Introduction This middle sequence of posts contains some world building material on the Mutant Town district of Net.ropolis on T-Bone that I particularly like and may one day import back to the Net.ropolis of the Looniverse. This is fair turnaround, since the notion that mutant detectors need to be keep updated like anti-virus software is something I originally developed for the mainstream LNH setting. More pertinently, most of the changes in this trade etherback have been spelling corrections or minor word changes. However, one moderately large change comes in part 18 when Damian and his associates are discussing some of the events involved in TJ's Secret Origin. Ironically the change isn't particularly dramatic over all, even though the revision completely inverts the details of what's being talked about. Frankly, their conversation is phrased so cryptically, and the meat of the topic is more fully revealed in part 19 and then again in 33 and 36, that the discrepancy that causes the problem is rather easy to miss. Nevertheless, the conversation in part 18 implies that what happened to TJ was part of a limited event that was kept secret, which contradicts the later assumption that it was a nationwide circumstance that was public knowledge but downplayed by spin doctoring. 'A Devil Came Down to Georgia' parts 16-30 Originally posted in _The Daily Super Short-Short Story_ #34-48 An LNHY / Acraphobe series By Saxon Brenton ==================== The Daily Super Short-Short Story #34 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 16 Last Time: St. Christopher explained to Martin about the dichotomy between his Secret Origins as an Astrally Travelling Werewolf Crusader and one of the Teenage Giant Halfbreed Fallen Angels, and assured him that despite the lies of Damian the wondersock, that Jesus still loved him. And thus having gotten through the touchy-feely story elements for the time being, we can start heading back towards the deeply psychotic Acraphobe content. Damian lay, curled like a viper over the still unconscious form of the young seminary student. He wondered what he would do with his victim. The boy was powerful - very powerful - and there was so much damage that he could do with a meat puppet like that. The evil sock thought back on how he had stumbled across this prize: the travels with Murdock, his possession of TJ... Hmm, TJ - the mugger who had been sexually maimed and left to bleed to death during Damian's corruption of Martin. That gave him an idea... There was a magical tradition - sometimes known as the Knife of Klingsor in remembrance of the depraved black sorcerer of the same name - of magical castration. The energies of the libido, when blocked from carnal release, were redirected into magical might. Klingsor, of course, had lost his manhood as punishment after being caught with the wife of a king, and although he had later discovered that this had made him the most powerful sorcerer of his age, the ill-will that he had borne to the rest of humanity for being made 'smooth between the legs' had made him the terror of southern Europe. Damian wondered if Martin's Nephilim abilities could be boosted in the same way... As the sock was pondering this, a worrying thought occurred to him. Shouldn't the forces of Heaven or Hell be have come to investigate the Becoming of a Teenage Giant Halfbreed Fallen Angel by now? Especially one with as much potential as this one? Hurm. Surely the Bad Guys couldn't have become *that* tied up with interference from meddling superheroes? Martin stirred. Damian gave him an impassive glance and prepared his next set of lies. He was taken by surprise when Martin sat up and grabbed him in a crushing grip. Damian bit his hand. It didn't truly need to be a hard bite - the sock had no fangs, and in any case the hand was still a techno-organic scrapheap - but the sock reflexively enacted a magical curse that 'injected' a powerful neurotoxin into Martin's body. Martin screamed in pain as the neurotoxin began it's work, but did not let go. "Servant of Satan, I reject you and all your works!" he snarled as he tightened his grip. "And what are you going to do? Crush me?" said Damian sarcastically. "Better than that," said Martin as he prepared an idea that he'd had for use against the boneless woollen fiend. With his other hand he formed an infra-red laser pistol and began to burn him! "Aiieeargh!" went the sock. Once again he cursed the growth of human technology. There was a time when in order to match the power of the wondersocks the monkey boys would have had to have learnt sorcery of their own, and by the time they'd done that they were often ripe for corruption anyway. These days even atheist materialists could get ahold of a weapon capable of doing damage to a moderately powerful nightsider. Worse, the situation was such that a sorcerous prodigy like Martin could take even a basic knowledge of physics and combine it with his powers to get much the same effect! In desperation Damian tapped much of his occult strength, detonating an explosion that blew Martin's hand off and sent the boy impacting against the far wall. The sock made his escape in the smoke and confusion. Damian was cursing as he slithered out of the steam tunnels. Now he would need to find some new meat puppet to use while he replenished his strength and prepared another, more subtle approach to corrupting his target. "Hail wondersock, evilest of footwear," someone greeted him formally shortly after he emerged back above ground. "We have a proposition for you." Tomorrow: Evil allies gather. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #35 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 17 Last Time: Damian the wondersock was driven off. Damian gave the figure a suspicious glance. "And who might you be?" The young woman looked human, but Damian wasn't fooled for a minute. If nothing else, her psychic aura was quite distinct and she hadn't bothered to mask it. She smiled a crooked smile and said, "I'm known as Lisa." 'Known as' noted Damian. Out loud the sock said, "Another Nephilim, I see. Well met, dark sister. I'm Damian. To what do I owe the pleasure?" "My associates and myself couldn't help but take an interest in the Becoming of Mister Wryce. He's very powerful, you may have noticed." "Tell me about it," the sock muttered. "So powerful, in fact, that we were thinking that he really couldn't be allowed to develop untutored," added Lisa. "Champions of Light can be a real pain in the butt, but if he could convinced to join our merry little band, well, he'd be a real asset. If all else fails with corrupting him to Our Side, he'd make a useful bargaining chip." "This isn't an official representation by a demon prince, then?" "No," said Lisa. "It isn't even an *un*official representation. Of *any* dark lords," she added. .oO( Ah, ) thought Damian. This was, of course, the nub of the issue when you were an evil demonic being living in a superhero class universe: there were simply so many diabolic types lurking around and scheming. Humans, self-centred creatures that they were, were prone to simply theologise the gods of their enemies into universally being demons, and the monotheist religions relegated *everybody* else's deities in this way as a matter of course. (Which suggested a particularly deep-seated paranoia about their place in the universe.) The diabolicals themselves knew that this was utter bull, because the fratricidal infighting between the various groups of powerful, evil, and ego maniacal entities was sometimes the only things that allowed the various forces of good to preserve a status quo. And this led to a lot of factionalising. There were always small groups - gangs, really - setting themselves up in the metaphorical turf between the various demon princes and evil gods of sundry pantheons, and when the going got tough there were any number of ways to play off one side against another for some independence. It looked to Damian as though Lisa's group was one of those, and a powerful Nephilim would be to the advantage of such a group - either as a member, or as trade goods. Which brought back the niggling question of when one of the big boys would turn up, Damian noted. "I think I'd be very interested in meeting your group," said Damian. "At least for long enough to break our boy prodigy." Tomorrow: Damian's new allies. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #36 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 18 Last Time: Damian the evil sock found that he wasn't the only one taking an unwholesome interest in Martin's new powers. Lisa led Damian back to one of the university science labs. There were two other people there. "Everybody, this is Damian. He's agreed to help us with the Martin Wryce situation." One of the two was a robed figure whose nature the wondersock recognised by the psychic signature, but which was totally concealed from the audience. (For now. See contest details at end of story.) "This is Tsurlich," Lisa said. "Hello Damian," said Tsurlich, nodding. "And this is Kien," Lisa added, indicating a slim young Asian man. Damian's faux features moulded themselves into a frown of puzzlement. "You seem mostly human," the sock commented. "For the most part, I am," Kien said with a perfunctory bow. "I am a tulpa." "That's not a type of monster that I've heard of," admitted Damian. "Doesn't that mean...?" " 'Thought form' in Tibetan, yes. You're right of course, strictly speaking it's not a type of monster at all," Kien agreed with a satisfied smirk. "One of the spiritual practices of the Buddhist monks is to visualise their own failings and sins - externalise them so to speak - and then cast them out as a way of resisting temptations. Unfortunately one young priest turned out to be a mutant whose powers of psychoprojection made the visualisation of his own darker impulses just a little bit more concrete and self-aware than the simple abstract symbol he was expecting. Before he could get rid of me I ate his soul and took over his body for myself." "Now there's a story to warm the heart." "Thank