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.
That was with normal men. With superhuman men, their souls, their auras, their essences, much more forcefully tried to reject me. The longest I’d ever managed was three hours, and I fell out unconscious, not waking up for a whole day. The most I could hope for without nearly killing myself with the strain was about an hour, and the more powerful a man was, the shorter my time limit got.
This particular body was absurdly physically strong, Class 3 in strength and toughness in his normal size, and as a giant, he reached Class 5. That was Glorifica-levels of power. He secondary ability was a sort of “heat breath”, a steel-melting steam blast he could exhale only in his giant form. However, like me, it seemed he had a time limit, and funnily enough, his giant size only lasted about an hour as well. Fortunately, I probably wouldn’t need even a quarter of that to mop these boys up.
I opened with a clean sweep of the heat breath, a rippling jet of super hot air that cooked the flesh of every man it hit, right down to the bone. The hotel blocked half the ring of men, protecting the ones guarding the back half, and more of the men had started running. However, within that half-circle, I managed to instantly kill at least three dozen.
What an idiot this guy had been. He’d had his face right in mine, a single puff of his breath would have boiled my brain in my skull. Instead, he’d wasted time posturing. I sometimes had to wonder if the main reason far more women returned from the Doorways than men, was because whatever happened us inside them, the women were the ones smart enough to make it back out, and the few men who did mainly managed it through luck.
Upon seeing their comrades boil alive in an instant, the remaining half who hadn’t already run started scrambling away. I stepped quickly up to the hotel building, braced my hands against it, and gave it a hard push with my right, while pulling it back with my left. Funny thing about Class 5 strength, when a super got that high up, their abilities tended to outright defy physics. It wasn’t just a matter of being able to push around hundreds of tons, it was being able to do so even when the object being lifted couldn’t have physically supported its own weight when lifted like that. Glorifica had once been able to pick up a skyscraper and swing it like a club from the antenna bolted on top, without it shattering to pieces, much less the antenna just breaking off in her hand. It had been pretty insane.
With a dilapidated old building like this one, for example, all I should have managed to do was just cave in the wall I was pushing against. Instead, as I swung it like a bat, the entire structure acted like a single, solid slab of material. The whole hotel, ten rooms and an office worth of space, ripped right out of the ground, and swung across the lot, smashing down the entire row of men trying to run. Only those who’d already gotten started right when I’d possessed my host managed to not get flattened, but the rush of wind kicked up by the swinging building sent them all sprawling, or slamming into other broken buildings.
I swung the whole thing in a wide circle, scraping the entire lot with a layer of gore, flattened cars, and ground down debris. I settled the building back onto its foundation again, but as I soon as I let go, physics set back in. Ripped from its supports and set back down crookedly, the already half-collapsed building imploded in on itself, kicking up a cloud of dust to join what had been kicked up by my swing.
Well, that had been fun. I couldn’t see through the dust that well, but from the sounds, I’d say I wiped out most of them. I tracked a few of the injured by their moans and howls, and ended their suffering with super strong taps to the head.
When I was done, I was satisfied that very few, if any, had survived, and that those that managed to get away were not going to try me again. By the time a new army of thugs could be gathered, I planned to already be long gone.
The question, of course, was what to do with my current host. It would be a shame to ditch such a powerful body, but there was no way I could keep him contained to use him at my leisure. Already, I was feeling the strain. I would rather not have him still tracking me after I escaped, either. If nothing else, assuming I had managed to kill everyone else, it would be nice to keep my little secret that I could also possess male supers.
I triggered the power to shrink him back down, allowing me to slip unnoticed through the dust cloud, and blend into the ruins beyond the battlefield. The only people I passed were startled and terrified homeless who were too busy hiding or running away to take much note of another random man also running from a super fight.
Obviously, I had to kill the host body in some way, but even in his baseline state, Class 3 was still a bitch to put down. That was the point where even sustained artillery fire might not actually be enough to kill him. I thought about it some more, letting my power of innate understand give me the full picture of his abilities. I realized, after a few moments assessment, that his Class 3 durability still required him to breathe.
Using his super-strong leg muscles, I started making gigantic leaps west, towards where I knew the state park and its ponds were.
The “vengeance of my victims” at least got to spend his last moments in the blissful euphoria that all my hosts enjoyed when they were in my power. I, however, had to suffer through the agonizing experience of drowning. I had to fight to stay conscious as long as possible, just so I didn’t pop out too early and have him manage to save himself. I was at least smart enough to not just swim out into the water, and instead just lay face down on the shallow surface. When I emerged, I was able to do so out of his back, and use his body as a platform to stay above the water while I greedily sucked in air. He remained face down and perished before the euphoria wore off.
