Thursday, February 22, 2007


She had been stunned, at first, to see him standing there, uninvited, in her bedroom. She saw a glint of metal in his hand. Grabbing him by the wrist, she flung him across the room. Then she had recognized him: Dr. Kammerich.

Cowering against a wall, he told his former patient that he hadn't meant to hurt her, that he only came to see her. A syringe eight feet away said otherwise. She wanted to hurt him then, but something inside her, something that reminded her of Alex, kept her from lashing out.

He explained that he'd been checking up on her periodically throughout the years. He'd seen her secretly get well, and had even followed her to New City. "Why?" she asked. After years of simultaneously wanting and not wanting to confront the man who had molested her, the man who had taken her innocence, and yell at him, beat him, the only thing she could think to ask him was "why." Not "Why did you prey on a young girl's desire to feel less like a disfigured child and more like a beautiful woman?" She had wanted to be touched and adored, like most young people, so she had welcomed his advances, or tolerated them, at least. But she never felt adored. She felt used and confused. And even after years of sorting and resorting her thoughts and emotions on this subject, she could only think to ask him, "why?"

"Because I regret what I did to you the most." That apology, if one could call it that, sounded odd to Miranda. What else was there to regret? she thought. And who else? The doctor saw that the young woman was not satisfied with his answer. He explained, "I have 'enhanced' several people over the years, and, although you didn't turn out as poorly as some of the others, I saw you struggle to keep your changes a secret from everyone. Though you seem to have come out of your shell here in New City." He seemed to have more pride in his achievement than regret for his mistake.

"Wait, you mean the mistake you regret was ... curing me?" Miranda crossed her arms self-conciously.

The doctor realized his blunder immediately. "You have to understand, that wasn't you, really. I was in adoration of what I was going to accomplish with you, what you would become," he said, not knowing if the words were true or not. "It could have been anyone," he almost added, but thankfully censored himself.

Miranda had been waiting most of a decade to hear an apology or at least an explanation. That's it? she thought. Her rage bubbled inside her like lava. She wanted to spew epithets and curses at him and rain blows down on him. But again, something held her back, some fragile chain with links ready to snap barely restrained her. So, her anger came shooting out of her eyes and her mouth. She screamed, roared really, tiny fists clenched, thin neck straining. She took a step toward the man leaning up against the wall.

That's all it took to send him tripping over himself to get to the nearest door. By the time she had taken another step, he was plunging out of her bedroom door. After several more steps, she heard him paw at the door to her apartment frantically, open it, then scamper down the hallway. She slammed the door after him, then stomped back to her bedroom. She picked up the plastic syringe and crushed it. A clear, odorless liquid dripped down her hand.

The water poured over her shoulders, turning her pale skin red. Steam swirled about her small frame. Miranda covered her face with her hands and sank to the floor of the shower. Hot tears meandered through her fingers, mixing with the scalding water dripping down her face. Sobs wracked her body like convulsions, and she opened her mouth to let them out.

She was angry. Angry for not hurting someone who had injured her. Angry for wanting revenge. Angry for thinking she had to hide her wellness and angry for knowing she had to hide her strength. Angry for being so strong and yet so powerless. Angry at him for touching her. Angry at herself for having let him. Angry for wanting to be touched and held again, and to have it not remind her of being a frightened little girl.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Open Source Applications for Windows

I recently stumbled upon a list of open source Windows applications. Open source software is good because it allows for many software developers (from programming hobbyists to application development companies) to contribute to and enhance a program. The opposite, closed source software, is software whose developer does not allow others to contribute to the application. Then end result of closed source software development is that, though the applications may be guaranteed to run or the developer might offer to give you technical support (Microsoft produces closed source software and "guarantees" that its programs will run and offers "technical support" when they don't, and we all see how well that works out.), the applications may end up not having as many features or work as cleanly as its open source counterpart.

I try to use open source software whenever I can because they are often free and, frankly, they seem to run better than many Microsoft and friends' software.

