Nor Was I secretly some sort of hero. Though one of the capes, some slick little sparker named Bolt Boy with bleach blond hair, had asked if he could embed a tracker near the base of my skull to make their jobs easier. It was tempting to say yes. Of course that would also be the same as admitting I wanted to get involved in these messes.
I don’t. At all.
The tally totaled fifteen store robberies, twenty-six actual hostage situations, eleven prior times where I’d been drug off to a secret lair and televised nationally to taunt the public, this being number twelve. That didn’t count the occasions where buildings had been knocked over and almost crushed me, the times I’d been launched into other dimensions, been victim to curses and unnatural disasters.
All that in two years.
After the television special one of those tech-based heroes in Area Fifty One, some government sponsored research groups based out of Maine, put me under a microscope and declared I had a super power. I would magically be in the right place, at the wrong time. Every time. At least, a side effect seemed to be guaranteed survival. A living Murphy’s law. Sort of. The exact details were pending review by Area Fifty One’s management, then four villains and one confused interdimensional bus driver wrecked the place.
Ordering my food online didn’t help. Refusing to go outside didn’t help. Moving three times a year didn’t help. Each relocation was followed by a super powered disaster. A death ray that had been trained on New York would swing to the middle of Alabama and hit my apartment. Insurance doesn’t cover me for death rays. It’s like asking for flood protection in Florida.
Would you believe congress was trying to pass a law that required me to notify the entire neighborhood whenever I moved in? Congress, passing legislation for one person. Like I was some the world’s worst sex offender. Websites tracked me, Social Security refused to issue me a new number, and my credit score had been rewritten to say ‘No’ and not even provide a ranking.
I couldn’t afford a good television and had become unemployable. However, there are fifteen different states that pay me to stay away. Thankfully my genius lawyer had included a little caveat that requires me to be in control of my destination. He ends up with the bulk of my money every month.
Which brought me to my current situation. Today I was in a typical volcanic lair with an overwhelming blast of heat slapping me in the face. It came from a carefully channeled lava flow on the other side of the room.
Focus lights were attached to the ceiling in order to highlight me and four other hostages. Our captor was sitting in a darkened corner on a chair that would likely swivel around in some suitably dramatic fashion when the hero busted in.
These schemes went from plan to traps, to bait, to posturing, speech, and a battle. It’s really the same routine each time. Trust me, I know.
“Ted. Can you please just let us go.” My voice sounded worn out. Any other person might call the tone jaded. I should still be unconscious like the others but there were only so many drugs that could be pumped into your body over the years before you start building resistances.
“Who are you? How do you know my name?!” He screamed.
Lights slammed on displaying parts of the room. Ted’s chair, one that had been positioned on a raised dais, was rather dramatic as it turned around. I’d give it a seven on the one to ten scale. Ten had been redefined after being exiled to a Dark Fae prince’s realm. His chair had been backlight by some dozen chained and probably damned souls captured from an alternate reality he’d enslaved. The lighting effect and the drugs they’d put me on had caused quite the trip.
Since then everything else seemed less impressive. At least, the lights were on now, which explained how the lava flow had been so carefully contained. It was fake, more like a glorified lava lamp then a flow.
Ted, our captor, had offensive bits of reflective metals splattered all over his suit. Most likely so they’d catch light as the villain and hero fought for some hidden cameras feed. On his hands was a set of gantlets that probably weighed more than fifty pounds, counterproductive if he was going to a boxing match. The rest of the clothes were covered in random letters, looking like a typewriter had barfed into a bowl of inky alphabet soup.
Apparently he couldn’t remember kidnapping me before. Or the temporary lobotomy I’d been subjected to by one of his lasers three years ago. Or when he and a super villain team had gotten together and managed to ruin half a mountain range, one that I’d been hiding in to avoid a lynch mob out of southern Oregon.
“Sorry, TeleGraph.” A stupid villain name. “We all know how this is going to end.” Both my arms were drawn behind me and locked up in some fancy handcuffs. The other four hostages were still passed out.
“That’s right. Tele-GRAPH! I know what you’ll do before you do it!” Ted’s voice was a high pitched whine. I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear my second sentence.
“Yes. So, Telegraph, demonstrate your amazing skills for me. Do you know my next question?” Hopefully, he couldn’t tell how big a joke he was. My voice certainly didn’t contain the slightest whit of mocking tone. No, sir.
“Yes, I DO, and no I won’t be letting you go!” He slammed a button on his chair, the lights shut back off and I could hear the chair whirling as it turned away.
