Doc Tesseract

The adventures of Greg Silverman, retail industry employee, prospective college student and superhero.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Before I Go

Last night was... interesting. It was just me and Judy, out on patrol.

"Dad's meeting with Mom again," she said by way of explanation. "It's just us."

We ported around town, but nothing was really happening. Judy had brought along Punch's easily-detachable police scanner, but that was picking up nothing, either.

"Kind of a dull way to go out of town, isn't it?" she said.

"I don't know," I said. "I kinda like it when it's peaceful."

We just sat on top of City Hall, waiting for something to happen. It didn't; the city was quiet again.

"So," I asked, "what do you want to do when you get out of college?"

"Broadway," she said. "I want to try for the Great White Way."

"Acting?"

"Directing."

"Neat."

"What about you?"

I thought for a minute. "I really don't know," I said. "I want to do something with film. Maybe direct, maybe write."

"Well, I'll remember you when you're famous."

"If I get that lucky."

Then it happened.

"Hey, Greg?" she asked.

"Yeah?"

"Listen, I was wondering... when you get back, would you... like to go on a date?"

Well. That's a bit surprising.

"Really?" I asked.

"Yeah."

"Okay," I said.

"Thanks," she said.

Then the police scanner kicked in, squawking about a bank robbery in Manayunk. "We should go," she said. And we head off, both feeling pretty lucky.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I Don't Know if You Can Die in Dreams...

...but you can certainly feel like you're going to.

I had the dream again. It went as it normally does: me hearing Lyra's name, me inquiring about the location of my pants, Lyra telling me I was chosen for a reason. Then came the pain. I felt like my brain was tearing itself apart. When I woke up (which, trust me, I did quickly), I had the mother of all migraines.

Did I mention this was all of two hours ago, and it still has yet to go away? Man, work's gonna be a bucket of laughs today.

As for patrol, last night was a bit more action-packed. There was car crash in Manayunk (Punch got the guy out, then I ported the burning wreck into the Schuylkill before it exploded), a mugging in Chinatown, and a cat up a tree in Mt. Airy.

You read that right: a cat up a tree. I ported a little fuzzball who'd been facing crippling acrophobia for the past six hours out of a tree at the behest of a little girl. At least I'm building up my rep with the kiddie set. Doc Tesseract is for the children!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Return of Punch

Sorry I'm posting so late for a patrol update. I slept in really late this morning and had to scramble to get to work.

Anyway, Punch was back with us last night. After delivering the robot to Boiling, he stayed a little longer so the military techs could give his armor a checkup. Judy was a little miffed, but basically glad to see he was back.

The rest of the night was pretty normal. Stopped a carjacking in Hunting Park, but otherwise, dullsville. Then again, it's not like I'm complaining after the robot attack, but still.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Attack of the Giant Robot!

So, we're in Center City last night, looking for trouble, when we feel the ground shake.

"What the hell?" I shout. "I didn't know Philly was on a fault line."

"Maybe some bozo's making a quake," Punch said.

Soon after, the shaking stopped. And then the screaming began. We all turned, only to see a giant fricking robot striding through Philly.

If you didn't see it on the news, this thing looked like your average robot. Think the Iron Giant, but a bit more streamlined. Then again, design isn't all that important when it can crush an elephant with its feet.

"Let's go," Judy says. I don't know exactly where the robot was, so I do a series of ports towards its general vicinity, until we end up in Strawberry Mansion. The robot was just going berserk, stomping on anything it could find.

"Can you get into him?" I ask Punch.

"No," he says. "Believe me, I'm trying. That thing's got a strong security system."

"Do you think you can do it?"

"Yeah," he says. "I just need some time. If you can distract him, that might help, too."

"Okay. Judy, do you think you could land on him if I ported you up there?"

"Definitely," she says. With that, I open a portal to somewhere a few hundred feet above the robot's head, and Judy leaps in. As I watch, she manages to pull off a few somersaults before landing gently on his left shoulder.

All I can basically do was watch. I mean, the robot is too big to port, and who knows what will happen if I start porting debris to rain down on his head?

Judy, on the other hand, does great. She leaps about the giant's shoulder, blasting it with psychic mojo. Every now and then, I see tiny scraps of metal fly from its face.

Then the thing raises its right arm, and swings it at Judy! She falls off, and from a distance, it looks like she isn't floating. I open a portal beneath her, and Judy falls gently onto the pavement. Then I do something entirely reckless: I port onto the thing's shoulder.

"Hey!" I yell at it. It turns its head. "Yeah, you! Look at you, you pathetic hunk of bolts! What would Hogarth think?*"

It swats at me, but I manage to port onto its other shoulder. It keeps trying to hit me, but I keep porting around: on top of its head, on one of its feet, into a gap in the breastplate. Finally, the thing stops swatting at me, and, I swear to G-d, winks. Punch has finally gotten through.

I port back down. "Good job," I say to Punch. "Is she okay?"

"I'm fine," Judy says. "Thanks for the save, though. I was kinda distracted after that thing thought I was a mosquito."

We look at the robot. "So," I ask, "what does one do with a colossus?"

"One turns it over to the proper authorities," I hear behind me. I turn to see The Silver Bullet, who's finally decided to show up. "You guys did well. Come on, Punch, let's get this guy to Boiling."

"Where's Boiling?" I ask.

"Boiling Air Force Base, in DC. They've got two whole bunkers devoted to advanced technology."

