Main Tough Guy 2: A Superhero LitRPG Adventure (My Chemical Hero)

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Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32

Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Epilogue

Tough Guy 2
Neighborhood Watch
Book 2 of “My Chemical Hero” Series
by Andrew Karevik

My Chemical Hero: Book 2
Copyright © 2021 LitRPG Freaks
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means without written
permission from the author.

Chapter 1
“Any ideas on what to do with the door?” Sylvan Defender
asked as the solid bark helmet around her head opened up,
revealing her puzzled face. Despite the swarm of roots and tendrils
smashing into the great steel barrier, it would not budge.
“I believe that would be our resident strongman’s job,” Kinetic
Fox said, gesturing towards me. Our small four person team parted
ways to allow me to get a look at the door. Out of all the barricades
in the Forgotten Climb Projects, this was the most sophisticated. It
was sealed tightly, making it impossible for Kinetic to pry it out with
her telekinesis. Cannoneer’s blasts had no effects and Sylvan
Defender couldn’t even get her roots to spawn on the other side,
which meant that the floors were reinforced too. But where skillful
application of power failed, raw, brute force would succeed.
I cracked my knuckles and dropped down into a low position to
ram the door with my shoulder. “As soon as I take it off, they’re
gonna be pissed, so hit them hard and fast.”
“We are detecting slight radiation from this floor,” Clara said in
my earpiece, “so chances are they’re working on an explosive of
some kind. Worst case scenario, it’s already assembled and ready to
go off.”
“C; opy that,” I replied. “You guys ready?”
My eager team of heroes all nodded, assuming battle positions.
Whoever was on the other end of the door was about to have a very
bad day. I took a deep breath and with a roar, slammed my fists into
the steel door. It groaned from the blow, so I gave it yet another
wallop, causing the entire apartment to shake.

“Don’t’ bring the whole building down,” Cannoneer said, trying
to steady himself against the wall. His twin cannon arms didn’t seem
to do much to help him stay upright. The building shook once more
as I delivered one last, mighty blow, knocking the steel ten feet back.
“Let’s do this!” Sylvan Defender yelled as she regained her
oaken form, all manner of tendrils and thorns wrapping around her
as she charged into the fray. There was no time to think, no time to
question the decision. We were here to fight, no bones about it.
I ran after the eager heroine, following her into a wide
laboratory that was filled to the brim with crates upon crates of
hazardous material. There were plenty of men in white lab coats,
working around tables on some kind of wiring system. The circuit
boards were complex and undoubtedly belonged to the huge missile
sitting in the center of the room. Were they trying to build a nuke in
here?
A dozen armed guards were waiting for us at the entrance,
crouched behind a few overturned steel tables. They started to open
fire, but Sylvan’s thorns and roots formed together into a thick wall,
soaking up the bullet fire. At the same time, Kinetic Fox floated
beside me, waving her hands, pulling the guns out of the grasp of
the goons through telekinetic might.
The scientists at the tables quickly pulled ray guns out of their
own pockets and began to open fire, their beams of energy easily
burning through Sylvan’s wooden defenses. “Caution,” my suit’s
scanners chittered as it targeted several of the chemical boxes
surrounding the scientists. “Dangerous chemicals detected. Avoid
collateral damage at all costs.”
Just as the suit explained the situation, Cannoneer leapt beside
me, raising both of his arm cannons high in the air. “It’s Cannon
O’Clock!” he yelled, shouting his most regrettable catch phrase
before he opened fire on ray-gun toting scientists.
“Wait!” I tried to order, but it was too late. Twin blasts of fiery
energy zapped towards the first crate in front of the white coated

goons, easily missing any of the human targets. The crate exploded
into a fiery green cloud that covered the entire room seemingly at
once. Everyone (except for Sylvan who had a solid oak helmet
around her head) began hacking and wheezing at once. Many of the
scientists fell over onto the ground, spasming and twitching.
“Hellllll yeah!” Cannoneer screamed right before he too fell to
the ground, hacking and wheezing as whatever noxious material
poured into our lungs.
“Kinetic, can you contain the cloud?” I asked, turning to see
that my companion was dead unconscious, floating in midair upside
down. Damn, she did not have the physical constitution to deal with
whatever was in the air. I, on the other hand, didn’t even notice the
hazardous effects, other than it causing me to cough a bit, like I had
something stuck in the back of my throat.
Sylvan waved at me, her long wooden hands moving upwards
in a questioning pose. She couldn’t talk in her oaken suit, but
opening up her helmet would let the burning green gas right in. The
question was obvious though. What should we do?
“Get the crew to fresh air, then come back for these
knuckleheads,” I ordered, turning to search for the ring leader of this
little missile circus. The room was suspiciously missing a strangely
dressed megalomaniac rambling about his plans for ending/and or
dominating the world. No doubt he was somewhere safe, watching
us right now.
I glanced up at the ceiling to see several video cameras,
trained on both the door and the bomb workspace. I focused on the
cameras, allowing my suit’s system to switch to an electronic
scanner. Immediately, I could see the power signatures leading to a
hidden room behind an ordinary wall. A panic room? Not terribly
brave.
I checked the status of the others in the area real quick, to
make sure everyone was down for the count. The noxious fumes
had more or less rendered everyone useless, except for Sylvan and

me. She was in the process of using her roots to tie each of these
lawbreakers up, then carefully removing them from the source of the
poison. Hopefully the gas wouldn’t spread to the rest of the building.
“Knock, knock!” I said as I punched my fist through the metal
wall. This one wasn’t nearly as reinforced, perhaps due to the fact
that it was designed to slide open.
“Ack!” came a voice from behind the wall. “Stay back, I am
armed and dangerous!”
“Uh-huh,” I replied, prying open a hole wide enough for me to
see through. There was a spectacled man in a lab coat, curled up in
the corner of a very small room with only a computer and 12 security
monitors. He held a laser gun of some kind in one hand, and a
detonator in the other. My scanners could instantly pick up on the
fact that the detonator was live and primed. Only question was, what
would it blow up?
“Hey, easy there pal!” I said. “I’m just looking for your boss.” I
cupped my hands and face against the hole, trying my best to create
an airtight seal. The last thing I needed was for this noxious gas to
make him spasm and inadvertently click the detonator.
“My boss?” he said, scowling at me. “I am THE boss!”
“Sorry, I’m used to seeing elaborate costumes, not just lab
coats and goggles.”
“You think us villains wear our outfits at home?” the man
replied. “I wear four layers when in costume!” He raised the
detonator nice and high. “One false move, Brick Bitch, and I blow
this whole place up. And I’m not talking about just this room! I’ll take
down the entire city with an explosion like this.”
“That explosion would include you too,” I replied. “Do you really
want to die today?
“Funny, I was going to ask you the same question!” he cackled,
gleeful as possible. The man was clearly unhinged enough to be a
supervillain. Costume or no, he was going to be a real problem. If

Cannoneer hadn’t enthusiastically knocked out our telekinetic
psychic, along with himself, this situation would be easy to solve.
Now I had to very carefully figure out a way to prevent the city from
being annihilated. Again.
I sighed heavily. “What do you want?”
This prompted the maniac to begin laughing heartily. “What
don’t I want! Make me the king of the city! Give me the Mayor as my
bride, you know as long as she’s interested, but if not I guess I could
settle for like a secretary or something. And cleanse the entire city of
ants! Filthy, disgusting ants, climbing everywhere, crawling, eating,
feasting!”
Oh great. He was completely disconnected from reality. This
just got a lot harder. Okay, if I was going to handle him, I had to play
into his madness. That would be the only way to distract him.
Villains, after all, loved their pageantry above all else.
“Man, I’m really sorry but it’s so hard to take you seriously out
of costume. I mean, for all I know, you could be just a goon bluffing,”
I said.
Those words agitated him greatly, a look of contempt seeping
across his face, one so vile that I felt as if it could burn right through
me. “I am not a goon, you filthy heathen. This bomb is all too real.”
“Sure, why don’t you just drop the act and call your boss. I’m
sure he’ll be very unhappy you’re posing as him.”
Those words were enough to provoke an unbridled rage from
the man. “There is none other like Professor Pain!” he shouted, not
knowing there were at least four other Professor Pains who were
much more famous than he. But the agitation was enough for him to
put the detonator into his coat pocket. He kept the ray gun aimed at
me, however, and began to fiddle with something on the security
console connected to the cameras. A panel in the wall opened up,
revealing his elaborate costume—a slim red suit, covered in metal
spikes, with long wires protruding from the arms and legs. Some kind

of fluid was pumping through those wires, infusing into the suit.
ChemX maybe? “There!” he said, pointing to the suit. “Does that
answer your question? Why would a goon have the access code to
the Pain Suit!”
“Ohhh, yeah I guess you’re right,” I said, dropping my hands
from the hole. The airtight seal was gone now and the gas quickly
entered the room. I braced and readied up. I had to move fast if I
was going to make this tactic work.
Professor Pain coughed a little at first, raising up his hand to
cover his mouth. Evil or not, I guess he was polite enough to not
spread germs. His little cough quickly devolved into gasping for air.
At once, the mad scientist became aware of his predicament. He
reached for his coat pocket, but was too slow. I let out a roar and ran
through the wall hard as I could, smashing my way through. The
Professor yelped, while I grabbed him by both arms and lifted them
up, away from the pocket.
“Sorry about this,” I said, grimacing as I twisted both of his
arms outwards, snapping his wrists like twigs. The man screamed in
agony, but it was the only way I could release one of his hands to get
the detonator. I was quick to grab the collar of his coat and simply rip
the entire pocket off, pulling it far away from the maniac. There was
no way I was going to dig my hand in there and accidentally click the
button. For now, it looked like the crisis had been averted. That was
one apartment down, twenty-eight to go…on this floor.

Chapter 2
Our haggard and weary team staggered back into the Eon City
Champions headquarters, a small warehouse in the west part of the
Forgotten Climb. It was our temporary headquarters, Kinetic Fox had
said, since we had a government contract to clear the scum and
villainy out of the old, abandoned housing projects that were known
collectively as the Climb. It had only been a week of knocking down
doors and evicting villains, common criminals and escaped convicts
who were trying to lay low, but already we were starting to tire out.
The city of Eon had ignored the poorest district for so long that it had
become quite literally infested with the most unsavory types.
“Welcome back!” Clara said, greeting us as I carried both Fox
and Cannoneer over my shoulders. The gas had knocked them out
hard, but they were still breathing. So hopefully they’d be okay. Our
costumer, who recently took the additional job of handler, grimaced
at the sight of me. “Brick, what happened? Your eyes are bleeding
green.”
“Are they?” I grunted, slinging my teammates onto the
conference table. I was too tired to carry them to the medical bay.
And honestly, our medical bay was really just a room with a couch,
an OSHA first aid cabinet and a mini-fridge full of sports drinks.
The base was more or less in a state of disrepair. The Eon City
Champions were not well situated right now. We had been given a
few lucrative contracts by private individuals and the city, but the
money wasn’t rolling in quite yet. Most contracts didn’t pay out until
‘heroic competency’ was established. Which was a fancy way of
saying ‘we trust you enough to promise you money, but not enough
to actually pay up front.’

