Misery's End – Chapter 3
Written by Wizalex :: [Saturday, 11 February 2023 15:16] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 11 February 2023 18:28]
Written by Wizalex with Max and 10K
The world is a dangerous place for young love. When Mary develops superpowers on her 18th birthday, she is taken away from her childhood sweetheart to be trained by the International Heroic Front. Eager to demonstrate her powers, she causes fear among the heroic community and complications arise in the lover's reunion. Misery's End is a dark tale of love, power and powerlessness.
Chapter 3: You Look Terrible Today.
— Three Years Later —
When Kevin returned to the International Heroic Front headquarters and found the bottom floor flooded, he almost flew straight back out. Mary was crying again, which meant that soon, everyone else in the building would be too.
He didn’t know how she did it. Although the super strong, flying superhuman had worked out the extent of his own abilities years ago, he had given up on trying to work out anything about Mary’s excessive power or its limits. The methods by which she could have flooded the headquarters were practically limitless.
He knew why she did it of course. Damien. It always came back to her lost beau; her broken heart; her eternal torment. And it turned out that she was happiest when everyone shared in it.
A piercing wail of a tormented beast resonated through the building, followed by a choking peal of laughter. A deceptively innocent laugh that almost froze the blood in Kevin’s veins. In fact, his heart did stop temporarily. Mary had programmed that into his body shortly after he had been the one to break the news to her. The terror he felt at her presence was so overwhelming to his bodily functions that they now just shut down rather than face her.
But he knew it would be far worse for him if he didn’t report to HQ. Far worse for a lot of innocent people too.
So Kevin flew into the same building as the source of his greatest nightmares.
Mary was sitting on a torn couch, tears running down her cheek as she watched a rerun of an old anime. The first time it had aired, she had watched it with Damien, lying on his bed, wrapped safely in his arms. The vacant space behind her where he should have been was a constant reminder of the unfairness of the world.
The panther held gently in Mary’s grip let out another squeal of pain as Mary applied just a minute fraction of her strength. At least her stress toy was making her feel a little better; Melanie always managed to make just the right noises of tortured anguish that vocalized the feelings within Mary’s soul.
“You can go back now, the episode’s finished.” Mary stood, causing the limp creature to fall to the ground.
Slowly, the shapeshifter returned to her most regular form, that of a terrified woman lying on the floor at the feet of her torturer. She softly mewled, trying to hold back the cries that Mary’s casual handling had brought out of her with no effort. There was no reprieve from torment though, as both Mary and Melanie knew all too well. Soon, Melanie felt the smothering embrace of another power from the seemingly limitless stockpile at Mary’s beck and call.
The once optimistic girl looked up at the smiling face above her. The smile that had lost all warmth many years ago. The smile that made Melanie feel terror to the brink of death. The smile that caused Melanie to diminish with every passing second that she spent in fear of the monster before her.
If she were able to stand up and face the monstrously powerful girl before her, Melanie would have been taller, at least initially. But her own body betrayed her, conforming to the will of Mary instead. And Mary’s will was absolute here - if Melanie feared her, then Melanie would continue to shrink.
Knowing it was coming didn’t alleviate the horror in any way. Melanie loved her powers and the freedom they gave her to be whoever or whatever she felt like. The chance to explore the world in a whole new way. Now though, Mary had become her world.
Less than an inch tall and still shrinking, Melanie could only pray that Mary would suppress her terrifying aura soon. Sometimes it stopped here, sometimes it didn’t, but it was entirely out of Melanie’s control.
“It’s okay to be terrified Melanie, lots of people get scared. I bet Damien felt really scared when he was murdered, so think of it that way. You get to feel like Damien did. You get to be closer to him.” Mary’s final tear dropped onto the ground before Melanie, soaking the shapeshifter, then freezing around her now minuscule body.
Picking up the tiny chunk of ice with the terrified woman trapped inside it, Mary brought her to eye level. The shapeshifter’s body matched the size of Mary’s pupil.
“Time for you to go back now. You’ve been very helpful.” Mary flicked the ice crystal with perfect aim into a glass sitting on the counter. “Make sure you drink it all, I think I might start the next episode tonight. You need to have your strength to get through this.”
Wordlessly, Melanie obeyed. She hadn’t any other choice. Mary was right after all. She needed her strength.
As usual, Charlotte had a headache. All because Mary existed nearby. Mary, who constantly broadcast her thoughts to the world, for only Charlotte to hear. At this point, Charlotte was very rarely aware of which thoughts were even her own. She spent most of her time in the meditation room, but her mind couldn’t be clear. How could it be when Damien had been murdered? How could she feel anything but mind-rending grief at the loss of such a precious life?
Breathing helped sometimes. Slow deep breaths to establish routine. Quick sharp breaths to bring vigour and energy back.
The sounds of the world around her helped usually. The song of birds, cheerfully greeting the day. The gentle hum of the electric lights, brightening her world. The tortured screams of anyone who dared to live when Damien didn’t.
Charlotte’s mind was spiraling again, made worse by the slowly approaching footsteps. The door was closed, but Mary never used those. Instead of stopping outside, she simply walked through the wall and into the mediation room, chunks of brick and cement falling to the floor and succumbing to Mary’s motion. Her footsteps became louder, crashing into Charlotte’s head as Mary ground brick into dust under her heel.
