Doc Tesseract

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

So Long, Wage Slavery!

Today marked my last day at Electromat, and glorious, glorious freedom from Brett. I again resisted the urge to dance about the store as he presented me with my last paycheck. Goodbye, Brett. May an XBox fall on your foot.

All in all, actually, work at Electromat wasn't so bad. And at least I've got about $500 before I head off to Williamson. So I'm not going to have to beg my parents for cash.

Well, much.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A Hell of a Town: Epilogue

So, after coming out to Reed and Will, the rest of our weekend went along just fine. We walked about the city, and visited all the main tourist haunts (but none of the historical sites; we'd gotten enough of that from vacationing with our parents, thank you). We spent Saturday night at Obsidian again, but Zulfikar didn't send me a second invite. That was okay; I think he said everything he needed to that first night.

On Sunday, we bade farewell to the Hostel and our Anonymous Roommates (who were out at the time), and took the 2:30 back to Philly. When I went on patrol that night, I didn't tell Punch or Judy about what I told Will and Reed. And you know, I don't think I will. I mean, I just have to deal with some things by myself.

Well, the party's over. Now to get ready for college.

A Hell of a Town, Part 3: Better Sooner Than Later

So, I got back to the dorm and found Will and Reed waiting for me, anxious to talk.

"Where were you?" asked Will.

Think fast, Greg. "I was... going to the bathroom." Oh, real smooth.

"For thirty minutes?"

Crap. They'd been up that long? "Must've been that barbecue. Spicy both ways, y'know."

Neither of them were laughing. "Will you cut the crap!" yelled Reed.

Will made a shushing noise and pointed at the Anonymous Roommmates, who were still sleeping. "If we're going to talk about this," he said, "let's talk about it somewhere where we won't wake anyone up."

I waited for Will and Reed to get dressed, then we walked out of the hostel and to a Starbucks down the block. We were quiet the entire way. When we got there, we sat down at a table, and conversation resumed.

"Greg, look," Reed said. "All summer long, you've been... different. After what happened at the 12th, you've been acting really strange. You're never around at night; whenever we call, it seems like you're out. Now, I can understand if you need a little 'alone time' now and then; everyone deals with trauma in their own ways. But after what happened, why the hell would you go out onto the streets of New York in the middle of the night all by yourself? G-ddamnit, Greg, there's 'strange', and then there's 'self-destructive'."

"Greg," Will said, "you're involved in something, and it's obvious. That thing you said to us at Obsidian? 'Oh, I just happened to meet a big-time NYC DJ in Philly, charmed his ass off, and got VIP passes'? Horseshit. Whatever's going on with you, it's something big. If you're in over your head, we can help you. What is it, man? Drugs?"

"You sound like my mom," I muttered. "Reed, you're right; we've been friends since second grade. But that's why I want you to stay out of it. You've helped me before, I know, and I've helped you. This time, though... guys, I just want to do this myself. I don't want to hurt you by getting involved."

"You're not leaving us out of this, Greg," Reed said. "Whatever it is, we're not leaving you to deal with it yourself. We're going to help you, whether you want it or not. Now, you can make this a lot easier. Tell me: what are you in on?"

I thought about it. These guys... we've been friends for a great chunk of our lives. I don't want that to fall apart just because I'm a superhero. Besides, it's too much of a cliche.

"Okay. You want the truth, I'll give it to you." Deep breath. "Guys... I'm Doc Tesseract."

There was just a bunch of staring after that. "No," said Will.

I went over to the sugar counter, got a few of those cardboard cupholders, and put them on one side of the table. I put my hand on the table, and ported them, one by one, to the other side.

"Yes," I said. "Now, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat."

"You mean... all this time..." Reed started.

"...I've been bouncing about the streets of Philly at night, clad in spandex. Yeah," I finished. "And that night, at the 12th? That's when I was given these powers. I've got a duty to the world, guys. I can't just turn my back on it."

There was a bit more silence after that. Finally, Will spoke up.

"Well," he said, "at least it's not drugs." Phew.

After that, things got much warmer. Will and Reed asked me all about my heroic exploits. They were congradulatory about my fight with Catalyst, and snarky about when I got burned by the dragon. I ended up telling them about how I got the passes to Obsidian through Zulfikar, but I didn't mention him by name (hey, it's enough that I've blown my secret identity, I'm not blowing anyone else's). At about 5:30, we finally headed back to the Hostel and, after approximately 24 hours awake, we collapsed.

And, quite frankly, I'm glad I ended up telling them. At least things are normal between us again.

Well... somewhat normal.

A Hell of a Town, Pt. 2: The Fastest Man in New York

So, after getting into costume, I ported back to the Central Park Zoo. I realized I'd look kind of ridiculous standing around waiting for Zulfikar, so I ported on top of one of the animal cages and hid up there, keeping an eye out for him. At around 3:30, I saw a crimson blur running down the path towards the Zoo.

Right on time, I thought. The blur suddenly decelerated, and Zulfikar stood below me.

"'Lo, Doc!" he yelled up. "Y'know, you get a better view of the animals down here."

"Eh. You see one endangered species, you've seen them all," I joked. "So, what's our itinerary for tonight?"

"Well," replied Zulfikar, "I figured we'd go out on patrol for an hour, then call it a night."

"Why an hour?" I asked.