“Can you get Rupert to take a look at us?” I asked, taking a
seat by the table. “We were hit by some kind of gas that took those
two out of commission near instantly.”
“Sure thing,” Clara said, frowning. “But uh, the uh,
commissioner is here. The police commissioner, I mean. Kinetic had
a meeting with him and he’s a little antsy.”
I glanced at the unconscious body of our humble leader. She
was in no state to talk to anyone. I sighed. “Let me take care of it.
Just get everyone back to full health. Sylvan needs to contact the
Cleanup Crew to find out what to do with our prisoners.”
Clara nodded at that and began to take action, calling for her
staff and Rupert, her chief bioengineer to come take a look at the
others. I stopped by the bathroom to wipe my face off, put my mask
back on, and headed straight for Fox’s office. I’d much rather she
take this meeting, but we couldn’t just leave the commissioner
hanging. He might have work for us. Or better yet, maybe some
leads!
“I’m terribly sorry, Commissioner,” I said as I opened the door.
The haze of cigarette smoke immediately flooded out from Kinetic’s
office, causing me to gag a little. Funny, noxious fumes from some
chemical explosion didn’t bother me much, but the smell of
cigarettes made me sick to my stomach.
“You are not the Kinetic Fox,” Commissioner Francis said as he
smoked by the window. It was unfortunate that this particular window
didn’t open. I knew this because the first thing Kinetic did when I
joined the team was ask if I could fix this damn window. Even my
immense strength didn’t seem to do much to get the thing open.
“No, sir,” I said, strolling up to the commissioner. He was a
burly fellow, with a broad chest nearly twice my own size, though his
gut indicated years of desk work and doughnuts. He had a short,
scruffy beard, which only partially covered up the scarring on his
cheeks. Whether that came from a skin condition or injury on the

field, I couldn’t tell. I certainly couldn’t stop staring at it, but thankfully
my mask covered my eyes. “I’m a new hero here, Brick Breaker.”
“Ah yes, the Combine Kid, as they call you,” he said, taking off
his hat and putting it on the desk beside him. He sat on the corner of
the window sill, cigarette hanging from his mouth. “I watched that
footage a dozen times. How you were able to take Grug’s blows
without shattering is beyond me.”
I nodded at this sentiment, though I could barely remember the
fight against Grug. Turned out all those punches to the head made
things just a tiny bit fuzzy afterwards. “It was a surprise to me too,
sir,” I said, moving to take a seat behind Fox’s desk. Fortunately, she
always hovered when in costume, so there was a chair for me to sit.
I suppose that was the silver lining to her paralysis. If she didn’t use
the wheelchair in costume, no one would ever suspect her as a
wheelchair-bound civilian. “But it made me popular enough to join
this wonderful organization.”
Francis harrumphed at this. “Organization? Don’t make me
laugh. You guys are small timers. Otherwise we wouldn’t be meeting
in a condemned asbestos storage house.” I don’t know what made
me more uncomfortable, the way the commissioner so easily wrote
us off, or the fact that we really, really needed a new headquarters.
“Oh, er, I mean,” I sighed. “Look, Fox is indisposed right now,
so I said I’d meet with you. Of what do I owe the pleasure?”
Francis finished his cigarette and flicked it right into the waste
can without batting an eye. “I heard you kids were cleaning out the
Climb. That true?”
I nodded. “Yes, we got a contract from the city.”
“That’s mighty dangerous work, going in there, up against all
manner of psycho and super powered freaks,” Francis said.
“Surprised you feel up to the task.”
“It’s hard work, I won’t lie, but we’re not just fighting villains,
we’re giving life back to the Climb,” I said. “And that’s definitely worth

fighting for.”
Francis nodded. He looked at me for a moment, eyes sweeping
up and down, as if searching for a sign of my character. “Not a lot of
prestige in it.”
“If I wanted prestige I’d have joined Heroes United. Most of us
would.”
“Bah, only hero worth Heroes United on your team is Kinetic
Fox and she’s rejected all offers from the major players. And maybe
you. Though, that remains to be seen. Surviving an ass kicking isn’t
much of a superpower, otherwise I’d be on your team too,” he said
as he lit up another cigarette. He took a deep drag, then blew the
smoke right in my face. He was testing me, pushing for a reaction.
But to what end? I kept motionless. The police commissioner
seemed to be pleased at my reaction and sat back against the
window sill. “I’ve been after the city for decades to try and clean up
the Climb. Finally, they cracked…and handed it straight to you. I
wanted our police force to come in and take the building down
ourselves, with the help of some heavy hitters. Real powerhouses.”
He paused, waiting for me to assert my ego or dominance. But I
merely kept still, listening to his story. An opportunity was unfolding
here.
“Go on, please,” I said.
“Right, anyway. The main opposition to cracking down on the
Climb is the fear that it will no longer encourage villains and low-lifes
to occupy that part of the city.”
“Wait, what? You mean they want crime here?”
Francis nodded. “Exactly. The Climb was written off long ago,
funding barely goes to it, the population barely votes and most
people make minimum wage. They are seen as inconsequential by
the powers that be. Of course, they don’t say that. They come up
with all sorts of excuses, but the end goal is the same: keep the rest
of Eon City clean by having an area that is poorly looked after.”

“That sounds a little conspiratorial,” I said, leaning back. “Why
wouldn’t they just arrest all the criminals?”
The commissioner grinned and leaned forward. “It is a
conspiracy. See, there are real villains in the Climb. I’m talking the
serious, world domination kind. They’ve got deep pockets and
government connections, or even stooges. If they want the Climb to
stay filthy, no good politician—if there is such a thing—would ever be
able to pass a real measure through. But to play political theater,
they hire out some weak heroes to do a little publicity stunt. Then
when 24 hour news cycle moves on, they’ll send a real villain to
destroy those plucky do-gooders.”
I crossed my arms. “Come on, you mean to tell me that—” My
words were interrupted as Francis slapped a newspaper on the table
in front of me. It was from 1982. City Pledges to Clean East Clifford!
it said. Beneath the headline were the words Contract Awarded to
the Electric Supercrew. There was a photo of the mayor shaking
hands with several men and women dressed in what I could best
describe as tesla coil armor.
“The Climb used to be called East Clifford,” Francis explained.
“And it was the same situation as always. Poorest part of the city,
filled with all manner of villains. They knocked down a few doors,
caught some small time, chem Level 1 goons, then the world moved
on. Ten weeks later, they were dead. Every last one of them. Cause
of death?”
Another newspaper dropped in front of me. The Silent Killer!
How a Carbon Monoxide Leak Took the Lives of Five Promising
Heroes. I felt my blood run cold at the sight of those words. A shiver
ran up my spine.
“I got more papers if you’d like to see them,” the commissioner
said. “Every one of them tells the same story. Underdog heroes get a
big contract, then quietly get brushed under the rug. Last group was
in 05. And they just vanished. Poof, gone. Point is, Brick, you are in
a hell of a lot of danger. Your whole crew is. Because the housing

projects? Those aren’t the real problem. If you want to get rid of ants,
you can’t just spray the hill. You gotta eradicate the queen ant.”
“I’m guessing you know who that queen ant is?” I said. It was
all falling into place now. Francis was trying to get the Climb, or East
Clifford, cleaned up for good.
“I know a lot of things, but not that,” Francis replied. He bent
down to fish something out of a duffle bag that had been sitting
beneath the coffee table. I hadn’t noticed it upon entering, but it was
rather large. After a minute of searching, he pulled out a large red
phone. It was like one of the old time phones that I grew up with, with
the cord and dial pad.
“What’s this?”
“This is a hardline Victor-secured phone. Channel is encrypted
and unbreakable. I want you to consider this phone line to be a direct
connection to my entire intelligence network. Call me any time, day
or night. I can’t give you official documents, of course, but I’ve got
eyes everywhere. If you need something, anything, I’m here for you.
On one condition.”
“We clean up the Climb?”
“No, that you don’t get yourselves killed before you clean it,” he
said. “You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. Figure out who has their
hooks into which politician and how you can fix it. My advice is that
you don’t waste time on the Forgotten Climb. Solve the actual
underlying issue and then focus on healing the symptoms.”
This was a huge boon. I didn’t really know what to say. “Sir, I
can’t believe it…this is amazing!” I said.
“You think a conspiracy meant to keep the Climb permanently
crime-riddled and that there are villains who will murder you in your
sleep is an amazing thing?” he asked, shaking his head. “Reminds
me of the academy. All full of vigor and excitement. All inevitably
disappointed by the muck that is human existence.”

“You know I grew up in this muck. I know all about the human
condition,” I said. “And I’m happy to have a chance to help this place.
As for villains trying to kill us, well, that’s what they do anyway. So
what do you have for me?”
“It doesn’t work like that,” he said, putting the phone on the
desk. “Plug it in, have Kinetic reach out to the Victor Corp
onboarding director and then we’ll talk. In the meantime, take care of
your eyes. I think they’re bleeding green.”

Chapter 3
My eyes were fine. A quick medical examination revealed
nothing of note and the unfortunate seepage stopped after a day.
The rest of the team was quick to recover as well, Kinetic Fox
bounced back in a few hours and Cannoneer woke up a day later. I
had expected that Fox would call us all into the meeting room and
discuss what had gone wrong in that raid, but much to my surprise,
she did nothing. Morning patrols were handed out, same as always.
Everyone took their orders and left. Everyone except for me.
“What is this?” I asked, holding up a scrap of paper with an
address on it.
“That’s your neighborhood to patrol. Apparently the
Burglemeister, yes that’s his actual name, has been hitting a string of
homes outside Hendrik’s Park,” Fox said as she floated just a few
inches off the ground. Several papers and a coffee mug were
floating around her, allowing her to easily read and drink without
using her hands. “I said that in the briefing.”
“Not the assignment,” I said, shaking my head. “Casey, we
almost got wiped out back there. Cannoneer could have killed us all.”
“He’s young and stupid,” she said with a shrug. “What are you
gonna do?” With that, she went back to sipping her coffee and
reading a file. Her nonchalance irked me for some reason. She had
been on the receiving end of the chemical explosion, yet here she
was, acting like it was nothing.
“Well, I thought we’d do a post-game about it, you know, talk
about where we went wrong as a team?”