you," smiled Kien. "We also have someone else for you to meet." "Oh?" said Damian as they moved into the next room. "We anticipated that you might be weakened from a confrontation with the boy," said Tsurlich. "We took the liberty of getting you a mount." And there, sitting naked in a cage that was too small for him to stand up in, was TJ. Alive, if not necessarily the better for wear, and watching the nightsiders carefully but still with some trepidation. "We repaired him, as you can see," said Kien. "But not completely," observed Damian, pointedly referring to his complete lack of genitals. Lisa shrugged. "Enough to keep him alive. There was no point in putting back unnecessary bits." She narrowed her eyes thoughtfully. "I find his attitude interesting. He's obviously scared, but he doesn't seem be as submissive as humans normally get." Damian knew what she was talking about. Properly broken humans tended to be very subdued, kept their heads down, and didn't take as much interest in their surroundings as TJ did. He also knew what the explanation was, having rummaged around in the young man's head. "He doesn't quite think like most humans," the sock said. "He was abused when he was younger, and part of him is broken." "What, *another* abused altar boy?" asked Tsurlich, deadpan. That garnered a not-quite metaphorical raised eyebrow from Damian. Lisa caught the expression, and explained with a hint of irritation: "The spread of sin from the abuse of trust may be very important, but after a while you begin to wonder if the reputation of humans for being really creatively nasty to one another is all that it's cracked up to be, when *all* you seem to find is priests molesting children." Damian smiled. "Well then, marvel at something new under the sun," he said, "because Timmy-Joe here *wasn't* anally raped until his bum bled." "He wasn't?" "No," said the sock, and explained. When he was done the others smiled with pleased incredulity. "Ah, of course. That," said Lisa with satisfaction. "So much evil done in the name of righteousness." "They did try to keep it hidden," disagreed Kien. "Not really. Only a bit. And more at the end, when everything was falling apart," said Damian. "I like to think that they'd have gotten more open about it over time. Humans have this wonderful habit of making things seem normal. Eventually they probably would have tried to mobilise opinion in their favour again." "We could hope so," agreed Lisa. "The amount of damage we could wreak with something on that scale would be wonderful." Tomorrow: Uhm. Maybe an issue focusing on TJ, or maybe we'll jump back and see what Martin's doing. Contest Time! What is Tsurlich? I've known for about a week in advance that Damian would meet up with a diverse group of other diabolicals, and have been skimming through various reference books looking for ideas (which is where the usurping tulpa idea came from). I was planning on a group of four (including Damian), probably with an even split of male/female. But despite a wealth of choices, I just couldn't make up my mind on what the fourth member would be. So I decided to ask the Readers. So crank up your idea generators and over the next few days I'll be taking suggestions. Responses to RACC will be preferred (and don't forget to keep the crosspost to alt.comics.lnh, which really needs some relief from the spham). I don't know whether I'm looking for a consensus from the rest of you, or just a spiffy idea that happens to take my fancy. Whatever. Should Tsurlich be a succubus? A lilim? A troll wife? A fox woman? A ninya? A spham elemental? A smurf? A deep one? A superintelligent shade of the colour blue? Something else? So. A short description please - especially for anything *really* exotic that I might need to look up - and perhaps even a funky Looniverse Y name that'll get you a citation just like the one that Andrew has to put up with for the Teenaged Giant Halfbreed Angels. Yay! And if nothing else, this might help me gauge how many people are reading this series. (Naughty Saxon! Naughty sneaky duplicitous self- serving Saxon!) I'll probably use the final answer sometime mid next week, around the 20th or 21st Oct 2004, so you have until then. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #37 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 19 Last Time: More nightsiders were introduced. TJ sat watching as the others as they laughed about his predicament. It gave him a slightly sick feeling to be in a cage - again - while people were laughing at him, but he knew at gut level that it was important to pay attention. Any hope of escape depending on him paying attention to what was going on around him. He knew that because he had learnt a very long time ago that he only had himself to rely on. So TJ sat watching. TJ sat watching impassively, because he knew that if he allowed himself to react to how he was feeling he might miss something important. It was important to remain calm. Overexcited people missed things and squandered opportunities. TJ sat watching