"Because right before sunrise is when it gets darkest," he said. "That, and I've been up for the past twenty hours, and I can't be arsed to stay upright much longer. I mean, I'd usually patrol until 8, but y'know."

I ported down to the ground so that I could talk to him face-to-face. "So, where are we going first?" I asked.

He handed me a photo of a row of stores in Times Square. "How's Fifth Avenue sound?" he said. "Race you there." And with that, he was gone. One second later, I was in Times Square... just in time to see the red blur approaching.

"Good one," he said. "If you'll excuse me." He sped off, then came back a few seconds later. "No crime here," he said. "Now, let's see who gets to Greenwich Village first." He handed me a photo of the statues of the gay couples, and was off.

It continued this way for the next forty-five minutes; we'd go somewhere, he'd do a quick check to make sure everything was okay, and then we'd be off. We ended our patrol on Liberty Island-- "just to make sure no one's trying to blow it up," he said. After that, we just sat on the grass and stared out at the river.

"Look, Zulf," I asked him, "why'd you even bring me out tonight? You seemed to have everything under control."

"I just wanted someone to share my route with," he said. "Besides, the city won't fall down if I take a few minutes to talk with a fellow colleague." He paused. "Listen, Doc, I have to know; after Talin--"

This again. "Look, Zulf," I interrupted, "I'm fine. There was no way to do that without killing him. I've accepted that, and moved on."

"That's good to know. I'm sorry if--"

"Don't be. If anything, I should be thanking you. Sometimes, we have to do things that are difficult for the greater good. You helped teach me that. I'm still going to feel somewhat bad for what happened to Talin. But I just have to compare what happened to him to what would have happened to millions of others. It was an important lesson, and Ahmed... I'm glad you were there to help me learn it."

There was a bit of silence. "Thanks, Greg," he finally answered. "Just don't let it all grind you down, okay? Take a break when you feel it's getting too heavy. No one will blame you."

I laughed. "Good advice," I said. "I should probably staple it to Quint's forehead."

After that, we just talked about stuff: college, politics, some shop talk. When 4:30 rolled around, Zulfikar and I parted ways. I ported back home, changed back into what I'd been wearing before, and ported to an alleyway behnd the hostel. I didn't want to risk waking Will and Reed, did I? So I went into the hostel, walked upstairs, and opened the door to the dorm...

...only to find Will and Reed, wide awake and sitting up on their beds, waiting for me.

"Greg," Reed said. "We need to talk."

Shit.

To be continued...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Hell of a Town, Pt. 1

Just got back from New York, and I can't think of any better way to have celebrated going off to college. Sightseeing, dancing my ass off, racing a speedster, finally telling my friends about what happened... good times.

Right after I punched out at Electromat on Friday, I ported home and got all my stuff together. Mom drove me down to the station, because porting would've been a bit suspicious. Reed and Will got there soon after, and at 5 PM, we got on the train.

We ended up in New York at 7:30. We caught a cab to our place of residence for the weekend, the Chelsea International Hostel. We shared a dorm with two other people who we never really saw; they left early while we slept late, and tucked in early when we didn't get back until 3 AM. After we tossed our bags down, we caught a cab to Virgil's BBQ at Reed's urging. That was our big meal for the vacation; after that, we stuck to street vendors for sustenance. But damn, was it worth it.

After dinner, we walked from Times Square down to Soho. We hung about the district and checked out the sights until 10 PM rolled around and Obsidian opened. As the magic hour rolled around, I started getting nervous. I mean, would this work? Would Zulfikar remember my civilian identity, or would I make an ass out of myself in front of my friends?

Hoping for the best, I walked up to the bouncer and, coolly as possible, told him that my friends and I wanted to spend the night in the VIP lounge. He gave us a look like I'd just asked him for a solid gold turd. Plowing on, I told him to tell Ahmed Razawi that Greg Silverman would like to call in his favor. The bouncer repeated this into his headpiece, and a few seconds later, waved us through. Thank G-d.

If you haven't been in Obsidian, it's an interesting experience. It's a multi-level night club, with alcoves that go all the way round the open central area on the higher floors. As per the name, the floors and the bars are crafted out of shiny black stone (not real obsidian, though; no one wants the clubgoers to cut themselves on the bar while drunk). On the top floor is the VIP lounge, meant for visiting DJs, socialites, movie stars, and-- for the next few nights-- us.

In between dancing like fools and abusing our fake IDs, Will and Reed pressed me about what the hell I did that got me the favor of one of the club's controlling interests. "I mean, don't get me wrong, this is great," Will said, "but if you're doing something illegal, man..."

"I'm not," I said firmly. "Look, I met the DJ when I was in Philly one day. I was visiting a music store and he was there, asking the clerk for help with turntables and wiring. I helped him out a little when the clerk was falling short, and he offered me VIP passes."

They were quick to accept this-- too quick, really. I mean, I thought it was bullshit, and I'd been rehearsing it since last week. At the time, I guessed they just wanted to make sure they weren't going to be dragged along for whatever ride I was on. I was wrong.

So, around 2 AM, a cocktail waitress (dressed all in black and silver-- when they pick a theme, they stick with it) came by with drinks for us. "Make sure to take the napkins," she said. Will and Reed's have mottos that are like fortune cookie sayings by way of a Bacardi ad, one of Obsidian's more cheesy gimmicks. Mine, however, has another message on it, written in black magic marker:

"Doc- glad to see you followed up. Meet me in Central Park by the Zoo at 3:30. I'll show you my NY. -Z."

