

17 : Hitchhiker


I’d never done any field work with the Fantasmas. My powers were simply never strong enough, no matter who I possessed, so I was never there for the actual fights. My work had always been to hide among the cartels and chip away at their networks from within. But it was my information that led the others to strike. Ghostwalker and his acolytes, in their righteous fury, held nothing back as they tried to cleanse the scum from our country. By the time I realized just how exacting our vengeance was going to be, I was in too deep to turn back.

And all the while, my constant tampering with drug and slave shipments, redirecting product, blowing up cargo, sending the kidnapped off into the wilderness to try and make their way back home, all that had its own consequences. I wouldn’t realize until much later just how bad the gang violence and cartel infighting had gotten, as they killed each other over their disrupted business, and didn’t care how many innocents were gunned down in the crossfire.

Ghostwalker may have been our leader, his supposedly god-given mission might have been what set us on the path, but in many ways, I was the one most responsible. They held the guns, I pulled the triggers. I kept pulling until finally, the United States couldn’t stand by any longer, and sent their hero teams to put us back in our place.

16 : Hitchhiker


I acted shocked, making an exaggerated look of surprise from Stocky’s face. “What the fuck?” I said with his voice. I looked at the other two. “Did she teleport?”

Handsome just whipped out a gun and shot me in the face, at the same time that Tall stabbed me in the back with another knife. The bullet bounced off “my” forehead and the knife blade slipped off my skin. I smiled.

“I guess my reputation precedes me,” I said.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

15 : Hitchhiker


It was just past midnight, and once again, a phantom roamed the streets of Toluca. That phantom was me, and I was on the prowl for flesh of men. Hmmm, that probably sounded bad when I put it like that. Don’t worry, it’s probably not what you’re thinking.

I wasn’t going to just go into a bar and service the first drunk douche bag who offered to buy me a drink, though. There was no thrill in that. I preferred the hunt. I preferred men of a more bestial breed. And the best way to start the hunt was to set the bait.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

14 : Strider


Glory still just hovered there, holding me, not reacting to the Earth Mage, not even reacting to me beyond the fulfillment of her last order to capture me. The Earth Mage spoke her name, asked her what she remembered. She didn’t say a thing.

“Listen, the only one that’s going to make her talk is Knock-Off, her creator,” I said. “Get me loose, get me on the ground, and I can take you to her.”

The Earth Mage had to tear his attention away from her. He looked at me for a moment, floated to the ground, paused, then floated back up. With a surge of strength, he pried Glory’s fingers from my neck and wrist, letting me drop from her grip. He then grabbed me to try and float me down to the ground, but Glory instantly snatched me back up, this time holding me up by the shoulders.

“Shit,” I muttered.

13 : Strider


After an hour of melancholy brooding, I got bored with regret, and decided to shift the mental subject. I left that life behind to start anew. To rebirth myself from the ground up. This was a rocky start, sure, but I wasn’t dead yet. Or dead again yet. Or dead again-again yet.

Atalanta was a fuck up. I was going to be better. Whoever “I” was. I hadn’t actually even settled on a codename yet, just used a placeholder so far. I’d figure out something better later. Right now, I needed to figure out how to get back on the ground.

I looked to the two silhouettes. Although I couldn’t see their faces, I had the creepy feeling that they were just staring at me, unblinking. Their breaths wheezed slightly. “So, you guys ever talk?”

Neither responded.

12 : Strider


I jolted awake with a ragged gasp. I immediately flailed about me, only to find myself restricted by heavy chains that wrapped around my arms, legs and torso. I felt my body sway and realized I was hanging from the ceiling. I’d been hogtied in such a way that I was still mostly upright; it seemed like a pretty thorough and intricate job, especially using a chain. Some one in this group was a real bondage freak.

I was a bit surprised, considering I’d just gotten killed last I remembered. I was pretty sure my powers didn’t include resurrection. I was also pretty sure they did include Rank D durability and strength, so whoever hit me had to be at least an upper Rank C.

Oh, wait, they used the Class system in America. So, that would make me Class 2, and my opponent had to have Class 3 strength. And speed, given how fast she hit me. And flight, of course, since she’d jumped out a window to do it. Or did her power let her propel herself like a bullet? There were just so many weird ways superhuman powers could express.