I didn’t even try to disguise my sigh. How exactly does one talk down a super villain? And really, what else was there to do until the hero showed up? Plus this way he might be distracted enough for the fight to go quicker.
“I like the lava flow.” Cotton in my mouth and fading drugs made the words sound offhanded.
There was a pause from the darkened chair.
“Yes, it is rather nice isn’t it?” Ted answered.
“Good call going with the fake one.”
“I thought so.” He acted like I had complimented him on a choice of wallpaper.
“I saw The Invincible ManDrake get hit by a real one.” I continued.
“Oh? How did that workout?” So much for TeleGraph knowing my actions ahead of time. Maybe he was thrown off by the idle chit chat.
“Well, he was okay until he took a deep breath to scream,” I answered. ManDrake had sucked the scalding lava right inside his lungs. Invincible had been a bit misleading.
“Ouch.” Ted sucked in air between his teeth. “I’d heard he was only tough on the outside. Gasses are a terrible weakness.”
“Not sure why anyone wants real lava splashing around anyway.” I kept going with my train of thought. It felt like I was talking to myself at this point anyway.
“No, no. Lava does massive damage to a good suit.” His voice was far less squeaky at this point. Either the other high pitched voice was a fake or Ted was just lulled into friendliness by using his real name.
There was silence in the room as I petered out of things to say. It wasn’t like his grand plan was that interesting to me, or that whatever clever traps he’d laid out were important. Heroes tended to have three approaches to villain lairs, barrel in, sneak in, and teleport in.
Teleporters were the worst. Snide bastards.
“How long do you think this will take?” I asked the most important question of my evening. Maybe if we got released soon I could watch half an episode of my television shows. There was a rerun marathon on tonight.
“Oh, it’s hard to say really. I’ve been tracking three possible goodie two shoes that may show up. Any of which will be here in the next hour tops.”
I glanced at the other prisoners near me. Each one strapped and unconscious. The guy on the end looked to be drooling heavily. Hopefully, he’d come too and freshen up before the hero barged in.
“I timed their sedatives, they should be ready to scream and beg when whoever shows up,” TeleGraph said before I asked.
“Who are the choices?” There was nothing to lose by asking at this stage. My fantastic power hadn’t failed me yet on the survivor front.
“Why? You going to try and help them?” At least, Ted’s voice hadn’t gone all whiny again. Suspicious, but not whiny.
“No.” I wanted to see if I should keep my eyes closed, or pull my feet off the ground. Water powered heroes loved to flood a place, and wet socks made being a prisoner that much worse.
“Well, it doesn’t matter much either way. You can’t really help them, I made sure of that.” Ted lifted his glittery gantlets up high. “Do scream though. It adds to the atmosphere.”
“Sure thing.” Providing assistance to the heroes was out since I was tied up nice and tight. Arms barely moved at all. Not even an antigravity field to keep me stable. My shoulders would be sore as hell in the morning. I scanned the floor for loose bolting, anything I could rattle.
“No use looking for an escape,” He said with a slightly confused tone.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” I said. My throat felt so dry. Sedatives always made me want water.
“Were you going to fight back?”
“No, that would be stupid.” I didn’t want to fight a villain. If I did then someone would slap a hero label on me. After that would follow tights and a themed costume, worse, union dues.
“Then what?” For a person who could read my every move he was sure missing a lot.
No visible hinges on the bottom of the apparatus holding me up. No switch in legs reach. The lock was mechanical and bound around my wrists. Which meant I was basically stuck with my front row tickets to this upcoming event.
“Nothing important,” I muttered.
“No, really, what are you trying to do?” Ted, Telegraph, had swiveled back around in his chair to watch me.
I eyed him in return and then hung my head. There was no point in any of this. I’d be stuck here for the next few hours watching things go one way or the other. Then I’d be free for the next villain to pick up.
“Just killing time,” I answered. What on Gods green earth did he expect from me? You’d think he would expect hostages to at least ask questions. It’s not like we were gagged over a pit of crocodiles with laser beams on their tails.
“You’re not some secret hero are you?” TeleGraph asked.
“No. The boy scouts said I was overqualified.” I tried not to sound snarky and failed.
“You look familiar.” Finally, he was started to catch on. It was the same tone every villain and hero used. Maybe this time, he’d remember how many times we’d met before.
“I’m surprised.” My words came out dry.
“Who are you?” Ted demanded while smacking gantlet to the chair.