So, Ahmed was inviting me out on a patrol after Obsidian closed. I wanted to hang around until Obsidian closed so I wouldn't have to wait, but Reed was getting tired, so we left and hailed a cab back to the Hostel. We got in at 2:30 and fell into bed. Well, Will and Reed fell into bed; I was only faking until I was sure they were asleep. When 3:00 rolled around, I got out of bed and ported home to get into costume.

"Well, Z," I said while getting dressed, "I wonder what you have to show me..."

To be continued...

Friday, August 26, 2005

New York, Here I Come

Well. All my bags are packed. I have no idea about Will and Reed's bags, but I'm sure they're somewhere near packed. Punch and Judy are gonna cover for me while I'm away. All that's left is for me to have fun and hope Zulfikar still remembers who I am.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Meet the New Boss

So, I show up on City Hall last night, only to find Quint waiting for me. Punch and Judy are absent.

"Hello again, Doc," says Quint. "So, how long is it until college?"

"Two weeks," I say. "It's both exhilirating and somewhat queasy-making."

"I know the feeling," he says, laughing.

"So, uh... where are Punch and Judy?"

"Out patrolling with Lady Liberty. I thought it would be best if you were to do this by yourself."

"What do you mean?"

"I have someone I would like you to meet, someone you will undoubtedly aid you when you are in Boston."

"Can I come down now?" I hear from above me. I look up to see Hierophant floating in mid-air. "Jesus, Todd, you're the biggest drama queen I've ever met, and I've got a church full of fags."

"Go ahead, Frank," he says. With that, Hierophant floats down to the roof and touches ground. He's wearing his usual outfit: a white linen garment with a hood pulled over his head, black buccaneer boots and folded gloves, and, to top it all off, a red cassock draped over his chest.

"Glad to see you again, Greg," he says. "How've things been going?"

"Oh, you know... dragons, giant robots, a few crises of faith, stuff like that."

"And what would a superhero be without crises of faith? You're definitely in your element." He pauses. "Anyway, Todd called me up a few days ago and told me about a job offer. You tell him, Todd."

"Doc," says Quint, "Frank will be looking over you while you're at college."

"Ah," I say. "So I'm a sidekick again."

"Hey, who said anything about 'sidekick'?" Frank says. "Trust me, Greg, I'm not gonna be your overbearing, slightly-homoerotic mentor. No offense, Todd."

"None worth minding."

"Look, from what Todd's told me, you've really come into your own this summer. Hell, I know I didn't have to deal with a demon, a dragon, a giant robot, and two terrorists my first three months, and I turned out okay. So, Greg, what Todd and I are saying is... if you need your space, then take it. Just know that if you need any help, I'll be there. Plus, I kinda know the area, so you can ask me where all the good cheap eats are."

I'm kinda flattered. "Thanks, Frank," I say. "I'll keep that in mind."

"Good. Hey, what do you say to a bit of old-fashioned footwork? Well, okay, what we do probably goes against 'old-fashioned' in every conceivable manner, but how about it?"

With that, we head out on patrol. We end up stopping a robbery in Juniata Park and a carjacking in Chinatown. All the while, I find out a bit more about Frank. He's in the Metropolitan Community Church, and he's been Reverend at the Boston MCC since the mid-'70s. He's been with his husband, Nick, for 27 years. He won't tell me anything about how he got his powers, though; when I ask him, he says, "All I'm saying is, G-d works in some very fucked-up ways." At the end of the night, he stops by his hotel room and grabs his luggage, and I end up giving him a "ride" back to Boston.

So, I've graduated from needing a partner to needing a lifeguard. Still, it's good to know I'll have someone else to turn to if things get hoary.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Run Silent, Run Deep

Hey. I'm sorry if I haven't been updating a lot lately. I figured I'd just report on patrols if something "big" happened. Amazing how I've gotten to the point where stopping a robbery can be considered small potatoes.

I've also been busy making final preparations for college. I gave Brett my two weeks' notice today, barely suppressing the urge to do the Snoopy dance all over Electromat. Soon enough, I'll be patrolling the streets of Boston.

Strange how fast times flies when you don't pay attention to it...

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Reconciliation and a Breakup

Alice just came over. She wasn't in costume, of course.

"Go away," I said when she came to the door.

"Nothing doing," she said. "I'm staying here until you let me in."

"I'm glad to see you give a damn about me now," I said. "What makes you think I won't just port you out of here?"

"First of all, Greg, were you to port me out of here back to Bryn Mawr, or to Istanbul, or even to Mars, I'd keep coming back until you let me in and talk," she said. "Second of all, I'm a telepath, remember? And I don't hear anything of the sort up in there."

I relented. "Come on in," I said. She sat on the bed and turned to face me.

"Greg, you have to understand," she said, "we did what he thought was best."

"Well, you thought wrong," I said. I could feel myself getting angry. "What would have been best would have been telling me what happened. What would have been best would have been letting me prepare for the fact that I was picked to be savoir of this damn world. That would have been best."

"Greg, we honestly didn't know how you would handle it," she said.

