Arc 1, Bittersweet 1

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Of course he would use electricity on me.  One of Jumping Jack’s known powers was weakness analysis.  He would know what would hurt me the most.

I flopped around on the pavement like a fish out of water for a few more seconds, until the electroshock weapon batteries finally drained.  Then I slowly gathered both my wits and my limbs, trying to figure out what the situation was now, and force my limbs to support me properly.

“We have been engaged by Strangest, request backup.  Over.”  A voice to my left.

A moment later, there was an audible sigh from the radio, followed by a response.  “Strangest is most vulnerable to physical attacks.  Use your bare hands.  Human sweat causes him to become comatose.  Save your ammo.  I say again, save your ammo.  Over.”

“Thank you, dispatch, we’ll try that too.  Out.”  Same voice again.

A moment later, the sharp crackle of small arms gunfire was accompanied by sharp pains in my center mass.  I turned my head ponderously, trying to avoid unbalancing myself.  Two police officers had come into my range.  Didn’t they know better by now?

The two officers were walking forward at a slight angle to me, striding strongly, about fifty feet away, each of them in a picture-perfect walking stance, firing their pistols.  Stone-faced, firing at me like they would fire at a rabid dog.  I was a very large target.

I managed to pull myself to my feet, and turned my head slowly the other way, to see what the bullets passing through me would hit.  Brick wall.  Good.

One officer commented to the other, “Barton, his head’s big enough.  Aim there.  Body shots are having no effect.”

The other officer nodded as they both shifted their aim to my head.  Those bullets hurt a little more, and made it harder to concentrate, but not impossible.

I concentrated, trying to clear my mind a bit more.  Fuck electricity.  A moment later I was finally able to once again sense the conscious minds that were near me.  No people behind the brick wall.  Better.

The problem with restoring my ability to detect nearby conscious human minds was that they could detect me too, now.  It worked both ways.  From around the corner, out of sight, came yelling.  “There he is again!  Around the corner!” After a few seconds, they all came into view from around the corner of the diner, rushing me as a mob. More normal, unpowered people like the cops.  They were carrying broken table legs, whole metal chairs, and quite a few knives – all looted from the diner they had just gutted for improvised weapons.  Behind the rest, a hugely fat man with a white apron brandished a frying pan and waddled towards me with a pained, angry expression on his face.

The officers ran out of rounds, holstered their pistols, and then wiped their hands on their faces and necks as they joined the mob of civilians.

What the hell? Oh, yeah, the dispatcher told them human sweat knocks me out.  Somebody in dispatch knows about my powers, and is trying to cut the fight short and keep these cops from hurting themselves or others.

No children in the mob.  I didn’t detect any conscious minds low enough to the ground to be dropped infants, thank God.

Where is Jumping Jack?

He was very fast, and difficult to track.  Even though I couldn’t identify his mind individually, I was pretty sure he was behind a plumber’s van, next to another mind that had been there since shortly after the start of this lovely adventure.  The other mind was almost certainly Majestic Mind, since those two had been fighting when I accidentally got involved, and I hadn’t seen him since shortly after I shifted.  Tinkers tended to run off and tinker for a while when exposed to me, before coming back with dangerous toys.  The two of them would be working together now, even though it had been the two of them fighting each other that made me shift.  I tried to remember what Majestic Mind’s tinkering specialty was, but that needed to wait, the mob of normal people was almost on top of me.

“Hurry, Hurry, we need to hit him when the others do!” I heard Jumping Jack say loudly, with impatience. Definitely behind the plumber’s van.

Another voice, quieter, muttered something I couldn’t make out that sounded frustrated.

My appearance in this body was imposing by most people’s standards.  I was a uniform black color like a shadow cast by a strong light source.  At nearly ten feet tall, eight feet across the shoulders, with disproportionately long, thick arms and a giant head, one might expect normal people to flee.  My power prevented that.  Every face in the mob approaching me had the expression of a man or woman chasing down a fly with a rolled up newspaper.  I was getting used to seeing that expression.

They came at me with intense concentration, slowing down, spreading out, and working together.  The two officers were gathering the more fit looking people near them, the rest were looking to the officers for guidance.