Casey looked up at me, her blue eyes locking onto mine. I
could feel a slight pressure against my head as she stared at me.
She had a habit of probing surface thoughts and I was slowly starting
to become aware of her attempts. I don’t know if she was trying to
train me in defense, or if I was just adapting, but I was starting to get
good at pushing her out. “You’re mad?” she asked.
“I just can’t fathom why you didn’t scream at him until your
lungs gave out,” I replied, leaning against the water cooler. The
break room was also our dispatch, because it was the only place in
the building where our cell phones could get reception. “If I were in
charge, I’d have pulled his spine halfway out for endangering literally
everyone.”
Casey shook her head. “That’s not how we do things here.
Everyone’s independent, no one above another. Egalitarian to the
core.”
“That’s hippy nonsense,” I said. “You have to have some
leadership. And you’re the woman in charge.”
“I’m the administrator, that’s all,” she said, signing a document
while reading something else. “If I start bossing folks around, they’ll
leave. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’ve lost quite a few
people since we took the big contract.”
She was referring to the first week of our raids. We saw some
real ugly stuff in the basement level of the projects, where some of
the most deranged villains lurked. Half of the team quit after that
raid. Some out of fear, others out of disgust at what they had
witnessed, and one because they almost died. Turns out that fighting
desperate supervillains was quite different from the usual job of
catching purse snatchers and stopping liquor store holdups.
“People want order. We need a strong leader. Being in charge
doesn’t necessarily make you the bad guy.”
“Look, we have a certain way of doing things here, Arthur. I’ll
tell Cannoneer to check his fire next time, but otherwise, we don’t do

any of that corporate stuff. No policies to sign, no one telling you
when to clock in and out. Everyone does their own thing. Sometimes
we join together, but for the most part we’re alone on the streets. I
know this is going to sound disrespectful, but I’m not interested in
you coming in and bringing fresh ideas to the table,” Casey said,
lifting more papers in the air, almost as if creating a barrier between
me and her. “Catch the Hamburglar or whatever his name is. Show
me you can effectively be a part of our team before you start
demanding changes.”
There was a slight hint of irritation in her voice. She was
surprised that I called her out, I was sure of it. But, you can’t force
someone to change their mind. I’m sure over time, she’d realize I
was correct. For now, I’d have to head to Outer Hendriks to catch
some kind of villain.
I took my leave without saying another word to the woman. She
had plenty of paperwork to handle, it would seem. Outer Hendriks
Park wasn’t far from here; I could make it without catching a cab. Not
that I had the money to afford one anyway. Kinetic had promised a
decent enough paycheck, one to live on, but what she neglected to
tell me was that the paychecks came in once a month, when the
government support stipend was issued. And I had joined the day
after the check was issued for May. And everyone in my new
organization was too broke to lend me anything. Well, everyone
except Casey, but she didn’t offer and I sure as hell didn’t want to
ask. Now, I was starting to regret that decision.
“You there?” Clara said over my radio. “I’ve got a distress call in
your target neighborhood. Apparently someone was spotted walking
through a window in one of the fancier houses.”
“They broke in?” I asked.
“Negative, the person making the call said that this stranger put
his hand on the glass and then just moved through like it was
nothing. Definitely a meta. But I can’t find anything in my records
about him, so he’s probably new to the game.”

“If he’s new, then he probably got ChemX from someone,” I
said. “And we could press him to find his dealer.”
“I like the way you think. I’m transmitting the address to your
system now. Oh, and be careful, apparently this guy had some kind
of sword on his back.”
“Cool!” I said, allowing my inner child to speak freely. I was
bladeproof, so what did I have to worry about? Fighting a glassphasing ninja would be awesome. Besides, if this could lead to more
ChemX, that would be amazing. Not just for me, but for the team.
It was sad to say, but most of our heroes weren’t the most
powerful. In fact, no one in the organization could hold a candle to
Kinetic Fox, or honestly even me. Most were Chem Level 1, either
coming from accidental exposure backgrounds, or having been
released from working with other hero groups due to competency
issues. They were good folks, but they just didn’t have access to the
same resources that other hero guilds did. Without ChemX to further
boost their abilities, they’d forever be stuck on the street level.
Getting a steady supply of the stuff would not only increase our
organization’s strength, but it would also cement me as a real
contributor to the team. Maybe enough so to persuade Kinetic Fox to
implement just a few barebones rules and policies.
So with that in mind, I quickly rushed to the Outer Hendriks
Park. It was midday, a strange time for anyone to be committing
burglaries. The sun was out, as were many people, most of whom
were crowded outside a rather large, gated home.
“Look, a hero!” someone shouted, turning to point at me. He
waved me over with great excitement. “Come take a picture with
me!”
“No,” an old lady grunted, stepping in front of him. “Go fight that
burglar, he’s robbing the Smithston Estate.”
“The Smithstons barely pay taxes,” the man retorted. “I say let
them get robbed. After all, the heroes are out here on our dime.” This

quickly sparked an argument with the rest of the group, who all
turned their attention away from the gates of the manor. Nothing like
tax policy to get a crowd into an angered frenzy. Fortunately, this
topic was volatile enough to get everyone focused on each other,
and not me, letting me go around them to the other side of the wall
surrounding the home.
“What can you tell me about the Smithstons?” I asked into my
earpiece radio as I leapt up onto the top of the wall. Scaling things
was rather easy, now that I could leap ten feet in the air at any given
time. The hard part was landing gracefully. My enhanced size and
density made being graceful a little difficult. Taking off was easy, but
landing without smashing the surface below me was a little harder
than I anticipated. This case was no different and the top of the
cobblestone wall cracked and crumbled as I landed on it. Hopefully
the property had Hero Insurance. And hopefully Hero Insurance
existed.
“Charles Smithston?” Clara asked. “Don’t need to look anything
up about him. He’s one of the bigger movers in the city. Old money,
his dad’s dad invented some kind of hand soap dispenser the
military uses in field hospital. Lots of political power and ambition.”
“What’s his day job?” I asked, crouching down to get a good
view of the manor. It was huge, almost the size of a block unto itself,
with several acres of forest behind it. One of the few parts of the city
that actually left the trees intact, rather than pave them down to add
more apartment buildings. Plenty of places for a fleeing villain to hide
in.
“He manages a hedge fund, whatever that means,” she said.
“Anything shady about him?” It was strange that a villain would
choose one of the wealthiest men in the city to rob. Stranger still,
there was no security in the area that I could see. No cameras, no
guards, not even a ‘caution: dog’ sign. An odd thing to see in such a
rich place.

“Nope, as far as I can tell he’s a good old southern gentleman
who goes to bed on time and always eats his vegetables,” Clara
replied. “If he’s up to anything, he’s doing a damn good job of hiding
it.”
“Thanks, Clara,” I said, analyzing my approach. Should I
knock? Climb in through a window? Maybe try the backdoor and see
if it’s open? Technically, I wasn’t invited to this guy’s house, but if
Burglemeister had gotten in, the owners might be in danger. Was
breaking and entering justified in this case? Crap, this was stuff I
probably should have known before I took the assignment.
A loud crash interrupted my thoughts about this legal dilemma.
A sharp, shrill scream followed the crash almost immediately,
prompting me to make a decision. I leapt down and rushed to the
garden, where a back door was. I twisted the handle, but it refused
to open. Another scream, a woman for certain. Well, this guy was
rich right? A door couldn’t cost that much to replace.
I gave the door a nice sturdy push, breaking it off its hinges
almost instantly. The door flew inwards and thumped on the ground
hard, echoing throughout the first floor of the manor. Whoops, I
guess the push was a little sturdier than I thought.
“Hello?” I called out as I stepped into the house. The cool blast
of air-conditioning greeted me, providing relief from the tepid, muggy
morning weather. Footsteps echoed in the distance, followed by the
hissing sound of someone shushing another individual. This hiss
belonged to a male, I could tell. There was labored breathing and a
rapid heartbeat coming from two rooms ahead of me.
Carefully, I crept through the mansion, making sure not to
bump any of the statues that were littered throughout the building.
These white, ancient-looking statues were probably far more
expensive than most of the houses in this neighborhood, and the last
thing I wanted to do was break any of them during a fight.
I followed the sounds of shuffling and breathing to what looked
to be a linen closet. I readied up, raised my fists and quickly yanked

the door open to find…nothing, except some towels that were poorly
folded. Maybe the sound was coming from the other side of the wall,
in another room…but something about the way the towels were
rumpled bothered me. I don’t know why, call it intuition or a danger
sense, but I could feel something here was off.
Leaning forward, I touched one of the towels. Something hard
was beneath it; the towel had been draped over some object hastily.
As if trying to conceal an item. I lifted the purple towel to discover a
small throw switch. It was innocuously sitting beneath the towel, ever
so slightly sticking up. This had to be a secret entrance!
Without giving it a second thought, I threw the switch and
waited to see what would happen. I braced in anticipation to watch
some kind of elaborate secret door slowly open up, but nothing of
the sort happened. Rather, a trap door beneath me suddenly opened
and the next thing I knew, I was plunging down, down, down into
darkness.

Chapter 4
I think there was some sort of ladder beside me, but grabbing it
in midair would probably do more to damage the rungs than slow my
fall. I wasn’t terribly worried about hitting the ground; rather, I was
worried about what I would find. A trap door? For what purpose? Did
it lead to an underground tunnel to escape the mansion?
The ground came up quickly and I found myself smashing
straight into a large, rubbery surface that seemed to absorb my fall. I
sank down for a moment, then popped right back up, landing on my
feet. Weird, it was like a trampoline of some kind.
“Where am I?” I whispered as I glanced around. This was
indeed an underground cavern of some kind, spacious and
expansive. The ground was paved with solid concrete, but the walls
and ceiling were made of rock. I knew nothing about natural cave
formations, so was unsure whether this cavern was manmade or not.
Though the area was wide open, there was only one thing of
note nearby: a gigantic steel vault of some kind. The vault entrance
looked to be built into the stone wall, which seemed like the perfect
place to put your valuables. Only way to get through the vault was
through several tons of steel or several tons of rock. Something that
big would easily withstand my own strength.
But as with all forms of security, the real vulnerability was in
human operators. Standing in front of the vault was a masked man,
dressed in all black, with a long sword in hand. He was pointing it at
the back of a woman’s head, keeping it just inches away from her
neck. The poor woman couldn’t be older than her late twenties and
seemed to have a terrible time controlling her fingers as she kept

placing her hand against what looked to be a scanner. I guess the
spokes on the vault wheel were just for the aesthetic.
“Hurry it up,” the man hissed. “I don’t have all day.”
“It won’t read. I think it’s my hands, can I wipe them?” the
woman whispered back, her words panicked and terrified. Was she a
maid? No, her clothes were too fancy to be a uniform. Daughter?
Wife? Maybe. Either way, I had to get her out of this situation.
I placed my hand on the small smooth ball hanging off my utility
belt. It weighed six pounds. Now, you might not think six pounds is a
lot, but when thrown with intense force, six pounds can put a hole
through a man’s ribcage the size of a basketball. I have several test
dummies to prove that thesis. Well, they were really just sacks of rice
filled with water, but they broke regardless, so I mean, that’s
basically like a test dummy, right?
“If you don’t get this vault open by the count of three, I’m going
to skewer you like a shish kebab,” the man growled. This villain
didn’t seem terribly fun. You’d figure with a name like Burglemeister,
he’d be garishly dressed and maybe a little flamboyant, but his
costume was purely functional. A black, tight suit, boots and gloves.
No shoulder pads, no pauldrons or flares on his boots, nothing fancy
or fun. Not even a high-tech backpack or trained raccoon pal to
commit crimes with. Something felt strange about him. He wasn’t just
a new supervillain, was he? No. Something in his voice seemed off.
But what?
There wasn’t much time to think this out. Whatever was in the
vault was of the utmost importance to him. I needed to stop him from
getting the door open. I just needed to make sure the force of my
throw didn’t accidentally knock his sword into that poor woman.
There was nothing I could do but loosen my Brick Sphere (I’m
still working on a name for it), and prime it for an attack. Just needed
to wait for the right opening…