You look terrible today, Charlotte. Mary smiled at her as she invaded her mind and overwrote every other sensation with those words. It had to be true, Charlotte did look terrible today. Everything always looked terrible in the world where Damien had been murdered.
Let me help you out. Mary took total control of Charlotte’s body, ceasing all functions immediately. Trapped with only her own mind being swaddled by Mary’s infinitely superior one, Charlotte felt at peace.
Until her body started to scream.
Let me take care of everything. Mary started Charlotte’s heart pumping, guiding the blood through her veins. She expanded and contracted Charlotte’s lungs, forcing inhalation and exhalation. Synapses fired within Charlotte’s body at Mary’s will.
Life is painful you know, Charlotte. There’s so very much that goes on that people don’t even think about. Things we take for granted. Simple things like breathing. So easy to forget about until we are reminded of it. Mary released Charlotte from her power.
“Just make sure to appreciate life, Charlotte. Make sure you treasure every heartbeat; every breath; every single ounce of pain.” Mary walked out and the birdsong outside cut off abruptly.
Charlotte simply remained seated in the meditation room. Frantically using her mental powers to keep her frail body functioning. Focusing her mind. Living her life in its entirety.
The meeting had been going for only 5 minutes when the walls started leaking. In the spacious office, Francis sat opposite the two public relations officers, entirely distracted by the sound of groaning pipework: this was going to be a bad one.
When the two suited officials noted Francis’ lack of attention, they quickly rose to leave, sprinting out of the building. There was only one reason why the handsome speedster would fail to engage with them. The exact reason why they were having the meeting in the first place in fact. Mary was becoming a very big problem.
Using the time as well as he could, Francis steeled his resolve against the rippling mental onslaught from somewhere within the building. The simple, pure emotions that radiated out from Mary were almost debilitating to him and would likely have left his guests entirely catatonic. Still, Francis would have been sympathetic to her plight, had he not been constant witness to her coping mechanisms.
The meeting would have been about the incident at the Raymond Hotel. A simple enough mission for Mary, an out-of-control fire on the bottom floors, forcing all residents upwards. He had tried rushing in to carry people out, but the heat was far too much for him. With Kevin already occupied on another assignment, Mary’s support had been reluctantly requested and received in kind.
When Mary arrived, she surveyed the towering inferno and sighed. The exhalation from the curvaceous, raven-haired supe was enough to quell the flames, making the entire rescue very simple. Now, Francis could take his time carefully removing the poor victims from the treacherous structure of the damaged building.
Until Mary decided to intervene further. Her recent habit of failing to view walls as obstacles was what really did it. Maybe her intentions were benign - she certainly managed to retrieve a few people from the building before it collapsed in on itself and the remaining, helplessly trapped residents. Not only that, the debris fell across the street, bringing down another, thankfully already evacuated, building.
But the smile ultimately killed any hopes that Francis had of the incident being a mere accident. Flying up to him, standing at the base of a nearby building, she had watched the destruction she had caused with contentment.
“We managed to save so many people today, didn’t we Francis?” Mary didn’t alight next to him, she preferred to be at eye level. “Just think, if we weren’t here, everyone in that building would be dead. Now, it’s only most of them.”
“You could have saved them all, Mary.”
“That’s a very dangerous thing to say, isn’t it Francis? That might make me think that you blame me for not saving Damien too. Is that what you’re telling me? That I could have saved him and didn’t?” Mary looked into Francis’ eyes and he truly had no idea whether she was playing with him or being sincere. “Sometimes, people just aren’t fast enough.”
“Of course not, Mary. I know that you always do the best you can,” Francis lied. Francis knew it, Mary knew it, but the lie was allowed to pass.
Embracing the truth at this point would be a lot more dangerous. Mary had simply stopped caring. Patting Francis on the shoulder as she left, Mary used just enough power to leave a bruise without breaking a bone. That had distracted him long enough to miss the watery sheen forming across the surface of Mary’s green and grey eyes.
At the desk now, several hours later, the casualty reports were still coming in. Maybe it was for the best that the meeting had to be cancelled. After all, Francis could never hope to keep up with Mary. He saw no other option than to wait out every whim of the most powerful person in existence.
Waterproofing spells were no use. The leaks were coming through from every wall and Amelie’s books were going to be ruined. Most of them were textbooks and reference books, but some were truly precious to her. Collected caches of carefully crafted conjurations and treasured tomes of times long past, but hopefully not forgotten. She had collected up her favourites as soon as the first tear fell, with the dreaded knowledge that if the tears wished to find her books, there was ultimately nothing she could do to hold them back.
When Mary chose to visit her in person, Amelie knew that none of her prized possessions would be surviving through the encounter.
It was astounding how Mary managed to loom over everyone, in spite of her short stature. Even when she wasn’t floating at eye level the aura she exerted on the world around her was oppressive, like a smothering humid heat that threatened to choke the life out of all other living things.
The candles dimmed as Mary entered the room and ran a hand across the bookshelf. She smiled as she perused the spines, tilting her head to read the titles occasionally.