I personally use and recommend:

  • Mozilla Firefox - web browser - Once you try tabbed browsing and don't have to open up a million Internet Explorer windows, and download a bunch of neat little add-ons and themes, you'll never got back.
  • Mozilla Thunderbird - email and feed reader - I can pull email from my many web mail accounts and aggregate my feeds, all to one place.
  • OpenOffice - office suite - I have used OpenOffice since my Junior year of college so I didn't have to buy Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. It can do anything MS Office Suite can do (including save to all the MS document formats) and it is much more customizable.
  • VLC - video player - I've only used VLC for about a month now because I hate RealPlayer and Windows Media Player is a memory hog. My only complaint is that VLC seems to have some problems with DVD menues.
  • BitTorrent - torrent downloader - It downloads torrents. There's not much else to say.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Political Christianity

I recently read two interesting articles (America's Most Persecuted Minority by Murray N. Rothbard and The Rise of Christian Fascism and Its Threat to American Democracy by Chris Hedges) that were about completely different subjects, but both led me to the same conclusion: political Christians -- the Christian Right, the moral majority, or whatever you want to call them -- are (and have been) ruining our country.

I'm all for people being allowed to believe what they want to believe. I'm even okay with people telling other people what they should believe -- do what you've got to do, just don't be a dick about it. But once you make a law forcing people to believe like you do, you've gone to far.

I don't have a problem with people smoking dope or tripping acid. I don't have a problem with anyone having access to birth control methods. I don't have a problem with people under the age of twenty-one drinking alcohol. I know you and your god have a problem with it, but what's that got to do with me?

I'm sorry your crazy voodoo god said that you're not allowed to have fun, but don't spoil shit for the rest of us. My God said that I can do pretty much whatever I want as long as I do it responsibly and "do unto others as I would do unto myself."

Sunday, February 18, 2007


This test is bogus. Every time I filled it out, no matter what my answers were, I got Psylocke.

Psylocke is pretty enough, I guess, but she's got three things against her: She's, like, a thousand feet tall; she's a limey Brit; and she's got purple hair.

I'd rather have gotten Shadowcat (preferably when she's over 18) or Batgirl (the Barbara Gordon version), though each of their mentors (Wolverine and Batman, respectively) would probably beat me up for messing with their little girls.

Actually, I think the Invisible Woman would be perfect for me. She's a short, skinny girl who is fiercely loyal. Though she is blond and doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor, she is girl after my own heart, avoiding conflict by turning invisible and putting up impenetrable force fields to avoid intimacy.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Pansy Monsters and Misogyny

The Descent was, as far as horror flicks go, a disappointing movie. There was a good deal of tension-building, the gore and creepy factors were high, and jumps and quick scares abound, but are not so abundant as to make them cheap. But, despite the good cinematography, the characters, human an non, are less than appealing.

The monsters are ineffectual, confusing, and a bit pathetic. By the end of the movie I almost feel sorry for them as they are, throughout the last half of the movie, being decimated by a only handful of cave-diving bimbos. The ratio of monsters to humans killed is two to one, a veritable slaughter. Usually, it’s scarier if the monsters are hard to kill and strike fear into their victims, except for zombies, who are scary for their mindlessness, painlessness, and sheer numbers.

The monsters are supposed to be post-humans who have lost their eyesight in an adaptation to or as a result of living in dark caves. It is assumed the monsters “see” with sound, with some sort of sonar. Yet they are unable detect nearby prey, even when on top of it. I am able to suspend disbelief that these creatures are adapted from humans; have foregone sight despite hunting on the surface instead of the barren, lifeless cave in which they live; grown pale, slimy, and translucent skin instead of developing a fur to protect them from the cold air in their Appalachian mountain cave; and inexplicably and constantly drool an off-white mucus. I am not able to suspend disbelief that these creatures could not discern the presence or source of a light, even with only vestigial eyes; or that they cannot tell the difference, using sonar, between a cave wall and a human being, no matter how still the human stood; or that, for a creature that hunts, navigates, and relies exclusively on sound, they could not hear or feel the stifled breathing or even the heartbeat of a human that they were literally standing on. These creatures deserved to die, not because they attacked a group of human (who invaded their territory and were a viable food source), but because they were so ill-suited for living. How they had survived long enough to evolve into their current form is baffling. Perhaps the factors of inbreeding within a small population combined with no major predators in the cave explain how this evolutionary anomaly continued to survive.