“Okay, okay!” the woman said. Her charade ended and she
placed her hand against the scanner, causing it to bleep frantically.
“Perfect!” the thief cried, grabbing the woman by the shoulders
and throwing her to the side. He took a step back to give the vault a
chance to open. Well, that was the opening I was looking for. Here
goes!
I activated my Lob ability, feeling the power of ChemX surge
through my system. It was like lightning firing from my fingertips as I
chucked the sphere into the man’s shoulder. The projectile crashed
into his back, throwing him clean into the metal vault. He let out a
loud yelp, then slumped down, staggered and wounded. Hitting the
shoulder would have been enough to dislocate it, though I had
scaled back on my strength considerably. After all, my goal wasn’t to
kill him, just to take out his sword arm.
“Ughhh,” the man groaned as he rolled over. He was on his
back, presumably trying to get the room to stop spinning. This was
hardly the reaction of someone hopped up on ChemX. Most metas,
even the weaker ones, bounced back easily enough. He was
groaning and writhing on the floor, clutching his busted shoulder with
his good hand.
The woman spotted me as she climbed back to her feet. She
looked at me, eyes wide. “You need to go!” she ordered, pointing
towards the trap door I had fallen out of. There was a real look of
concern on her face, as if I were somehow the one in trouble, more
so than her. An odd reaction.
“What hit me?” the man gasped. The woman quickly scuttled
over to the sword he had dropped, grabbing it with one hand and
pointing it right towards me.
“I’m not going to say it again! For your own good, get out of
here!” she demanded.
The vault rumbled as the locks within finally disengaged. The
spokes of the vault wheel spun automatically, causing the great steel

door to slide open. I had thought it would swing out from the front,
but apparently not. A second set of steel doors behind the vault
hissed, parting down the middle to reveal a shining white room…
filled to the brim with green vials of ChemX.
“Holy…” I gasped, my jaw dropping. There had to be thousands
of doses in there. What mad conspiracy had I just stumbled upon?
“Yes, it’s here!” the criminal shouted, suddenly finding a great
deal of vigor and energy. He leapt up, ignoring his wound, and
scrambled towards the vials. Oh crap! I had better stop him before
he chugged the stuff. The last thing I needed was for him to get
hopped up on a dangerous amount of the substance.
I went to grab another Brick Ball, but stopped when I realized
the ramifications of missing my target, or hitting him too hard. I could
break the vials or send him flying into them. Physical contact was all
that was needed to be infused with power. I couldn’t take any risks.
“Grab him!” I yelled, but the woman wouldn’t hear of this. She
dropped the sword and ran off into the darkness. I didn’t have time to
worry about her. I had to take that thief down! I ran as fast as I could,
but regrettably I was simply too slow. By the time I made it to the
vault, he was already inside, holding a vial of ChemX.
“Hey!” I said, putting my hands up. “Easy pal, that stuff is very
dangerous.”
“I’m well aware of how ChemX works,” he said. His right arm
was still sagging, wounded from my attack. I had probably dislocated
the shoulder. “The question is, how the hell did you know I would be
down here?”
“Wearing all black and sneaking into a house in the middle of
the day isn’t particularly low profile,” I said.
“Huh?” the man replied. “I’ve been in this house for days,
waiting for the head honcho to go on vacation.”
“Days?” I repeated. The report of a thief sneaking in had come
less than an hour ago. And the address led to this house. Clara

couldn’t be that bad as a handler, could she?
“Yeah, days. Anyway, you’re a costumed type, yeah?” he said.
He tried to wave his other hand around, but it merely flopped up and
down a little. “Help yourself to anything you want. I’m just here for a
few doses. Enough to jump start my new career, if you catch my
drift.”
“Yeah, I can’t let you do that,” I said, stretching out my hands. I
didn’t have any kind of beam super powers, but he didn’t know that.
All he knew was that something painful struck him in the shoulder.
“Put the vial down, or I start blasting.”
“Come on, buddy, look at all this. You really want to do the
heroic thing right now? No one’s gonna know. The guy we’re ripping
off will never report this. We’ll get away without a care in the world. I
mean, we drink the evidence, right? Not like we can get arrested for
having empty glass vials.”
His proposal was interesting. But I had a million and one
questions running through my mind and honestly, I needed answers.
My best bet was to capture him, bring him back to headquarters and
interrogate him. A few hours in that foul smelling ‘rec room’ as they
called it should loosen his tongue.
“There’s one of two ways this goes down,” I said, taking a step
forward. The man raised the vial high, as if threatening me with it.
“You can surrender right now and I’ll take you to the Eon City
Champions, where we’ll get this all sorted out. As far as I’m
concerned, you’re just breaking and entering right now. Not the worst
charge in the world. Or, you can try and drink that stuff and hope that
it gives you enough power to beat me. Cause if you drink that, you’re
not going to be charged as a civilian. The judge won’t be
sympathetic to your cause. You’ll be convicted of supercrime and
placed in some of the worst holding cells imaginable. Do you really
want that?”
This caused the thief to lower the vial for a moment. He
pondered the question. “I thought only the really bad ones were sent

to those Supermax places.”
“Nope, zero tolerance,” I replied. “If you have ChemX in your
veins, any crime becomes automatically eligible for the maximum 15
years in the highest security prison you can imagine. I hear most of
the cells don’t even have toilets.”
This seemed to startle the man. He lowered the vial and took a
half step towards me. “So what? I surrender, you arrest me and I still
go to prison, right? Only I won’t have superpowers.”
“We can work something out,” I said, moving a little closer. This
was working! He was about to break, I just needed to stay firm and
gentle. “In fact, if you cooperate, I might even be able to get you out
of any kind of jail time.” This was something I was absolutely not
authorized to promise, but I’d at least try my best.
I stretched my hand out to take the vial from him. “Come on, it’s
not too late.”
The thief hesitated for a moment, then drew the vial back. “How
do I know you aren’t just saying whatever I want to hear?” he asked.
Before I could reassure him, he interrupted and continued. “You
know, it occurs to me that without ChemX, I’m basically helpless
here. Completely in your hands. I’d have to blindly trust that a
costumed do-gooder wouldn’t send me away for a decade, just so he
can get some screen time with the press. But with this stuff…I’m not
so helpless.”
“True,” I said. “But the transformation takes time and it’s usually
pretty awful. It’ll knock you flat and you’ll be more helpless than you
are now. Come on, do the smart thing, man. It’s not worth it.”
“My dad had a saying,” the thief replied, suddenly standing up
straight. He placed the vial on top of a pile of other glass containers
of ChemX. “If you’re going to dive in the pool, go in headfirst!” And
with that, he threw himself straight into all the containers stacked in
front of him, shattering the glass as his entire bodyweight fell on it.

“Ah crap!” I groaned, watching as the green liquid coated him
entirely. There was nothing I could do now, but watch what was
going to happen. This wasn’t going to be pretty in the least.

Chapter 5
The screaming wasn’t nearly as disconcerting as the shapeshifting. The man before me was twisting and writhing as the ChemX
covered him from head to toe. It wasn’t just coating him like any
other liquid; rather it seemed to be crawling up him, moving as if it
were absorbing him. All of the liquid was making its way up his body,
not a single drop of the ChemX got loose. Creepy.
I backed up and raised my fists. Whatever the hell would
emerge from that emerald pile of goop would undoubtedly be
psychotic and ready to kill. Arrrg, I was so close to talking him down.
Where did I go wrong? Maybe the Commissioner could give me a
book on how to negotiate in these kinds of situations. Oh, or maybe
some kind of training course!
Why these ideas were running through my head at a time like
this, I didn’t know. Maybe it was a stress response. I mean, what was
I supposed to do here? I was just trying to catch a cat burglar, not
stumble upon a vast collection of ChemX, nor watch a man become
hideously mutated by it.
“Clara,” I called into my radio. “Do you copy?” Nothing but static
and a few jumbled words. I don’t even think they were hers. Being
underground had made radio reception near impossible. I had two
options, run or fight. Running would leave him unattended with a
great deal of ChemX just lying around. Fighting could be risky to me,
because I could easily be exposed to those chemicals. My tolerance
had increased to level 3, sure, but any more could cause serious
destabilizing effects. This wasn’t particularly safe stuff to be around.
My grappling hook! Of course, I could use it to pull the guy out
of the vault. Even if he was psychotic and ready to fight me, we’d at

least be away from the vault. I just hope that the ChemX didn’t try to
climb across the line to get me too. It couldn’t possibly work like that,
could it?
Pushing my fears aside, I activated my suit’s targeting reticle
and locked on the writhing mass that was pulsing and growing. The
liquid was slowly beginning to seep into the man’s skin, vanishing as
he became grey and bulbous, his form slowly expanding. Oh boy,
please don’t turn into a feral manbeast like Grug.
My grappler fired towards the mass, easily wrapping around the
body and tightening. I activated the retraction system while digging
my heels into the ground to ensure that the thief would be the one
pulled. The mechanism around my waist began to groan as it slowly
retracted, jamming up almost instantly. Oh well, plan B! I grabbed the
grey cord and yanked with all my might, dragging the mass towards
me as it continued to shift.
Thankfully, I was able to pull him clear out of the vault, dragging
him across the ground as I backed up. In the distance, I spotted the
woman from earlier, who had retrieved a double barrel shotgun from
some other room in this bunker. Ah crap, I hope she wasn’t gunning
for me here.
“I’m friendly!” I shouted at her, pointing towards the vault with
one hand. “Seal it up, quick!”
The woman hesitated for a moment, looking at me and then the
vault. She clearly had a reason to want to preserve this secret, which
indicated that the Smithston family wasn’t as clean as the rest of the
city thought. After a second, this woman decided to comply and
rushed to seal the vault back up.
This turned out to be a good move on her part, for just as she
made it to the vault controls, the mutating thief managed to break
free of my restraints, reaching his now enormous hand down and
ripping the grappling rope off like it was made of silly string.