“What would you do to save the things you love, Amelie?” Mary turned to face the sorceress, who clutched her books against her chest.
“You know this Mary, we’ve talked about this before. Saving people is what we do. What we should do. What I’ve been working towards my whole life.” Amelie repeated the much-worn argument.
“So much work, Amelie. My little worker bee. Like a little ant, living just to struggle for a little bit of power.” Mary plucked one of Amelie’s books out of her hand and flicked through it.
“I don’t understand how you have so much trouble with it really. As far as I can tell, magic is just about expressing your purest feeling to reality and waiting to see how it responds.” Mary began to trace a jagged pattern on sigils into the air with a darkened fingernail.
“Feel fury, fear, despair arrive,
As servants from the shadows rise.
Seek comfort where no comfort lies
And struggle feebly as it dies.”
The room writhed as shadows tore themselves from every surface. In abject shock and horror, Amelie dropped her books and attempted the counterspell. This was an incredibly dangerous summoning and there was no way that a complete amateur like Mary would be able to control the shadow creatures. She shouldn’t even have been able to cast that spell, not that it had ever stopped her before.
The counter failed. Amelie put as much focus into it as possible, but the spell was almost alive, draining her magic out of her and leaving her an exhausted wreck.
“Magic is so simple really, isn’t it? All I have to do is speak a little rhyme, make a little pattern, then these lovely little creatures come out to do anything I want.” Mary fondly patted the incorporeal shadow creature, scratching a non-existent chin.
“I’ll get them to clean up for you. Magic is easy anyway, I don’t see why you would need all of these books about it.”
The creatures tore their claws into paper, staining the pages and erasing the ink before shredding everything into the confetti of Amelie’s entire life. With another twirl of her finger and another casual invocation, the confetti rearranged itself into a paper witch’s hat, which drifted across the room and placed itself on Amelie’s head.
“There you go. Now you look the part of a girl playing with magic.” Mary smiled as her creatures sank into her own shadow, allowing it to loom as much as she did.
Mary left the room, leaving Amelie with nothing.
Kevin flew up the stairs, eager to deliver his report to Francis. This could be important. This information could save countless lives.
There had been plenty of evidence on his way to work out how Mary had caused the flood too. In many places, jagged splinters of metal poked through the walls. Every single water pipe in the building had burst, water forcing its way out through the walls, ceilings and floors. One day soon, the headquarters would be entirely demolished by Mary’s actions.
As Kevin rounded a final corner, he noticed too late that Mary was standing in front of him. The terror gripped him once again and he lost motor function. He was distracted, flying forward far too fast, his mind and body far too slow to react. He only had time to raise his head up before impact.
His upper body collided with Mary and simply obliterated itself. He impacted her chest first, the apparently soft flesh of her enormous breasts quickly becoming unyielding. His own chest caved instead, spraying torrents of blood across her white costume and staining the fabric in the high-pressure dosing.
Like an accordion playing its final note, Kevin’s spine crumpled in on itself. The crunching of his own bones compressing was the last sound he heard before he died, and the smile on Mary’s face was the last thing he saw.
Following the angle of flight, Kevin’s lower body was caught on Mary’s stomach, while his head was caught on nothing, detaching from his neck and flying down the corridor. The pink accents on Mary’s uniform became indistinguishable from the white as Kevin’s pulverised flesh covered her torso entirely. His head met the door to Francis’ office and the door cracked before the skull did. Initially seated inside, Francis was violently startled out of his thoughts by the sound of macerating flesh, saving his own life by darting out of the way of the deadly projectile made from his best friend’s severed head.
And as Mary stood with the remnants of her teammate covering her body, she climaxed, achieving the first glint of happiness in so many years.
“I know you two were close. If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.” Amelie had sought out Francis in his room after she heard the news. The walls were covered in newspaper clippings from the glory days, the days before Armageddon had been unleashed on the world.
“It means a lot to me, Amelia. I don’t suppose there’s a way you can put his body back together? Just to give the people some closure, you know?” Francis had been clutching the photo of the three of them for the past hour. The world’s first organised superhero group, Blue Bolt, Fearless Guardian and Mistress Omen. Amelie had dropped the ‘Mistress’ pretty quickly after she started getting the wrong sort of fans.
“She destroyed all my books. I don’t know why it took her so long, but you know why she did it today, right?”
“What’s today?” Francis tried to recall anything in particular.
“It’s her birthday. It can’t be a coincidence that Kevin died on the anniversary of the day he ‘ruined her life’.”
“Does the psychopath expect a present? What do you get for the girl who has everything?”
“She doesn’t have everything, that’s the problem. But what she wants is impossible, we can’t raise the dead.” Amelie thought for a moment. “I can’t raise the dead.”
“What do you mean? Why did you say it like that?”
“I’ve never done any necromancy. Hells, the kind of power that takes is insane, normally you need to sacrifice a village or something.” Amelie looked sheepishly around the room. “I may know someone who has dabbled in the past though.”
“No. Leave the lunatic in the basement. He’s not good for you Amelie.”
“He’s been a fucking good shoulder to cry on for the past few years.” Amelie had gone red with embarrassment. “He’s completely mad, in a way, but he’s sincere. I think he might actually help us.”