11 : Strider


I could sense perfectly any floor of a building that didn’t have a floor under it, which either meant the ground floor or the basement. I could terraport there too. Unfortunately, anything higher than that I could not just travel to, and my senses increasingly dulled. Yes, I could sense a mouse skitter across a rooftop, but if three dozen mice were doing it, it became a lot harder to pick them out individually. I could sense the vibrations that traveled down the walls of the structure and made contact with the ground, so I could know something small was moving. But with many vibrations funneling through the same limited planes, it tended to wash out the signal.

It “sounded” like everyone was in the nearest building, a dormitory that was actually four floors, but with the ground floor half-submerged into the earth. I wasn’t sure what you’d call that. A half-basement? Whatever it was, it was unoccupied. I could sense movement tremors coming from the upper floors, though, enough that I couldn’t tell how many people were on which level. With an army of two hundred, and several dozen hostages, I imagine the building was rather crowded.

I stepped over to the edge of campus, ducking down behind a short stone wall that framed the entrance to a long curved driveway. I could see some lights flickering in the windows. Flashlights, some candles, an odd green glow in one room, and a sky blue glow in another. Those last two might have been from the supers, and of course, they were on the very top floor.

Just a few years ago, I would have killed them all by terraporting the entire building straight into the ground, burying them all alive, and causing an explosion of two masses phasing into one another.

But I was here to save lives, not take them, and for once do it without wiping out an entire settlement in the process.

The army of clones and captured civilians all being above the ground floor was a pain, though. A quirk of my power, I could teleport the building with everything inside it all at once, but it was only on that ground floor that I could individually move the different things inside the building. I also couldn’t just teleport myself directly on or off the other floors.

I often wondered just who or what designed these powers. Terraportation was a mighty ability, but it would have been much handier if it was just a straight up “point-and-shoot” teleport that wasn’t limited to what touched the ground.

There I went, complaining again. Time to nut it and shut it. Or however that expression went.

I sensed the campus around me, seeing what I could weaponize. This would be so much easier if some of that army was on the ground floor. So, why not lead them there?

I sensed one of those enormous CostMart general stores nearby, and terraported into it. I took a few minutes to locate the kitchen appliances, grabbed a dozen mechanical kitchen timers, and stepped back to my hiding spot. I cranked the timers for a two minute countdown, then ported them into the rooms of the basement/ground floor.

I’d set them all for the same time, but of course, there was a second or two delay as I cranked each manually, so when they went of, it was with an increasing level of racket that had the groups on the upper floors jumping and shuffling about in rising confusion. I could hear the tremors of female shouting, too muffled by the other noises to tell the words. Then, I heard the sound I hoped for. Dozens of footsteps thudded down the main stairwell, into the basement. As soon as their feet touched the final set of stairs, they were within my power, I could actually “see” them.

“Bizarro” had been an apt descriptor. They were shaped like people, but they walked in jerky steps, with little jittery movements. Their skin was cracked and peeling, their eyes glassy. They were almost like zombies. I suppose a zombie is sort of an inferior version of a human, aside from that whole unable to feel pain or need rest and being undead. However, I could sense blood pumping through them, as well as labored breath. These people-things were alive, they just weren’t in the best of shape.

Even though I could have terraported each one the instant they contacted the bottom steps, I waited until all the ones sent down piled into the basement floor. They threw open unlocked doors and frantically searched the rooms for the offending alarms. They busted down doors that we locked by beating their bodies against them until they bled, and continuing until the wood caved in.

Jeesh, they basically were zombies. And definitely a downgrade from what Yrba could make, at least as far as I’d seen. Again, special circumstances, though, so there was no telling if what I’d seen was what she could do in her natural state.

In total, about fifty of the “living zombies” were shuffling about, having not found anything. They started to head back for the stairs. I decided that these mockeries of people weren’t on my “to save” list. It might be tipping my hand early, but I activated my power, and instantly buried them a quarter mile into the ground. One moment they were there, the next they were liquefied between layers of rock.

I waited a bit longer. There was more female shouting. I could actually hear it through a few random open windows as she stormed across the top floor. The banshee-like shrieking wavered between audible and unintelligible. “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED” something-something “WHO DARES TO INTRUDE ON MY NEW DOMAIN” something-something “FIND THE CULPRIT!” something-something-something “— RIGHT IN HER FUCKING GASH!”