“W…what…happened?” the thief said as he looked at both
hands. He was exceptionally bulkier now, barely in the form of a
human. The transformation had been fast and brutal, turning his skin
dark grey and coating him in thick, lizard-like scales. A pair of wings
had sprouted from his back, nearly seven feet wide in span, and they
seemed to be flapping of their own accord. The man looked like a
gargoyle, though one hideously mutated, with burning red eyes and
jagged teeth.
“I, uh, think you just exited the dating pool for good,” I replied,
grimacing at the sight of this monstrosity. The thief glanced at his
hands, then torso, then legs.
“I am in so much pain,” he grumbled, voice so low and deep
that I could feel the ground slightly vibrate as he spoke. “But such
power! I feel like I could do anything!”
His words were interrupted by two rapid cracks of thunder,
causing me to jump back as the sound echoed throughout the entire
cavern. The mystery woman had fired both shots of her gun straight
into the newly minted meta’s back. He jerked upwards for a moment,
eyes wide with surprise from the blast and then…recognition kicked
in. It was the same recognition I had experienced myself: the
realization that he couldn’t feel the attack.
“Now this is more like it!” he roared, spinning around to face the
woman. “Hahahahah,” he roared, clambering towards her. His body
was a bit awkward because he was rather tall, but his arms seemed
to be the biggest part of his body, forcing him to hunch forward and
walk like a gorilla. As he charged the woman, she yelped and went
to reload, opening the back of the shotgun as quickly as possible.
The spent shells clattered on the ground as she threw herself
against the wall, freezing up as he came within inches of her.
In one of the rarest of occasions, I was actually faster than my
opponent. I managed to grab one of his wings just before he was
able to slash the poor woman with his razor sharp claws.

“Not so fast!” I grunted, walking backwards to drag him away
from her. “Your business is with me!” And with that, I spun as hard as
I could to the left, chucking him into a cavern wall twenty feet away.
Much to my dismay, however, as he sailed through the air, his wings
began to flap. It was awkward, like a newborn faun getting its legs for
the first time, but he was able to spin and clumsily catch himself in
midair.
“So this is why you supers fight so hard to stop us from getting
ChemX,” the thief said, glancing at his claws as he hovered a little
higher. “It changes everything. My God, I feel like I could conquer the
world.”
“That second part is why we don’t want you having the stuff,” I
replied, raising my fists to him. “Now, I’m giving you one chance,
surrender and come quietly. Otherwise I’ll have to start hitting you
until you agree to my terms.”
This caused the gargoyle man to chuckle. “Now why would I
waste time fighting you? There’s nothing to gain, really. The First
Bank of Eon however…”
Really? He had only transformed like a minute ago and already
he was planning a bank heist? What was wrong with these guys? I
couldn’t let him escape and begin terrorizing the city. I had failed to
take him down before he transformed, now he was my responsibility.
“You really going to run away, now that you have the ability to
take me down?” I asked. “Don’t you want your criminal debut to be
more exciting than just a bank robbery? ‘Gargoyle Man takes down
Brick Breaker’, wouldn’t that be a great headline?”
“Gargoyle Man?” he said, examining his arms and legs once
more. “I guess I see the resemblance. But that name sucks.”
“Well if you run, that’s what I’m gonna tell the media your name
is,” I threatened. Yes it was stupid and petty, but somehow this threat
seemed to work. The thief growled at that, snorting a little.

“Like hell you will! If you want a fight, so be it. Maybe with you
out of the way, I can get more of that ChemX.” His attention turned
towards the woman who was still pressed up against the wall,
presumably frozen with terror. “Now, you don’t go anywhere, okay?
Otherwise I’ll tear you to shreds, hur, hur hur.”
The woman said nothing but merely nodded. The shotgun was
on the ground and she didn’t dare move to grab it. Smart woman if
you ask me. Agitating this guy was probably the worst possible
decision right now. Which explained why I was doing it.
Gargoyle Man (I think I’m keeping that name for him) fluttered
about in midair for a few moments, trying to get a handle on his
ability to fly. I braced for the inevitable charge, wondering just how
much punishment I’d have to dole out to take him down. Those
scales were tough and bulletproof, and the wings were quite sturdy,
meaning he probably had a lot of stamina and resistance to damage.
What would be a weak spot? The mouth? I couldn’t imagine a crack
to those long sharp teeth would feel particularly great.
Time seemed to stop for a moment as he grew more nimble,
spinning in midair and angling himself straight towards me. Our eyes
locked onto one another and I could see the intense energy surging
through him. He might be lucid for now, but there was no telling just
how dangerous he could turn out to be. I had to end this as quickly
as possible.
The wings thrashed against the air, launching Gargoyle Man
towards me at full speed. He was like a torpedo, arms stretched out
towards me, claws extended forward to skewer me. I held my
ground, defiantly puffing out my chest to show I wasn’t about to back
down.
“Hraooooooahhhh!” he roared as he came charging in. I held
my ground for a few seconds, waiting for the exact right time. As
soon as the beastly man came within a half foot from me, I simply
leapt to the right, rolling out of his trajectory.

This feint worked marvelously, for he had been counting on
smashing into me. Now that I was out of the way, he couldn’t do a
thing to stop his momentum. Having charged at a downward angle,
the only thing his claws could catch was the hard concrete.
As he smashed into the ground, I leapt into the air, leaning hard
to my left, elbow extended and ready to perform one of my favorite
pro-wrestling moves: the elbow drop.
“Where’d you go?” Gargoyle Man shouted while he tried to
climb back to his feet. The full impact of my weight answered his
question as I crashed square into his back, driving him down into the
hard, cold ground. I heard all manner of wheezing and gasping as
my enhanced density easily allowed me to crush his spine with my
outstretched elbow. He collapsed flat, wings smooshed beneath me,
not nearly strong enough to shove me off.
“Get off!” he grunted as I immediately rolled over, slipping my
legs around his hips and wrenching his arms back with my hands.
He was strong, but my attack had caused quite some damage and
this man did not have the flexibility necessary to reach back and
throw me off. It took a bit of struggle, but I managed to get my arms
under his, putting him in a Full Nelson hold, restricting his ability to
move his arms at all.
“Take it easy!” I scolded, holding on tight. He was bigger than
me by about three feet, but that didn’t seem to matter when I was
hanging off his back. I started squeezing as hard as I could, pressing
my hands against the back of his neck to gain control of him.
“Gahhhh, stop!” Gargoyle Man cried out, trying in vain to stand
up, only to be dragged right back down to the ground by me. I had
him completely pinned, though he was strong enough to resist my
attempts to pull his arms out of their sockets. He thrashed back and
forth, and we rolled around on the ground in a violent scrap as the
situation grew more desperate for the thief.
He started to panic and flop around, writhing like a fish out of
water in a weak attempt to get out of my hold, but my limbs were like

steel, unmoving and unbending. I was perfectly content to keep hold
of him, as staying in position did not burn much of my own energy.
Thrashing about in a blind panic, however, had to be strenuous.
Indeed, the longer I held on, the less the meta fought back. He
was growing tired, no doubt the deleterious effects of the ChemX
starting to kick in. There was the initial high, coinciding with the burst
of new powers, but if it was anything like my own experience, there
would be a debilitating crash later. I just needed to keep him down
until that point where presumably he’d collapse.
But that plan was short-lived, for someone else had another
idea. As my opponent rolled onto his back, trying to shove me off by
slamming me repeatedly against the ground, the woman from before
strolled up to us both, gun in hand.
“Open his mouth!” the woman ordered, her voice calm and
collected. I complied, suddenly releasing his neck and reaching over
his head to grab a hold of his jaw. His mouth had been open at the
time, as his gasps for air were getting stronger and stronger, giving
me ample opportunity to wrench his mouth wide open.
Both barrels of the shotgun were shoved into Gargoyle Man’s
mouth as the woman stood over him. He let out a muffled and
gagging scream of surprise at the realization that a gun was in his
mouth. Immediately his hands came up and he stopped resisting. He
might be tough as nails on the outside, but I doubt any of us knew
what the effects would be if the gun went off inside his head. I doubt
it would be pretty no matter how it ended.
“Listen carefully,” she said to both of us. “My finger is on the
trigger. The slightest twitch will fire both shots right into your brain.
You may survive due to your ChemX infusion, but the chances of
you ever speaking in complete sentences again will drop drastically.
Understood?”
“Mhmmm, mhmmm,” he grunted, panicked but compliant.

“Good. Brick, you may release him,” she said. “The slightest
move and I will fire. Brick, wrapped around my waist is a Power
Regulator. Take it off me and wrap it around his neck. Now.”
Her orders were certain and ice cold. I found myself complying
instantly, releasing the beast who merely laid out flat, keeping his
hands way out as to not provoke her. I rushed up to her side and
looked at the thin, golden tube around her waist. It had been hastily
wrapped around, almost like a belt, so nondescript at first glance that
I thought it was merely an accessory.
“Hurry up, scrub,” she mumbled as I awkwardly tried to get the
belt off her without getting too close. I didn’t want to jostle her and
set the gun off by accident. That would not look great in the papers.
“Got it!” I said, holding the freed tube in my hands. Something
about it felt…bad. Like touching sandpaper, in a way. I could feel my
spine crawl and a deep seated desire to throw it away rose up within
me, demanding I release this innocuous-looking item. But I
suppressed those feelings and followed the second part of her
orders, wrapping it around the thick neck of the grey man.
The tube immediately began to shimmer, emitting a bright
yellow aura that seemed to encompass the meta’s entire body. He
began to writhe and contort, his body rapidly deforming and
retracting into itself until a regular, naked and sopping wet man
remained. The gun was still in his mouth.
“Woah, what is that?” I asked.
“It emits a shape-suppressing field, helpful for metas who can’t
control their form,” she replied. “Although it has a sharp cost. The
field also neutralizes all active ChemX in the body.” And with that,
she pulled the gun out of his mouth and cracked the man hard on the
face with the butt of the rifle, knocking him out.
“Put some pants on him and get the hell out of here,” she
grumbled, slinging the shotgun over her shoulder. “This has turned
into such a mess.”

Chapter 6
There were a million questions that needed to be answered
before I could just leave this underground cave. But the woman
didn’t seem keen on answering anything, as she quickly turned her
back to me and walked up to the vault.
“Uhhh, before you just go back to your regular day,” I said,
following after her. The man was neutralized and unconscious, so I
wasn’t terribly worried about him. “Do you mind telling me why one of
the richest families in the city has a secret vault full of ChemX?”
“I do mind, I mind very much,” she replied. “You’re a hero type,
right? Bursting in at the last moment to save me. I really appreciate
it, but you need to go. Forget what you saw here. Trust me, it’s
easier that way.” She punched a few buttons into the vault’s control
pad, prompting the great steel wheel to begin rotating once more.
“You really think that would convince me to leave?” I asked,
standing right behind her. “If I don’t get some answers from you, I’m
afraid I’ll have to take you in too. And I don’t think either of us want
that.”
She sighed heavily, putting a hand against the wall for support.
Her head hung down for a moment as she gathered her thoughts.
“Fine,” she said, turning to face me. The vault continued to open. I
noticed that all of the loose ChemX was gone at this point. The only
thing that remained within this secret store was more vials of the
miracle drug as well as broken glass everywhere.
“Follow me,” she said, waving me on. “My name is Trisha by
the way. Trisha Smithson. Though I’m sure you guessed I was
Charles’ wife by now.”