My eyes rolled at his question. Clearly he missed my tone of voice.
“Why don’t you figure out what I’m going to say before I say it.” Bad, bad, I shouldn’t play word games with the villain. Any sane person would lay low until blown over. The last thing I wanted was a repeat of the last Villain I’d set off. Three days of being chased through a swamp? No thanks.
TeleGraph looked startled at my words.
“Well?” I asked.
“You’re awfully cheeky for a prisoner.”
“I’ve done this before.” My voice was still dry and shoulders ached. Being trussed up like a pig was murder on my limbs. The other captives would be even worse off, assuming they survived.
TeleGraph paused then face palmed. The sound echoed through our chamber. It had to be jarring with those giant mittens he was wearing.
“Oh, you’re that man.” That, like I was some sort of plague. That, like an object and not a person. “The fellow who was on the tele, Art, Al, Arnold,”
“Right, Adam! The guy who gets hung up in everything. Are you so desperate for attention that you’d get yourself kidnapped?”
My eyes narrowed and started to roll with annoyance. Like I had a choice. This time, I had been peacefully walking outside, first mistake, and down to a soda machine on the other end of the hotel I’d hidden at. Then one of Telegraphs rented minion, a giant bulbed machine that floated midair, flew next to me with pincers for arms then shoved me into a bag. The sedative came shortly after.
I woke up here.
“Yes. That’s me, the attention-grubbing Adam Mallard.” I said.
“You sound sarcastic. I hate sarcasm.”
“I’m sorry if I caused you any grief.” Two points to any member of the audience who can guess how that came out.
“Stop that, it’s rude!” He sounded like a school teacher chastising a child. What sort of super villain was this guy?
And who was he to call me rude? Rude was being tied up and held hostage just to lure in some hero for a confrontation. Was he mentally disabled? The giant gloves and the metal bits on his suit should have been the first clue. Or being a super villain, or needing me to scream for atmosphere.
He ranted about a lack of proper social grace in today’s generation. Not that he was that much older. It was hard to tell under the getup, and his face had never been revealed once that I’d seen. I only knew his name because someone called him Ted and he’d protested, loudly.
“Your alarms are going off.” I had no idea if they were or not, I just wanted him to stop giving me English lectures.
TeleGraph clapped his giant fists together. The resounding noise kicked on another set of lights and the walls lit up with projected screens. The projections seemed to come from the center of the room, a tiny black box that was likely some technical masterminds wet dream.
The displays looked impressive.
“I don’t see anything.” TeleGraph was staring at a set of screens that showed some sort of security footage of the outside. There were others nearby that he was flicking through with a wave of his hands.
“Nothing. Sectors one through eight are clear.”
“Don’t you have some robot security guards to give a warning?” I asked. Ted had his back turned to me, so I scoped out the rest of the room while he was distracted.
The walls were carved out. Judging by the security camera this base was indeed in a mountain. There was a highway that cut through the landscape outside.
It was past time for me to find an exit. Maybe if the heroes were sneaky they’d free us, poor hapless prisoners, then tackle Telegraph. Then I could escape and stick out a thumb on the road. Most heroes didn’t put any thought into how to get the prisoners home.
“Only a few, but they’re on reserve. I have to pay for them by the mile and by the hour. It’s a scam, they get you coming and going.”
“Today’s economy isn’t what it used to be.” I absently responded.
A dark doorway on one side showed me a way out. The flicker of movement just inside it showed me a lot as well. Someone was in the shadows already, watching inward. Cue the sneaky hero.
“Don’t I know it. There used to be a time a proper villain would come out ahead, even after jail time. Big heists and all. Not anymore. Now we have to pay taxes. Taxes!” He didn’t even look at me. Both the villain’s arms lifted above his head in dramatic outrage.
“You know what they say, nothing lasts except for death and taxes.”
“Deaths negligible.” TeleGraph waved an arm in dismissal and turned back around. He clapped his hands again. The little box and it’s projections shut off leaving just the ambient light.
“Taxes it is.” I tried not to stare at the doorway, or where it had been. With the projections off nothing was visible.
“No matter where you look, there’s no way out,” TeleGraph said.
“No.” Perhaps my attempt to avoid looking at the door had failed. “You should probably get back into character.”
“Your voice,” I said. The man’s words had turned almost normal the longer our conversation went on.
“What?” Ted’s voice did get a bit higher at least.