Okay. That was definitely not Yrba. Still, I’d started the fight now, I had to finish it.

Zombie people surged out of the building, two-hundred and thirty in total. Many looked identical, despite being dressed in mish-mashes of clothes, probably salvaged from the dorm room closets. If I had to guess, there were about ten different people that had been replicated over and over again. I hoped they were all still alive. I hadn’t sensed any dead bodies anywhere and the officer hadn’t mentioned fatalities, but that didn’t mean there weren’t corpses cooling in the corners of the upper rooms. I hoped that Knock-Off needed live people to replicate live soldiers, and she hadn’t felt the need yet to make an example out of some hostages to keep the others inline.

Surely the super copies were enough for that.

I once again waited until the whole army was on the ground, pouring out of the building’s three exits. They didn’t moan like zombies, but their breathing was ragged, as though their throats were as cracked as their skin. If they could actually feel pain, then what I was doing had to be a mercy. Once again, I terraported them, sending them into the solid rock over a thousand feet below.

I focused on the building, trying to catch the now greatly reduced number of vibrations. I wasn’t totally sure, but I think I sensed about twenty people moving about. That number started to increase as more and more footsteps started coming from the center of the building. Knock-Off was already making more copies. If ten of the ones I’d just sensed were hostages, and one of them, the loudest, stompiest steps no doubt, was Knock-Off, then the rest were probably the super-copies. If I also had to guess, from how faint the vibrations were, they were all probably on the top floor.

She wasn’t dumb enough to send her next wave of zombies out immediately. But I could sense the extra footsteps stop building after only a minute. From there, it didn’t seem like nearly as many as before were in motion. Maybe equal to what I’d felt on the steps to the basement, so about fifty then. Maybe that was her limit? Assuming ten hostages, maybe five copies apiece? Someone had said that was the highest number of duplicates of one person they’d seen, so maybe five per person was the best she could do at a time, or fifty clones in total at a time, and she had to wait to recharge.

“SUPER!” bellowed that banshee-voice again. I glanced around the corner of my wall slightly. The sun had fully set now, but a little bit of twilight was left, enough to reveal the silhouette of a rag-wrapped woman leaning out one of the top floor windows, holding up two bodies like limp dolls. “SEE WHAT MY ARMY HAS DONE TO YOUR FELLOWS! SEE HOW YOUR MIGHT CANNOT POSSIBLY MATCH MINE! MY HUMAN MINIONS MAY NOT MATCH YOUR POWER, BUT MY OWN SUPER-MINIONS CAN CRUSH YOU JUST AS EASILY AS THEY DID THESE!”

Good Lord, that woman had some lungs on her. I was five hundred feet away and still wanted to cover my ears.

A moment later, two bodies thunked onto the outside front steps. I glanced at them with my power. A man and a woman, dressed in what looked like SWAT gear. I didn’t recognize either of them, but then, I hadn’t been in America, nor part of the network, very long. I had no idea what powers they’d faced Knock-Off and her cronies with, but it hadn’t been enough to prevent their hearts from being ripped out of their chests.

I then saw a dark shape zoom out from another window. I didn’t have any time to see what she looked like. I didn’t even have time to terraport away. For a split second, I just saw something move from the top floor, and then a fist struck my face with the force of a wrecking ball and exploded my skull.

You know what would have been really smart of me? If I’d learned a bit more about her clone-army’s powers before I picked a fight with them. That would have been really good to know.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

10 : Strider


“Not that I’m doubting your capabilities, ma’am, but are you absolutely sure you can handle this on your own? We’re expecting more bounty hunters to show up soon, as well as the National Guard. It might be better if you coordinated with them.”

I gave him a smile and an eager nod. “No prob, officer! If this woman is who I think she is, well, I’ve studied on her.”

“And who do you think she is?” he said, a slightly portly man with a thick handlebar mustache.

I grinned. “I’d rather not say till I know for certain!”

Saturday, July 21, 2018

9 : Shoggoth


They were thorough, I’ll give them that. When they ran out of bullets, they grabbed hammers and jellied my brains and organs completely, broke my bones to fragments. Then they got some kind of acid, probably part of whatever drugs they made, and they poured about a bucket’s worth over the remains.