"DC!" says Judy.

"I'm sorry, Alice," says Punch. That's probably the first time I've heard him call her by her real name on duty. "I'll be back tomorrow morning, I promise. Okay?"

She sighs. "Okay, dad."

And with that, Punch, The Silver Bullet, and the giant tin can march off into the night. I take Judy back to her place in silence, wish her goodnight, then port back home.

I wonder if I should have said something.

*Yes, I love that movie. Yes, I cried at the end. Yes, I am a massive dork. Shut up.

Hey, Sexy Momma, Wanna Kill All Humans?

In case you missed it, a giant robot attacked Philly last night. I'd talk more, but I really have to get to work. If I miss any more days, Brett will probably kill me, then put my head on display next to the PS2s as an example to others.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Leave of Absence

I went back on patrol last night... only to have to tell Punch and Judy that I'd be leaving for three weeks of backpacking around Europe with my family on Thursday, and that my mom wanted me to give the crimefighting a little rest while on vacation.

"I'm beginning to think you don't like our company," Judy said with mock hurt.

"Look, I'm sorry," I said. "Maybe I can talk my mom into letting me port back for a night or two."

"Ah, don't worry," Punch said. "We can take care of everything. Just promise to have a little fun, okay?"

We stopped a drunk driver in Midtown, but the rest of the night was rather quiet. I feel guilty about leaving again so soon, but at least Punch and Judy will be able to handle everything.

I don't know whether to feel happy or superfluous.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

All Better

I'm feeling much better today. I can move without feeling like I have to throw up. Going back out on patrol tonight.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Heroes of Boston

I'm still sick, but getting better. I'll probably be back in fighting shape tomorrow, but no way am I going out on patrol tonight.

I was thinking today about how I'll be patrolling Boston come fall. So, I did something surprisingly proactive for me: researched Boston's superhero community. I've compiled the research for your viewing pleasure.

-Hierophant. You'll all remember him from the Azazel incident. He's one of Boston's oldest heroes; he's been in the game nonstop since 1979. From what others have observed, he's got telekinetic powers and the ability to heal others. He claims he got his powers from G-d, and he's certainly got the spiritual credentials to give it some weight. He was also the first openly gay superhero; he came out of the closet shortly after Mr. Alchemical found the cure for AIDS.
-The Steel Standard (III). Boston's local Patriotic Superhero (TM). We have Lady Liberty, DC has the Revolutionary, and Boston's got the Steel Standard. The Steel Standard name has been in operation since the late '30s, when the first Steel Standard made his debut. The name pretty much says it all: metallic armor, and a standard for a weapon. Unfortunately, the first Standard, Gregory Ross, was killed while trying to rescue wounded soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge. The second one came on the scene in 1976, with some apparent upgrades: flight, and a standard that could cut through steel. He passed on the mantle to another guy a few years back. Most people can tell the difference because the new guy's (gasp!) black.
-Soundbreaker. Boston's primary technological hero. She's got a jetpack that allows her to travel at supersonic speed, and a "force gun" that knocks bad guys off their feet without inducing lethal damage. I found some footage of her blasting through Boston (sorry, no good link), and I'll be damned if I don't hear "Blue Orchid" by the White Stripes while I watch it.
-Ricochet. He's Boston's "urban crime" specialist, and one of the founding members of the New Centurions, the big name "teen hero" team. He doesn't get too involved in it, though. I mean, he goes out on the occasional mission, but he mainly takes care of street crime in areas like Dorchester and Chelsea. His power is to basically tell the laws of gravity to shut up; different accounts have him jumping halfway across Boston, sticking to the sides of buildings, and plummeting at high speeds towards crooks, only to start floating in front of their faces and beat the crap out of them.
-Black Maria. Another member of the New Centurions. She gets her name from the old "Black Maria", a legendary black Boston boarding house owner who was so strong and tough that the police often called on her to round up the really bad guys. She's got superstrength and apparent invulnerability (she took an artillery shell in a Sword of Fire attack a few months back with no ill harm), and she's a pretty cool girl, apparently. Shame the media mainly treats her as "Ricochet's girlfriend".

So. Those are my new stomping grounds. I hope these guys don't mind another hero.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sick

Started feeling like crap at around eight last night. Couldn't go on patrol. Spent the day lying in bed. Only posting now because my stomach has recently regained some sense of balance.

I did have the dream again last night, though. That's something. Only thing was, there was nothing new about it. Usually, whenever I have the dream, some new detail pops up. This time, it was just the same old stuff. Weird.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Crime-Free City

At least it was last night. We saw nothing while out on patrol, and Punch didn't pick up as much as a domestic disturbance over the police scanner. Normally I'd be worried about this, but after the hubbub of the past few days, I just decided to appreciate the moment.

While we searched the city for any trace of crime, I got to know more about Judy. She's a freshman at Bryn Mawr, attending on a lacrosse scholarship and pursuing a major in theater. She lives with Punch, though, so she commutes every day. We ended up talking about colleges, and it turned out she applied to Williamson, but decided Bryn Mawr was a better prospect.

Sometimes, it's good to just have a night to get to know your friends better, y'know?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Patrol

Punch and Judy were glad to see me in costume again. It turned out Punch didn't come to the dinner because he had to discuss some custody matters with Judy's mom. Not much happened-- there was a purse snatching in Mt. Airy, and that was it-- but it felt great to be back among friends again.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Back to Work

I'm going back out on patrol tonight. I've got everything all worked out, and I'm ready to give it another try.