The wall, on the other side of the room from the door, shattered inward. Bits of rock went flying everywhere. A few of the overhead lights were knocked out, another portion of the shower hit my fellow prisoners. A rather large rock hit the back of my calf.
My leg tensed and groan escaped. That had been a sloppy hero entry, and yet another painful souvenir. Maybe one day a villain would inject me with some sort of healing robots and I could shrug off the damage. Might even be worth the torture. Maybe, I hadn’t exactly experienced that yet but it might be less frightening than another alien dimension. Certainly less painful then passing through inter-dimensional waste or being possessed by two demons at once. They’d spent six hours listing off their titles to each other in front of a mirror using my body.
Brute force hero struck a mighty pose as the dust settled. Hamming it up in case any cameras were trained on him. Villains and heroes loved to record the fights for publicity.
“Never fear, I, General, am here to save you.” The voice was confident and resounded through the room. Guess how much those speech lessons had cost him? Not to mention reserving the name General.
His coloring had been done up in the old red white and blue. Mostly the blue and white, with only a few slashes of red near logos and bordering. His chest emblem was an Eagle, how patriotic. I still thought he was a dick.
Not the first time he’d ‘rescued’ me either. Each time he’d made me walk home. General was the kind of man who only flew home the ladies, and even then it was only the good looking ones. Prisoner number three next to me would like to get a few different types of rides by the end of the night. Probably some hero-worshipping airhead anyway.
“Don’t fear citizens!” General’s statement missed the mark as the other three hung limply next to me. I didn’t even bother glancing at him.
Since my inevitable survival was proven by history I had plenty of time to be distracted by all sorts of hopeful thoughts. Such as a distant dream of the General getting the superhero strain of crotch rot. Then someone could sell the story to tabloids.
“I will save you!” Generals face looked puzzled, like the timing for everything wasn’t working out right. No doubt he’d been waiting outside an extra few minutes just to make sure we were awake. My talking might have thrown off his entry.
He was the generic super strong and amped up physical senses hero. How a chucklehead like him lucked into those powers was beyond me. If anyone offered the option I’d happily trade abilities.
It became harder to think such pleasant thoughts when my fellow captives finally started waking up. Like most newbies the first thing they did was start screaming. The other male prisoner, wearing a torn up business suit, hit higher notes than both females put together.
I attempted to shove my shoulder into the ear closest the others to block out the noise. It didn’t matter, all three voices together drove most conscious thought from my brain. The first few times this had happened I’d panicked loudly myself. Not quite falsetto, but nowhere near a baritone.
“Don’t fear citizens!” General sounded excited now. Maybe I should have acted more thrilled to be rescued. Would you have? I couldn’t bare to overly excite the man for fear his ego may suffocate us all.
The lights in the room flickered in a neat little strobe dance. No music, though, and thankfully no canned screeches were added to the ones already going off from the other prisoners.
A huge flare highlighted TeleGraphs chair and the air around the General. As prisoners we got a lesser light, but still something. The chair slowly swung around as bits of reflective material caught the overhead and pitched narrow beams around the room. Even TeleGraphs gantlets caught some sparkles. Against the black it looked far more sinister than I might have guessed.
My fellow captives had moved past stage one, hysterics, into stage two, terrified whimpering along with mild hope. I guess even their drug addled brains were working enough to identify the main features. There were only three elements to work with.
First, the good guy. I used good loosely because I thought he was a jerk. His spotlight was a glaringly bright oval of whiteness.
Second, the bad guy. One whose dramatic level had managed to climb to a seven point five instead of just a flat seven. It was the disco lights that did it, cheap effect, neat results.
Lastly, us, the poor hapless prisoners. A term that vaguely included myself because I knew I’d survive.
Not that my fellow captives would all do the same. Things went either way in that regard. I’d tried to help before, tried and failed. I’d like to say my luck of survival extended to those around me, gave me a way to help people, but it didn’t. It didn’t even guarantee I’d be unscathed. And just because there were good guys coming to rescue us…well…Hopefully, this would be one of the good times.
Say what you will about General, say it loudly in his face, but like him or hate him General was good at ensuring people made it out alive.
“General, my dear friend!” TeleGraphs voice had gone squeaky again. Performance anxiety? Was that a blood vein twitching on his forehead?
“TeleGraph!” General returned the greeting with a surprised tone in his voice.
“You’ve fallen right into my trap!”
“I doubt it, villain!” General trumpeted. Ted responded by slamming his giant gantlets together. Then the room really started going wild. It was like a strobe light of all sorts of varying colors started flashing.