I trailed after her, entering the bright white room once more.
Now that the heat of battle was over, I had time to observe the sheer
number of pallets holding ChemX vials. There had to be enough to
fuel an entire city of heroes for a year! Or enough to create an army
of supermen bent on taking over the world.
She stopped in the dead center of the room and waved her
hand in midair. Some unseen machine clicked and chittered,
prompting a secret panel in the ground to suddenly open up. A large
metal frame rose up out from beneath the floor. My eyes grew wide
at the sight of what was hanging off the frame. A bright orange
costume, complete with gloves, boots and a mask.
“Captain Cook?” I whispered, recognizing the iconic costume at
once.
“Yup,” she grumbled. “You somehow managed to not only find
his house, but also his secret lair. Congrats.”
“All this ChemX…” I said, glancing around at the various
stocks. “It’s his?”
“Yup,” Trisha said once more with a sigh. “Can you go now?”
“This doesn’t explain anything,” I said. “How is he allowed to
have all this? I mean, there can’t be any legal way he got his hands
on such a—”
Trisha held a hand up to stop me from talking. “First off,
allowed? He answers to the US Department of Supercrime, not
some random low-level off the street responding to a B&E. Second,
the only reason I’m telling you about Cook at all is because you need
to know this location is top secret. If you spill the beans, you’re
committing treason. Also he will kill you, so there’s that.”
“Yeah that makes sense,” I agreed. Damn it, Cook! Why is it
that the one time I find a literal jackpot of ChemX, you’re the one
who owns it? “Still, there’s so much, I mean we could juice up every
guild in the city with that.”

“That is none of your business,” she replied. “Are you satisfied
now? I’d rather you get out of here before Char—I mean, before
Cook gets home. He’s going to be pissed enough that some thief got
into his stash. You don’t need to be adding to the problem.”
“Actually, I’m taking the gargoyle with me,” I said.
“Out of the question, he is in Heroes United custody as of now.”
“I don’t think you can call dibs on a prisoner, ma’am,” I said. “I
need him for—”
My words were interrupted by the most awful of screaming in
the distance. We both jumped, startled by the sound. I whipped
around, half expecting to see our captive either going mad or
charging at us. However, he was still on the ground, completely
unconscious. The screams were apparently coming from the
entrance I had fallen through.
“Looks like dad’s home,” she said, pointing towards a dark
tunnel. “There’s an escape hatch that leads to the park lake half a
mile that way. You best be going.”
At that exact moment, a costumed villain plummeted through
the trap door, covered in flames. He had a raccoon themed outfit on,
with the classic white and black stripes from old cartoon criminals as
his color scheme.
“How do you like that?” shouted a familiar voice. Captain Cook
was home and presumably barbequing the Burglemeister from the
looks of it. “Cool down for a minute while I get something to eat.”
Trisha glared at me. “You gotta get out of here right now! This
place is not your concern.”
“I can’t go without the prisoner,” I countered. I tried to move
past her, to get to the unconscious gargoyle man, but she stepped in
front of me, blocking my path.
“No. I can’t let you. Sorry, but we need to find out how he
learned about this place.” She paused and glanced over at the

smoldering man who was rolling around on the trampoline, trying to
put the flames out. “Well, how they both learned about this place.
Go, now, final warning.”
The steel demeanor in her gaze clearly meant she wasn’t
kidding around. And the chances of Cook being kind and
understanding towards me were incredibly low, especially after I
showed him up at the Combine. It was time for me to go. There was
more than one way to skin a cat. If I wanted information about this
thief and how he came to learn about this location, I had another
avenue to take.
“Fine, fine,” I said, walking out of the vault. Two loose vials
caught my eye and with a shrug, I grabbed them both.
“What are you doing?” she hissed. “Those aren’t yours!”
“I’m sure he won’t mind helping a fellow hero out,” I said.
“Especially after I saved his life.”
Trisha put her hands on her hips and went to argue, but
realized it would take too much time. “Fine, take those and go out of
here. But if I ever see you around this house again, I’ll shoot you!”
“Certainly not the first time I’ve heard those words,” I replied,
bowing slightly. I stuffed the vials into my pocket and quickly bolted
for the exit. What a strange series of coincidences, to say the least.
But, hey, I stopped a home invasion, saved Cook’s wife (sort of) and
even got two free doses of ChemX. Not a bad start to the week!

Chapter 7
Did I feel bad about stealing ChemX from Captain Cook? Not in
the least. The way I see it, Cook couldn’t possibly have a good
reason for hoarding that much ChemX from the world. There were
leagues of low level superheroes that would benefit from a single
extra dose, yet the government acted like they had no idea where
the stuff was located. Now, it would seem that Cook owned the entire
supply in the city. I’m sure he had his reasons to keep it all to
himself, but boosting my own abilities would directly help the city and
its people, not to mention my own guild. If Heroes United actually
gave a damn about the poor and the voiceless in the city, I might feel
bad about it – keyword being might.
Regardless of the ethics of how they were obtained, I now had
two vials of the miracle drug that would boost my powers
considerably. My tolerance level was three, meaning I could take
another dose, but consuming it was going to be tricky. If I just drank
it down like I had done so before, my weakness would actually grow
worse. And a heat vulnerability was bad enough as it is. Maybe my
new guild would have access to an intravenous injection system,
which was considered to be the most stable form of exposure,
though I had my doubts.
The second vial? It would go to one of the other members of
the team, though which one, I wasn’t sure. Without any kind of
performance records or indicators of which heroes on the team were
any good, I’d have to rely on my own observations to find the right
person. Kinetic Fox was way too powerful already, so giving her a
dose wouldn’t be particularly helpful to the team. The individual
would have to be low level but promising and of good character. But
who? Well, whoever I did pick, I knew it wouldn’t be Cannoneer.

Giving him more power would not be the best of decisions, that was
for sure.
“Do you read? Repeat, Brick, do you copy?” Clara’s voice said
over the radio as I emerged from a sewer pipe. Trisha had neglected
to tell me the secret passage was both stinking and filthy. Ah well,
such was the life of a hero, I suppose.
“I’m here,” I said into my radio. “Sorry for the scare, lost contact
due to some reception problems.” We really needed to get access to
Victor-class radio gear. They used some kind of fancy tech that was
far more reliable than the glorified walkie-talkies we were using. But
they didn’t even list the prices of their equipment or service on the
website, so I know it wasn’t going to be affordable any time in the
future.
“Good, thought you were in trouble. Your tracking system went
haywire, completely lost you on the grid,” she said. “You need
backup?”
“Nah, all fine,” I said, glancing at the parkgoers who all stopped
to stare at me. Being out in full costume in a public area always
attracted attention, both good and bad. Phones would whip out
immediately, as if some great battle was about to break out. Folks
kept their distance, however. Many were already instinctively
heading to the nearest SuperSafe, worried that my presence was the
sign of trouble to come.
I grimaced at the realization that my presence was causing
immense distress in the entire park. You’d figure people would be
excited to see a hero, but not here. I better get out of here before I
ruined everyone’s lazy Saturday afternoon. “Uh, everything’s fine,
citizens,” I said, barely able to get the words out in a confident
manner. I was certainly no public speaker. With those words said, I
turned and leapt as high as I could to escape the park, using my
leaping ability to bound across the landscape.
This was a rather exhausting endeavor, however. Jumping
once or twice was fine, but as a means of effective travel, I could feel

my energy sapped with each additional jump. But I continued on,
leaping until I found a tall enough building to where no one could see
me.
“So you catch the guy?” Clara asked as I landed atop an old,
abandoned factory on the outskirts of the Climb. It was tall enough to
give me a view of the entire city block. The view wasn’t so bad up
here and the breeze was certainly refreshing.
“Sort of,” I said. “It’s a very complicated situation. I’ll update you
when I get back.”
“Still working?”
“Yeah, I need to meet someone. I’ll talk to you after,” I said,
ending the call as politely as I could. Clara was a good handler so
far, but she was often a bit too chatty for me. And ending
communication with her was difficult, so I had learned to just tell her
when I was done talking. That seemed to work well enough, and if it
didn’t, I just pulled out my earpiece for a few minutes, plugging it
back in as she was finishing whatever rant she was on.
“Copy that. Hey, just a heads up, Sylvan and Cannoneer got
into a fight after you left headquarters. She confronted him about his
behavior and he denied any wrongdoing, blaming circumstances.”
“Like, word fight or violence fight?” I asked.
“Word fight for now, but things are tense,” she said. “Fox can’t
seem to keep the peace between them and factions are starting to
brew.”
“Factions? Who would back Cannoneer?” I asked. He wasn’t a
bad guy in the least, but how would anyone agree with his point of
view that blindly shooting into an area was a good idea?
“His buddies, Crooner and Unrelenting Gale are standing up for
him, but I think they’re just stirring the pot. Anyway, you might have
to handle it when you get back. I mean no disrespect, but no one
seems to pay any mind to Fox’s opinion.”

“I’ll take care of it,” I replied. The hardest part of this conflict
was going to be resisting the urge to say ‘I told you so’ to Fox.
Maybe I should text it to her ahead of time, to get it out of my
system.
As I pondered how I’d handle this mess, I sent out a simple
encoded message to my secret contact within Heroes United. She’d
know where to find me easily enough. While I waited for my ally to
arrive, I checked in with Rupert to see what options I had for
consuming the ChemX. As I had rightly predicted, we had no stable
methods of consumption available at home, nor did we have the
money to build the system he proposed to me. I mean, who has six
million dollars just lying around?
So I was facing a choice here. Consume the ChemX the
unstable way, by drinking the stuff down and endure whatever weird
and unpleasant side effects would manifest, or wait until we had the
resources to increase my power safely. The problem with waiting
was two-fold. First off, there was no definitive time where we’d
suddenly have the resources to build the machine necessary for the
boost. Secondly, there was no guarantee we’d ever get those
resources to begin with. So, get a massive increase of power right
now – at the cost of an increased weakness – or wait an indefinite
amount of time. Not an easy call, but…in reality, the Eon City
Champions were in an arms race.
This race was with every villain in the city, as well as with every
other guild. The ones with the greatest powers were not only able to
survive, but also thrive, drawing public attention with their heroic
deeds. That attention translated straight to government contracts,
enhanced funding and maybe even corporate sponsorships. It wasn’t
enough to have powers in this city, you needed to be strong enough
to put yourself above the competition, all the while avoiding being
killed by villains whose power levels varied greatly.
In that regard…well, I guess there was no good reason for me
to delay increasing my own powers, even at the cost of a bigger

vulnerability. You can’t cover all your bases. I had a team now,
whatever shortcomings I’d develop, they would make up for it.
With a shrug, I took out the green vial, unscrewed the top and
took a deep swig, chugging it all down as fast as I could. I knew the
routine by now. There’d be nothing at first, then a sudden surge of
power, followed by sickness and then a lot of spasms. The good
news this time was that all those symptoms were rather quick and
relatively mild compared to what I had felt before. My body was
adapting to the ChemX more and more each day.
Dosage Level Has Increased! The Metasight informed me. 1
Toughness Advancement Available. 2 Super Strength
Advancements Available. Strength Branch Unlocked: Super
Leaping. Weakness Is Stabilized.
My weakness was stabilized? That was good news! I quickly
checked to confirm this and indeed, my heat vulnerability was
unchanged. Either I had gotten lucky, or my body was well adapted
to the ChemX, enough to avoid getting any worse at this level. I
couldn’t always count on a cost free increase, however.
Rubbing my hands together, I eagerly pulled up my new
advancements, to see what was available. Toughness had one that I
had been eyeing for some time, but I didn’t have enough points last
advancement to grab that ability. I checked to see what my options
were.
Core Powerset: Toughness
You Have 1 Advancement Available!
Passive Advancements:

