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.


  1. Whoohoo! Crimefightin' mayhem. I particularly like the injury at the end... you're doing one of my favorite things thoughout this entire story: humanizing the superpowered.

  2. i can't wait to see the mind-bending stuff thomas will be capable of by the end!


Circa Now