Clever. General would be nearly blind as his oversensitive eyes started shorting out. TeleGraph did the ballsy thing and jumped down from his raised dais.
“This is excellent!” Teds squeaky voice echoed around the room, no doubt also something to mess with Generals senses.
Then he started swinging those heavy gauntleted hands at the General. His hands resembled a little girl trying to slap someone for the first time.
I started to snicker until I saw the General take a few solid blows like the weight of a giant was behind them. Which was impressive because I’ve actually seen a giant hit someone. Both were the kind of blows you felt vibrate through the air and right through your gut, even on the other side of an open room.
With every few blows, I could see General stagger back. His foot would come crashing down hard. After a few more hits he’d stagger back again. It was hard to tell if anything was leaving any permanent damage. Each time he planted his foot the ground shook a little. Each time the ground shook the captives next to me started their collective whimpering again.
They were like a bunch of puppies, where setting one off would just set all the others off.
“Shut up. You’re only making it worse.” They’d edged into full on screaming again and that couldn’t be helping the General. Not when their screams echoed around the room too.
They kept screaming. As an adult, you hope other people eventually run out of screams, but they don’t.
“Shut up!” I said with more force. My voice echoed around the room as well. For just the briefest moment echoes from General’s crashing foot settled all the other noise.
“Be quiet, for the love of god be quiet.” I groaned at the other people. All three stared over at me with drawn faces.
“Wh-what?” One of the captives asked to the sound of the General’s face being hit again, hard.
“Super hearing. Your screaming is throwing him off.” I answered back. Not that I expected the short version to make any sense to them.
“How do you know?” The blond trophy mount had enough sense to ask a question. Maybe she wasn’t a complete airhead. Of course, maybe none of them were, but how often do you get a chance at a superhero? I’d drop my plans for a few female pop singers. Though with my luck, they’d turn out to be slime aliens from another planet with magical STDs.
I didn’t feel like explaining that the General had super senses and that the lights and screaming combined would shatter any attempt to focus. Why? Because this had happened to him before. The man was so stupidly invulnerable that he’d just brought the place down around him. That had been a bad event where the villain ended up in a coma from falling concrete.
“Come on General! Fight back!” TeleGraph punctuated his statement with another round of those sissy slaps. “What’s the matter?!” His whiny voice echoed around the room again.
“But what can we do?” The blond asked.
“Wait for the other one.” There had been another shadow in the doorway earlier. A much different hero, General was not the sneaky type.
“You saw me?” The voice was female and someone I didn’t recognize.
I tried to shift my eyes over to the sound and all I got was an interesting view of my shoulder and someone suspended from the ceiling. She had one foot encased in something reflective and the other bent inward as she hung upside down. Was that ice? Ice was a step up from water, at least until it melted.
Her suit was skin tight in all the right places. It was enough to give my bored pulse a jumpstart. From what I could tell her costume was colored in a light blue pattern, her hair was also dyed some ridiculous darker blue. Probably a natural brunette under all that. With the unstable disco lights, it was hard to tell.
“Sure.” My answer drug out as I tried not to stare. Damn female superheroes dressed in two overall schemes. Distracting and perhaps a bit revealing, or downright crazy with some sort of theme like Rainbow Bright gone Goth.
“That’s pretty good,” She said. Her voice wasn’t sultry, but it was a distracted and deeper scratchy pitch. She certainly wasn’t one of those girls with a giggly voice. Three of the top ten heroines had valley girl voices and bubble gum attitudes.
“I’ve got practice.” I tried to keep my words quiet. None of us needed TeleGraph or General looking this way.
“Should have you out in just a moment.” Great, our mystery heroine was picking the master lock behind us. One that would probably end with all four of us flopping on the ground.
“Cuffs instead!” I tried to warn her.
“Mine first!” The blond down the way tried to jump into the conversation.
“Shut up, unlock me first!” The other guy yelled. He managed to hit another high note. Even now I couldn’t tell if his voice was just naturally falsetto or it was the terror.
You’d think he’d never been held hostage before. The blue suited female started working on my cuffs first, most likely because I sounded sane. Luckily TeleGraph didn’t even look in our direction. Even after the shouting.
“It’s alright. They can go first.” Because I’d live one way or another. They might not.
“Make up your mind.” She said. I shrugged awkwardly, which was more of a scrunch designed to bring my shoulders up. The position my arms were locked in made it difficult. It wasn’t like my skills included lock picking, so getting me down first wouldn’t do a damned bit of good.