Now I was getting angry. "Oh, c'mon!" I said. "Like I'm some kind of coward who shits his pants whenever anyone pulls a gun on me? You've been by my side throughout a lot of this, Alice. You saw me take down bank robbers, a terrorist-- remember when I saved your ass from the giant robot? So don't give me that, 'Oh, poor, pitiful Greg, he might not be strong enough' crap!" I calmed down. "I'm sorry," I told her. "I'm just a little..."

"I know," she said. "But you have to understand: whoever did this to you thought the same way. Lady Liberty told us all about it. Remember what triggered the recollection? You took down Catalyst all by yourself, Greg. That's probably what the visitors wanted: for you to be strong enough to handle your role."

"So you didn't think differently?" I asked.

"I did, Greg. I wanted to tell you everything. But, I thought... I thought it would be better to wait." She looked down. "Can you forgive me?"

I thought a minute. "Yes," I said. "Yes, I can. But... I need to talk about our relationship."

Alice said, "I knew you'd want to talk about that."

I said, "I want us to still be friends. I want that a lot. But, after what happened... I just don't think we could confide in each other enough for a proper relationship. Besides, we'll be going our separate ways in a few weeks. And even if we did keep it, what after that? You want to go to Broadway, I want to go to Hollywood. I think we should just cut it off now, and just... respect what he have. Is that okay?"

Alice said, "Okay." She put out her hand. "Shake on it?"

I took it. "Of course."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

They Knew

I showed up on City Hall last night. Punch and Judy were there, waiting for me... and so was Lady Liberty. I wasted no time getting into it with her.

"Let me guess," I said, "they told you, too."

"Yes," she said.

"You knew what happened to me."

"They told me as much, yes."

"Did they tell you that I didn't know?"

"Greg--"

"Did they? Did they tell you that, when I woke up after almost having my head torn open, I thought I'd been raped? Did they tell you that I had to go on three months of vague dreams until, last night, boom! I suddenly find out I'm supposed to save everyone's ass? Did they tell you that?"

"Greg, please." Judy stepped forward. "She only wanted to keep you safe."

"...Judy?" G-ddamnit. "You knew?"

"We both did," said Punch. "We were new on the scene, too. Lady Liberty came to us one night and told us about you. She said... she said we should watch over you until you knew everything."

Damnit, this was just too much.

"All of you?" I yelled. "All of you knew? And none of you told me anything? You didn't think, 'Hey, maybe it would help if we told Greg that he's been hand-picked to fight off an extradimensional barbarian horde'? I trusted you all, g-ddamnit! You were supposed to help me? Then why didn't you let me know?"

"Greg--" Lady Liberty started. I didn't bother; I just ported home, got out of costume, and cried until I fell asleep.

Everyone I trusted just raped me in the ass. Swell.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Another Scary Thought

And I'm serious this time.

It came to me at work. Lyra said that she would, in time, tell the Statesmen and the New Centurions about the Kalasi.

Lady Liberty is one of the Statesmen.

Lady Liberty is the one who set me up with Punch and Judy.

Oh, G-d. Do they all know? And if they did... why did they never tell me?

I'm gonna have to ask questions when I'm on patrol tonight.

A Scary Thought

I just thought of something.

The dream only came to me in bits and pieces after I'd done sufficiently superheroy things. After banishing the demon, or teaming up with Punch and Judy for instance. I finally take down a supervillain mostly single-handed, and the entire thing comes to me.

Lyra's race probably thinks I should be prepared in the same way one "levels up" in an RPG.

We are so screwed.

Holy shit. I know what it's all about now. And it's not very good.

I just had the dream again. But this time, it was different; instead of seeing it in bits and pieces, I saw everything in order.

It started at the 12th Air Command. As Lyra kept talking to me, I could feel control over my own body slowly fading. After I was sapped clean, she said, "That's settled. If you'd kindly follow me..." I left with her; what else could I do?

Outside, she hailed a taxi, and we drove to some warehouse in Manayunk. She made a "These are not the droids you're looking for" gesture to the driver, and he just drove away. She led me into the warehouse, which had pretty much ceased to be a warehouse.

Everything was in white. There were men and women standing about in strange white gowns that vaguely resembled surgical scrubs. In the middle of the whole thing was a small cubicle.

"If you'd enter that cubicle, please," said Lyra. For an abductor, she was remarkably polite. I walked into the cubicle; inside was what looked like a dentist's chair.

"Please disrobe and sit on the chair," she requested. I did as she said, not as if I had a choice. I sat down, and was subjected to a battery of scans and other tests (fortunately, no anal probe). Lyra observed me throughout the tests, and in time, two other scientists came over to discuss the results with her. I could only hear a few words of the conversation, though.

After that, Lyra turned to me, and snapped my fingers. Suddenly, I was able to control myself again. I did the first thing anyone does when confronted by strange people while naked: covered my unmentionables.

"What the fuck is this?" I yelled. "Who do you sickos think you are?"

"Please," said Lyra, "we mean you no harm."

"Yeah, because I've only been drugged, abducted, and subjected to a dignity-killing series of experiments! Nope, no harm there."

"I'm sorry; I just had to make sure I was right."

"Oh, really. Is that why you decided to take my pants off?"

"Please, forgive me," she said, "and let me explain myself."

I decided to quiet down after that. Besides, I was in the presence of many people who could likely put the telepathic whammy on me. Best not to test them.

"My name is Lyra," she said. "These are my colleagues. We come from a different world."

"Funny, you don't look like Martians," I said. That's me; jackass to the end.