Francis sat pensively for a while, staring at the faded photo in his hands. Resurrection could be useful for more than one purpose.
“You do not tell the higher-ups about this. There’s no way they clear us working with him.”
“I’ll keep it private. But I’m warning you now Francis, this kind of thing takes time. There’s no guarantee of anything working either.” Amelie rose to leave the room. “But if there’s one thing I am certain of, it’s that if we get Mary involved, impossible is a pretty meaningless word.”
The basement of IHF HQ had been fitted out as a temporary holding cell initially, but had evolved into a more permanent accommodation for the most elite villains. It wasn’t really necessary, there were specialised facilities elsewhere that could have been used, but Mary had taken a special interest in keeping the villains she captured.
Some of the villains were powered, others magical in nature. While the mages could be dealt with by simply removing their tools, Mary had gotten creative with how she rendered the supes harmless. Those with super strength simply had their limbs tied together with one of Mary’s hairs, preventing them from performing any motions. Those with mental powers had been overwhelmed, their powers locked away inside a barrier within their minds.
The very first occupant of the cells here had a much easier time of it. Demon ex Machina had been ignored by Mary, for the most part, allowing him to remain fascinated by her power from a distance. There was no doubt in his mind that the super mage could be ruling the world by now, he sure would be. He had remained in confusion about that for years. Today he had other things to think about though. Omen had arrived with a proposal.
“I need you to tell me what you know about necromancy.” Omen had taken her usual place in a chair directly outside his cell. “Specifically raising the dead.”
“I knew you would fall to the dark side eventually, Omen. Finally realised that having so much power gives you a chance to have everything you ever wanted?” Demon ex Machina dropped his paintbrush; leaving another picture of what was presumably him sitting on a throne of skulls; and approached the door.
“This isn’t me falling, Demon. I’ve got an idea and I need the assistance of someone on the dark side.”
“That’s how it starts, you know. One little idea. One day, you wonder if you can summon an imp to do the washing-up, the next, your enemies are lying in a pool of their own blood before you.”
“I’m not killing anyone, Demon. I’m trying to resurrect someone.” Omen frowned as the summoner burst out laughing.
“You know how impossible that is? You know how many tragic villains started on their path by trying to resurrect their loved one? Remember Dark Spectre? She was just trying to resurrect her brother, but that didn’t stop you heroes from imprisoning her.”
“Dark Spectre killed nearly 2000 people in a football stadium. I’m not planning on doing that.”
“That’s what they all say. Go on then, you’ve intrigued me. What do you need?”
“Books. Basic necromantic spellcasting technique. Necessary reagents. Anything a novice necromancer would need.”
“Get me some parchment, ink and a quill.” Demon ex Machina grinned, his face reminding Omen of his old mask. “Time to dabble in the dark arts.”
— One Year Later —
The scene at the bank was fraught. Two civilians had been electrocuted so far trying to escape and the villain was holding four more hostage while she made her demands. The alarm had been tripped by the initial electric surge, so the police had arrived before Electrogirl could complete her plan.
Being the only one of the Big Five available, Blue Bolt had responded to the call but was effectively helpless. Lightning crackled around the entire building, reaching out to people who strayed too close. He had already tried to outrun it, but he wasn’t fast enough.
Someone else was though.
“This is your last warning, Electrogirl. Release the hostages or face the consequences,” Blue Bolt called through the megaphone.
“I’ll release them when I get my ride. Unless you want them extra crispy!” Electrogirl's voice crackled as she yelled back from within the safety of the lightning field. This supervillain seemed to favour some kind of tight yellow spandex, sparks skirting along the fabric.
“We’re going to have to call in Armageddon.” Blue Bolt shuddered. “And hope that she doesn’t end up making things significantly worse.”
Through a combination of appeasement and her own growing reluctance to venture into the wider world, Francis had managed to keep Mary out of the spotlight for almost a year. Now, this foolish girl was forcing his hand. He sincerely hoped that none of his recent nightmares were prophetic.
A few minutes later, Mary arrived in a completely new costume. Without her eyes as a reference point, Francis doubted he would have recognised her.
Her costume was entirely black and grey camouflage, baggy on her body to allow for ease of motion. Straps and belts lined the waist, empty of any contents. On her head was a full face visor, covering everything but her eyes. Where there could normally be a plastic guard, there was nothing, exposing Mary’s invulnerable eyes to anything that tried to attack her.
“Kevin broke my last costume, so I had a new one made. A birthday present to myself.” Mary walked towards the lightning field, while dismissively acknowledging Blue Bolt. “I thought it would be a nice reminder of something else he took from me.”
This was going to go badly.
“Maybe this was a mistake calling you in, you should head back to HQ. You still need more time to recover.” Francis almost went to lay a reassuring hand on Mary’s arm but caught his mistake in time. To the rest of the world, it would have looked like the supe was violently flinching away.
“No, I think I’d like to try something.” Mary had reached the edge of the field’s reach. “I think this is going to make me feel much better than spending time at HQ.”
On the other side of the lightning, Electrogirl warily watched the supe approach. She had no idea who it was, but it sure wasn’t the motorbike she’d requested.
“You take one more fucking step and I’ll fry them all!”