The Descent also suffers from the misogyny of its writer-director, Neil Marshall (or perhaps it was this viewer’s own gender bias reflecting back at him). Unfortunately, a movie with an all-female cast written by a man is suspect and up for gender scrutiny. And this movie is ripe for the picking.

It is a goldmine of gynocentric metaphors and imagery. The setting for most of the movie, a cave, is a dark and wet womb. This connection is made nearly explicit in the last minutes of the movie when the main heroine of the movie emerges head-first out of a small cave entrance, covered over by underbrush, and wails in relief like a newborn. However, it is curious that this cave is penetrated by women, and that in the cave, instead of a beautiful germ of life, is a deformed, male abomination. In male-like fashion, these female spelunkers claim the cave as their own and delve deeper into the cold dark.

This machismo, though, comes off as less than genuine, a layer of make-up on females clowning a male. But the joke is not on the gender being mocked; it seems to fall on the clowns themselves. Seconds after entering the cave, a swarm of bats encircle one of the heroines. She screams hysterically and incessantly until she is comforted by one of her companions.

An ugly female cattiness hides just underneath the thin veneer of masculinity. As the crisis of being stuck in a cave mounts, the group is in dire need of cohesive control. Despite most females’ knack for very democratic cooperative group control, this bevy falls into chaos quickly, with members of the group making decisions or discovering information without informing the rest, running off, getting hurt, and going into hysterics. The female group dynamic breaks down quickly and inexplicably. So, Juno, the self-proclaimed leader of the group (and biggest culprit of aping manfulness – though I do give her much credit for her monster-ass-kickery), sets up a masculine power hierarchy, but this, too, fails to unify the group.

The most telling scene of discord is the group’s first close encounter with the monsters. Instead of huddling together, the group splits up, running screaming into any dark recess, like cockroaches when the kitchen light is turned on. They abandon one of the group who is injured and can barely move, and watch as she is attacked and dragged off by one of the creatures. This is not to say that any other group, despite the genders of its members, wouldn’t do the same in a frightening crisis. But the actions of this all-female group are starkly contrasted by the immediately following actions of the most “manly” of the group, Juno. While the rest of the group is emitting high-pitched squeals and running for cover, only she goes after her injured friend. She plays tug-of-war with a monster over the dying body of her companion, and then injures that creature and kills another. Juno turns out to be proactive, courageous, and effective, while the other women are selfish and ineffectual (pronounced “pansy”). For this reason, I chose to identify Juno as the hero; Sarah, the protagonist of the movie, had run off into the cave alone, screaming. But Juno is not the hero. She is made out to be the villain, as the audience later finds out. A character with positive masculine traits is vilified, but a character with negative feminine traits is made a hero.

When first attacked by the monsters, Juno kills one of the creatures and, in the heat of battle, accidentally and mortally wounds one of her companions. The woman crumples to the ground, grabs a charm hanging around Juno’s neck, and dies (or so the audience and Juno believes) in a pool of blood from a gaping wound in her neck. The woman is later found to be alive by Sarah. And instead of these two friends saying some heartfelt goodbye to each other, the expiring woman, wracked with pain and chocking on her own blood, is dying (literally) to tell Sarah the latest bit of gossip: that it wasn’t the monsters that killed her, but Juno. To prove it, she gives her the charm she ripped from Juno’s neck. The dying woman tells Sarah that Juno attacked her and left her to die, forgetting to mention that she snuck up on Juno immediately after Juno killed a monster, and in the darkness of the cave Juno probably mistook her for another attacker. (And if she had acted as dead as she did after she fell to the ground, I would have left her, too, if I were Juno and there were monsters lurking nearby.)