It took me almost fifteen minutes to pull myself back together. The top half of my skull came first, clicking back together, the semi-intact parts of my brain slithering back inside it and regenerating the rest, the synapses reconnecting so as to actually process the information as my sensory organs re-grew. Once my eyes and ears worked again, I took stock of my situation. The room was smoky, no doubt from the acid reacting to my flesh, the wood floor, and whatever else was on the ground. I spared myself from regenerating my sense of smell for now.

8 : Shoggoth


“I don’t go by that name anymore.” Inwardly I cursed myself. Why the fuck did just immediately admit to that? I could have still pretended to be some other random superhuman.

Chive nodded approvingly. “Good. Good girl. You didn’t lie. I’d have had to ventilate your friend’s skull if you did.” He motioned to Jamal. “In fact you know what? I think I will anyway.” He made a small twitch of his eyebrow.

7 : Shoggoth


Instinctively, I leaped up and dropped down behind the recliner as three young men dressed like thugs and each carrying two guns apiece barged into my apartment. My attempt to duck and cover was mostly for naught, though. The living room was small, and there wasn’t much space between the recliner and the wall. I also didn’t think the old chair would block a shotgun or a machine gun.

So instead of trying to use it like armor, I tensed the muscles in my body and hurled the chair at the door. With the legs still extended and the back tilting from the force, I was able to slam it into all three of them at once.

The lead man who wielded the shotgun took the main body of the chair head on. He was knocked back out the door, where he bounced off the rail and started falling head over heels down the steps. The man to his left, my right, took the back of the chair. The padding blunted most of the hit, but it was enough to knock him backward, which made him crack his head against the doorframe and drop his two pistols. The third man, who caught the legs, managed to cross his arms and brace against the hit. The angle of the chair meant he got hit last, and he’d already had a machine pistol and a revolver raised up to point at me.

This third guy managed to hang onto his weapons, but the blow still knocked up him against the wall. At that moment, I almost lashed out with my power. I could feel my skin ripple and surge, the serrated teeth starting to poke out from beneath. But I stopped myself. I forced my power down to make my body stay normal. A little burst of muscle could be excused; this form did look pretty jacked. I could still deny that I had done anything strange.

My hesitation cost me, though, as it gave the third man time to right himself and train his guns on me. I don’t know why I gave him the chance. Of course they knew what I was already. Why else would they even be here?

That said, restraint was probably prudent anyway at this junction. It’s not like I wanted to start a super fight inside my apartment. I raised my hands in surrender and waited for the inevitable hail of bullets. I could heal from it. Let them have their moment. I’d have to uproot my life and move again, but they could be satisfied thinking I was dead, and that would be one less person I’d have to wonder about breaking into my home again.

The guy didn’t fire, though. He just stared me down and kept the guns pointed. He wasn’t even aiming, though. I had to wonder how much actual practice he had with firearms if he thought his skinny arms could handle either gun one-handed.

The other guy, clutching his head from hitting the door frame, managed to kick the recliner back a couple feet. He retrieved his pistols and pointed them at me as well. He turned his head a bit and yelled, “Yo Mark! You a’ight man?”

There was a string of curses, followed by another round of thudding as the shotgun wielder stomped up the stairs. He was bleeding from a cut on his head, and one eye was swelling already. His glared daggers at me and grit his teeth, almost hissing as he pumped the shotgun and raised it at me.

“NO!” yelled his other companion, using his revolver hand to knock the shotgun’s barrel down. “We need him!”

“I don’t fuckin’ care!” said Mark. Before either of his buddies could stop him, he adjusted his aim lower and fired.

I cried out as the pellets chewed through my legs. I’d already dulled my nerves and reinforced my muscles and bones, but at point-blank it still fucking hurt. The force of the blow knocked my legs out from under me, causing me to face plant into the arm of the knocked over recliner. I cursed loudly.

“Mark, you stupid fuck!” said dual-pistol guy. “Chive is gunna slit your damn throat!”

“Nah, man, nah,” said Mark. “This guy could heal those fucks? He can heal from that.” He hocked a loogie on me. “Throw me down some fuckin’ stairs again, you dicksuckin’ cracker pussy.”