In other news, I haven't had the dream since I agreed to come back, and I doubt that's a coincidence. I don't think this is a simple matter of recovered memories anymore.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

I'm Back

And all it took was some food and some deep discussion.

I arrived at the Continental at 8. When I went in and talked to the server, he told me that there was a table waiting for me upstairs. I went up, and saw Quint sitting at a table. He was wearing a business suit for a change, and was accompanied by a redheaded girl (Judy) and an Arab guy with short black hair and a "NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE'S THE SEX PISTOLS" T-shirt (I guessed Zulfikar).

"Glad you could make it, Doc," he said. "Sit down."

I did. I felt a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing. "Look, Quint--" I said.

"No," he said warmly. "No aliases. I don't want us to talk as superheroes; I want us to talk as friends. Call me Todd."

"Alice," said Judy.

"Ahmed," said Zulfikar.

"Then... Greg, I guess," I said. "Okay, then. Listen, guys, I'm glad you want to help me, but I still need some time to think things through."

"We're not here to interfere, Greg," said Todd. "If you don't want to go back to fighting crime just yet, then that's okay. We just want to help you with what you experienced."

I got a little angry. "What I 'experienced'," I said, "was killing a man. Plain and simple. No amount of verbal finesse is gonna make it less than what it really was."

"And there were other options?" asked Ahmed gently.

I paused. "No," I admitted. "I thought about doing other things, but I was afraid of what would happen if they backfired. By shooting Talin into space, I thought no one else would get hurt."

"And you succeeded in that," said Ahmed. "Thanks to your actions, millions of lives were saved."

"Yeah, I know," I said. "But, even then... I don't feel good about it. I know he was a terrorist, but he was still a person. I didn't want to have to do it."

"But you did," said Todd. "That is what superheroics is all about. If we did what we wanted with our powers, I would probably be one of the wealthiest men on the planet. But I still hold down a 9-to-5 job. Why? Because it's right. We, as heroes, must make sacrifices. We must put aside what we want to do for what we must do. It is our obligation."

"But what if I don't want that obligation?" I said. "What if I don't want to have to kill someone?"

"Greg." Alice spoke up for the first time that night. "We all make mistakes in our lives. Tell me something; when you did what you did, did you want Talin to die?"

"No," I said.

"Do you really think, had you done anything differently, Talin would have stopped what he was doing and turned himself in?"

I thought about it. "No."

"I got close enough to Talin to be able to read his thoughts. Greg... he wanted to die. It wasn't about killing in the name of G-d; he wanted to be with his wife again, and to take out as many people as it took to get into Heaven. He wanted to die, and he wasn't going to stop for anything. I don't know how that makes you feel, but I want you to think about it. All the lives you saved on Thursday, and all the lives you've saved so far, against one man with a death wish. Please, Greg. Just think about it."

I did. And, when I looked back on everything-- my fight with El Hechicero, the zombie attack, Azazel-- I had done a lot of good. I know I'll have to carry Talin's death with me for the rest of my life, but I'll also carry the knowledge that I've saved many lives.

"Okay," I said. "I'm in. But at least give me the rest of the weekend to think some things over."

"All right," said Todd. "We're glad to have you back."

The rest of the evening was dining and chatting, with no shop talk. Just like the drinks after Azazel, I didn't feel like I was with heroes anymore; I felt like I was with humans. And I felt like I'd really found my place.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Dinner and Discussion

I got a call from Quint today over the sigil. Here's what he had to say: "Hi, Doc. Listen, I heard about your recent experience, and... listen, can we meet for dinner tonight? I just want to talk to you about it. Meet me at the downtown Continental at 8. I'll pay."

This is an intervention, isn't it? Still, I guess I'll go. Quint might be able to give me some insight into this whole mess.

The Dream Returns

And this time, it's on repeat.

I had the dream again last night. It went the same way as before, only this time, I actually heard Lyra speak. I only heard her say one thing, though:

"We chose you for a reason."

Now, usually, whenever I have the dream, I wake up after the whole recollection is over. Only this time, I went through it again. And again. And one last time, four times in total before I finally woke up. And every time, I heard the same thing: "We chose you for a reason."

Great. Now my subconscious is berating me. I've hit a new low.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Status Report

Everything went okay today... well, relatively. Went to work, came home, relaxed. Not going out tonight, just like last night.

I just need some time to think this whole thing over.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

What Happened Today

Okay. I think I'm finally able to talk about everything.

It all started at 8:30. I ported to our rendezvous point, a back alley near Independence National Park. Punch, Judy, and Zulfikar were already there.

"I need you to get on top of Independence Hall," he said. "Try to find some place where we can observe without being spotted. Once you've got it, send a portal our way and we'll come through. Then, we'll wait for Talin."

I ported onto the roof of Independence Hall. I found a nice spot that was shadowed by the dome. Pretty soon, we were all in our new position.

"All we can do now," Zulfikar said, "is wait and pray."

We made a little small talk to pass the time. No one really felt like talking, but it was something to distract us from the imminent threat of nucelar annihilation. Around 11, Judy handed out some sandwiches she'd made the night before. "Y'know, so we wouldn't have to break for lunch."

Then, around 11:30, it happened.

"He's here," said Judy, who was monitoring once again. "He's approaching the Museum."