Bounce Back: Recover lost stamina at an
accelerated pace. Increases your natural stamina
levels.
Elemental Tolerance: Choose an element. Attacks
from those elements do considerably less damage to
you.
Long Hours: Your need to sleep is reduced by half.
Bulletproof: Regular bullets no longer are able to
pierce your skin.
Reinforced Bone Structure: Your bones become
extremely resistant to any form of breaking. This
ability diminishes the stronger your opponent is than
you.
Active Advancements:
Grit: Severe injuries have no effect on you. Duration:
1 hour.
Aggression Musk: Emits a scent that
subconsciously causes aggressive individuals to
perceive you as the biggest threat in the area. Can
be activated and suppressed at will.
All of these abilities were useful, one way or another, but
Bulletproof was the one I wanted the most. When that shotgun went
off earlier, I became acutely aware of my own shortcomings in terms
of bullet resistance. Blades bounced right off of me, but a regular guy
with a Glock could kill me pretty quick. Being bulletproof wasn’t only
the coolest thing ever, it would also ensure that regular criminals had
no advantage over me whatsoever. Only a villain would be a valid
threat.
With that ability selected, I moved on to the Super Strength
section. The Metasight notified me that a branch had been unlocked.
I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but from reviewing the section,
it seemed that some abilities created sub-branches that still fit

underneath the Super Strength category. Leaping appeared to be
one of those sub-branches. Interesting…
Secondary Powerset: Super Strength
You Have 2 Advancements Available!
Passive Advancements:
Heavy Hitter: Your density permanently increases.
This scales up your weight, natural strength and
stability by a significant amount.
Super Strong: Increases your Strength stat by 5
points.
Active Advancements:
Seize: Triggers a burst of strength, allowing you to
grab and hold onto a person or object. Triples your
strength score while active. Duration: 1 minute.
Super Leaping Branch
Passive Advancements:
Graceful Landing: Your landings become controlled
and lighter, reducing collateral damage and
guaranteeing you always land on your feet.
Tremendous Leap: Increases your vertical leap to
60 feet.
Tireless Jumping: Leaping no longer costs stamina
to use.
Active Advancements:
Ground Slam: This ability allows you to leap on
specific areas or targets with maximum precision,
from any height. Duration: Instant.

Focused Leap: Triple your jumping height for a brief
period of time. Duration: 1 minute.
Well these were pretty great! Lots of different ways to
customize my leaping ability. I suppose the only real drawback was
that this drew from the same pool as my other strength abilities, so I
had to make some hard choices here.
I think my first pick would be a blanket increase of strength.
Adding 5 to my strength level would certainly take me over the top.
Strength seemed to be one of those things that you could never
really get enough of. In any encounter I had dealt with before, being
stronger would have given me a significantly greater edge. I couldn’t
delay this choice any longer. +5 Strength it was!
And for my second choice…well that one wasn’t as easy. Seize
was pretty strong, especially since my strength would triple, probably
giving me the ability to grapple the moon! Or at least something the
size of the moon. Or I could venture into leaping and increase my
vertical leap by 50 feet, which was just insane to think about. But
leaping wouldn’t really do me much good in combat, unless I picked
Ground Slam…hmmmm.
So many choices, so many ways to shape my own combat
strategies. I think in the end, being well rounded was more important
than specializing just yet. I had already gained a strength advantage
this time around, I should focus on mobility. And leaping would
certainly improve my mobility. So with that in mind, I selected Ground
Slam. The ability to land precisely meant I could easily target my
foes and hit them on the way down. It also meant I could get to
people quickly and accurately. Then all I needed was to take the
jump distance increase and I’d be able to rapidly respond to
enemies, regardless of their location in the battlefield!
A sense of pride welled up within me as I selected this ability. I
was starting to develop some real strategies here. It felt good. Felt

exciting. Who knows what I could accomplish with this new set of
abilities and this new group? The future felt brighter than ever!

Chapter 8
Speaking of bright, just as I finished making my new selections,
a familiar figure flew overhead. It was none other than Sunburst,
heroine extraordinaire and one of the founding members of Heroes
United. Her appearance wasn’t a coincidence, however, as she was
my contact within the organization.
While Sun was still on the fence as to whether she should
leave her guild and join our scrappy young organization, I knew she
wasn’t a big fan of Cook or his policies. She’d help me out with this
particular issue, no problem. At least, so I hoped.
“Afternoon,” she said, landing beside me. The steady breeze
caused her long red and blue cape to flow in the wind, as well as her
hair, giving her a real heroic appearance. She was striking and
powerful, the exact image of what a hero should be. Humble too, for
Sunburst had been willing to let me keep my powers, when she so
easily could have taken them from me. But she was willing to give
me a chance in the hopes that I’d revitalize her organization. That
was well past us at this point, but still, we both cared about the city
deeply.
“It’s good to see you,” I said, shaking her hand. The woman
had spatters of some kind of black fluid across her stomach and
face, but it didn’t seem to be bothering her. Probably from some
previous battle.
“I’ve got ten minutes,” Sunburst said, crouching down to
overlook the city. “Then I’m due to stop a jewelry heist. What’s on
your mind?”
Not one for small talk. Fair enough, I suppose. No reason to
waste both of our time on chitchat. “I’ve run into a bit of a conspiracy,

I feel. Only problem is that Cook’s also wrapped up in it.”
This caught Sunburst’s attention immediately. Her head
snapped towards me. “How so?”
“That, I can’t quite say yet. Need to get all my facts together
before I start making blind accusations,” I said. “Only trouble is,
there’s a prisoner of yours that I need to talk to.”
Sunburst nodded. “I see. We don’t hold prisoners for too long.
Normally for a day or so, for interrogation and registering, then it’s off
to Vras until the end of their sentence.” She was referring to VRAS,
short for Villain Rehabilitation, Analysis and Safekeeping. Folks just
called it Vras, even though there were multiple prisons of the same
classification. The media erroneously reported VRAS as being a
single location and most folks still believed so. As if we’d lock every
supervillain into one hotbox and hope they all didn’t team up to break
out.
“Can I convince you to somehow hand over the guy he brings
in?” I asked.
“Lemme check our records,” Sunburst said, pulling out a PDA
and looking at it. I felt a tension rise up within my stomach as I
realized there was no guarantee that Captain Cook would bring in a
living criminal at all. Everything had happened so fast, the thought
had never occurred to me. “Oh interesting,” she said, interrupting my
miniature panic attack. “He caught a new meta. Fresh too. Looks like
an Aberrant.”
“Aberrant?” I repeated.
She nodded. “It’s unfortunate but rapid exposure to high
quantities of ChemX will turn you into a real freak show. Too much
and they start to lose human form and whatever they become
instead…it’s usually not sane.” Sunburst paused and shivered a
little. “And the ones who keep their lucidity become real problems for
us down the line.”

“Yikes,” I said, for more than one reason. Was it my fault that
thief had become so souped up? If I had let him off with a warning,
he’d just have a handful of doses. Of course, there was no
guaranteeing that he wouldn’t drink them all at once anyway…
“You look troubled. And seeing how you wanted to know about
our prisoners, I’d wager to say you know this lad,” Sun said, looking
up from her tablet. Her lips drooped down into a neutral expression,
as if waiting to see if I’d lie to her. I wouldn’t dare try.
“Yeah, I had the unfortunate pleasure of witnessing his rebirth
as a meta,” I said. “Right place but wrong guy kind of thing. Still, he
knows some stuff I need. Big time.”
Sun tapped on the PDA again, reading intensely. “Charged with
breaking and entering, drawing a deadly weapon on a civilian,
attempted grand theft…” Interesting. All of those charges were
surprisingly accurate. Had Cook turned over a new leaf? Was he no
longer massacring villains because it was the easy thing to do?
Maybe his brush with death had changed his mind.
“Poor guy was missing most of his teeth however,” she
continued. “Probably a side effect of the influx.” Okay, maybe Cook
hadn’t fully turned over a new leaf, but a few mouth punches wasn’t
as bad as being murdered, right? “His danger classification is pretty
high, not someone we can release or remove from the building
without a Vras extraction team. You’re gonna have to tell me what
you need to know and I’ll try to get it from him.”
Should I tell her the whole situation? What would her reaction
be? Well, my back was against the wall here. It was either tell her
everything so far, or try the caterer disguise on Heroes United and
hope it would get me close to the prisoner. And so, I gave her a
quick rundown of everything, though doing my best to not put Cook’s
wife in the picture. No reason to implicate her in any of this in case
some kind of felonies were going on.
Sunburst’s reaction was…unexpected, to say the least. She
listened silently until I explained what I found in the vault, upon which

she grew much more jovial, shifting a little as if trying to hold
something in. She clearly had something to say, but was able to
keep it in until I finished my story. Once I was done, she clapped me
on the shoulder hard, all the while laughing.
“You found it! You of all people, you found his stash!” Sunburst
said, shaking her head in between the laughter. “We’ve been trying
to find out where Cook keeps that stuff for years. Even our resident
psychic can’t pull it from the guy’s head. And you just stumbled on
it?”
Not the reaction I was hoping for…I think? “You er, knew about
it?”
Sunburst nodded and invited me to sit on the edge of the
building, overlooking an abandoned overpass. I sank beside her,
kicking my feet over the ledge. “So, Cook has it written into our
charter that he is the ‘ChemX Distribution Officer’,” she explained.
“Meaning any doses we come across go to him. He squirrels them
away and rations them out when he sees fit.”
“I’m guessing he doesn’t ration them out a lot, does he?”
“No. Never. The only time he hands out a dose to anyone is
when he’s either worried about a legitimate threat, or he wants to go
on vacation. Even then he just hands it to his favorites, the
sycophants who are always hovering around him.”
“So he’s not up to anything super illegal?” I asked, my head
sinking down. That was a bit of a bummer. I was hoping to learn that
Cook was some kind of secret drug lord, getting rich and famous by
supplying all villains with the thing that made them powerful.
“I’m sure he is, but the ChemX storage is legitimate. Now, if I
were a lesser woman, I’d ask you the location of said stash house,
but…” she paused, going back and forth in her head about whether
such a thing was advisable. She eventually concluded the answer
was no. “Nah, too much trouble. I’m sure he’s moved it by now.”