I’d already mended my wounds by that point, but blood still soaked my rug and my now shredded shorts. I pushed myself up to my feet and let out a breath. “Alright,” I said, forcing myself to be calm by gritting teeth in places teeth weren’t supposed to be. “You got me. Now, what is this about?”

“You comin’ with us,” said dual-pistols. “Chive wanna see ya.”

“Who the hell is Chee-vay?”

The other two practically gawked. “Dude, you live under a rock here? Fuck’s sake, man. Chive. The Boss. The Man.

“I’m sorry. I’m not familiar. People don’t talk to me much around here.”

“No doubt,” said machine-pistol/revolver guy. “Chive, he the Big Man around here. He don’ like upstart niggas fuckin’ wit’ his turf. And he when he send a message, he don’ like fuckin’ white trash overwritin’ it, ya dig?”

“Ah.” So that drive-by had been a gang war thing or something. I wanted to say I wouldn’t have pegged Jamal for the type, but then, I didn’t actually know him at all. Or any of his group, for that matter. I guess I just assumed they were too young, but Jamal was what, 16 or so? Machine-pistol/revolver guy looked younger than that, and the two others barely older. I hadn’t actually grown up in a shithole like these kids, so I didn’t know how it worked. I was just a guest in their world here.

“So how does Chive wish to resolve this?”

“He’ll tell you himself,” said Mark. “Come on.”

I debated for a moment. I could stop them, easily. Kill them, if I was that sort. But I wasn’t. And I knew enough about gangs to know how this worked. You hit them, they hit back. You hit back harder, they hit back even harder. If I had a whole gang on my ass, I could count on my apartment getting riddled with bullets or set on fire, especially if my neighbor was an enemy of theirs as well. Everyone in this apartment would be dead, injured, or out of a home. If I fought now, things would escalate too far. Even if I ran away, who knows what they’d do to the neighborhood just to vent their anger.

I wasn’t about to become some thug-prince’s lackey. But if I settled a score, maybe they would back off. It’s not like they could really hurt me for good, and maybe if I flexed a bit of power, they’d see it was better to come to a mutual agreement and call a truce.

Christ. It was easier with supervillains. You just hit them until they stopped moving, and then the police or the military dealt with the aftermath.

I slowly nodded at Mark and kept my hands up. I let them escort me to a rusty red hatchback, still idling out on the street. The three guys leading me to it were black, but the girl in the driver’s seat was a curvy white chick with the shittiest looking attempt at dreadlocks I’d ever seen.

“Damn, Mar’, he don’ look li’e shit.” The girl had a thicker hood accent than the guys. She sniffled and rubbed her nose. Her eyes were a little bloodshot. I could see why she kept such company. She was probably getting a discount hit of whatever the kids were into these days for being the driver. If she kept it up, she wasn’t going to be keeping those curves.

“Shut the fuck up,” Mark said. “He’s a super.”

The girl turned and gawked at me as I was roughly pushed to sit in the back, flanked by the other two guys. “Nah shit,” she half-slurred. “Uh, yo’ sho’ ‘bout dis?”

I was starting to think she was laying the accent on kind of thick. She had a point, though. Either these guys didn’t know how dangerous it was to box someone like me in like this, or they were more scared of their boss than they were of me. I guess if they thought all I could do was heal, maybe I didn’t seem so threatening.

“Just drive, ya dumb bitch,” Mark growled. He gave me a wary glance, then flicked his gaze to his two cronies. They each put the muzzle of a gun to either side of my chest and held them there.

“You don’t need to do that,” I said.

“You do need to keep yo’ mouth shut,” said the guy with two pistols.

I almost wanted to ask their names, but I thought better of testing them. It’s not like I’d need to remember after today, assuming I could get things to go as smoothly as possible.

The ride was quick, just a few blocks south, a right, another block, a left, and then half a mile past the ghetto into an even worse ghetto. Old brick apartments, half of them still with burn marks from an old fire that swept through the town a few decades ago. Almost every window was boarded up, the doors broken or rotted off hinges. The whole area had been condemned, but the city didn’t have the budget to deal with it for now, or just hadn’t been able to decide what to turn it into, and didn’t want to waste the money clearing it until they had.

We pulled up to a large, three story building, probably an old 6-plex. At least this one had a door, and a few windows were open on the ground floor. Still busted out, but not boarded up, if you didn’t count the bars covering them.