"All right, everyone," said Zulfikar, "let's go."

He, Punch, and Judy all leapt off the roof and hit the ground perfectly. I settled for porting to the museum and hiding behind a corner until everyone else got there. While I waited, I got a glimpse of Omar. For a guy ready to enter Paradise, he looked really nervous.

A few seconds later, there was the telltale whoosh. "Give it up, Omar," I heard Zulfikar say.

I darted out from behind the column; Zulfikar was staring Talin in the face, and he was looking like he'd snap at the slightest provocation. Off in the distance, Punch and Judy were approaching. I saw Talin's hands begin to glow, and braced for the worst.

"Omar. It's over. There are two ways we can do this: you can go willingly, or painfully. It's your choice."

God, what a cliche, I thought. Yeah, even when faced with widescale death and destruction, I'm a critic. That's when I noticed what Talin was doing. Beneath the glow, his hand was shaking. I chalked it up to nervousness, but then I saw parts of it just trailing off, like the tips of his fingers floating off into space. He was probably going to blow himself up!

I thought quickly. Where can I send him? I can't send him to the Citadel; he's already halfway to detonation, and I don't know what those machines can do. Some desert? It'd be safer... but what if I misfire, and end up nuking a bunch of tourists?

Then it hits me. No. I can't. Shoot this guy somewhere and let him blow himself up, okay, but if I sent him there, I might as well just put a bullet in his brain. He's a terrorist, but no one deserves that... do they?

That's when Talin gets this horrible look on his face, a kind of madness that you can't hope to bargain with, but maybe dodge. "I go nowhere," he said, "but through the grace of G-d!"

He raised his hand toward Zulfikar... and before I could think twice, I hit Talin with the beam. He was gone.

"Where'd he go?" Zulfikar asked. I didn't say anything; I was still in shock. "Where did you send him?"

After a few seconds, I finally spoke up. "Space," I said. "I shot him into space."

I could see shock run across Judy's face. I couldn't tell what Punch and Zulfikar were thinking... but their silence spoke volumes.

"I... I'm going home, okay?" I said. Before I could hear their answers, I ported back home.

So. That's what happened. I killed a man. I probably saved a bunch of lives, but I just feel... wrong. Like I've done something I can never right.

I think I'm taking a little break.

The good news is I saved Philly.

The bad news is I just killed someone.

I'm going to go lie down for a bit. More after I get my wits together.

Preparations

Well, I called in sick to work today. At 8:30, I'm going to port into Philly, and hopefully we'll be able to take down Talin.

Last night wasn't exactly the world's greatest boost of confidence. While we were out on patrol together, Zulfikar told us all about Talin.

"He's a radical Palestinian," he said. "He joined the Sword of Fire after his wife was killed in an assassination attempt on a Hamas leader by the IDF. He's been connected to a nightclub bombing in Haifa and the hijacking of an El Al flight out of Zurich."

"So, why is he hitting the Liberty Bell?" I asked. "I mean, isn't that the HOLLYWOOD sign all over again? Why not just spraypaint 'fuck you' on a flag?"

"He's not attacking the Liberty Bell directly. He's using the Bell as the epicenter for his attack. Talin's got the ability to generate radiation."

"You're saying he's going to nuke Philly?"

"Most likely. He'll probably kill himself in the process, but I don't think he cares much about his own life anymore."

So, yay. I'm probably gonna be the last line of defense in keeping Philly from glowing green. Now I'm really feeling sick.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Stakeout

Well, it certainly is shocking when a guy kills himself in front of you. Here's hoping I don't see that again soon... though I probably will.

So, last night, we all show up on top of City Hall at 8:30. I'm the last to arrive, after porting in at 8:29.

"Nice to see you, Doc," says Zulfikar. "Thought you were lost in traffic."

"Funny. So, where are we going?"

"The terrorists will be meeting in a Starbucks on Shawnee. The 2nd floor of the building next to it is for rent. I've got it for the night, so we'll stay there until we're sure the terrorists have all met to talk shop. Then, we wait for the crucial information, and once we get it, we move in and arrest them. You have the Citadel memorized, right?"

"Yup."

"Good. Here's where we'll be staying." He hands me a photo. "Can you take us there?"

It's pretty bland; walls painted gray, no furniture, a few large, plate-glass windows. I picture it quickly, then open the portal. We all leap through, and one thhhWONK later, we're in Zulfikar's loft.

Judy's the first to act. "I'll sit by the windows and try to pick up a bead," she says. She heads off, leaving Punch, Zulfikar, and I to put together battle plans.

"You're sure no one will spot her?" asks Punch.

"Only one of these men has psionic powers," Zulfikar replies, "and he's an illusion caster. Judy's safe."

"So," I ask, "what happens when we make the terrorists?"

"You two fans of the melodramatic?"

"Oh, hell yes," says Punch.

"How do you feel about leaping out of the window?"

"You can pay for that?"

"I've got the money. You just worry about putting on a display that will make them shit themselves."

After the plan comes together, we talk secret identities. Turns out Zulfikar's a DJ in private life; he spins at a club in Soho called Obsidian. "Come by some time, and I'll get you in the VIP room for free." Superheroing has quite a few untold perks.

A few minutes later, Judy says, "They're here." We all get ready as Judy starts probing about.