“Surround him.”

“People with longer weapons attack his head.”

“Hit the joints.”

“He’s supposed to be really weak even though he’s giant sized.”

“Dispatch said human sweat touching him will take him down, then we can kill him.”

“I’ve never heard that.  Didn’t he get into a fight with Adonis and win?  Adonis wears one of those man-bikinis and does deodorant commercials.  I’m sure he sweats.”

“Please, attack me with bladed weapons, they only make me stronger.” I said, making my voice carry as much menace as I could, with just a touch of gloating.  I was hoping none of these civilians was a cape follower that might know enough to disagree with me.  At least two in the group knew something about me.

Luck was with me, a mutter went through the crowd, and all the knives were tossed to the side. Knives that they wouldn’t cut each other with by accident, as they tried to kill me.

Before the clatter of falling knives stopped, the cook, having built up to a respectable speed, rapidly waddled through the three-quarter circle of normal people surrounding me.  From the intent expression on his face, and how hard he was breathing, he probably didn’t trust himself to stop without falling, and had decided to either be the martyr or the hero.  He shoulder-checked an old man with a cane who almost fell over.  The old man didn’t even react to what the cook had done; he just caught his balance and continued staring at me, waiting for the right moment.

The huge cook had almost certainly been an athlete thirty years and three hundred pounds ago.  He leapt into the air, legs pedaling as he brought the frying pan down with all his strength, hitting me in the face with the improvised club immediately before his body slammed into mine.

I was many times his volume but maybe a third of his mass, and my body didn’t really have what could be called bones.  The frying pan hurt, but wasn’t that painful.  The cook’s mass, moving that fast, knocked me flat on my back.  The rest of the normals, taking advantage of the martyr/hero cook, rushed in, blunt weapons starting to swing and sweaty hands reaching towards me.

The giant cook pinning me to the ground snored loudly.  It would take time to push him off me without hurting him, and I had to deal with the rest of the mob.

I heard a man scream, was that Majestic Mind? “It’s connected!  Now, Now, Now!”

I sensed two minds moving around the plumber’s van, from the direction of the shout, and looked across the street at them.  Jumping Jack and Majestic Mind both came out from behind the plumber’s van, side by side, each of them carrying a coil of wire in one hand, with a thin copper metal pipe about five feet long held in the other.  The wire was connected to the pipe at one end, and ran behind the van.  I saw a light pole behind the van.  I saw electrical tape on the copper pipe under the hands of the approaching hero and villain.

Crap.  Majestic Mind built electrodes and connected them to streetlamp power.  Fuck me very much.

Fortunately Majestic mind was slow in his armor.  I had about ten seconds before he would be close enough to touch me with his electrode.  Jumping Jack was already close enough to hit me, but didn’t.  He needed Majestic Mind to complete the circuit with the other electrode.

This was going to hurt.  A lot more than some handheld shocker.  It was also almost certain to kill normal people if they used it on me when I was touching them, and I was pinned under a sleeping fat man.

The mob hit me all at once, swinging chairs, table legs, a couple canes, and trying to grab with bare hands.  The ones with bare hands fell over as they touched me, like the cook had, falling asleep as soon as they touched their skin to mine.

I flapped my legs and one arm at the people beating me with blunt weapons.  As I struck them, they fell, unconscious.  They were too intent on killing me to react defensively when they were this close, so it only took a few quick swipes to knock them all unconscious.  I was still trying to wedge my other arm under the cook, to push him off of me as I knocked out the last chair-wielder.

I couldn’t budge him.  My mind was racing.  What was his name?  I looked at his hat.  Fred.

I tried to pitch my voice as highly as I could, and said, in a loud, annoyed sounding whisper, “Fred, roll over, you’re on my side of the bed again.”

Fred snorted “Umpgfh, srrie Mandy.”

Fred rolled.  I helped him, with both of my arms, and when he was finally off me, I stood up as quickly as I could, and saw Majestic Mind stepping up, side by side with Jumping Jack, both jabbing at me with their electrodes.  Jumping Jack hit me, Majestic Mind missed.  I threw myself back.  It wasn’t much of a jump, even by normal person standards, but it got me out of reach of Majestic Mind’s electrode.