The girl screeched to a halt, jostling us in our seats. “Careful!” yelled Mark, punching the girl on the arm.

She hissed and clutched herself. “AAAAH! Fuck! You fuckin’ cocksucker!” She turned to me. “You see, that, huh? You see this shit?”

I’m not sure what she expected of me. Maybe she thought that because I was a super, or just because I was a man, I’d try to step in. Unfortunately for her, I had zero sympathy. I don’t know what her life’s sob story was, but the fact is, she was helping these jackasses kidnap me. They could beat her ass black and blue for all I cared.

The guys got out and roughly dragged me out with them, despite me cooperating with them. Maybe they felt the need to show off in front of their gang. Maybe they just wanted to assure themselves they were in control. I just went with it.

We stepped up to the door. Someone inside was keeping watch through the windows, and let out a call. The doors swung open before Mark could knock, and his two cronies shoved me forward, guns pointed at my back.

We went through the entrance hall, turning left into the first room, which had probably once been the living room for a nice apartment. It was now a pigsty of old tables, chairs, and couple couches, all probably rescued from the curbs of other apartments on trash day. Cans and bottles of beer were scattered about, fast food wrappers and Chinese take out boxes decorated the table tops, lightly sprinkled with cigarette butts and blunt stubs. A couple crack pipes were among the mess as well. Over on the couch, two guys were using needles. The girl who drove us over immediately started pestering them for a hit.

Mark led me through the mess, past an equally trashed kitchen area, to a room that was probably intended as an inner bedroom, but which had been converted to something like an office.

There, behind an oak table, was a skinny middle-aged black man in a cruddy grey suit, wearing rounded shades and a dangerous, thin-lipped smile. There were two wooden chairs in front of the desk. In one of them sat Jamal. Another thug had a gun pointed at him. Mark’s cronies shoved me into the other seat.

The older man, Chive I assumed, gave me a humorless grin. “So glad you could join us at last. You’re little stunt caused us some trouble, but you’re going to fix it for us. I know you’re quite good at fixing things, aren’t you, Doctress?”



6 : Shoggoth


By the time I got to the coffee shop/bookstore, I’d calmed down from my anxiety, cleared my darker thoughts about suicide and bestial living. Healing the teens, then seeing all those people rush toward me, it had set me on edge. I hadn’t realized I was a hairsbreadth away from a panic attack until I sat down with my food and took my first sip of coffee.

The bitter taste shocked me out of my funk. With my adjusted taste buds, I could truly appreciate the richness of the flavor, practically feel each individual mote of dissolved bean caress my tongue. I suppressed my urge to moan. I’d learned quickly that a man outwardly enjoying a foodgasm was a bit of a faux pas.

5 : Shoggoth


I still wasn’t entirely used to the face in the mirror, despite wearing it for several years now. I guess no matter how I looked, I still felt like the old me. It wasn’t a good feeling.

Blond hair in a mullet, a square jaw, ice-blue eyes, tanned skin, a perpetual five-o’clock shadow. A ruggedly handsome face, to go with my broad shoulders and muscular body. Not so tall as to stand out that much, but still a foot taller than my old form. With blue jeans and a black shirt with some random deathmetal band’s faded logo, I looked like your typical college slacker dude. The sort of guy no one would notice on the street. The sort of guy no one would expect anything from.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

4 : Max-Out


My clothes were incinerated, as was the tangling vine. I still felt some degree of heat, but with my durability set to 3, I no longer felt any pain. What I did feel, though, was my body sinking into molten asphalt, and the car I’d just been using melting to slag around me. I was no longer getting damaged, but now I had a new problem: I was stuck. The rock and metal were making me sink into the ground like quicksand, sucking me down, and more over, Jackie’s flame had the force of a fire hose behind it, shoving me down fully. I couldn’t switch to speed or strength without risking injury, but without either, I wasn’t getting out of this.

Worst of all, I found myself gasping for air. My upper half wasn’t yet sunk in, but the fire was cooking off all the oxygen. Even at durability 3, I could still suffocate! I sucked in as big a breath as I could and held it. She had to pause to take a breath, right?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

3 : Max-Out


I wasn’t about to let Jackie burn down Jem’s establishment just to get at me. I dropped some energy into speed, and the world slowed again. I yanked out my wallet, keys, and phone and tossed them behind the counter at Jem’s feet. “Holdtheseplease,” I squeaked.