Juno meets up with the two other remaining companions besides Sarah. Juno suggests they look for Sarah; the other two refuse. Again, bravery is vilified and the women are made to look cowering and self-serving. So, the reunited group fights their way through the cave. Meanwhile, Sarah fights and kills the only child and mother monster we see in the movie. She subsequently falls into a puddle of tar or perhaps menstrual blood and emerges, slow-motion Rambo-style, a wild-eyed badass.

Juno’s group is killed off except for herself before she meets back up with Sarah. Sarah questions Juno about the others, and Juno indicates that they are dead. Then Sarah asks specifically asks about the woman Juno accidentally maimed. Juno admits that she saw her die, but glosses over the part where she plunged a pick through her neck. (Who would mention something like that, especially when monsters are hot on your trail in the middle of a dark and creepy cave?) Sarah construes this to be an admission of guilt on the part of Juno.

Juno and Sarah advance to an exit, fighting a large group of monsters, and surprisingly easily trounce them. After the immediate enemies are vanquished, with more on the way, Sarah shows Juno the charm the woman she killed snatched from her accidental killer. Then, without asking Juno to explain herself in the supposed murder of their friend, Sarah stabs Juno in the leg and abandons her, leaving her to fight an oncoming rush of monsters alone with a bum leg.

Thus the character with (what I perceive to be masculine, probably because of my gender) positive traits – loyalty, bravery, reason – is killed off by the “hero” that trusts gossip over logic and almost literally stabs her friend in the back out of cattiness. If I was a woman, I would be offended.

If in The Descent, the women had acted more like the monsters – sticking together, defending their own, fighting with each other and not against each other – and the monsters had acted more like the women – bloodthirsty killing machines with no remorse, pity, or anything resembling reason or logic – I would probably have enjoyed the movie.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Beginner's Luck

"Human civilization strives for balance," Alex said. "Much like in nature, where an ecosystem can support only so many birds or so many insects or so many trees, a city can support only so much good and so much evil. But there is always a balance between the two. There are fluctuations one way, then the other, but there is always a gravitation toward neutral, exactly between good and evil. If there is a great amount of evil, it will eventually be nullified and replaced by a great amount of good."

"Well," Thomas spoke up, "how do you know who's good and who's evil?"

Illustration courtesy of Luciano.

Alex looked over his shoulder. He expected Thomas to be much closer than he was. Thomas stood behind him, trying to scratch his arm through his green suit a safe distance from the edge of the building. Alex stood on the at the corner of the rooftop, looking three stories down at the street below. His arms were folded. His cape flapped slightly in the breeze.

"It's not about who is good or evil. It's about how much power is devoted to each. One really evil person could offset ten mildly good people."

Sounds like a bunch of new-age hippie crap to me, thought Thomas. Alex looked back over his shoulder again and saw Thomas swaying and biting his lip. He invited Thomas to stand on the edge with him. "No thanks. Scared of heights."

Something caught Alex's attention, something unseen or unheard by Thomas. Alex sprinted across the rooftop signaling for Thomas to follow. They hopped onto an adjacent rooftop. Alex ran to a skylight with several panes missing. He crouched down and peered into the building. Thomas stayed several feet back and whispered, "What is it?" There was a faint glow coming from inside the building, but from where Thomas stood, it looked empty.

"Five men -- one's tied up. Three guns -- maybe four. One club." Thomas inched closer and tried to get a glimpse. Alex said, "I'll throw in a couple flash-bangs to distract them. We'll jump down. I'll disarm the two hanging back. Can you disarm the other two and hold them off long enough for me to help you?"

Thomas was frightened at the prospect of attacking men with guns outnumbered and unarmed. He immediately regretting signing on to be a superhero. "What ... What?" he said nervously.