"Okay, his name's Omar Talin... they don't know where he's staying in Philly, only that he's flying in tonight... he's got... purging powers, whatever those are... the attack's gonna be on Thursday... got it! He's hitting the Liberty Bell!"

"Let's go," says Zulfikar.

And with that, Punch starts running towards the windows, then leaps through them, does an aerial somersault, and lands on the ground on his feet. I run to where the window used to be and create a portal to the street, which Judy, Zulfikar, and I charge through.

Down on the street, patrons at the Starbucks are quickly dispersing-- except for three guys. Two of them are Arabic, and one of them looks African. Before they can react, I hit one of the Arabic guys with a beam that takes him to the Citadel.

Next thing I know, I'm not on Shawneee St. fighting terrorists anymore. I'm in the middle of a battlefield, surrounded by falling bombs and gunfire. Okay, Greg, I keep telling myself, it's only an illusion. It can't hurt you. Then comes the scary thought. Wait... if this is all I see, how do I know one of the guys isn't attacking me right now? And with that, I hit the ground, panicked. Hey, what would you do if you didn't know where the attack that could end your life would come from?

Fortunately enough, the illusion soon fades; once I'm back on Shawnee St., I see that Zulfikar has coldcocked the African guy, and he's holding up the other Arabic guy by the collar.

"What's Talin going to do?" Zulfikar yells to the guy.

"You won't know until it's too late," the guy says.

And then he bursts into flames.

Zulfikar quickly drops the guy and jumps back. The guy's fallen to the ground, and he's laughing. But with every laugh, there are the sounds of a man in pain. G-d, the guy didn't burst into flames, he set himself on fire! The flames quickly grow hotter, until finally, there's just fire and ash.

Needless to say, we're all pretty shaken. "I think we should all head home," says Zulfikar. "We've seen enough for tonight."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

My Dinner With Terrorists

Well. That's the first time anyone's tried to kill themselves before my very eyes.

Further update after I work it all out.

Meeting The Muslim Marauder

It started off easy enough. Two members of Los Huesos had jacked a car and were going for a joy ride at ludicrous speeds. Punch, Judy, and I all chased after the gangbangers, but we're kind of at a loss for what to do. Punch doesn't have any ranged weapons, so he's out. And I can't teleport the thing, because it'll still be going at the same ungodly speed wherever it ends up. The best Judy can do is try to levitate the car, but the bucking up-and-down motion of Punch trying to keep up is kind of making things hard.

Judy was about to try and rip the roof off, when suddenly I felt something moving by us really fast, and then, the car stopped. When Punch slows down and Judy and I get off to see why, it turned out that the hood had been removed. As well as the engine. And there, holding up the two crooks, was Zulfikar.

Zulfikar's a bit of a media darling these days. He's either exalted or demonized, depending on what your politics are. He's also got a very interesting costume: a red bodysuit with a black stripe down the middle and the "moon and star" symbol in white, black boots, and a Power Rangers-style full helmet in red that has a narrow slit for viewing. He also usually patrols New York City, which wouldn't make his presence in Philly wholly unexplained, but would raise quite a few questions.

After he turned the Huesos over to the proper authorities, he came back to us and says, "I take it you're Punch, Judy, and Doc Tesseract?"

"No," Punch said, "we're just impersonators. We do birthdays and, for a little extra, bachelor parties."

He laughed. "Very funny. But now's not really a time for jokes. Lady Liberty recommended you lot to me, and your help is of utmost importance. There's a Sword of Fire cell operating somewhere in Philadelphia."

Great; three weeks in, and now I'm up against terrorists. The Sword of Fire is a jihadist operation with less money and agents than al-Qaeda, but with a distinct advantage: superpowers. They often launch attacks against American landmarks, with some (attempting to open up a fissure under the Capitol and drag the entire building underground) more noteworthy than others (setting fire to the HOLLYWOOD sign).

"It's very likely that the cell will strike within the next few days," Zulfikar continued. "The only problem is, I don't know where. That's why Lady Liberty recommended you. Punch, you have the ability to pick up on any conversation carried over electronic equipment in the Philadelphia area. You, Judy, have outstanding telepathic abilities."

"Well, yeah," she said, "but I don't think I can cherrypick an entire city."

"Don't worry; when the time comes, you won't have to." Then he turned for me. "As for you, Doc, you have the ability to go anywhere in this city instantly, and to teleport others wherever you choose. In the event of an emergency, that will likely be our greatest asset."

I don't really like the sound of that. "So, what's the plan?" I ask.

"Three members of the cell are meeting in Chestnut Hill tomorrow night at 9. We will wait and observe their meeting place until they convene. Once we're sure they're who we're after, we'll attack. Judy will get all the necessary information, and you, Doc, will send them to jail. Here." He handed me a picture of a prison. More specifically, a square in the middle of the prison floor painted orange and surrounded by machinery. "That is the Citadel, in upstate New York. That zone is the neutralization area; any villain teleported there will be unable to use their powers."

"Thanks. So, where do we meet tomorrow?"

"We'll meet on top of City Hall at 8:30," Zulfikar said. "From there, we will proceed to a safe area near the rendezvous point." He paused. "Best of luck, everyone, and I look forward to kicking arse beside you."

And with that, he took off in a blur. The rest of the patrol was rather uneventful. We cut it short, thinking it would be best if we rested up until our big fight with the superpowered terrorists who hate us for being American.

Wow. That above statement doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, does it? I'd better go prepare for the terrorist hunt.