“Me first!” The man yelled, his voice easily heard above the blonds and the pounding footsteps of General.
“What are you doing there girlie?” TeleGraph shouted in that fake high-pitched voice of his. The echo rolled around the room but there was little doubt it was aimed in our direction. Or more specifically, at the woman trying to undo our cuffs.
She cursed and managed to undo one of the individual locks. Unfortunately, the first person released was the hysterical male. He dropped to the ground and started sobbing, his legs curling towards his chest. The uneven lights made it difficult to tell, but I think he actually started sucking his thumb.
“General! Snap too!” The female hero yelled. Her authoritative voice gave me shivers. There were super villains that could use a lesson or two from her. TeleGraph started stomping over towards us. Each footstep deliberately loud to keep up the assault on Generals hearing.
“What…” General was mumbling next to a microphone or something. His deep and confused voice outweighed all the others.
“Next to you!” She yelled again. “The ground!”
TeleGraphs eyes got wide and he swung back around towards General. The hero was fumbling around in the dark, using his strength to smash down every few feet, hoping to hit something. You could tell there wasn’t a lot of conscious thought going on between his ears, not that he ever exhibited much to begin with.
Here I was hoping that TeleGraph would smack him around a little more. Maybe they’d let me stay and watch once the rigging was unlocked, the one holding me and the remaining three prisoners suspended a few feet above the ground. I didn’t actually expect TeleGraph to win. The General was too stubborn for that and at least had brains enough to hold his breath while wading in lava.
No such luck. General fell to the ground and fumbled around feeling out or something. Whatever it was had TeleGraph panicked. The villain slammed his hands together and things got really crazy.
The strobe effects stopped and left the entire room black and sightless. No, not completely black, the false lava illuminated softly. After the flashing lights, the dim glow of the lava was nearly nothing. Then a whir of noise started near General, sounding almost like a countdown.
“Smash the damned thing!” The heroine yelled.
“Where is it?” General yelled back. His words had stopped echoing. Somewhere else in the room, TeleGraphs footsteps were rushing around. Was he headed to a wall panel of some sort? It was hard to tell, but he looked to be fumbling with something near his throne on the dais.
“On the ground!” The heroines throaty voice shouted. She wasn’t screaming which helped me feel that much more confident in her sanity.
“Where on the ground?!”
Then the device I’d seen on the floor earlier started beeping. And it only got quicker as General fumbled around. It was a little easier to make things out now that the light show had stopped. The false lava flow was helping, without it we’d be in complete darkness.
“Moron.” The heroine muttered, and went back to the locks. This time, she didn’t even bother trying to pick them.
“Sorry about this.” She said in a normal volume.
“Don’t worry, I look forward to this sort of thing.” My words were once again without inflection.
“I hate sarcasm!” TeleGraph shouted from across the room. The beeping from the center of the room got sharper.
My wrists started to grow cold. She must be freezing the locks.
“Got it!” General shuffled something around. “Doesn’t look like a bomb.” He would be immune to the blast if it was one. The rest of us might not be unless the heroines ice powers would be able to shield us.
“Save me!” The female captive next to me yelled. I could still hear the other male whimpering on the far side.
“Save me.” The heroine mocked while her hair bounced and tone went nasty.
The lock on my arms shattered. I flopped onto the ground and tried to shove my wrists under each armpit. My arms felt cold and brittle.
“Should I throw it?” General asked.
“Beeping means it wants a hug.” I weakly responded from the floor. No amount of freezing would stop my sarcasm. How many times had this sort of thing happened to me? This year alone? Enough to know that steadily increasing beeping is never good.
“Throw it!” The heroine yelled from further down the line. It sounded like she was working on the blondes locks now.
“Hold on.” I would be immune to any lasting effects from her super powers. Had been so far. The blond wouldn’t be. It took a moment to get over to the blond.
“Let me hold the manacles.”
“You sure? Frostbite is nasty.” She said. I think she said frostbite, the beeping in the background was only getting louder and more high pitched. Whatever General was doing in the darkness didn’t seem to be worth much.
“Frostbite? What do you mean? General, save me!” The blond yelled. Her voice wasn’t nearly as commanding as the heroines. It was downright annoying. She kept up her cries the entire time. “Save me!”
“I’ll be okay.” My teeth almost chattered together. I took a stance beneath the blond and got ready to catch her if she fell like I did. “Go.”