I then strode out of the building, walked up to Jackie and put my hand on her chest. I shifted some of my power to strength and pushed. Jackie resisted and I felt the heat of her body on my hands, though it didn’t really hurt. Cursing, I shifted the rest of the energy away from durability to strength, and that was enough to let me shove her. I slammed her down into the ground, but immediately felt my hand start to burn. I quickly shifted some energy back to durability once I had her pinned down. Even with my speed still up, though, Jackie’s fire surged up at me, forcing me to jump backwards before a geyser of flames blasted towards the sky. With my durability active, but low, I winced at the intensity of the flames.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

2 : Max-Out


She was dressed like a hooker, desperately short red skirt, black fishnet body stocking, red high heels, and something I assumed was supposed to be a top, but looked more like a shredded red shawl draped over her shoulders. The body-sock should have been tight on her, but she was bone-thin, and it almost hung loose. Her hair was a wild mane of black with dirty-blond streaks, and I don’t think even pharaohs wore that much eyeliner. She was only twenty five, I think, but when she grinned, her teeth were thoroughly yellow and crooked, and her long nails gave her an overall hag look.

“You look like shit, Jackie.”

“Damn, bitch,” she said. “Love you, too.”

Saturday, July 7, 2018

1 : Max-Out


Sunlight forced me awake as a gap in the blinds allowed a band of bright gold to crawl its way up to my face. I grunted and pushed myself up, feeling the loose weight of an arm slowly slide off me. I looked to either side to see a couple of dudes flanking me, passed out on a large, but dingy looking bed. I chuckled. I guess I was more than they bargained for.

We’d been up and at it quite late, but in my natural state, I didn’t need much sleep. I could subsist off a couple hours a night. On trained instinct, I shifted my energy to focus on durability the moment I awoke, and any lingering tiredness washed away. I could slip myself out of here and leave these yahoos to their beauty rest. I slid down the foot of the bed gingerly, and strode across the floor, fetching my clothes.

The place we’d ended up was a real trash heap. Peeling paint, water stains on the ceiling, furniture that looked like it had been around since the 20s. The 1920s. I took a glance into the bathroom. I supposed I should wash the smell of sex and booze off myself, but even with just the indirect light from the window, I could see the hard water stains in the tub from here. I’d just shower when I got home.

Friday, July 6, 2018

0 : Doorways

The structure was unremarkable, appearing as a simple rounded tower made of sandstone bricks. Fifty feet tall and smoothly rounded, it’s most unusual features at first glance were its location, a random spot along a state highway, and the fact that it just appeared out of nowhere one day.

No one had been around to see it appear. One afternoon, there was an empty stretch of grass next to the road. The next morning, a small brick tower was there. It was odd, certainly, but most people driving past simply wondered, “Oh, when did that get built?” and “I wonder what that’s for?”

People busy with their own lives and concerns didn’t generally have time to stop and ponder over such a mundane mystery. But by noon of the first day, eventually word got around, and someone with an excess of time on their hands decided to pull over and check it out.

A series of eye witnesses driving by would later report that they’d seen him walk around the tower and take a few pictures, before entering the single, rectangular doorway in the front. No one saw the exact moment he disappeared.

No one would ever see him again.

Many would follow him. First were the innocently curious, then the galvanized conspiracy seekers, then the scientists and soldiers conducting research. Dozens entered and none returned, and it was decided that whatever this strange phenomenon was, it had to be destroyed for the public safety.

For three days, they battered it with construction vehicles, dynamite, and artillery fire, but no matter what they threw at it, the tower was not so much as scratched. Finally, they planned to build a wall around it and seal the whole thing in a giant block of concrete.

Just before they could get started, however, someone finally came back out.

He’d been one of the last volunteers sent in by the research team, just three days prior. Before, he had been dressed in street clothes and had cameras and sensors strapped to his body, but now, he was garbed in tan wizard’s robes with a green sash, carrying a gnarled wooden staff. He looked around, blinking in surprise, confusion on his face.

He then held out his hand and swept it through air, and lightning trailed along his fingers. Immediately, the stunned personnel swarmed around him, asking a thousand questions, insisting that he come with them for extensive testing.