Alex yanked him down to look in the window. Below them were five men. One was tied up in a chair. Blood ran down one side of his head. One had a baseball bat in one hand and the tied up man's hair in the other. He looked angry. A third man waved a gun through the air casually as he smugly explained something to the tied up man, something about "drop-off" and "cops" and "money." Two other man stood behind the smug man. They stood back, guns in hand, looking stern and just a little bit bored.

"Can you take care of those two for a minute or two?" Alex asked, pointing to the smug man and the angry man.

"Yeah, I think so."

While Thomas developed a plan of action, Alex pulled some things out of his belt and tossed them into the room below through one of the missing window panes. "Here we go," he said.

Thomas did not realize that the action was coming so soon. He had thought there would be time to think, a little verbal run-through, or at least a countdown. But Alex had already begun. As the flash-bangs exploded, Alex stood up and jumped through the sky light. Thomas hesitated.

The explosions went off and all the men (except the one tied up) spun around wide-eyed and pointed their weapons at random places in the empty room. Alex landed on one of his targets, knocking him down. The other spun around to meet him, but was greeted by the heal of a boot in his temple. He'd wake up later in a squad car. Alex's original target quickly recovered and the two began to grapple.

The smug man turned to see a caped man wrestling his cousin Eddie to the ground. He pointed his gun at the two, but refrained from shooting. His expletive-lace demands for the caped man to cease or risk being shot went unheeded. Then there was a distraction behind him.

The smug man swung back around and saw his comrade, the angry man with the baseball bat, also on the ground wrestling. With himself. The angry men, both copies, grunted and punched each other. The smug man had no idea what was going on.

One of the angry men finally pinned the other, only to feel the barrel of a gun pressed against the back of his head. He looked up cautiously and was surprised to see the smug man, his "business partner," behind the gun. "All right. Both of you stand up."

"What are you doing? I got him right here!" said the angry man.

"How do I know that it's really you?"

"Who the fuck else would it be?" the topmost angry man said.

"Shoot him already!" urged the bottommost angry man.

"Just stand up, both of you!" shouted the smug man. They disentangled themselves and stood up. "OK. Which one of you is the real Mickey?"

The two looked at each other in disbelief. "He is," they said in unison, pointing to the other.

"Eh, fuck this!" The smug man pulled the trigger twice, shooting both angry men in the stomach. They both collapsed to the ground.

Alex finished applying an effective sleeper hold on his opponent and looked up just in time to see the smug man fire two shots, one at his friend and one at the wall. Just then, Thomas burst through the sky light and landed squarely on the smug man's head. The smug man crumpled to the ground unconscious, and Thomas rolled away and lay sprawled on the ground. Alex stood up. He was panting a bit, but adrenaline was keeping him from feeling the already forming bruise on his jaw and the slight black eye. He sprinted over to the newly fallen enemy and kicked the gun away from his hand. Then he turned his attention to Thomas. "I don't know what you did, but I'm impressed."

The young man was still prostrate on the floor. He moaned slightly. "I think I twisted my ankle," he complained.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

English Spelling Reform

I recently read an article from Interesting Thing of the Day entitled English Spelling Reform: The difficult path to simpler spelling. I agree with all of the reasons fro a spelling reform, and think all the reasons against are fairly lame. Any dissenting opinions?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Peace Out

Brandon was floating in a sea of blood, literally. He swam desparately, looking for a life raft or a shoreline. But wave after wave of frothy blood crashed down over him. His vision was blurred and he sputtered for breath. Brandon knew he would drown.

A fin appeared in the distance, then disappeared as Brandon slid into a trough. It reappeared again when he reached the next crest. It was pointed directly at him.

A shark, and from the looks of it a big one, sped towards him. There was nothing Brandon could do. When it was only a yard off, there was a great splash as it launched itself like a dolphin out of the churning bloody sea. Based on its trajectory, it would land directly on Brandon.