“Moving on,” I said, checking my watch. Time was almost up.
“Can you find out how two separate criminals knew the location of
the stash? Burglemeister knew and so did this Aberrant fellow.
That’s strange right?”
Sunburst pondered that, chewing on her lip for a moment. “That
is quite strange. Certainly worth looking into…though I wonder why
this is your concern and not ours, since he’s in our custody?”
“Well, my thought process is that these two, either separately
or together, were looking for ChemX specifically. And they found a
guy who knew where it was. And if that guy knew of this stash…”
“Then it would stand to reason that he would know of other
possible leads,” Sun finished. “Makes sense. And I assume your
team needs as much as you can get, right?”
“Exactly.”
Sunburst nodded a few times and then leaned fully forward
over the building, dropping completely off the edge. I yelped in
surprise and reached out to grab her, only to realize that she was
floating. Right, I forgot she could fly. “So there’s a big problem with
this plan. Cook is definitely going to want to plug that leak, so
whatever I learn, we can guarantee Cook’s already on top of it.
Which means you have to beat him to the punch. Find the
information broker and get him into your building’s custody, as
quickly as possible. Federal law prevents heroes from seizing
custody of villains from one another. Otherwise poaching would be a
huge issue.”
I shook my head at such a petty thing. Heroes were supposed
to be above such behavior. “I don’t really care for the idea of racing
against one of our own.”
“I completely understand,” she said as she rotated in midair,
drifting away from me on her back. “But you don’t have much time to
make a choice. He’s scheduled for extraction in two days. What’s the
call? Risk the ire of Captain Cook in order to get your team a steady

source of ChemX? Or give the man professional courtesy and leave
him alone to his hunt.”
“Hmmm, what’s the right decision here, Sunburst?” I asked.
She shrugged. “No idea. Cook’s free to run his organization
however he likes, but he can’t tell you what to do. And he sure as
hell can’t tell you not to pursue your own leads. But at the same time,
I think he’s forgotten about you. Jumping in this will certainly put you
on his hit list.” As if my ‘borrowing’ of those two vials of ChemX
hadn’t already put me on that hit list. A hard call here, but I had to
think of my team above all else. We needed to boost our abilities. No
bones about it.
“Find out what you can,” I said. “Please. I’ll owe you one.”
“Yes,” she said with a big grin. “You will owe me one vial. And
you’ll have to pay Cook back whatever you took from him.”
“How did you know?” I asked, surprised by her insight.
She laughed and began to take flight towards the sky. “I didn’t
until you just confessed it. You can call it a moment of weakness,
and I won’t judge. But that’s my only warning. We don’t steal from
each other, understand?” She spun around and flew off, but I could
hear her under her breath. “Even if it belongs to the biggest jackass
in this city.”

Chapter 9
“This is a distress call!” came the voice over my radio, snapping
me out of my current task of trying to get a mustard packet open.
You could have all the strength in the world, but finding the right spot
to tear seemed damn near impossible.
“Clara, what’s up?” I asked, hopping to my feet and wiping the
crumbs off my suit. My lunch break in the park was over now, it
would seem. Adventure called!
“I’ve got one of our own in trouble, Brick,” she said. “Two
villains are kicking the crap out of Kifaru. He’s okay for now, but he
doesn’t think he can take them down.”
“Copy, where at?” I asked, quickly packing up the food trash
that had accumulated on the table. I couldn’t very well litter while in
full costume. Or I mean, ever litter. That is.
“He’s on the Midnight Overpass,” she said. “Smack dab in the
middle of traffic. Of course, I don’t think there’s anything there except
abandoned cars.”
That wasn’t too far from here. At least, not when you could leap
across rooftops rapidly. I threw out the garbage and made a mad
dash for the target location. A battle on an overpass? How exciting. I
hope Kifaru was doing well.
Out of all of the low level heroes in the Champions, Kifaru was
probably my favorite. He was eager, humble and exceptionally
cheerful at all times. Hailing from Kenya, he had arrived to Eon City
in the hopes of becoming a successful financier. And he was
successful, in a way, for a crime boss had kidnapped him and forced
him to cook books until he managed to escape by downing a glass of

shiny green ChemX, granting him a great deal of strength and
punches that could cause the earth to shake. Hopefully he was doing
okay.
Finding the carnage wasn’t terribly hard. Car alarms were
bleating, smoke was pouring from the overpass and I could hear the
sound of explosions a stone’s throw away from me. A few quick
leaps and I was atop the bridge.
The sheer amount of wreckage was stunning. Dozens of cars
were overturned, shattered or outright obliterated, the only testament
to their existence being charred and burning tires. People had
already evacuated the area, at least as far as I could see. There
were no SuperSafes on the highway, so where the people went and
how safe they were, I didn’t know. But I had bigger problems to worry
about right now.
Standing on the bridge was a tall, muscular woman, wearing a
dark purple costume, complete with black fingerless gloves, a thick
cloak around her shoulders concealing most of her torso, and the
most curious looking mask. It was a smooth white face, somewhat
featureless, though reminiscent of those old theater masks, of the
laughing and crying person. There was probably some fancy name
for that, but I sure didn’t know it. The mask concealed this woman’s
identity and sort of gave me the shivers. What was even more
disconcerting, though, was the person standing ten feet away from
her. A completely identical copy of this mysterious villain, all the way
down to the two bracelets on her right wrist.
“Who are you?” both of the women said at once, their voices
perfectly in synch, creating a weird amplification of her voice.
“Brick Breaker,” I said, all the while searching for a sign of
Kifaru. Where was he? Come on, man, please be okay…
“I take it you’re the cavalry,” both women said once more. They
were completely synchronized now, moving in tandem, crossing their
arms and shifting into an agitated position. “They sent only one? I
wanted far more. Your companion was hardly a challenge.” She

gestured towards an overturned car. Lying beneath it was none other
than Kifaru, face first on the ground. I couldn’t tell if he was
conscious or even breathing, as his costume—a gray rhinoceros
themed outfit—covered his head completely.
“What am I, chopped liver?” I asked. “You don’t watch the
news?”
“I don’t own a television,” they both replied, cementing her as
being certifiably insufferable.
“Then I suppose you’ll just have to find out who you’re dealing
with,” I said, cracking my knuckles. “Now, who do I have the pleasure
of facing?”
“Miss Mimeo,” a voice said behind me. It belonged to the
woman I was talking to, but the pair were still forty feet away. I didn’t
have time to react; something hard struck me in the back of the
head, knocking me into the same stack of cars that Kifaru was
beneath.
“She has duplicates,” Kifaru groaned as the cars shifted off of
him, allowing the man to wriggle out of the wreckage. He was still
pretty banged up and didn’t seem to get very far before collapsing
again.
“Just stay down, regain your strength,” I said as I fought my
way out of the pile of cars that had collapsed atop me. Mimeo
seemed to be rather strong if she was able to get me off my feet like
that. But then again, she had snuck up on me completely, so I wasn’t
really dug in to hold my ground.
“Copy,” he mumbled, returning to his near unconscious state. I
hopped back to my feet and surveyed the area. Miss Mimeo had
three duplicates, or was one of her the original? I had no clue. How
the hell was duplication supposed to work?
The three duplicates had gathered in front of the wreckage, all
standing in the same manner, arms crossed. The woman didn’t
seem to speak much at all and the blanket smiling expression on her

mask only added to the creepiness. What did she want? Why was
she even here?
But my goals weren’t to scrutinize and theorize this villain’s
purpose. My goal was to hit her until she stopped moving and then
send her to Vras where she belonged. With that in mind, I grabbed
one of my Brick Spheres and readied an attack.
I raised the ball in my hands, but the woman did not react. She
just continued to stare at me. I focused as best I could on my
surroundings, enhancing my hearing to make sure her copies didn’t
sneak up on me. She didn’t react one bit to my movements.
This woman was just trying to get into my head, to freak me out
by remaining so calm. I had to get aggressive to try and throw her
off. Without a second thought, I launched into action, chucking the
projectile as hard as I could, my newly increased strength propelling
it forward so hard and fast that I couldn’t even see it.
The ball crashed into the center Mimeo and then went through
her. “Ah crap!” I shouted as a burst of purple goo burst out of where
her torso had been. The body collapsed inward, melting rapidly.
Either that was the copy or I had just killed someone in the weirdest
of ways.
“You hit hard,” Mimeo remarked. She grunted for a second and
shook her head, spasming and thrashing her neck back and forth.
More purple goo emerged from her body, rapidly taking the form of
another Mimeo, identical to the other two. This one landed beside
her and instantly assumed the same position. “I am impressed,” they
all said in unison.
Damn, she didn’t even break a sweat at that. How was I
supposed to beat her into submission if she was able to just
regenerate? Maybe if I got in close…
“Hyaaah!” I shouted as I rushed her in a mad dash, trying to
close the distance as fast as I could. Much to my surprise, she
returned the charge, all three of them running in perfect unison

towards me. I wasn’t about to be intimidated however, and threw a
hard punch to the one on my right, hoping that she was the original
copy.
My fist swung towards her face, but as I struck the one, the
other two leapt atop me, trying to pin me to the ground. Her strength,
however, was paltry compared to my own, even when doubled. As
they struggled to knock me over, I was able to connect my first
punch to the original’s head. Or at least, I thought she was the
original for she flew backwards and hit the ground hard, skidding a
few feet away from me. She felt solid, at least.
The other two clones atop me instantly vanished, or melted
really, bursting into purple goop that completely covered me.
“Ugh what is this?” I gagged, shaking myself like a dog to get
the strange substance off of me. It was cold, unbelievably cold. But
other than the skin tingling frost that seemed to cover my arms and
shoulder, there were no side effects.
“I like to call it my ink,” Mimeo said as she staggered to get on
her feet. “You know, like a copier?”
“What do you want, anyway?” I asked, raising my fists. “What
possible objective could you have on this highway?”
Mimeo chuckled at that question and shook her head. “I saw a
hero walking around. Decided to kill him. Easy as that.”
“Something you did not do so well,” Kifaru said as he stood up
as well. He had finally recovered from his injury and was looking
great. While I possessed accelerated healing, Kifaru could quite
literally regenerate. His suit, a sleek metal rhinoceros suit with a
sharp horn atop the head, was actually designed to keep his body
from regenerating too much. Without the suit, he just sort of kept
growing more skin and bones, far more than necessary. I suppose
that made him an Aberrant, since he pretty much had to wear the
suit at all times in order to look and function like a normal human
being.

“Oh come on!” she groaned. “How aren’t you dead yet?”
Kifaru merely chuckled and crouched into his charging position.
Between the two of us, this woman was greatly outclassed. At least,
I hoped.
Miss Mimeo stretched out both hands, prompting me to lunge
at her once more. “Wait!” Kifaru started to shout, but it was too late, I
had already started sprinting at full speed. Her hands opened wide
and two long purple strands of ‘ink’, as she called it, came crashing
towards me. My own speed and momentum worked against me here
as I ran face first into two rapidly solidifying fists.
The world around me turned dark for a moment, then there was
a flash. Everything became bright and hazy. Was someone saying
my name?
“Brick! Brick!” Kifaru said, snapping his fingers in my face. I was
lying in a ditch, on my back, cold water beneath my head. He was
kneeling over me, inspecting my face. Above, I could see the
overpass.
“Was…we were just up there,” I grunted, trying to sit up. My
spine informed me that such a decision was both foolish and
impossible.
“Duplication isn’t her only ability,” he said. “I didn’t realize you’d
bolt like that, otherwise I’d have warned you. I’m not sure how her
power works, but I think if the goop touches you, she ca