"Not another planet," she said calmly. "A parallel world. On our world, humanity evolved differently. Instead of psionic gifts being limited to an extremely narrow subset of the population, they developed throughout most of the population. We lived mostly in prosperity and peace. Then... they came.

"The Kalasi. They came from another world, one where the spoils of war were valued above all else. Their own universe having been raped and pillaged to its limit, they invaded ours. We were unprepared; within two hours, our entire military body was destroyed. Many submitted, but some resisted.

"We watched for decades as the Kalasi used our world as a homebase for raids on other dimensions. Sometimes, they brought back slaves, for purposes of pleasure, conquest, or outright torture. During this time, however, we did not sit idly by. We developed our mental talents, trying to find some way to defeat the Kalasi, or at least warn others of their presence.

"Finally, we stumbled upon a solution: transdimensional teleportation. By using the power of our minds, we were able to bend space to our wills, allowing us to move great distances-- or even across dimensions-- with a mere thought. We used our newfound powers to rid our world of the Kalasi, teleporting them to regions of our world where death would be a certainty-- what you would call 'black holes', and such.

"Some of the Kalasi escaped, though. We did not learn this until a few months ago, when a raiding party emerged over one of our largest cities. We drove them back, but not before they claimed many lives."

"Not that I'm apathetic to your cause, or anything," I said, "but what does this have to do with me?"

"We decided that, if the Kalasi still existed, they would likely be trying to attack other worlds, ones that did not yet know of their presence. We decided that we should try to warn representatives of these worlds of the existence of the Kalasi; not enough to send the population into a panic, but enough to be prepared in case they struck."

"Again, fascinating," I said, "but why me? I'm just a high school graduate with a freshly-minted, zero-readership blog."

"We chose you for a reason," said Lyra. "We realized that if the world should be warned of the Kalasi, they should have someone who could fight against them like we did. Someone who would be able to drive them away with the greatest force."

That's when it hit me. "...me?" I said.

"Most of your people are incapable of handling the mental pressures of this gift. You, on the other hand, are well-suited; your mind is developed enough to withstand any stress. You must have some latent talent."

"Well, it must be pretty fricking latent, because I've never noticed it." I thought for a second. "Wait; I'm just a kid. Why not go to the Statesmen or the New Centurions with this stuff?"

"We shall, in time," she said. "For now, though, we must give you the gift."

"Again; why me? Why are you so sure I won't use this to rob banks or see women naked or launch a coup or something?"

"I scanned your mind while you were under, Greg. I saw a man who wants nothing more than to help change the world for the better, whatever way he can." She came over and caressed my cheek in a somewhat motherly fashion. "This world needs to be prepared. And I cannot think of one better than you to do the job."

I gotta admit, I was floored. "Um... thanks," I said. "I... I guess I accept..."

"Very well," said Lyra. "This will take a few minutes..." She put her hands on the side of my head as if she was weighing it. That's when the strange feelings started. At first it felt like a slight headache. Then it quickly blossomed into a migraine, and from there, a feeling like someone was ripping my brain apart with their bare hands. I could faintly hear Lyra saying, "He's going critical! We'll have to supress it!"... and then there was black. And then I woke up.

So, I was abducted by an extradimensional evolutionary offshoot so I could prepare us all for sociopathic imperialists from another world. Ever wake up and wonder how in Hell you got the life you have?

Well. Better get to work.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Brett: Not Really Such a Dick After All?

Surprisingly enough, I still have a job. Even more surprisingly, Brett gave me minimal ribbing when I came into the store. "Look, I know you were feeling scared and panicked," he said. "A lot of people do the same thing during an emergency. Just try and get your feelings under control next time, okay?"

Brett not acting like a total bastard? My world as I know it is falling apart.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Catalyst Captured!

We brought down Catalyst! Sure, I probably got fired from work as a result, but Hell, it was worth it.

It all started around three. I was stocking new games, while Brett was talking on the phone with his girlfriend. All of a sudden, this girl rushed into the store and told us to turn on the news. Brett hung up on his girlfriend and turned one of the TVs we use for game displays to Channel 4. That's when I got my first look at Catalyst.

She (yes, she; that must've been some voicechanger) was wearing a red cloak and hood over body armor the color of blood. Every bit of her was covered in the stuff except for her arms (where she wore gloves) and her face (where she wore a red domino mask). Behind her was a totaled cop car flipped on its roof... and behind that, the police station where I'd gone after the Mysterious Episode.

The place where I sent every criminal I ported.

If this wasn't personal, then it was pretty fucking close.

We'd tuned into the station mid-speech. "...tried to show you the way, yet you refuse. Obviously, words and symbolism are not enough. If you will not join me willingly, then I must demonstrate my system in action." She gestured to the station. "Behind me: one hundred and fifty men and women, all members of the Philadelphia Police Department. Also behind me: one hundred pounds of my personal explosives. My offer still stands: if the mayor and the rest of the Philadelphia city government abdicates, then I will let these men go. Otherwise... well, no one ever made an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

"You have twenty minutes to decide, gentlemen. Remember; their lives are in your hands."

Damnit. How to get out of this one? Something came to me. I turned to Brett and said, "Brett, listen, I have to go. My mom's in Philly right now, and I don't know where she is. I've gotta go home and see if she's okay."

Brett looked at me suspiciously. "Look, Greg, I'm sure the heroes can handle it just fine. There's no need to take off early."