I started avoiding Majestic Mind.  He was the weak point.  I was a little faster than his armor.  The third time I dodged his attack, moving away from him, he turned to Jumping Jack, holding out his electrode and saying, “Here. I have something that should make him stay put.”

Jumping Jack dropped the heavy wire loop out of his left hand, and carefully grabbed the second electrode in his left hand as Majestic Mind dropped his loop of wire on the ground as well.  Jumping Jack started experimenting with his grip and moving the two electrodes, experimentally jabbing with both, watching me closely the whole time.

Majestic Mind quickly pulled some sort of gun-looking device out of a thigh holster, cocked it, and quickly fired it at my feet.  A sticky substance bound me to the ground.  I started tearing myself loose, but I was nowhere near fast enough.

I was struck with both electrodes by Jumping Jack after I was glued to the ground.  Then he hit me again.  I was in so much pain I couldn’t even think.  Could electricity kill me?  If anything could, electricity had to be near the top of the list.  If I died in this form, what would happen to me?

Another hit.  I saw the electrical tape smoking under Jumping Jack’s gloves.  I smelled burning vinyl.  The copper pipe electrodes were hot enough at their base to start melting the electrical tape insulation.

Good, he’ll drop the electrodes soon, they will be too hot to hold.

I was wrong.  Jumping Jack jammed one electrode through my right shoulder, then the other through my left.  Both of my feet were still glued in place.  The constant power from the streetlight’s power circuit made me completely lose control of my body, and I ripped loose from the glue, leaving the bottoms of my feet behind as I fell on my back.  The electrodes both stayed stuck inside me.  Jumping Jack and Majestic Mind both stared, briefly, at where I had left the black footprints in the glue, then started circling me as I writhed on the ground.

“What is he made of?  Why hasn’t he died and started to burn yet?  He doesn’t seem very durable, and the electricity is hurting him a lot.”  Jumping Jack complained.

Majestic Mind responded.  “Nobody really knows.  You can’t study it closely.  At least not when he’s alive.  Based on what I read about him, most things won’t hurt him much because his flesh is like a self-repairing sponge.  Some type of psychotropic pseudo-matter is the best guess I’ve seen.  Hopefully he’ll be dead soon, I’ll try to get a sample then.”

There was a loud bang from the direction of the plumber’s truck, and I saw a bright light.  A transformer must have blown.  The electricity stopped.  I stopped drumming my heels and wrists on the ground when the power stopped passing through me.

“Damn, he’s still moving.  Careful! Catch! Monoblade!” Majestic Mind yelled as he threw a handle at Jumping Jack, who gracefully plucked it out of the air and activated it.  The bright image of a blade was only six inches long but it could cut almost anything.

“You got anything left to fight with, Majestic Mind?” Jumping Jack said, as he rapidly closed in on me, slicing at my arms as I tried to make my body and mind start working right again.

“Not after our fight earlier, sorry.  Except one last thing.”  He walked over to the electrode wires on the ground.  A small, normal looking blade extended from his right index finger.  With some effort, he cut both wires with the small blade before retracting it into the finger of the gauntlet.  Both gauntlets were removed with a pair of flourishes, dropping them to the ground.  He then grabbed each of the two wires at the cut ends that were still connected to the copper pipes jammed through my shoulders, and carefully fitted the wire held in each hand into the cuff of each opposite wrist, at the same time, crossing the wires in front of him as the sparks started to fly.

I smelled blue, or maybe it was purple, and did more imitations of fresh-caught fish flopping on pavement.  When the pain stopped, and my flopping ceased, I started trying to gather my wits, and my dexterity.  Again.

Jumping Jack, foaming a bit at the mouth after being near me for so long, rushed me as I braced myself on one arm, and jammed the monoblade into my neck, up to his wrist, then fell over, unconscious.

Majestic Mind was standing up straight, still holding the now powerless wires crossed in front of him.  His armored suit was smoking from several places.

I slowly continued to gather my senses and dexterity.  Only one conscious mind nearby that I could detect, Majestic Mind.  I ripped one electrode and then the other out of my body, both movements were rather painful, but physical damage was rarely more than a nuisance, pain-wise.  Electricity was a completely different story.