The movement of the world suddenly slowed. The waves moved like syrup, and gravity only pulled downward half as fast as normal. Brandon looked around in confusion, then back up, expecting to see a mouth with several rows of teeth bearing down on him. Instead, he saw a disembodied face. It was the face of the convenience store clerk.

The clerk had a hole in his face where an eye should be, and through it Brandon saw the clouds passing overhead. The face began to laugh evilly, ridiculously so. Like a mad scientist or 007 villain, the clerk cackled. Brandon was not so much frightened as annoyed. He wished the clerk would stop.

The idiotic laughter continued. Brandon floated in a blood ocean wishing he could stab the clerk again, in a throat that wasn't visible, in hopes of shutting him up. But as he watched he noticed the face slowly change. The laughter changed, too, as it went on.

Brandon realized that the face now belonged to Dr. Tyler, and the laughter was a phone ringing.

The answering machine beeped as Brandon groggily opened his eyes heavy with sleep. He wiped crusty dried blood out of the corners as he woke up. He looked around the bathroom, and then down at the bath tub he was lounging in. A red ring circled the drain.

The answering machine beeped again. "Yo dude! Pick up the goddamn phone!" the voice of Tom, somewhat distorted, shouted from the machine in the other room. There was a pause. "So, uh, Brandon? I was reading the paper just now and I read an article about how some guy with spikes all over his body murdered a gas station clerk last night. And I got to thinking, that can't be the guy that I know who has spikes all over his body. Can it?" Brandon picked at a long scab over a self-inflicted gash on his inner thigh until it began to ooze blood. He leaned back and stretched out in the basin. Tom's voice continued, "That can't be the guy with spikes that I know that showed up at my apartment last night when I wasn't there, stole my clothes, then scared the piss out of me when I saw him standing in my living room at two in the morning looking like Satan himself shat him out. That can't be the guy that bummed money off of me to go get some snacks, and then came back thirty minutes later acting normal - well, as normal as a guy with spikes all over his body could possibly be.

"No, it couldn't be the same guy, could it? No, I think that guy would have mentioned to me that he fucking killed someone while he was at the goddamn Seven-Eleven! What. The. Fuck."

"So," Tom's voice went on, "if you like happen to run into that guy, the other guy with spikes all over his body, will you tell him to get the fuck out of my house? Seriously, dude. You're my friend and all, but if you're not out of my house by the time I get off work, I'm gonna call the cops. Sorry, dude, that's just the way it is." There was a short, uncomfortable pause. "Peace out." Brandon heard the receiver rustle into the cradle on the other end of the line. The answering machine beeped again. Brandon stirred and began to get up from his bathtub bed.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Serial Fiction Blog List

My brother (Pancake Wrangler), my friend (Luciano), and I have all been writing serialized pieces of fiction, using blogs as our medium. It seems blogs were made for this. The author writes a bit of a story. The readers read the bit of the story and have the opportunity to respond, via commenting, to every portion of that entire story. The author gets validation. The readers get to partake in the creative process. Every one wins!

You'd think that there'd be tons of serialized fiction blogs out there, right? But after several searches, I haven't found much. What most searches for "fiction blogs" reveal are blogs written by fictional people. They are fictional online diaries. This is an interesting genre, I'm sure, but I can barely stand most blogs I come across written by real people. Why would I want to read a blog by a fake real person? Like "reality TV," fiction posing as reality fails to entice me; actually, it annoys me. I should care about something just because it purports itself to be true? Quit a-million-little-pieces-ing fiction and write something that will intrigue the reader without tricking them. (And, yes, I just verbed a book title.)

So, I said all that to say this: I am compiling a serial fiction blog list. It will contain links to blogs solely devoted to one or several works of fiction, broken up into sections that are or have been updated periodically, or links to a table of contents of such a work of fiction contained within a blog not singly devoted to serial fiction.

