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.