I needed to remove the monoblade that was still active, stuck in my neck.  The last thing I wanted to do was change back with that thing inside me.  No clue what would happen, and absolutely no desire to find out.  I grabbed one of the warped and bent copper pipes, and stepped up next to a mirrored store window and looked to see if I could see the monoblade inside me.  I could.  Its bright blade was visible through the shadowy spongy flesh, close to the middle of my neck.  I started jamming the end of the warped copper pipe into my neck, using both hands on the pipe for control, trying to hit the hilt of the monoblade and force it the rest of the way through my neck.

After about two minutes and a fair amount of self-inflicted pain, I managed to drive the monoblade out the other side of my neck.  It fell to the pavement, spinning end over end, cutting several divots out of the concrete as it flopped around before coming to a halt.  I carefully picked up the blade, but didn’t have the dexterity to turn it off.  Fortunately, the hilt was just big enough for me to get a grip on.

I heard a loud creaking noise coming from behind me.  Majestic Mind was trying to force his unpowered, damaged armor to move, staring at me.  I walked over to him and touched his right hand, knocking him unconscious.

No more people awake nearby.  Finally.  Need to change before anyone wakes up.

I walked a few steps back to the store window I had been using as a mirror and did a visual check to make sure I didn’t have anything else stuck inside me.  Nothing I could see.  Stepping around the corner into an alley, I carefully placed the monoblade on the pavement and shifted back into human form.  After I was solid again, I quickly pulled a loose canvas mask from my fanny pack and put it over my head.  I felt a bit stiff and achy, but otherwise fine.

I looked down at the monoblade, its single molecule blade was still shining brightly, the power required to extend the blade out of the shaft would probably exhaust the battery soon.  I very carefully picked it up, then turned it off with my now-human fingers that could press small buttons.  Turning a monoblade on typically took several distinct motions, for safety reasons that almost everyone appreciated, and turning one off almost always required either one quick action, or letting go of the hilt.  In this case, you had to press a tiny button with some force, and the big spongy dark matter body couldn’t manage that.

Definitely not my favorite design, I would have made it so that when pressure was removed from the hilt, the blade would turn off.  At the same time, I knew that villains, whether super or not, tended to cut a lot of corners safety-wise.  I supposed this blade might have been intended for throwing, but Majestic Mind was a tinker, and from what I had just seen, he was something of a klutz.  Maybe it was something he picked up in a trade from another tinker, intending to trade again later.  No clue.  Doesn’t matter, really.

I walked back out into the street and went to check on the people most likely to have hurt themselves attacking me.  The cook seemed to be OK, and the three elderly men.  I went and checked on Jumping Jack, who seemed fine.  His hands were blistered, his gloves had apparently been burned through by the electrodes, but the burns didn’t seem to be more than second degree.  The damage to his gloves, leaving exposed skin, explained how he had knocked himself out when he jammed the knife into me.

Majestic Mind also seemed fine.

Someone blew a whistle from over a hundred feet away, straight up.  Someone who knew better than to startle me.  I looked around, and saw one man settling to the ground next to me, wearing a brick orange suit with a black line drawing of an octagon on his chest.  He was glaring at me as he landed.

“Strangest, what the hell are you doing in Atlanta?  I told you to leave.  The mayor told you to leave, even Gorgon and his allies told you to leave.  You’re too damn dangerous.  Stay out of town, or at least stay out of this town.”  He was a classic superhero brick type, but getting a little fat around the edges after twenty or so years of active heroism.  It was really hard to balance one’s metabolism as a brick or speedster.  You had to eat as if you were going to need that energy today, but if you didn’t burn it off, you got a little fatter.  It built up fast for high energy heroes if they were not very careful.  Several pounds per day, easily, in some cases.

“Octagon, I was trying to do some Christmas shopping.” I replied, irritated.

“In May?” He looked at me like I was either stupid or insane.

“Would you rather I show up on Black Friday and have some kid startle me?”

He paused a second.  Definitely not liking that mental image.  “Fuck.  Look man.  Look around you.  Nobody died.  Today.  You’ve been a super for a few months now, and every fight you get into is a gigantic cluster-fuck.”