It happened before anyone even realised. As soon as the electrical villain stopped talking, she spluttered, Mary’s hand wrapped around her throat.
“It’s okay. I didn’t take a single step.” Mary casually waved a hand into the lightning behind her. It began to dissipate from the furthest reaches of the perimeter, arcing back towards Mary.
As the villain frantically struggled in Mary’s grasp, trying to send electricity coursing through her body, Francis finally breathed out in relief. Threat neutralized. Day saved.
“You know, you really shouldn’t leave dangerous things like this lying around, Sparky Girl. Someone could get really hurt.” Mary’s eyes betrayed the concealed smile beneath her mask. “I’m just going to put it back where it came from.”
Lightning that had been coalescing around Mary’s right hand travelled through her body, striking out of the left. It crackled around the neck and face of Electrogirl, forcing itself back into her body. She felt invigorated and stopped attacking for a moment. Why was the supe returning her to full power?
“You know, I think I need to teach you a little lesson about leaving your power lying around. Here, hold onto some of mine for a moment.” Mary’s own red lightning joined the existing yellow stream, coursing into Electrogirl’s body.
It felt wonderful. Electrogirl had never felt so powerful! It felt like she could electrify an entire city. She could demand anything she wanted after this. Firstly, probably a mansion somewhere cooler, it was way too hot today. A new costume too, this one felt way too tight against her skin. Maybe some painkillers actually, all this work was making her head spin.
“Do you want to know a secret, Lightning Chick?” Mary leaned in close to Electrogirl. “I’m going to add your mask to my costume when you die.”
Electrogirl screamed in agony.
Red lightning crackled across her costume, devouring the smaller yellow sparks and burning holes into the spandex as it leapt after them, hunting down the lesser lightning. When her bare skin was exposed, it got to work tearing away layers of skin, electrical burns causing the outer dermis to flake away. Her body jerked erratically as the electricity overtook all muscle control, arms and legs slammed uncontrollably into Mary and breaking from the force of impact. She couldn’t close her mouth, and the scream kept coming out. Lightning found her vocal cords and struck them, bringing her pitch to a crescendo before she lost the ability to vocalise her pain.
Blood dripped slowly from all visible surfaces as the charred body of Electrogirl stopped struggling in Mary’s hands.
The villain's face was still mostly intact in comparison but distorted into a horrific expression of torment that wouldn’t seem possible to replicate on a human being. Her yellow mask was streaked with red lightning and splattered with blood.
Mary plucked the mask from the face of the villain, tearing away the skin welded to it. She chose a location on her hip and attached the mask to a buckle.
Hundreds. Francis counted the buckles as Mary walked back to him with a skip in her step. There were hundreds of those buckles on her suit. The ground shook as Mary finally stopped in front of him.
“So, I have a new strategy for dealing with bad guys. It’s definitely going to make me feel better.”
– One Month Later –
“Why are we having the team meeting down here, Omen?” Blue Bolt looked at the lunatic scribbling gothic calligraphy on an excessively large piece of parchment.
“You know as well as I do that the ‘meetings’ are just the two of us trying to prevent disaster now. Miss Shift can’t leave her confinement and if Mindscape leaves the meditation chamber she breaks down.” Amelie handed a pot of red ink through the bars, which Demon ex Machina eagerly accepted. “Did you know the bitch stopped Mindscape’s bodily functions unless she actually operates them herself? How fucking twisted is that?”
“That’s a fantastically spiteful form of torture. You remember Phasmoterror? He liked to make people think they were itchy until they tore their own skin off.” Demon ex Machina mused mostly to himself as he continued to write.
“You can visit him if you like, he’s at the other end of the corridor. Can’t feel anything though, so he mainly just sits there.” Omen glanced at the nearly completed diagram.
“Poor chap. We did such good work together on that festival a decade back. Minions galore. Give him my best.” Demon ex Machina eyed the red ink. “This is human blood, yes? Anything else and you get some very confused, but often tasty, minions.”
“It’s my blood. Get on with it.” Omen shifted uncomfortably in her chair.
“Okay, so the madman is part of the team now, is that what you’re trying to tell me? Because if it is, then hells, Omen, how far are we falling here?”
“We’re nearly done, we wanted to try it tonight in fact.” Omen leaned in closer to Blue Bolt. “I know it’s difficult, but I need you to see if you can call her in to try it.”
The words sent a chill down Francis’ spine. He had entirely avoided contact with Mary for the past weeks and she had fallen into a routine. She slept from 11 pm to 7 am, like clockwork. She left the HQ at 9 am, after wandering the halls or crying in her room.
Then she returned at 6 pm with another ‘mask’ on her belt. It wasn’t always a literal mask. Sometimes there was a non-supervillain, in which case she took some other kind of souvenir. Bullets were popular, but so were teeth. The tiny, but immensely heavy cruise ship had been added to the decorations and her necklace still contained the trapped souls from the museum fiasco.
She was treating the whole hero business like a day job. It was only a matter of time before criminals caught onto it and Francis had no idea what would happen at that point. He was already run ragged trying to patrol the other hours and the IHF had taken into calling in more low-profile heroes more frequently.