Divine Intermission
Five Chapters
various authors
Healing Knowledge
Mortal Ghost
L. Lee Lowe
Mr. McBastard
The Unbinding
Walter Kirn
Pancake Wrangler
Zen of Evil
Christopher Michael Nelson
Zen of Evil: Progeny
Christopher Michael Nelson

If you or anyone you know has a blog that fits the guidelines above, email me or leave a comment, and I'll add it to the list.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Blogger beta Miracle

The Blogger gods have heard my prayer and have smiled upon me. After posting last night, I tried to switch over to the new Blogger yet again, and it worked! Thank you, Blogger.

Expect some changes in the near future. I plan on making or finding a new template.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


"Thanks for coming in this morning, Thomas," said Alex, showing the young man to a seat. "I know you're probably really busy with your building and all."

"It should hold together for one day without me," Thomas said.

"Listen, I've been helping out Miranda with her, you know, finances. With classes and papers, and then moonlighting as a superhero, she doesn't have a lot of time for a job. So I've been giving her a salary." Alex offered, "I could do the same for you."

"Thanks, but I don't think I'll quit my day job just yet," Thomas said uncomfortably. His eyes wandered around the room, an immaculate and ostentatiously furnished study, complete with shelves lined with old-looking books and pretentious trinkets. It even had a large globe that opened to reveal a mini bar. To Alex his study, as with most of his apartment (this one, at least), was just another lavishly fake room in his penthouse that he only used when entertaining guests and impressing shareholders.

"I understand," said Alex, not really understanding at all. "Hey, I want to show you something!" Alex pulled something out from behind a column near the edge of the room. He held it up, grinning with pride. It was a lumpy jumpsuit, teal and dark green. "I had to guess at your size. Try it on."

"Right here?"

"Sure. It's just me." Thomas began to disrobe feeling a little self-conscious. As he stripped, Alex pointed out the features of the superhero's new clothes. "It has a removable (though I wouldn't recommend it) flak armor torso lining and groin guard. You can take a bullet to the crotch and not feel so much as a breeze," Alex was immensely excited. "It also has polysteel gauntlet and shin guards, titanium mesh joint pads, and leather boots and gloves. The whole thing is temperature regulated; there's a small panel with the temp controls on the left forearm, and the battery pack is in the vest between the shoulder blades." Thomas found the whole get-up to fit quite snugly, the armor and padding filling out what would otherwise be a baggy onesie. Alex was smiling like an excited child on his birthday. He handed to more items to Thomas, "Here are the mask and cape."

Not very enthusiastic about the whole costume, Thomas said, "I'll take the mask, but would you be offended if I didn't wear the cape?"

Alex was offended, tried not to look it, and failed. "Well, Miranda and I wear capes, but I guess you don't have to."

"I just don't think I'm a cape kind of guy." Thomas slipped the mask on and lined up the eye holes. "How do I look?" he asked. Because I feel like an idiot, he thought.

"Like a terror to criminals," Alex replied. Thomas pretended to believe him.

"The last part of the uniform, and maybe the most important, is your name. Have you thought of any names for yourself?" Thomas was a bit confused. He asked what the matter was with his given name. "'Thomas' is alright for the guy that maintains an apartment building. But once you put on that suit, you become someone else. Superheros don't have alter egos just to protect their identity or to fit in with the other superheros. They do it to separate themselves from their everyday selves."

Thomas looked confused. "Thomas may be a shy, witty young man who's handy at fixing things, but once he steps into this uniform, he becomes a crime-fighter with impressive psycho-suggestive powers. He can't let all those foibles and quirks of a mere mortal get in the way. He is a superhero.

Clark Kent was an awkward, bumbling news reporter. But Superman was a confident and powerful monolith of justice." Alex let Thomas absorb what he'd said. But Thomas still looked unsure. "Do you get what I'm saying?"

Thomas stared at Alex blankly. "Uh," he sighed, "how about, uh, Mind Bender?"

Alex thought for a moment. "It's a start," he said with reserve.

Circa Now