“I didn’t come here looking for a fight, Octagon. Christmas. Shopping.”  I paused. “Majestic Mind and Jumping Jack started fighting near me, and I was startled then shifted.”

Octagon lifted the whistle to his lips again, and looked at me.  I nodded.  He blew the whistle three times, and waved his left arm in the air, then the rescue vehicles rapidly converged.

“Which way do you want me to fly you, out of the city?”

“Am I supposed to leave my vehicle?”

“Yes.”  Octagon looked at me again with another of his ‘are you dumb?’ looks.

“No.  I’ll be damned.  I came to go Christmas shopping, and I will do some Christmas shopping.  I will also collect my personal vehicle.  I will then drive it home.  If you think you can stop me, try.”

Octagon reached out his right hand towards my left shoulder.  I tracked his hand with my head, and his hand stopped, hovering over my shoulder.

I stepped to the right, so his hand wasn’t over my shoulder any longer.

He left his hand suspended in the air, and locked eyes with me.  I didn’t want a fight.  Not with all the emergency responders near.  He also knew I’d almost certainly win the fight.  I’d beaten him twice already, in situations similar to what had happened today.

I looked away, not letting the gaze go too long.  Getting too involved and concentrating on something might let me get surprised by something else I should have seen, and the last thing I wanted was another incident.

“Have you ever tried shopping online?” He asked.

Next Chapter

23 comments

  1. underwhelmingforce

    This has a lot of promise, but I think I’ll reserve judgement until there are a few more chapters. I was a but confused at the beginning though. Remember that we don’t know what you know.

      • AvidFan

        Whhhhhy! You HAD to take the annoying route…… Where everyone in the story universe knows something, but we are left hanging, trying to figure out what is happening, what something is, etc, on our own, until you eventually tell us in a shocking/amazing/annoying/unexpected/long manner. X.X
        You evil, evil person.

        From what I’ve picked up, his powers are to make anyone within a certain area of effect, either to do with visual or proximity (I’m guessing proximity due to the diner people), hate him and want to kill him, becoming more homicidally aggressive towards him the closer and/or longer they’re within his aoe. He is assumedly immortal in his powered form, which causes people to fall unconscious through skin contact, and is extremely weak against human sweat which causes him to go comatose, but I assume still effectively immortal to physical and possibly mental attacks, although you’ve given us no information on that, I assume this due to the nature of his powers. His trigger is being startled, and I assume it can also be triggered by him at will, maybe even being activated when he feels threatened, since he is unlikely to be startled by someone attacking him head on when he knows they’re coming.

        Can’t wait to see how accurate or inaccurate my analysis is going to be in the following pages. I’m hoping there’s more. Might be a bit depressing if there’s not, since…. Well, his power set makes me feel depressed for him. Very interesting though. Seems like it will be an interesting read.

        • farmerbob1

          In Symbiote, I feel that I held the readers’ hands too much. While it’s gratifying to have people reading what I write because they enjoy the story, I also have an interest in making the reader think.

          Symbiote was my first original fiction, and I spent a whole lot of time outside the story writing about what was happening inside the story, behind the scenes. While this might feel Easter-Eggy and fun in a way to the readers who read comments, it actually takes away from the story itself, especially if I do it a lot, and lose track of what I said and where. This became something of a real nightmare with Symbiote when I considered publishing, because so much content was in the comments!

          This is one reason why I strongly doubt I will ever publish the original Symbiote for money, despite my initial plans. It’s simply a mess in many ways. I do plan on going back and rewriting the entire thing starting from scratch, rebuilding everything as a new story, with a few of the same characters but everything around them drastically changed. That will probably get published.

          This story might get published. I am enjoying it. It feels a lot more solid. I feel more in control of events and my writing is much better than before (I think)

          (You need to re-read the interactions around the human sweat thing, you missed something!)

  2. Carly

    Very interesting start… I was a little lost for a while as well. There’s a lot of info to absorb and some of it isn’t very clear. But it’s also obvious that there’s a lot more to find out and I’m looking forward to that! The first sentence might make a little more sense using “found” instead of “to find” He had found a way to use electricity on me. The way you have it written, it’s like whoever he’s talking about needs to figure this out – when actually it’s already happened. Just a thought.

