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Aleph's Superheroes (Vignettes, part 2)

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Still in GA, but have a few hours before the family meets up, so... writing happens.

"Do you know what it's like to always die, doc? To go out and be a good guy with THAT as your whole... power... thing? I mean, it's not like I'm the Idealist or Rocky or even that hick retard Truck. They've got thick skin or telekinetic force fields and shit. And I don't have special ninja-training or anythi--well, sure. I used to work out. All the time. Every day after patrol. But it never stopped anything.

"Well, sure, I COULD wear armour. Then things would only bruise. But do you know how expensive it is? I don't have that kind of money. And even if I did, what good would it do? Magic swords and superstrength aren't really stopped by kevlar and any magic put on me fades the moment I die.

"Magic, huh? What a crock.

"Sorry. I'm not in a great mood. Oh, same old bullshit y'know? Well, there I was, out on patrol--Of COURSE I still do patrol. I'm a superhero, aren't I? Respawn, the eternal, undying joke. Punchline of millions.

"Like I said, doc. Bad mood. Sorry. But some kids, some... some fucking asshole kids just started yelling at me. Playing that TAPE. Calling me names, calling me a coward--I mean, I'd love to see what kind of shit comes out of their mouths if Doctor Sadist ever got ahold of them. But all I can hear is... i-it's just that tape. You can't... did you know he edited himself out of it? You can't hear the shit he was promising to do. Can't see him holding up his... the... They can't SEE them, doc. They c-can't... Dammit, I'm n-not a COWARD, I was in pain! F-for fuck's sake, his name is... it's Doctor Sadist. I... I just... oh, God. I need to sit down.

"Th-thanks. I know I shouldn't get worked up about it. I just... I mean, I did what you said. I did. Y'know, I... I thought about it. A-and I mean at least it was me, right? Not... not someone who stays dead. I mean, he's locked up. T-tied down and sedated. Not... not out here. Not a danger to the rest of... to everyone.

"It's hard to feel connected. I mean... I've had the... the final human experience like... God, I lost count. But I guess it's the thing of it. Every now and again someone asks me if I know what comes after. What's on the other side. I don't, you know. It's like... like blinking. Only painful. Well. Sometimes less painful than others. But it's not like it's ever good. In... in this line of work, we don't exactly die of old age. F-falling's the worst, I think. Neckbreak's the best.

"Well, you know. So to speak.

"I talked to my lawyer, the one the Corps set me up with. Said that they've got a little money coming to me. From... you know, from some of those sick 'faces of death' fuckers who are distributing the tape. I mean, they were fly-by-night, but at least they're shut down. But the damage is already done. I mean, all the PSAs, all the things on YouTube, all the e-everything else... it doesn't make it go away. Doesn't... I mean, the people who've seen it have still seen it. A-and all the people who want to still get to.

"Doc, I just. I don't know what I'm doing here. Sometimes I don't even think about my 'secret identity' anymore. I try to... I try to sign my CHECKS as 'Respawn'. I think it's... Do you think it's because of all the... I think it's 'cause I've just been too many people. Kid Gravel, Kid Continue, One-up, Mister Lazarus... even a little stint as 'Mister Easter' when I was going through that crisis of faith a few years back.

"Hm? Now? I don't know. Hard to believe in God, especially a kind, loving one, when there's a guy like me out there.

"Well, good for THEM if they believe it. All I know is that I get to suffer a ton of painful deaths in the service of people who laugh their asses off at me. I see it on the fucking NEWS. I'm the living blooper reel! I get sound effects. Splat! Zoom! Bang! That... that mortar whistle-boom sound. I asked them to stop, you know? I asked and asked and... and it's in the "public interest'.

"What? Hour already... yeah. I don't know. I'll talk to you next week.

"Do? The only thing I can. Be a big damn hero.

The night was quiet. She didn't trust it. Couldn't trust it. The night didn't make a sound but still reeked of desperation. Of fear. Of hate and filth and despair.

She leaped across the gap between the rooftops, yellow eyes shining in the dark, pupils gone wide to catch the slivers of light from the lamps below, from the moon and the yellow-brown and blue lights that oozed out of the apartments below her. With a grunt, she hit the side of the building, grasping the upper ledge before pulling herself up. A low growl escaped her throat, a gutteral sound that she knew would carry nicely down into the alley below.

Alleys were where the fear congealed, where people were terrorized, where they were victimized and intimidated.

With a low growl, she reached back in her mind, calling up the demon wolves, the half-things that wandered the woods and rural farms, half-howling as she felt her teeth elongating, the vicious claws take the place of her fingernails and the toenails on her bare, scarred feet.

She sniffed at the air, dropping down to her haunches to get a better whiff of the rooftop, of the air that wafted up.

Fear, like warm air, always floats upward. Up and out. Like a papermill, like a ton of rotted cow.

Running first on two legs then on all fours and then back onto two legs, the werewolf-woman sprang across vents, over birdshacks and across gaps, tongue lolling out of a wide mouth of sharp, oversized teeth before she caught sight of it.

A mugging. Standard fare.

For a moment she watched.

She hated victims sometimes. Reminded her of things best not thought of. Hated that they couldn't save themselves. Hated more that she'd had to learn to do so after the fact. That it took being hurt before people learned to prevent being hurt.

She was tempted to wait. To leave the victim to whatever tender mercies the mugger intended.

Instead she growled, closing her yellow eyes, the wolf sinking away, cold setting into her bones, the familiar--and all-too-tempting--hunger for blood filling her mind as the shadows around her sprang up to cling to her as she jumped high into the air, landing soundlessly behind the mugger, pale, sharp-nailed hands wrapping around the mugger from behind as she shoved the mugger against the wall, forcibly turning it around and meeting its gaze.

The power of the vampire. Mesmerism, strength, speed, stealth. Not as good, not as fun, not as hard as the wolf. But better suited to things like this.

"You're afraid," her voice, barely a whisper--as ever--hit the mugger's ear like the word of God.

The mugger whimpered, shat itself, and went fetal.

Monster smiled, licking her fangs absently before looking to the victim, meeting its gaze as well.

"Go home," she whispered, "It's a bad world."

She would have said more, but an explosion rocked the quiet night, soundwaves visible with her monstrous eyes. The young woman, who for all appearances was little more than dead flesh and shadow, frowned, stepping out of the alley, frowning.

Something angry and monstrous had landed. Alien or leaping beast or demon breaking its way out of the Pit, it didn't matter.

With a grin she reached back into herself, pulling the scaled skin and flaming breath of a dragon she'd once known to the surface.

And with a fierce grin she turned her yellow eyes on the creature, toned muscles growing taut as she flexed her clawed hands, broad wings spreading as flames licked out between her teeth.

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