Brett, you fuck! I thought. I am a hero! Of course, I couldn't say this to his face. That's when I just turned and ran, Brett screaming, "Hey!" after me. Not that I cared anymore; after six weeks under Brett's heel, being fired would be next to a paid vacation in Heaven. I ran into the bathroom, ported home, changed into costume, and ported to the police station.

When I got there, Lady Liberty and Talon had arrived on the scene. Lady Liberty was standing back, looking for some high ground, while Talon was up in the air, hurling her Talonrangs at Catalyst. I saw her fire off a Talonrang right at her... and then I saw it bounce off of something right in front of her and fly off into space. She threw something I couldn't see at Talon, and the next thing I knew, there was a loud bang and Talon was lying on the ground in a heap.

"Hey!" I yelled at Catalyst. She turned to look at me. "Nice costume. What, were they out of Guy Fawkes masks at the costume shop?" Quippage achieved, I volleyed off a beam that would send her to the Citadel. Had it hit, that is; the beam stopped a few inches from her and ceased to exist. Catalyst made the same throwing motion as she did before. I looked down at the ground, only to see... I can probably best describe it as "a ball of solid air" roll in front of my feet. I ported up to the roof of the police station; just as I hit, I heard the explosion, and when I looked back, there was a large crater where I was standing.

L.L. had taken advantage of the distraction and charged at Catalyst, trying to knock her down. Her blows kept stopping in mid-air, though. Catalyst kept punching back, and while her punches were slower, they semed to carry more weight.

That's when the idea struck. Maybe whatever's surrounding her is finite, I thought. I launched off a beam at her, but instead of just letting it go, I concentrated. Sure enough, the beam kept burrowing through whatever was protecting her. Just a few seconds away from contact, though, she noticed; she turned to me, and threw another one of those air balls at me. I ported off of the roof down to street level, just a second before the police station got a new skylight.

When I was back on the ground, I saw L.L. take advantage of Catalyst's weakness and distraction and punch her right where I'd weakened the shield. The blow wasn't blocked, and hit Catalyst right in the small of the back. She went down, but she wasn't out; she rounded on L.L., and made a slight flicking notion with her wrist. Before L.L. could react, the bomb went off. She was knocked a few feet into the air, and then fell back to Earth, unconscious.

"No!" I yelled. Catalyst turned to me and said, "See what you made me do?" She threw another bomb my way, and I ported up onto a nearby roof. So emerged a pattern that continued for the next few minutes: I port, I try to beam her up, she throws a bomb at me, I port, lather, rinse, repeat. All the while, Catalyst has gone into crazed supervillain mode. "We could have had paradise! Utopia within our grasp! But you would rather have certain oppression than freedom with risks. Why? Am I the only one brave enough to enact change?"

I ported right next to Catalyst. "Well, I gotta say, there's no one crazier," I cracked.

She spun around. "Die!" she yelled. I ported away just as the bomb hit the ground and exploded... not two feet away from Catalyst. And thus, the brave revolutionary was swiftly knocked on her ass.

When I turned around to view the carnage, she was still conscious. She said, "Think that's funny? They'll pay for what you've done!" Before she could do anything, though, I shot off a beam at her. This time, it hit; she went to the Citadel, where she could do nothing.

"Hail Discordia, biatch," I quipped. Hey, I took out my first real supervillain; I think I deserve a quip.

After it was safe, the paramedics came in and took Talon and L.L. away. Talon didn't have many injuries-- just a concussion from the blast-- and L.L.'s healing factor had done most of the work, so she just spent an hour in the hospital getting her shit together. Quint showed up some time later to neutralize the rest of the "air bombs"; he'd been on the Astral Plane during Catalyst's little escapade. "An amazing talent," he said. "Pity she could not devote it to finer things." He congratulated me for taking her down, as well. After that, I headed home and rested. I got a call from Judy around five; we spent a half hour talking about the battle, and she congratulated me for kicking villainous ass.

So, I might have been fired, and I probably made an archnemisis today. Still, I saved a bunch of lives, put a terrorist behind bars, and earned the thanks of my friends and comrades. So it kind of evens out.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Nothing Again

We went on another prowl last night. Still nothing. I don't know what kind of protections Catalyst has, but apparently they're working.

G-d. I hate feeling like I'm unable to do anything.

Monday, August 08, 2005

State of Emergency

Catalyst struck again.

He blew up the Graff House this time. And a security guard was killed in the blast.

Judy tried doing the pan-and-scan thing she did back when the mystic got kidnapped, but couldn't find him. We ported about Philly four times, but... nothing.

Ever feel like you're useless?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

On Anarchy

Nothing new from Catalyst; I've gotta wonder whether the attack on City Hall was just a scare tactic.

That didn't stop Judy and I from porting around Philly thrice, with Judy keeping a third eye out for Catalyst each and every time. Punch wasn't with us; he was with the Silver Bullet, pouring over every frequency in the greater Philadelphia area, searching for signs of Catalyst. While jumping around, we got to talking about Catalyst and his motives, which eventually got into a discussion about anarchy. Now, anyone who remembers my blog from the pre-hero days will remember my views on anarchy; I think it's a pretty shoddy ethos, especially in the way it's carried out by anti-globalization activists. Judy, however, thought differently.

"I don't know," she said. "I mean, I'm not an anarchist, but I can see the inherent coolness in making your own way."