But the man named James McLeod, who would become known to the world as the Earth Mage, was not prepared to become a lab rat. With a burst of wind beneath his feet, he shot into the sky and flew past the horizon. Hundreds of cameras managed to capture that moment, and seconds later, the entire world bore witness to the miracle of the world’s first Superhuman.

If they’d only known what would follow in his wake, they wouldn’t have celebrated. If they’d proceeded to seal the tower as planned, instead of attempt to profit from it, then maybe this all could have been avoided.

Maybe their world wouldn’t have to die.


Monday, July 2, 2018

Lore : Nations of the World

When the Doorways appeared in 2029 and produced the first of the Superhumans, the course of human history diverged radically from what we would know. Over the next decade, several cataclysmic events would reduce the world’s population by nearly two-thirds, and reshape the very surface of the planet.

As of 2040, there are only four major political factions remaining, each mostly concerned with keeping their citizens alive, and quelling any conflicts that will further endanger what remains of the human race.

Lore : Earth Political Map as of 2040

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Lore : The Doorways

These mysterious structures have drastically changed the course of human history. Where they come from, how they function, and for what purpose they have appeared on our world remain unknown.

All Doorways are identical to one another, a cylindrical structure made of sandstone bricks. Each is fifty feet tall and twenty feet wide. There is a single entrance, an eight foot tall open doorway for people to step through. Because entering the doorway itself is what causes people to disappear, the structures have since been named Doorways, despite initially being called Towers.

Inside, the structure is an empty circular room about eighteen feet wide, with a ceiling extending forty nine-feet high. This indicates that the walls and ceiling of the whole structure are only one foot thick, as seen at the doorframe. The floor is noticeably smoother, like a solid piece polished stone, but the walls look the same inside as outside.

Lore : Power Rankings

Many have attempted to find a way to properly categorize superhuman powers by a level system. However, such exacting efforts are mostly futile. The powers of superhumans defy all known laws of physics, and thus are not easily measured. Some tend to fluctuate radically under different circumstances, and as mentioned in the Power Functions article, two different superhumans may appear to have the same power, but said powers function on completely different mechanisms.

Ultimately, it was decided that rather than base such a system on exact measurements, the best means would be to judge the degree to which a power enables a superhuman to bend or break our physical laws. A bottom rank ability on such a scale would be a minor power with a comparatively miniscule effect that could be replicated by normal physics, while a top rank ability would be flat out impossible to accomplish by any mundane human means.

Some wished to break things down by at least a 10-tier scale, but once applied, many will endlessly argue the minutiae of different powers, where one level ends and the other begins, and then start adding in decimal points to try and narrow it down further. Some have argued for a simpler 3-tier scale, but many feel that to be too nebulous.

Lore : Theories on Power Mechanics

We are no closer to finding out the true means by which these many wild and divergent powers function, but a few theories have cropped up that keep being referred back to. So far, these are the most commonly agreed upon as likely, however ludicrous they may seem.

Lore : Power Functions

Plain and simple, the powers of superhumans defy all known laws of physics. These abilities can create matter and energy from nothing, destroy matter and energy completely, ignore laws of inertia, gravity, and thermodynamics, overcome death, create life, etc. Those who have been empowered by the Doorways wield abilities akin to mythological gods, anime adventurers, and comic book superheroes.

By all accounts, these abilities seem to function based on alternative mechanics or energies that simply cannot be detected, measured, or replicated by human science. However, even here, such mechanisms are not easily identified. This is not merely a type of fantasy magic, which operates under its own consistent rules. That, at least, we could accept as a separate model of physics superimposed onto our reality. Instead, in many cases, each power seems to operate under its own logic, independently of most other powers.

For example, two superhumans might have the ability to generate and project flames, but they don’t necessarily do it the same way. One may have telekinetic control of oxygen and be able to excite air molecules to create spontaneous bursts of flame. The other supposedly draws upon flames directly from the “Elemental Plane of Fire”, a dimension apparently made entirely of flames, that apparently only the superhuman in question can see and access. Two different mechanisms, same basic result.

The range of different exotic abilities demonstrated by superhumans is too wide and varied to go into full details for every one. However, aside from their specific exotic powers, there are several abilities that are quite common among many superhumans. These, at least, can give you some idea of what we’re dealing with.