A New Hero in Town (Briefly)

We ended up hanging out with Zulfikar last night. He's actually a pretty cool guy. Maybe I'll get to know him better when we aren't tracking down terrorists.

I promise more when I get back from work. I'm running late, and I don't want to get in any more trouble after my "sick day."

Monday, June 06, 2005

More Dream Stuff

I had the dream again tonight. Not much different, but I could hear myself say something this time: "Is that why you decided to take my pants off?" Which only makes things more confusing.

Patrol continues unfettered. Punch, Judy, and I dealt with an overturned truck on W. Allegheny last night. Or, more like, "Punch righted the truck while Judy and I looked on." Things are kinda quiet again. I'd kinda like them to stay that way, actually, just for a little while.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Sidekick No More! (Part 2)

I'm sorry about the lack of second post yesterday. I had to make it two parts because I was going into Philly with Will and Teresa at 11, and I probably wouldn't have had time to finish the entry. Then when I came back, Blogger was acting up. Ah, well. Better late than never.

We ended up outside the Bank of America on Samson and 21st. I could hear sirens off in the distance. I couldn't see anything inside the bank, though; it was dark, and the windows were tinted black.

Luckily, Judy could tell what was going on. "There are five of them," she said. "Four men, one woman. They've all got submachine guns-- Uzis, to be specific. And one of the guys has a hostage, but he's thinking about how he really can't handle this, so he might not actually kill him if forced into a corner."

"Here's what we do," said Punch. "I'll go in first, so I can provide cover and maybe get some of the guys to drop their guns."

"You think you can do that?" I asked.

"What would you do if you saw a rampaging robot stomping your way?"

Good point. "Okay, then. They've got heavy artillery, so it's not as if I can send them into the loving arms of the law right away. Judy, you've got telekinesis, right?"

"Yup."

"When we get in, I want you to take away their guns. Then I'll port them to the police."

"Sounds good," said Punch. "Okay, on three: one, two..."

And with that, he got down on all fours and ran at full speed through the doors to the bank. Judy and I quickly ran in behind him, and I peeked out at the scene.

The guy with the hostage was in the back, his Uzi pressed to the man's forehead. The woman, who was obviously interrupted while cracking the safe, was firing her gun off at Punch, as were the three other guys. After about ten seconds of this, two of the guys decided, it was better to take their chances with the law, and threw down their guns.

Off in the distance, though, I could see the hostage taker's face screw up. Damnit, he was going to pull the trigger! I darted out from behind Punch, and launched a beam at the hostage. He ended up in front of the Market, while the hostage taker ended up with a bullet in his right shoulder.

My relief was short-lived, as behind me, I could hear a gun go off. I saw marble chip off the wall three inches behind me, and quickly ported outside the bank. When I ran back in, Judy had knocked out the girl and the last guy, while the hostage taker was still hurting.

"Nice job," she said. "Now let's round these guys up." We ported the three guys and the girl to the police station, and the hostage taker to the emergency room at Pennsylvania. On our way out, we told the police where they could find the guy, and then ported to back on top of City Hall.

After that, there wasn't much else for the night. We passed the time by talking about civilian life. It turns out Punch runs a children's theatre in Center City, and Judy often acts in the productions. Judy discovered her psychic powers at the same time Punch discovered he was a technopath (a guy who can control advanced machinery with his thoughts*). They wouldn't tell me where they got the robot, though.

At about 1 AM, I had to call it a night. Punch and Judy did, too; they had to prepare for the final dress rehearsal for Into the Woods, which would be opening Saturday (which was why I wasn't out patrolling last night). I ended up going home and going to bed.

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

*Advanced machinery only, though. He complained about how he could hack data banks in a second, but not fix his toaster.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Sidekick No More! (Part 1)

I ported in last night on top of City Hall for my little rendezvous. Lady Liberty was waiting; Quint must've filled her in about my little habits.

"You've done very well fighting crime with a superior," she said. "And your raw talent is unfathomable. I want to see how you do with a... contemporary hero."

"Okay. So, where is he?"

"Up here." I turned and looked to the peak of City Hall. Standing up there, balancing on the point, was a girl. She looked to be about my age, but she was a ways off, and it was dark.

"Come on down, Judy. And try to land on your feet this time."

I didn't know whether Lady Liberty was being serious or not, but when Judy jumped, I knew she was joking. She dove from the perch with such grace that she had to have some edge. Super reflexes? Extremely attuned sense of balance? She landed on her feet right in front of me, absorbing the impact of the fall like it didn't even exist.

I finally got a good look at her. She was wearing a harlequin's outfit, black and white diamonds tailored to fit the body well. She wore black boots with curled toes, and a domino mask over a face crowned by black hair.

"Please to meet you," she saidl, extending her hand. "My name's Judy."

I took her hand and shook. "Yeah, I'm Greg," I replied, "but I usually fight crime as Doc Tesseract."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Judy's my alias. My real name is Alice."

Hmm. Judy. Not a big superhero name. I mean, what goes with it? The Uncanny Judy? Judy, the Dark Knight?

Lady Liberty interrupted my train of thought. "Oh, Judy, that reminds me. Where's your father?"

"He's running behind. There was a pileup on the highway earlier. I think he's still helping restore the flow of traffic. Wait." She put her hand to her ear. "Yup. He's coming."