Maybe the heroine nodded.
“Go what? What are you doing?” The blond asked just before my hands temperature plummeted and what little warmth I had regained vanished. Chills wound their way up my arm, followed by a complete numbness. Hopefully having both hands on the manacles would let me soak up most of the cold.
“Got it.” Our female rescuer said.
The lock snapped and the heroine carefully pried my hands out of the remains. With nothing to hold her up, the blonde slumped forward over my shoulder and started kicking madly. The first two hit air, her fists hurt but didn’t have much strength. Then she landed a foot right in my groin. No amount of numbness in my arms could prevent a second collapse as I fell.
“And…” TeleGraph was somewhere nearby. The beeping gave a final-sounding click and stopped. I tried to shove the blond off to the side and get ready for the next prisoner. She kicked ruthlessly.
“Curtain close!” TeleGraph yelled in an amplified voice. The box that the general still held in his hand gave an excited beep.
I didn’t look. This was the part of the night where the villain made a clever escape by making a mess. There was a burst of light that felt bright enough to burn outlines into the walls. The flash was accompanied by a final ear popping screech. General yelled out something, and the man who’d been sucking his thumb grew strangely silent.
Maybe they were all dead. Hero, heroine, captives. Maybe I’d found myself in another situation where the villains exit resulted in streams of missing person reports.
No, my ears were ringing too. The flash had been bright enough that the rest of my senses felt off. Like the world was stumbling sideways on me. I tried to stand up and stagger towards the exit I’d seen earlier. There was no way I’d let myself be found as the only survivor at a scene like this. Not again. I just had to figure out where to go. After that burst, even the lava’s glow didn’t help.
A hand shoved me to the ground. Words were shouted but none of them registered. I saw a brief outline of light blue shaped around a well-formed calf muscle. The heroine had pushed me down for some reason. Everything was cold, and neither arm had feeling back yet. I looked down at a limb and tried to move the fingers. They worked. Next my eyes drifted around the room.
General was down clutching his face. The blonde who’d been kicking me seemed to go into a silent shock. One of the other captives was still sedated and strung up. The last captive, a plump female, was watching the scene unfold with unfocused eyes. She must have woken up with the blinding flash and piercing noise.
Our female rescuer was rushing towards General, wait, she turned slightly towards the black box that was still beeping in a cadence that sounded like baby giggling, if babies giggled in a frequency that could shatter glass.
How could she stand that sound? It had to be worse even closer to the box. The noise didn’t seem to bother her. She kicked the box so hard it slammed into a wall and slowly puttered out.
The sobbing man had regained enough sense to look around. There was a desperate hope on his face.
“Is it over?” His voice strung out.
“I don’t know.” The blond said.
“Nnngh.” The heavyset woman said.
The fourth captive snorted in his sleep.
“I doubt it. Nothing’s exploded.” I said.
On cue, the box gave a final angry beep that triggered some sort of rumbling in the structure around us.
“Collapse!” The woman in skintight clothes shouted towards General.
He looked oblivious.
“General, the civvies!” The blue heroine yelled. General shook off whatever effects he was feeling and ran over at nearly full speed. His recovery time was impressive.
Too bad his personality was predictable. General ran straight for the blonde, ignoring the rest of us. Clumps fell from above, there was no telling how well this place was put together, but I was betting it wouldn’t last long.
I looked up. A giant chunk of the rock was separating itself from the rest of the ceiling. Its goal was simple, to reach the bottom of the room. That meant going through me, and likely the other two still shackled hostages. There was a ray of sunshine behind it. That meant this cave wasn’t buried that far in the mountain.
The blonde was running away from the group to General anyway. She knew safety when it was offered. More rocks and dirt fell to the ground. The false lava flow splashed and oozed as bits of collapsing cave filled in the channel it had occupied.
Dummy me, I just stared at the rock as it slid downward. It was all pointless really. I’d live, some of them may die. How many times could you help someone else and fail before trying felt inconsequential? I’d like to say time slowed down as tons of debris plummeted towards my head, I’d like to say that I felt brief euphoria at the idea of it all being over, or that my sense of self-preservation finally kicked in.
But only one of those was true.
I didn’t move. And barely a blink passed by as the mass of ceiling cleared half the distance. My eyes closed again for just a moment. How would I survive this? Maybe wake up with the rock on either side of me? Maybe a dimension portal would open up under my feet. That had happened once, no, twice.