“I’m sorry Blue, but you need to intercept her when she gets back. Someone needs to monitor the ritual when it’s all set up and I’m not leaving Demon to watch it on his own.” Omen took a deep breath. “There’s something else too. We need an item that belonged to the deceased. Go with her to get the hoodie, then bring her down here and hopefully we can save the world.”
Today, Mary had decided to take out her emotions on careless drivers.
She sat in the sky, watching the roads below for any signs of speeding. When she identified a criminal, she telekinetically lifted the vehicle into the air. Each time a new villain emerged, Mary considered how to dispose of them. She had already compacted a car onto the occupant, reducing both to a ball the size of a grape. The last car had simply been sent into space, drifting higher into the atmosphere as Mary removed the impact of gravity from it and gave it a light shove.
This next villain was especially despicable. A group of four girls, all of them obviously drunk. Leaving the car suspended in the air, girls screaming inside, Mary took off and returned moments later, helmet now removed. The girls in the car could clearly see her face, but that didn’t matter, they weren’t going to be able to tell anyone.
Sealing all gaps in the framework, Mary stuck a nail through the roof, creating a small hole. She placed her lips on the hole and allowed the ethanol she had just consumed to flow straight in. The intoxicating fumes hit the girls first as they gasped and choked, eyes streaming, all of them clawing and pulling at the doors, trying to force them open. When Mary saw the alcohol level rising to the seats, she removed her lips and covered the opening with a finger.
“Now girls, be calm. Have you all learned your lesson?” Mary taunted the struggling passengers as she widely grinned down at them.
“Please, let us go!”
“Take it out, we can’t breathe!”
“Yes, yes, we’ll be good.”
“Fuck you, super bitch!”
Mary’s grin became even wider as she heard the last response. Hearing the girl futilely rage at her was so incredibly arousing. To think, she could do anything she wanted and the world couldn’t stop her.
“Okay, I’m going to take it out now. Just make sure you’ve learned the lesson.” Mary put her lips back to the opening and inhaled, drawing all air out of the vehicle.
Air was torn from each of their lungs and the girls completely failed to scream in horror. Their lungs collapsed inwards first, as the pressure reduced to nothing. Then, the structure of the car gave out, metal buckling and glass cracking.
“Oops, took out a bit too much there. Let me put it back.”
This time, Mary blew, inflating the car and the girls inside, until the pressure threatened to cause the vehicle to explode outwards. Again, Mary halted herself just in time.
“Oh dear, I really can’t seem to get the hang of this. Let me keep trying.”
Mary continued to force air in and out of the car, gradually increasing her pace as she went on. She could feel her arousal building with every breath. Her simple breathing was controlling the lives of these girls, helpless to stop her. When the screaming began to fade out, Mary knew it was time.
Moving away from the car to let the air back in and gripping it with her mind, Mary started to shake it up and down. Slowly at first, the girls were shaken back to the brink of consciousness. When all of the girls were paying attention again, the motion intensified.
“So the lesson today girls, is that life isn’t fucking fair. People don’t always get what they want.” Mary picked up the pace, watching as limbs smashed against each other and into windows. “But I think what you girls were really after was a cocktail. So I’m making you one.”
The shaking of the vehicle should have become impossible to follow from that point. Not for Mary though. The motion was clearly visible to her as she felt her heartbeat race, seeing bodies break apart and then break further, until a fine slurry was all that remained.
Then she broke open the car and let the gruesome result rain down over her and the road below.
Nope. No. Fucking hell no.
Amelie couldn’t say he didn’t give it a go. Francis had waited outside the IHF HQ for Mary to return. When she did, Mary was absolutely covered in blood and there was no way that Francis was approaching her today. Her face was covered too, meaning that she had taken the mask off. Meaning that she had intentionally done it.
Fucking hell no.
Francis ran. He ran so far, he lost track of where he even was. He ended up lost for three hours before he found his way back to the IHF HQ and even then, he didn’t go inside. For the first time in over a decade, Francis didn’t sleep at the IHF building. In fact, he didn’t sleep at all.
“I need you to be him.” Mary walked into her room and laid down on her couch, still covered in viscera.
Without a word, Melanie contorted her form into that of a Damien fondly remembered in Mary’s mind, and now Melanie’s too. The details had been engraved in there over the course of several years, with any small failure to perfectly replicate Mary’s love resulting in dire consequences. The smell had been the trickiest thing to mimic. Melanie put on the hoodie and lay behind Mary, holding her in Damien’s arms.
“We never got to go out for cocktails together,” Mary said to the memory of Damien. “I’d have liked that.”
Silence followed as both fell into a restless sleep.
“You know; if we don’t try this ritual tonight, we’ll have to wait another month.”
“Thank you, Demon, I’m well aware. We’re just waiting for Blue Bolt.”
“Is the fastest man alive often late?”
“No. He isn’t.”
The ritual room was smoky. The sheer cost of incense being burned here was immense and the timing of the ritual was so bizarrely specific that Omen had been convinced that Demon ex Machina was making it up. But it all checked out. She’d had a friend verify it, who had done so and then requested that Omen never contact her again. It would be worth burning a few bridges to achieve peace though.
“You know, he might be dead. Good thing we have just the solution right here.”