Off in the distance, I heard a strange soft sound. The soft whisper of hydraulics mixing with the bending of joints. A few minutes later, I saw a robot running down the street on all fours, somewhat like Dog in Half-Life 2. When he reached City Hall, he jumped what must have been 200 ft. in the air and poised himself over the roof. I prepared a portal beam to make sure he didn't do anything to punch a hole in the roof, but Judy put her hand out, and the robot's fall began to slow until he was floating like a feather. He finally landed on the roof, and when I looked at him, I knew who he was: the robot who had busted zombie heads with The Silver Bullet.

"Glad you could join us," said Lady Liberty.

"No problem," said the robot. He sounded almost like a middle-aged man, except his voice had a slight metallic tone. Must have been the voice box. "Want to introduce me to this young gentleman?"

"Dad, this is Doc Tesseract," Judy said.

"Pleased to meet you." The robot put out his hand as if to shake. Seeing as it was the size of a honey-baked ham, this produced obvious complications. I gently put my hand in the middle of it, then the robot's hand seized it gently. I was wondering what I would do if my arm got ripped off, but despite its size, the robot was obviously capable of gentle actions.

"And Doc, this is my dad--"

"Let me guess," I said, putting it all together. "Punch."

"Ah, I see you know the classics," said Punch. "Mind you, it's a bit violent, but what you gonna do for a male-female superteam? Bogey and Bacall?"

"Punch has a police scanner as part of his equipment," said Lady Liberty. "That should help keep you better informed while on patrol. I must go now. But good luck to you; we could always use more heroes."

And with that, Lady Liberty leapt off the roof, leaving the three of us to our selves.

"So, uh... where do you wanna start?" I asked.

"How about Rittenhouse Square?" asked Punch.

"Okay. Why?"

"There's a bank robbery going down at the corner of Sansom and 21st."

"Good reason. Stand back, everyone." I pulled up a portal to Rittenhouse Square. Punch bowed to Judy and extended his arm toward the portal. "Ladies first," he said. Judy leapt through, then Punch, then me. This should be good, I thought.

What happened during the robbery? Find out in our next exciting episode!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Bye for Now, Quint

Last night was my last patrol with Quint. We stopped Los Huesos from breaking El Hechicero out of jail, then ended the night on the roof of City Hall.

"So," Quint said, "you are venturing out on your own."

"Yeah," I said. I was trying to be as delicate as possible. "I just think it's better if I can see what I can do with someone who's at my level."

"I understand," he said. "If you ever need any help..."

"Don't worry, Quint," I said. "You're the guy who helped me out when I didn't know my ass from my elbow. You protected me from sorcerers, you hooked me up with this costume-- and I doubt I could have tackled Azazel without your help. If I'm ever in trouble, trust me; you'll be the first guy I call."

He smiled. "That's good to know. I want you to take this." He handed me another slate with a sigil on it. "This is a scrying spell. If you ever need my assistance, place it in your hand and focus on me. It will aid you in bringing me to your side."

And with that, he started floating off into the air. "Fare you well, Doc Tesseract," he said, "in your pursuit of justice, and wherever life takes you." He then flew off into the night at high speed.

Would it be weird to admit I started crying a little then?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Debriefing and Cocktails

So, how does one celebrate saving the world from the fiends of Hell? With drinks, of course.

After Azazel got sent on his return trip, Ghostdancer thought it would be good to celebrate with a round of drinks that night, on her-- and out of costume, of course. Quint politely declined, but I, wishing to get in well with the other heroes, said yes.

That night, we met at North. I ended up porting into the bathroom to avoid the ID check (hey, if that's the worst thing I'm gonna use my powers for...). I went out onto the main floor, and managed to find the table.

Everyone-- well, save Quint-- was there. Since we presumed there weren't any supervillains in the bar, we all decided to go by our real names.

"So, how'd you know what was going on in Philly?" I asked Sheila, a.k.a. Ghostdancer.

"Todd [Quint] maintains a network of all the supernaturally-oriented heroes in the US, Canada, and Europe," she said. "When he found out what was going on, he sent out an emergency signal to everyone."

"No offense, but... why you? I mean, I heard you usually patrol out West."

"Yeah, I do Denver and occasionally Vegas. But my powers lie in spirit magic, the recruitment of lost souls to aid you in your ways. They were able to open a passage to the astral plane, which connects all places. I was able to get here in about two seconds."

"Ah. Hey, who was the guy who summoned Azazel?"

"An inexperienced chaos magician," said Hierophant, né Frank. "Apparently, human flesh wasn't enough. He wasn't using the ley line to summon the demon; he wanted to force it into the ley line."

"What?"

"With a demon in the ley line, anyone who lives on it would be directly affected. Normal people would find themselves feeling a little rash or angry, and those attuned to such magical energy would go completely bugfuck. However, demons don't like to do anything they don't come up with first, so when Azazel saw some chump was controlling him, he turned him into mulch. Speaking of which, how were you able to open a portal to Hell? I mean, I've been in this game a long time, and I've only seen that happen twice."

Oh, yeah. That. "I... really don't know," I said. "I got these powers a few weeks ago from who knows where. I didn't even know I could do that."

"Just know that what you did was very rare," Sheila said. "The astral plane doesn't even touch Hell, for obvious reasons. You've got a gift, Greg, and it looks like you know how to use it."

"Besides," ventured Liz [Talon]*, "you could do worse as a sidekick than Todd."

"Uh... sidekick?"