There was a rush as all the air in my body was driven outward. My head bounced off of the ground clanging top teeth against the bottom. I opened my eyes and couldn’t see anything. Not even the fake lava flow. But my cheeks were freezing, and my breath felt heavy. There was also someone pressed against me from above.
I could tell there were curves on the mystery person against me. Too bad my arms were still fairly numb or I might be able to actually enjoy the moment. Well, within reason.
“Hold on.” The woman said.
Just my luck, I was pressed under the female heroine and couldn’t feel much of anything other than cold. I couldn’t see anything either. My head was still swimming from the slam to the ground.
“Hands numb, no grip.” I said. It sounded much more clever in my head. Maybe now wasn’t the best time for witty banter.
“Damn.” She said.
There was a shuffling noise as the heroine tried to wedge her hands over to mine. It was hard to tell. All I heard was noise and felt a shift in pressure on my chest. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it certainly was foreign. There hadn’t been a woman this near to me since high school. Before all the super villain interference in my life.
“Can you feel that?” She asked. Her voice was right in my ear. Her question barely registered past the idea that she was so close.
“Feel?” God, I wish I could feel whatever she was doing.
“Try to move your fingers.” My brain tried to follow her request. It was hard to tell how successful the process was. “Thank god.”
“Oh.” I muttered. She was worried about her powers causing me problems. “Don’t worry. I always survive.” I tried to cheer her up but my words came out slow. It was so hard to breathe in this tight area. Not to mention my words seemed far louder than they felt.
We must be in a really confined area.
“This happen a lot?” Her scratchy voice sounded distant. The air around us was still freezing, and here she was pressed up against me just ignoring it.
“Hey, wake up.” She didn’t yell at least. How long had passed?
“You would not believe how often.” I mumbled a response.
“Good. General should be digging us out. I got a dome over the other civilians.” They got a dome and I got a casket. At least, it housed two.
“Joy. Generals my all-time hero.” My response lacked the energy to make my feelings really obvious. The air in here was pressing in.
“Shush. Just breathe slowly.”
“You breathe slowly.” I said trying to be playful. She should take a nice deep breath and give me a good reason to live. The feeling was faint but she was certainly pressed up against me. My imagination would run wild with this once I got out. Or maybe things were finally ending for me. I could die happily like this if it all was over.
“I should be able to channel some air over here. It’s tricky so I’ll need to concentrate. Keep talking. I can listen at the same time.”
“Concentrate.” I agreed. My lips hadn’t quite managed to open as I said the word so it came out as a mumble.
“Concen.” I tried again. She did want me to talk right?
“Trite.” It seemed funny at the time. A drop of water splashed past her onto my face. Melting ice, or sweat from her? Hopefully, my socks would stay dry.
“Con.” I said. Smaller chunks of the word might help me actually say it right. It was difficult to think of anything as another splash of water came down. “Sin.”
Noises filled our small bubble of space and time blinked by. She was shouting but the words were far away. The haze of my world lifted a bit and I thought of a question.
“You never told me your name.” I tried to make a complete statement. How enunciated it was impossible to tell, the words were so far away. I couldn’t even feel her as my breath slowed to a stop. My thoughts fell into darkness.
|Age:||21 Earth Standard Years|
Generalized Ratings as follows
|Intelligence:||2.5 [Slightly uneducated] – No High School diploma|
|Agility:||4 [Above average]|
|Luck:||-5 [Excessive trouble magnet] – should be dead, see ‘powers’|
|Attitude:||General Helpful, Apathetic|
Other items of note
Technically a virgin. Disowned by family at 17. Responds to stress with extreme sarcastic. Levies on all sources of funds. Outstanding warrants in 32 states. Enjoys day time drama shows. Dislikes most heroes.
Adam has the unfortunate power of literally attracting ‘supernatural occurrences’. This range has been noted to span all origin types, including alien, genetically modified, alternate dimension beings, ‘villains’, ‘heroes’, and unpowered events.
Coupled with this is a clause that seems to force Adam to survive any and all encounters thus far. It is potentially possible that a ‘Rule-Breaker’ power [See power categories addendum] might be able to circumvent this ability, but none have been successful thus far.
Once the World Powers Management group dedicated an entire team to the capture and neutralization of Adam Millard’s abilities. The Reality Clash Wars happened afterwards, involving three parallel dimensions and over seven hundred super powered individuals. Most people lost their memories of this event. WPM management updated his file with a ‘do not attempt to neutralize due to unintended reality crippling side effects’.
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