“Blue is not dead. He’s just encountered difficulties.” Omen had a heavy suspicion that those difficulties might be in the form of a busty, raven-haired psychopath.
“Best go help him out then. Off you pop. I’ll take care of all this lovely magical power while you’re gone.”
The fact that Amelie was considering actually doing it was insane. Leaving Demon ex Machina with a ritual that would kill thousands of people if unleashed?
On the other hand, was it worth the risk? How many people would die to Mary’s trauma, that could be saved? All she need do was place a little trust in her old pal, the mad demon summoner.
“Fuck it. Demon, take the wheel. I’m fixing this mess.” Omen left the room, the maniacal cackling from within doing little to reassure her.
The door was rarely closed, but still, nobody ever entered Mary’s room. Unlike the other rooms, this one had little personality to it. An old couch that pulled out into a bed, in front of a wall-mounted television. Every other wall was bare and most of the other furniture was damaged in some way from Mary’s careless handling of it.
Freezing in the doorway, Amelie took in the horror before her.
Mary was making Melanie take Damien’s place again. She had started doing that not long after the news had broken, but Amelie had no idea who had initially suggested it. It might have been what kept Melanie on Mary’s good side if she could be said to have one.
What was concerning was the quantity of blood visible on Mary’s body. That would probably go some way to explain why Francis had bolted, the memory of Kevin always fresh in his mind.
Here was the risk: Mary slept from 11 pm, every night. It was only 9 pm at the moment, so normally she would be occupying herself somehow. Technically, Amelie should be safe to wake her up. If she was brave enough to do so.
There was no need though. As soon as Amelie entered the room, Mary appeared in front of her.
“You are interrupting. This is my time, I’ve earned it.” Mary spoke and Amelie felt the guilt enter her mind. She started to shiver before she could even speak.
“I have something. Something I’ve been working on.” Amelie felt her consciousness drifting away as the world became hazy around her. What was Mary even doing to her?
“You’re always working on something.” Mary was right, Amelie was always doing some unimportant project that amounted to nothing. “None of them are worthwhile.”
“Damien. I can bring him back,” Amelie managed to get out as she collapsed onto Mary.
Who promptly caught her and restored her senses.
“What do I need to do?” Mary held Amelie firmly by the shoulders.
“I need you and the hoodie, or an item that belonged to him. And we need to be quick.”
Grabbing the hoodie, Mary morphed the Damien duplicate back into a pocket-sized Melanie and strapped her to one of her buckles.
“Lead the way.”
To Amelie’s great surprise and confusion, Demon ex Machina had done exactly as required. The ritual room was prepared, merely requiring the power source and the belongings of the deceased.
“Ah, the super mage is here. I hope you’re ready or we may end up with a lot of dead supes around here soon.” Demon ex Machina was practically giddy with glee as he directed the flow of the smoke around the room.
“The spell is written on the board over there. All you need to do is access your power, read the incantation and make the sigil inscribed on the floor in the air. Then you offer the item, and the spell brings back the deceased.” Demon gestured to the complex arrangement of notation and glyphs.
“Damien. It brings back Damien.” Mary smiled. “I can’t wait to see him again.”
“Showtime, everyone! On your marks, get set, necromance!” Demon ex Machina directed the swirls of smoke into the centre of the room as Mary drew the sigil and began to recite.
“Return now what was once held dear,
Regret and longing kept at bay.
From pain of loss and true love’s tear,
Your soul returns upon this day.”
Every candle in the room went out. The smoke clung to the hoodie as it reached the centre of the runic circle, until it was reduced to a pile of ash in the midst of the glyphs. In the darkened room, only Mary could see, but they all felt the intense magical pressure washing over them from her force of will. A tense moment passed and the pressure dissipated, the spell complete. The candles relit.
Nothing had changed.
“That - that should have worked. We did everything right.” Demon ex Machina looked around the room, seeking an explanation.
“I don’t know. We checked it. Multiple times. He should be here.” Amelie was torn between fleeing the room and working out the issue with her spell.
A choked sob echoed around the room as both mages focused on the imposing figure looming ever more worrying in their minds. Mary, covered in blood, faced the mages. Both fell to their knees, literally unable to feel anything but the empathetic pain of heartbreak renewed. They would have screamed if their bodies functioned correctly.
Then, without a word, Mary fled and their pain vanished, while Mary’s was only reinforced.
Four seconds after Mary left the IHF building, she was on the surface of the Moon. She had created a protective field around her body as she tore through the atmosphere, to prevent her outfit from being damaged. Upon arrival, she screamed into the near vacuum surrounding her, sending out enough air to provide a fleeting lunar atmosphere and make her pain audible. The lunar terrain shook as she sobbed uncontrollably.
Lost in grief, Mary almost didn’t notice the slight shifting of her clothing. Wondering what could possibly be bothering her here, Mary reached a hand down and retrieved a squishy, flattened object. It took her a moment to recognise that the shape was in fact Melanie and another to realise that she would probably die here if Mary didn’t intervene.
The shapeshifter’s body was apparently a lot more malleable than Mary ever knew. She would need air and protection. Exhaling onto the squished supe, Mary formed a sphere of her own breath around the pitiful creature, then encased that air in an impenetrable force field.