    I’m wondering what a monoblade is made of, is that going to be explained later? Also, why would the dispatcher tell the cops that touching him would render him unconscious, when it’s actually the exact opposite? Was it just to try to defuse the situation? If so, towards the end of the fight you might want him to be thankful that they were told to touch him barehanded…

    Thanks for sharing your writing!

      • Carly

        Ok, that kinda makes sense… still wanting to know why it’s so special… is it made of light? (lol suddenly light sabers are glowing in my minds eye!) Obviously it’s super duper sharp, able to cut chunks of concrete and I see that he isn’t able to turn it off due to dexterity issues, maybe it is light…

        • John Galt

          !@ Carly – Mono(filament) blades are a science-fiction standard/trope. They’re usually described as having a cutting edge composed of carbon nanotube/monofilament. The idea being that because the filament is so small, much more force is generated in a given area. To give you an idea, if you affixed a monofilament between two phone poles and drove a car into the filament, it would be split in half

        • farmerbob1

          I have realized that the way I had the added part about the monoblade worded might be taken wrong, as some sort of breaking-the-fourth-wall comment. I can be grumpy at times, but not that grumpy. I have reworded it as well as apologizing here in case you read it and thought I was being annoying.

  3. Carly

    Actually I thought the original ending to the explanation paragraph was funny (the one abt why Strangest was wasting so much thought abt the knife, right?) since I was the one who basically made you explain it out. It was almost like an inside joke – and I took it as I was the annoying one, so you were entitled to be grumpy 🙂

    • farmerbob1

      You were not annoying, you asked a valid question, and I updated the post. I can be grumpy about life, I can be grumpy about writing, I can be just grumpy in general, but it’s definitely not in my playbook to even give the impression of being grumpy towards readers. If I gave that impression, again, I apologize.

  4. thomas

    Octagon and your Strange Sponge Bob are great superheroes. The final scene turned out very funny. A little description of tools and devices used by the various combatants would be nice but that obviously can wait until a later chapter.

    Thanks for the new story

    Errata
    1. taser
    I think you should capitalize it since this is a product name.
    2. most vulnerable to physical attacks, skin to skin,
    semicolon after attacks
    3. They came at me with intense concentration, slowing down, spreading out, working together.
    Mussing an and before working
    4. take him down, then we can kill him
    missing and before then and elsewhere
    5. speedo
    capitalize
    6. what the cook had done, he just caught
    semicolon after done
    7. things won’t hurt him much, his flesh
    semicolon instead of comma
    8. with some effort
    capitalize with
    9. I could, fortunately
    semicolon instead of comma
    10. I walked a few steps back to the store window I had been using as a mirror and did a visual check to make sure I didn’t have anything else stuck inside me, then stepped around the corner into an alley, dropped the monoblade, and shifted back into my human form, quickly pulling a loose canvas mask from my cargo pocket and putting it over my head.
    Run on sentence
    11. monoblade, it’s single
    its
    12. clutz
    klutz

    • farmerbob1

      Many fixes, and a few rewordings. I really don’t want to use name brand anything from the real world if I can help it. Had no idea Taser and Speedo were name brands.

  5. Wizzy

    Hmm not sure if I would continue reading. The main character just feels too passive. It makes reading this chapter a bit annoying. I mean all the other characters is attacking him while he’s just standing there and being what a practice target? At least try to dodge or something.

    • farmerbob1

      Zeke got the short straw when powers were picked, true. If you are into action-packed fight-scene heavy super-fiction, you probably won’t be happy with this book, I tend to write more non-combat conflict.

      • Drachomen

        Not really a short straw that I can see. Just from this first post I can see how his powers are quite strong and fit well together.
        1) Lasting damage can’t be done to him
        2) Anyone who touches him falls unconscious
        3) Everyone near him is compelled to touch him, albeit aggressively.
        I can see the downsides, but if you stuck him in the middle of a battle royale he would win hands down. That doesn’t even take into account him maybe learning to control different aspects of his power better. Overall, a good character with a lot of potential.

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