"Yeah, you know: compadre, second banana, one who learns from superior..."

"I... don't think I'm Todd's sidekick."

"Come on, Greg; don't deny the loooove."

"Liz, stop it," said Jesse (known to many as Lady Liberty). "Greg, you're merely getting advice from Todd before going out on your own, right?"

Well, now that Jesse put it that way, I did feel a little bad about being so quick to say no. "Look, I like Todd, it's just... I don't see myself becoming a supernaturally-oriented hero. I want to handle all sorts of situations. Like you."

"Well, you certainly know how to flatter a girl," she said. "Listen, I'm going to talk to Todd about matters. I have a 'sidekick' of my own I'd like to pair you with."

The rest of the evening went well. There was some superhero shop talk, concerning villains who were possibly planning big things. Then, one by one, we all filtered out. Frank left first; he had a long flight back, and wanted to get back to his husband. I left second-to-last, as Jesse wanted to stay a little longer. I ported back home, got dressed up in costume, went on a brief patrol, saw nothing, then ported back home again and went to bed.

So, on one hand, I'm going to have a crime-fighting comrade who's on my level. On the other hand, more experienced heroes are setting me up for playdates. I really don't know how to feel about that.

*By the way, Liz is much more inconspicuous than you'd expect a woman with giant wings and claws for hands to be. When I asked her (as tactfully as possible, of course), she told me she wears a harness to keep the wings down, and special gloves that look like human hands to cover up the talons.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

I Stared Down a Demon. What Did You Do Today?

Well, that was an interesting little crisis. It might have gotten me fired, but it was still really interesting.

I'm working at Electromat today when the sigil goes off without warning. I negotiate a bathroom break with Brett, and run off to answer the call. "Quint, what's going on?" I ask in as low a whisper as possible, hoping and praying no one wonders why the guy in the next stall over is talking to himself.

"It's an emergency! Meet me in Manayunk now!"

"But I'm at work! What the hell am I supposed to do?"

"Whatever you can, damnit! Thousands of lives are at stake here!"

Let's see: risk getting fired, or piss off a man who can not only conjure fireballs, but juggle them? Tough decision. I run back to Electromat, and tell Brett I've had a stomach bug all day that just took a turn for the worse. He, in an uncommon show of charity, gives me the rest of the day off, and I port home, get into costume, and port into Manayunk.

"Where are you?" I yell into the sigil.

"Corner of Belmont and Baker! Hurry; we don't have much time!"

I port to the corner of Belmont and Baker... only to see Quint and a bunch of other heroes fighting the most butt-ugly monstrosity I've ever seen. It has two hundred eyes like black holes peering out of a bulbous head, poised on an insectoid carapace. It has four arms and G-d only knows how many legs, all of which end in claws that look like they could rend the Earth in two.

And it hates. I can feel it coming off the beast even from hundreds of feet away. It hates me, it hates Quint, it hates the Earth, it hates G-d, it hates the Devil, it just hates.

And I have to fight it. Yay, me.

I port to the roof of an apartment building near the big nasty to get a closer look. Now I see the other heroes who are fighting with Quint. Lady Liberty, just back in town, and Talon are there, but what surprises me are some of the other guys. There's Hierophant from Boston, and Ghostdancer, who usually patrols the West. This must be bad.

Finally, I port down to street level and enter the fray. "What in the name of God is this thing?" I yell to Quint. The thing notices me, and I just nearly dodge a claw from above.

"Glad to see you joined us," he shouts back. "It's Azazel, the Forgotten Reaper, baron of the Malebolge and a very pissed-off demon. This was what our sorcerer was trying to summon all along."

"So, uh, where is our sorcerer?"

"Serving as a fresh coat of paint in what used to be that apartment complex." Quint points to a building that looks like someone ripped the front off of it. "I think you can help us."

"What can I do? It's not as if..." Then it hits. "You want me to send this thing back to Hell?"

"I want to see if it can be done," Quint said. "We're throwing all we've got at this thing. It seems to be weakening, but as long as it clings to the Northern Eagle Line, it's gonna keep fighting."

"I think I need some help. What exactly does Hell look like?"

"Ah, damn, almost forgot. You ever read Dante's Inferno?"

"Yeah, Sophomore English."

"It's that, but with less fortune tellers, suicides, pagans, etc. Just focus on the geography and you'll be fine. Just wait for our signal first, okay?"

I can only sit there and watch. Hierophant keeps levitating cars and throwing them at the beast, and Lady Liberty manages to rip off a pincer or five, but still the thing stands. Finally, Ghostwalker yells, "Quint, it's losing it!"

"Now, Doc!" With that, I close my eyes and focus on the Cocytus, the Ninth Circle of Hell, an icy lake that gives any student of Mrs. Teller's class full right to act like a jackass and say, "Actually, Hell did freeze over already." There's a mighty roar, like space itself being torn apart, and when I open them, Azazel is gone, and everyone's just staring at me.

Suddenly, there's clapping. Not just from the heroes, but from bystanders who've come to survey the aftermath. And I'm just standing there, feeling like a big damn hero.

Not a bad way to spend the day.

A Lull in the Action

No flesh-eating corpses last night. Instead, Quint and I went on patrol and visited a few arcane experts to try and get to the bottom of this thing. We all think our sorcerer has something big planned, but we have no clue what yet.

Nothing new in my dreams, either. That kinda sucks.