"I know, that's how it starts," I said back, "but really, just because an ethos looks cool doesn't mean it's gonna work well. I mean, look at Objectivism."

"Can I choose not to?" she said. "I read The Fountainhead back in October for an intro class. It was like a manifesto with sex scenes."

"Yeah, I thought Atlas Shrugged sucked too, but that was mostly because my teacher showed us opinion pieces from the Ayn Rand Institute while we read it. I did a little research on Objectivism after the fact, and it's a lot different in theory than in practice."

"Explain."

"Well, in theory, Rand thought that Objectivism would be a way of avoiding wars. The government would be restricted to using military force, and humans would be barred from initiating attacks on one another. But put it into practice, and you've got sociopaths in business suits arguing about how nuking Canada might possibly be a good thing."

"Yeah, but the same can be said of any political system," said Judy. "I mean, look at our government right now and tell me that that's a perfectly operating system. Without pissing yourself laughing, that is."

"I'm not arguing that there's some perfect government system," I said. "Each one's got its own flaws. But some systems work better than others, and anarchy, like Objectivism, just seems too contradictory in practice to merit a wider implementation. I mean, look at trade. The WTO wants to implement free trade, and anarchists throw a shit fit. But they shouldn't, because in most cases, free trade means that more money usually ends up back in the pocket of the laborer. They argue, however, that tariffs help build up developing governments-- which eats the entire argument for anarchy alive."

"I can see what you mean," said Judy. "Still, I think if you work the kinks out, anarchy could work."

"Oh, don't get me wrong," I said. "I think it's okay as a system. Just not so much when it's in use."

So, that's how I spent my evening; fruitlessly hunting a supervillain, and debating the flaws of anarchy and Objectivism.

I'm gonna get flamed for this post, aren't I?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Meanwhile, At the Hall of Justice...

Why did no one tell me we have a super clubhouse?

Last night, I showed up on the newly-ventilated roof of City Hall, only to find Lady Liberty standing there, waiting.

"Hi, Doc," she said. "We've got some important business to deal with. You know where Punch and Judy are?"

I shrugged. "Probably on their way."

"We'll wait, then." A few minutes later, Punch and Judy floated up onto the roof.

"Sorry about that, there was an armored car robbery a few blocks down, and-- " Judy saw Lady Liberty, and stopped. "Oh. Hi, Lib."

"Hey, Judy, Punch. Listen, we've got an emergency on our hands. It's of the utmost necessity that we put our heads together. Doc, could you teleport us to this address?"

Lady Liberty handed me a piece of paper. I knew approximately where it was located, so I said, "Sure." I whipped up a portal, said, "Mind the gap, please," and stepped through. Everyone else followed.

We were on the street designated on the slip of paper. A few minutes of searching revealed... an old pizza shop.

"You guys really like your pies, huh?" I cracked.

"Not now, Doc," said Lady Liberty. She walked up to the door, knocked on it thrice, and said, "Swordfish." She stepped back as the door swung open slowly. "Now, I'm gonna warn you; what's inside is kinda shocking."

"Eh, we eat shocking for breakfast," said Punch. We stepped in, and I must say, it was shocking.

What looked from the outside to be a small abandoned pizza shop was, on the inside, about the length of two football fields. At our end of the room was what looked like a supercomputer covered in plasma screens; none other than the Silver Bullet was typing away at it.

"Glad to see you guys got here safe and sound," said Silver. "The meeting's about to start. Everyone else is at the main table. Come on."

As we walked to the table, I saw everything a superhero could need: weapon racks, libraries of old books, and a trophy room, presumably containing the mantles of fallen foes and thwarted plans. "So," I asked, "who does the TARDIS belong to?"

"The Statesmen," said Lady Liberty. "I asked Empiricist if I could possibly borrow it for a local meeting of fellow tradesmen, and he said yes."

"I thought the Statesmen were based out of DC," said Punch.

"They are," replied L.L. (think she'd object to me calling her "L.L."?). "And Boston, and LA, and Atlanta... the best part of a dimensionally transcendent HQ is how you can enter it from almost anywhere. Plus, it cuts down on air fare."

When we got to table, everyone else was already there: Talon, Quint, Pulse, and Alpha. "Glad you could join us," said Quint. "Sit."

We took our seats. "Let's cut to the chase," said L.L. "There's a madman loose who's willing to do a lot of damage to this city in order to have his goals realized. It's our job to stop him before he hurts anyone. Silver. You find anything on the Net about this guy?"

"Nothing really," replied Silver. "Just a few mutterings about him on message boards devoted to anarchist thought. How about you, Quint? Any psyches out of wack?"

"No," Quint said, somewhat disappointed. "I've poured through every soul in this city, and I cannot find this Catalyst. Either he has some sort of magical defense--"

"Or he doesn't live in Philly," offered Pulse. "He could be doing this from New York or somewhere."

"Good one," said Alpha. "But why blow up Philly? I mean, if he's an anarchist, wouldn't it be better to blow the roof off of the Capitol?"

"DC wasn't where our government was formed," answered L.L. "Philly was. Catalyst wants to go for the disease, not the symptom. But what's bugging me is, how would someone be able to get explosives into City Hall?"

"Any ideas, Doc?" asked Pulse.