When Melanie was safe from the lethal surroundings, Mary phased her hands inside the bubble and started moulding her back into a more three-dimensional shape. The act was soothing to her, as she manipulated Melanie’s helpless body in her hands like modelling clay.
“The world is so fucking unfair. Just think about it. I have all this power. I can do basically anything I want, except the one thing I actually want to do.” Mary had restored Melanie’s body to a recognisable human shape, albeit one that was the length of her finger. She expanded the fleshy toy in her hands and started one of her favourite games: repeatedly compressing Melanie’s breasts into her body.
“Just look at the world. All those stupid little ants, standing around smug and alive while Damien lies rotting underground. Why the fuck is that fair?” Mary had stretched out Melanie’s body and her skin had discoloured from the pressure being exerted on her.
“You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? You already accepted how pathetic your powers are compared to mine. I mean, really? All you can do is morph your body?” Mary lifted the enclosed superhero up to her face, observing her work so far.
“There are so many things I could do to you and there’s literally nothing you could do to stop me, Melanie.” Mary still had tears and blood staining her cheeks as she held the life of her teammate in her hands.
“Except being a cute little pet, of course.” Mary smiled down at the sphere. “You always make me feel a little better.”
“Thanks for helping me see things as they are. From now on, I’m doing whatever I feel like.”
And Mary returned to Earth, leaving a crater behind that eclipsed all other lunar features.
The warehouse was lively. Shockwaves had devastated the city earlier that day, with scores of people now arriving at the infamous base of the supe-killing gang to pledge their allegiance.
The world truly was a bizarre place now. While most people lauded the efforts of the outwardly heroic IHF, many were concerned about the actions of their most secretive and vicious supe. On the other hand, Armageddon cults had started to pop up; with claims that the violent ‘hero’ was just taking things to the logical next step: no second chances.
It had started well enough, Armageddon would appear, handle a crisis with no apparent effort, then deal with the villain responsible. Some were killed on the spot, usually with their own powers. Others were taken away by the mysterious figure in tactical gear, kicking and screaming as they went, for all the good it did them.
The scenes today were difficult for Armageddon fans to defend, however. As much as the IHF PR team claimed that the drivers of those mangled cars had been villains awaiting punishment, many could see the truth. The IHF was primed to take over the world, sending its most powerful asset to take out any possible troublemakers.
What other reason could there be for the casual execution of Top Dog, who had screamed into his radio for backup as his own car crushed him to death?
So not only were the Seven Dogs facing an influx of new recruits, they also faced a crisis of leadership. No one wanted the top position, assuming they would become the new target of the IHF’s wrathful tactical nuke.
Really, you would have to be mad to want it.
The tall, muscled man with the scar across his eye smiled. Adjusting his goggles, he walked across the room; twirling a butterfly knife in one hand as he slipped the other into his pocket and donned a set of knuckle dusters. When he reached his target, his hand shot out and connected with the jaw of the invisible spy. There was a moment of shock in their eyes before the knife slit his throat. Now flickering in and out of visibility, the supe spy leaked blood clearly into the concrete.
“He won’t be the last one, I’m afraid. The supes are out to get all of us.”
The Mad Dog removed his goggles as he advanced towards the raised gantry. A shocked crowd formed around the dying interloper, some rapidly recoiling as the body began to come fully into focus; while others leant inwards, eager to witness the death of a supe.
“People are scared, rightfully so. This world is not right when people can control the way you live your life, the way you choose to express yourself, the people you choose to love.”
The unease that had been spreading through the crowd was being brought to a focus. This new speaker had a bit of a reputation among the old guard and the mood was catching.
“What does the IHF really want from us? Do they expect us to believe that a truly benevolent supe organisation would bring the world to its current state? Are they incompetent, or perhaps malevolent? Which is truly worse?”
With sudden fury, Mad Dog pulled out a gun and fired into the crowd. Half of the audience threw themselves to the floor while others gasped as bullets bounced off a woman at the base of the makeshift stage.
“Okay, I’m impressed you noticed me. This ends now though. Bullets aren’t going to hurt me,” the supe proclaimed as she clambered up onto the stage.
Mad Dog switched tactics, pulling a paper packet from a pocket of his jacket and ripping it open, scattering the contents into the face of the approaching supe.
“Really dude?” The supe spluttered. “It’s over. Just give up already.”
But even as she spoke, she staggered forward, losing her balance. Her vision blurred and her face heated up, each footstep becoming more difficult as the energy left her body. Words failed to form and her speech slurred until finally, she collapsed at the feet of the speaker.
“Madam Kevlar here was incompetent. No malice, just the foolish idea that bulletproof skin also means uncorrodable skin.” Mad Dog gestured to the flesh slowly falling from the dead supe’s face.
“Supes have weaknesses. Supes can be dumb, just like everyone else. Mister Invisible over there forgot that his invisibility was only in optical light.”
The crowd was silent now. Incredibly wary and awed by this unexpected attack by – and subsequent dispatch of – real-life supes.
“So here’s my proposal. I’m going to take the Seven Dogs to new heights. We take on more supes, bring the world back to how it used to be and save the world from those so-called saviours.”
A cheer went up in the crowd at that.
“I say it’s time we cried havoc and let the mad dogs among us loose.”