After a few moments, I was recovered enough to get back on my feet. I took a moment to stare at the man I’d just ridden, then killed. A rather undignified death, all things considered. All of them had been, but I’d been responsible for much worse. I’d be responsible for many more, I was certain.
I shrugged and turned away. I was already bound for Hell. No point in regretting it now. I walked a few more paces, enjoying the breeze and letting myself regain my composure some more.
And then suddenly, I stopped short when four people just appeared in front of me. Each of their auras shone brightly in my mind’s eye.
I immediately recognized the Earth Mage, his aura a whirling storm of ethereal energy. Despite his lesser track record of accomplishments compared to the SFF and the Fantasmas, everyone who was anyone knew of the world’s first superhuman. He was the one who galvanized us all to give the Doorways a try.
Two of the other three I didn’t recognize, a black woman dressed as a cowboy, and a tall, fair skinned man with delicate features, dressed in white. The fourth member, though, I also recognized immediately: Max-Out. One of America’s Stilettos. She’d been in the fight that ended my fellow Fantasmas.
I froze. The Earth Mage I could possess, but I doubted I’d get the chance. Max-Out could snap me in half before I had a chance to blink, and I had no idea what the other two could do.
They didn’t attack, however, just stood there staring at me for a moment. Actually, the cowgirl just stared at the ground, her head lowered, and the man in white glanced at the corpse behind me. The Earth Mage kept his gaze on me, while Max just glowered.
Finally, the silence was broken, as Max turned to the Mage, and said, “Are you absolutely fucking sure about this? You do remember what her team did, right? Or were you too busy wrangling kangaroos to pay attention to—”
The Earth Mage cut her off, tipping his wooden staff towards her instead of holding up a hand. His eyes never left me. “I always kept track of America,” he said in a soft voice, but one that held a sense of authority. He stepped forward until he was a few feet from me.
“Emilia Carnel,” he said. “I have come to ask you to join us on a mission of great importance.”
I snorted. “Americans deigning to ask help from their lessers. This should be good.”
“I do not align myself with the ASP,” said the Earth Mage.
“And not all of us are Americans,” said the cowgirl. I gave her a curious glance as I recognized a South African accent.
“You are no doubt aware of the destruction of the Super Fem Force,” said the Earth Mage. “Just as I am aware of your conflicted history with them.”
“Understatement of the year,” muttered the tall man in white. I took a bit closer of a look at him. There was something a bit familiar about his aura, but I couldn’t quite place it.
I put my hands on my hips and forced myself into a more relaxed stance. If they had been here to finish the Stiletto’s kill order, they’d have done it already. “I cannot say that I fully respect the lapdogs of America. However, it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge that at least they were honest in their attempt at heroism.” I looked Max-Out in the eyes. “At least they were a team formed to do the right thing.”
Max gave me a humorless grin. “Just like you cunts, huh?”
I shrugged. “Well, you know. Good intentions and all that.”
“You’re lucky I’m not still with the Stiletto,” she said.
The pale man rolled his eyes. “Is that your pick up line or something?”
She smirked. “Worked on you, didn’t it?”
The pale man sighed in annoyance.
“Please be quiet, Max,” the Earth Mage said.
“Look, it’s either make bad jokes, or I rip her fucking head off,” said Max. She pointed an accusatory finger at me. “She’s a goddamned war criminal!”
“And you aren’t, Stiletto?” I said.
Max just glared at me, then forced herself to take a breath. She looked at the others, then whirled and stomped away. “Whatever. I’m trusting you on this, James. I hope we don’t all regret it.”
“Me too,” he said, still looking at me. “Emilia, we have all done terrible deeds. I am trying to set things right, and for that, I need a team. With the Super Fem Force gone, there is no organized force left to uncover the cause of the Supervillain Epidemic. The Stiletto really is gone now, despite rumors to the contrary. Now there’s just a handful of bounty hunters to stem the tide. But I believe this incident, and other tragedies may be linked. The Extinction Wave, New Gondwana, the Villains. I think it all adds up to something far bigger then our nation’s conflicts.”
I tilted my head to the side and gave him a curious look. He seemed sincere enough, and for all I’d heard of the Earth Mage, he had never seemed like one of the bad ones. Maybe not very competent or outstanding during his attempted superhero career, but there had been no particularly egregious incidents involving or caused by him.
I let out a long breath, then finally nodded. “Alright,” I said. “I suppose I’ve been picking off small fry for long enough. I’ll at least listen to your pitch.”