Well; that was a surprise. Me, being asked to answer a question posed by one of the big kids. "Well," I said, "maybe his power is being able to create explosions. I was on City Hall when the explosion happened, and I didn't see any flames. I just heard the explosion, and next thing I know, there's wreckage everywhere-- remarkably uncharred, by the way."

To my surprise, everyone nods. "That's probably it," said Talon. "I mean, flames in an explosion will do residual structural damage-- and make it look really cool-- but all you really need for an explosion is a sudden violent outward blast of air in a radial pattern. Maybe this guy can manipulate air."

"That's an idea," said L.L. "And it gives us something else to look for. Silver, Punch, I want you two on constant technowatch. Quint, I want you to keep up the mojo. Not just trying to see if you can break Catalyst's arcane firewall or whatever he's got going, but keeping an ear out for any disturbances in the air. You can do that, right?"

"I can sense a gnat taking a breath in Wilkes-Barre," said Quint. "I can probably handle it."

"Glad to see your ego's still in tact. Judy. How do you feel about deep probing?"

"I don't feel comfortable about it," Judy replied. "I mean, I'll do it when necessary, but I like to obey telepathic ethics. I usually go for surface thoughts when scanning."

"That's okay," said L.L. "Just keep scanning when you go out on patrol. If Catalyst's little manifesto was any indication, he'll probably be thinking about anarchy 24/7."

We talk a little more about various other supervillains, then filter out. I gotta say, it was fun sitting with the cool kids, even if there is a terrorist about.

Now, if only I could get something like that place for a house...

Friday, August 05, 2005

Catalyst

Well, we finally got a little excitement last night.

It was still early in the evening, and it was still quiet. Judy and I were playing Twenty Questions ("Can you kill a man with it?" "Not effectively, no.") while Punch was fiddling with the police scanner. Next thing I know, I hear something like G-d himself hitting the ground, and I'm knocked to the ground. Once I'm back on my feet, I notice that something's happened to the tip of the towerl.

It's no longer there.

It doesn't take long for me to realize where it went. I look around, and see that I'm standing amongst wood and metal. Someone just blew the top off City Hall!

"You okay?" I hear Judy yell. I turn around; she's using her TK to toss aside a huge chunk of wood. "Damnit, I almost got crushed by that thing," she says, gesturing in the general direction of the chunk. "Just what the hell happened?"

"Someone fought--," Punch starts. Then he goes silent. "Holy crap, I think the perp's talking over the scanner!"

"'Perp?'"

"Hey, you watch enough Law and Order, it rubs off on you. Listen to this."

With that, the scanner, usually a whisper to me and Judy, cranks up, and we hear a voice that sounds like Darth Vader with a head cold.

"...the beginning. I repeat. This is Catalyst, the instrument of change. The old systems of government are a thing of the past. The voice of the people can no longer be stifled. Tonight was a warning to the people of Philadelphia and the rest of the United States. Our nation must change. This is inevitable. Tonight's incident was planned so that no one would be harmed. If you are unwilling to cooperate, I can assure you: I will not be so generous in the future.

"My demands are simple: the government of the city of Philadelphia must step down. The mayor, the councilmen-- all must abdicate. The role of governing shall be turned over to the people. After the people of Philadelphia demonstrate their success in establishing a self-sufficient body, the rest of America will see the light and follow in our step.

"Times are about to change, and all will be better if you go along with it. Remember; this is only the beginning. I repeat..."

Punch turns down the radio. "Anarchists?" he says.

"Fuck me," says Judy. "I mean, say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, at least it's an ethos."

Punch and I just stare at her. "I just thought it would be best to lighten the mood a little," she adds.

So. Philly is under attack by an anarchist. Or anarchists, plural. With access to explosives, or at least explosive-like powers.

Well. That could be construed as "exciting."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

All Quiet

Last night was tranquil. Almost too tranquil. Seriously, it got to the point where Punch, Judy, and I were playing Twenty Questions on the roof of City Hall. We patrolled the city twice, and found nothing.

I mean, yay, peace and quiet and everything, but damnit, why did I come back to the hero trade if people weren't in need of rescue?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Y'know, it's been a while since I've had the dream. I've only had it once since I came back from Italy, and that was before I was laid up after the dragon. Of course, by saying this, I'll probably be hit by it tonight, because that's just the way things work.

Last night was a bit more eventful than Monday night. There was a three-man holdup at a jewelry store in Germantown; Judy knocked out one of the robbers, and I ported the other two to the station. Other than that, though, nothing much.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Villains, Beware!... Again

So, I returned to the streets of Philly again last night. Punch and Judy kept telling me they were glad to see me fully recovered. We joked a little about my regular absences, and how I might be thinking twice about heroing. Of course, that's not true, but hey, if you can't joke about yourself, then who can you joke about?

For a first night back, though, there was nothing to do. The city was quiet, for what Punch and Judy said was the first time since I'd been burned. Guess I always miss the fun stuff.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Counting Down the Hours...

Well, in just a few hours, I'll be back on the streets, fighting crime. That's pretty cool.

And I'm probably gonna need it, after work. Brett kept looking at me suspiciously today. Can't say I blame him; so far, I've "gotten sick" so as to fight a demon, actually fallen sick and missed two days of work, left for vacation in Europe for three weeks after that-- and then there was my recent recovery. Of course, I can blame him for asking, when I got back from lunch, whether I was feeling okay, or if I felt I should go home and rest.

Jackhole.