impassively and most definitely not allowing himself to be provoked. After all, emotions were something that other people could use against you, and it was important to remain calm and keep aware of what was going on around him and be ready for any opportunity to escape. And if you didn't thrash about when they tried to hurt you then they'd get bored and stop trying to provoke an interesting reaction from you and maybe he wouldn't get more scars, especially not on the face because he'd been damn lucky last time not to lose an eye. TJ sat watching and listening to what the nightsiders said, carefully filing away everything for future reference. It didn't surprise him that there were demonic socks lurking about. Anybody who paid any attention to the stuff that the superheroes got involved in would realise that there were stranger things going on all the time. And for his part, TJ would be hard pressed to disbelieve anything bad after he had found out the hard way that his country was still maintaining concentration camps. Not that he would accept uncritically any sort of wild story, oh no no no. TJ paid attention to everything and then subjected these details to keen logical scrutiny. One could not, for example, take at face value both the allegation that the Apollo moon landings were faked and the assertion that the US government had a space program based on flying saucer technology confiscated from the Nazis. They were more or less mutually contradictory, yes? Only by applying the tools of common sense could you discern the truth. TJ had years ago settled on the logical tool of trying to determine which possibility gave the nastiest outcome. And so TJ sat watching and listening. He was briefly disturbed by Damian's recitation of what had happened in the camp, but TJ quickly realised that that was a trick to put a prisoner off balance. The sock overplayed its hand, however, when it made the obvious lie of saying that TJ was broken. Yeah, right. TJ had learnt to be strong and self reliant during that time. You had to be, to survive. He wasn't broken. Not broken, damn it! ... not broken ... Tomorrow: Back to Martin, I guess. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #38 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 20 Last Time: A quick look at TJ's psychosis Martin spent the much of the remainder of the night trying to get his body under control. The results were mixed. He still looked like a scrap heap, but at least he didn't seem to be unstable and responding to adolescent panic like Tetsuo from 'Akira' anymore. .oO( Eew. Violation of other people's bodies and souls. Ick. ) he had thought when that image had first occurred to him. He had also wondered whether he should try talking with any of the other shapeshifters who were about. The 'Mutant Town' district of Net.ropolis wasn't that far away. There was a dichotomy there, however. The people living in Mutant Town might be the most immediately accessible but they also tended to be ones with the least amount of control of their abilities, if they had 'powers' at all. He recalled one wag making the distinction that the superheroes had powers, but the folks in Mutant Town had a condition. Martin frowned in embarrassment at that. The reaction wasn't borne out of anything so simple as political correctness but more from a sense of personal hypocrisy. There were lots of people who had a non-human appearance, and here he was worrying whether he'd be able to regain his handsome features. He realised that he had been hoping that he could play 'superhero', using his powers for good but being able to slip back into a secret identity when it was convenient for him. He toyed with that notion, uncomfortable though it was. Deliberately he probed at the idea that perhaps he'd never get these shapeshifting powers under control to the extent that he could pass himself as a normal person again. He considered the prospect of being given a parish in somewhere like Mutant Town and administering to those with three heads. Father Bioborg. Could he cope with that? Well, if that was what God willed, he supposed he'd have to. What day was it? Friday? He tried to recall his timetable. He had classes later in the afternoon. He should go home and try to get some rest and maybe meditate and pray some more to try and get his mind focused. A bit more practise in control might be useful. If necessary he could bunk off classes by pretending to be sick, or something. He could also see if he could find any references on the internet to anybody in Mutant Town who might be able to help. Just before dawn he set out back to his dorm room. Tomorrow: Okay, I admit I'm stalling for time and at the moment don't know what will happen next. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #39 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 21 Last Time: Martin made plans to try to control his abilities. Delroy knocked on Martin's door. It was now early on Friday evening, and Delroy was wondering where Martin had gotten off to. Not turning up for classes was one thing - Martin mightn't quite be as bad as Shane, but there were still one or two occasions when he had asked to crib Delroy's notes - but not turning up for dinner was another. .oO( Probably has the flu or something, ) he thought as he recalled his tiredness while playing basketball the previous day. When no one answered Delroy knocked again. Then he called out, "Hey Martin, you in there?" "I'm kinda busy, Del," said Martin. "Can you come back later?" Delroy rolled his eyes. "Nope. Ain't gonna do that. It's all well and good to be busy studying, but if you're missing meals you're not going to be able to concentrate as well as normal. Now open up." After a delay the door opened. "You're a pain, you know that?" said Martin. He'd been turning away even as he opened the door for Delroy, and was now heading back to his computer terminal. Combine that with the way he had the hood up on his sweatshirt, and Delroy hadn't even had the chance to catch sight of his face. Delroy didn't bother to answer Martin's grumbling. Instead he asked, "So how you feeling? When you didn't turn up for dinner, I was wondering whether you might be laid up sick or something." "Oh, so-so," replied Martin, putting out one hand (which he'd been able to recreate) and rocking it back and forth in a gesture of changeableness. "I kinda had a rough night last night." Delroy missed the prevarication in that last sentence because he'd caught sight of the metallic glint on Martin's hand. "What are you wearing?" " 'Wearing'? " went Martin. Then he slapped his forehead with one hand. "Of course. 'Wearing'. Cosplay. Oh Lord, I'm a dunce, I didn't even think of that one!" "What are you talking about?" Martin paused. Then he slowly rolled up his sleeve, revealing an arm that was covered in smooth metal. "I had a bit of trouble last night, and I've been spending most of today trying to sort out the mess. I'm kind of proud of the fact that I've at least been able to get the skin smooth," he added with forced casualness, "although I'm still a bit ticked off about the way my pyjamas got shredded." "Hold up hold up hold up. What?" The student swivelled his seat around and pulled back the hood on the sweatshirt. Delroy gaped. Almost half of Martin's face was covered in metal. Most of it was smooth. "I starting growing metal bits and stuff last night. And changing shape, which was really painful, let me tell you. It seems to be some type of techno-organic superpower. See, this isn't something I'm wearing - although I feel stupid for not having thought of that as an excuse. This is me. All the way in to the bone." Delroy raised an eyebrow. "So, mutant superpowers, huh?" he said. It was a lame statement of the obvious, but it was the first thing that jumped into his head - and then out of his mouth before he could stop it. "That was my first thought, yeah," said Martin. "But I'm not really sure." "You're not sure? Well, if Shane was here, he'd probably ask you if you were bitten by a radioactive toaster, or something, but what else could it be?" Martin shrugged and tried to play ignorant. "I've got this strange feeling that it might be something else, but I don't think I can explain it properly." Which was true enough. It was more getting people to believe that was the problem, not articulating what he knew. "For all I know the shapeshifting might have been affecting my mind, and I might just be having strange ideas." And this also was a real possibility, although Martin didn't believe it for a second. "Okay," said Delroy as he tried to absorb this. "I shouldn't let myself get sidetracked. You said it was painful. Are you okay now?" "Hey, I'm fine now. Well, I'm not changing shape uncontrollably, my muscles aren't cramping in pain anymore, and I've been able to smooth out most of the metal so that I don't look like a cancerous metal growth with spiky bits all over the place. I've even been able to get some of the metal to retreat and get some of my skin back in place." Then he touched his face and added, "But I've still got a way to go with that, though." "Well, that's a good start, I suppose. Was it bad last night?" "Oh, man, last night was a nightmare. I was half out of my head, and I think I wrecked an ATM." "That was you? It was all over the campus this morning that some thieves had tried to make off with a teller machine. How the Hell did you manage that?" Martin snorted in exasperation. "You remember that scene in 'Akira' where Tetsuo's at the stadium, in the chair, and when he tries to stand up he finds that his arm has started to grow like tree roots and has him anchored down? It was like that. I leaned against a wall, and had to pull myself free. Took me ages to calm down and get things under control to keep that from happening again. I didn't feel safe to come back to my room until about dawn in case I wrecked it." "Whew. I can see why that would be freaky. You were lucky there was nobody around to get hurt." "The only person I met was some flasher or mugger or something hanging around. He dropped his pants and wiggled his dick at me, and I slashed him across the guts as a reflexive defence." Martin frowned in distaste at the memory. "If there's been no mention of that around campus even after the cops had been to check out the ATM, then I suppose he wasn't that badly hurt, and managed to get away and got help. I don't think I'll have to worry about him reporting anything; a pervert skulking around at night assaulting people isn't going to want to draw attention to himself with a complaint." Then Martin paused and wondered, .oO( Should I mention the attack by the sock and how my hand got blown apart? ) Tomorrow: Martin and Delroy make plans. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #40 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 22 Last time: Martin explained the purely mundane(!) part of the story-so- far as he gave a run down of how he developed superpowers to Delroy. "So what are you going to do now?" asked Delroy. Martin rubbed his hands over his face. "That's a good question," he said finally. "I was thinking of heading over to Mutant Town. There's supposed to some a doctor there who's got some concentration focusing techniques that are useful for people with out of control powers. Or not fully controlled powers. Whatever." Delroy frowned. "And why would you want to go to some place in a run down neighbourhood that might be shonky when you could go see a specialist?" "Telzan is supposed to be a specialist. And, not to brag or anything, but I seem to have gotten things under control pretty well and it hasn't even been a full day yet. It's not like I'm pressed for time or anything. So, you know, I thought I'd just wander down and see if they've got anything that might be useful." "Uh huh," said Delroy. He had a strong suspicion that embarrassment was playing a strong part this choice, but he decided not to press it. "And where is this place, exactly? Is it in the safe part, close to the city, or on the far side near the industrial estates and brickworks?" "It's just around the corner from the main drag, right near the train station. It should be safe enough. You want to come?" "Now?" Martin sighed. "First thing tomorrow morning. It's not a 24 hour crisis center or anything like that." The other student looked profoundly dubious. "Look, you don't have to come if you don't want to, I'm just asking. But I want to get some more information, and this'll be a first step." "Can't you get the type of stuff you want off the Net?" "Yes... But, remember Sturgeon's Law: Internet Recension? '90% of everything is crap, and that's being generous where the Net is concerned.' The worldwideweb is a fine starting point, but it's only a starting point. In the end you have to talk with somebody who you're pretty sure knows what they're talking about." Delroy threw up his arms in surrender. "Fine. If you're going, then I'd better go too. Somebody has to keep an eye on you." "You're not my mother, Del." "Good! That means I don't have to feed you chicken soup when you catch cold," Delroy snarked. The next morning saw the two of them walking through Mutant Town. Martin had considered asking Shane if he wanted to come, but Delroy had nixed the idea. "He's got a paper due on Monday, and he was lucky to wrangle an extension for it in the first place. He can't afford to be distracted." "He'll be pissed when he finds out that we've gone off without him," Martin had warned. "Yes, I know," had said Delroy. Now Martin was checking building numbers. "This should be the place," he said, and they went in. Inside they talked with the receptionist, and then sat down to read some pamphlets while the waited for Dr. Telzan. Since it was early in the day, and the place wasn't a trauma clinic, it was less than five minutes later that the doctor came to see them. She was a rather motherly, somewhat dumpy middle-aged woman with four arms. "Mr Wryce? Would you like to came in now?" Tomorrow: A doctor's consultation. I admit I'm spruiking for time until mid-week when I said I'd produce the results of the 'What Is Tsurlich?' contest, so the original version of the consultation - which was to have it happen off panel and have Martin reading some pamphlets on the way home - will be padded out to one or maybe two episodes of more dialogue before the inevitable fight scene. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #41 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 23 Last time: Martin and Delroy headed over to Mutant Town to see a doctor. Martin settled down into the chair somewhat nervously. Dr Telzan closed the door and sat down "So, what can I do for you? " she asked. He'd been going over various versions of what to say in his head for the past half hour, mainly to keep himself from sounding like a complete doofus. "A little while ago I started mutating and growing metal bits," he said, and showed his arm, which now that he had stripped down to a t-shirt was visibly a mixture of flesh and metal all the way up to the shoulder, "and that involved a bit of changing shape. I *think* I've got it under control now, but I was interested in material on controlling superhuman mutations, mainly in case it starts to get out of control again. The references to directed concentration techniques sounded useful." Dr Telzan nodded. "That sounds sensible. There are a number of possibilities, and most of them can be mixed and matched to some extent. We'll need to talk about what sort of changes you were going through, and how you managed to quieten your metamorphoses so far. A physical check up would probably be useful as well, so that we can determine what sort of changes your body's going through," and she smiled, "But don't worry too much about that. I'll get one of the male nurses to carry that out if it turns out to be necessary. But for now, tell me: when did you first begin to experience your mutation breakthrough?" Martin had been reviewing everything he could remember about that. He said, "I started feeling tired and kind of strange in the morning about two days ago. I went and took a nap in the early afternoon to clear my head, and found the first bit of metal sticking out of my face after I woke up. I didn't think much of it at the time. I thought it was just stuck there, rather than growing out of me or something. Then I went and did several hours study, went to bed late, and woke up sometime around midnight with all sorts of changes happening really quickly." Telzan raised an eyebrow in surprise. "This was happening only a little more than a day ago?" "Yeah." "That's a quick recovery time considering you seem to be stable now. Or were they only minor changes? Can you describe them?" "They were painful, and coming in waves," he said. He described leaving his dorm, how parts of him were ballooning up, how the techno- organic growths had been like a rough collection of wires and plates rather than the (relatively) smooth surface he'd been able to generate since then, and the damage done to a wall when his arm anchored itself to an ATM (without actually mentioning that an ATM was involved). Dr Telzan mentally underlined the bit about the property damage. It was plausible that a student living nearby might come to visit a doctor in Mutant Town, but a lot of normals also tended to view the area as a sort of black economy for the paranormal. And to an extent it was, especially in the area of exotic pharmaceuticals for non-standard metabolisms. But there was always seemed to be a bit of embarrassment involved and like gays who weren't out of the closet yet, new breakouts tended to come to Mutant Town for what they hoped (whether they realised it or not) would be some discreet help in an area where they didn't live or work. Damage caused by uncontrolled powers seemed to compound that reaction. The hooded sweatshirt that he'd brought with him suggested much the same. "How long did it take you to stabilise the shapeshifts?" she asked. "A few hours, I suppose. I was kind of freaked out, and hid in the steam tunnels until I felt comfortable with going back to my room, and I got back around dawn." He shifted in his seat as he weighed up adding something else, then said, "I think I've been pretty lucky, overall. I have no real idea how long it usually takes to get control of metahuman abilities, but I gather it's a lot longer than that." She nodded. "The typical *minimum* time is about a week. Average time overall is several months to a year or so. Of course, there's reasonable conjecture that people who gain control of their mutations really quickly keep their situation quiet, which would skew the statistics away from what we know about the documented cases." Martin looked rueful. He was honest enough with himself to realise that if he'd been able internalise all of this stuff - turn it on and off like Colossus from the X-Men 2 movie - then he probably wouldn't be admitting to it having happened at all. Tomorrow: Fight scene time, I guess. Unless it occurs to me to pad for a bit longer. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #42 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 24 Last time: A doctor's consultation. The two students were walking back through Net.ropolis after Martin had seen Dr Telzan in Mutant Town. Delroy was flicking through some information pamphlets that they had picked up. Martin said, "You know, when the nurse was doing the physical, he said that he couldn't detect anything on the mutant detector." Delroy nodded without looking up. "That wouldn't surprise me." Martin raised a quizzical eyebrow, which Delroy missed because he still had his head in the pamphlet. Then he added out loud, "Would you mind explaining that?" "Sure," said Delroy, finally looking up. "Most of the talk about mutant detectors being foolproof ways of uncovering metahumans is bull. There isn't one single 'hard' factor that a detector can search for. The general description of people having 'powers' or being 'different' is too nebulous and abstract for a machine to deal with." "Then how do they work at all?" "Like anti-virus computer software, actually. You get a scan of a particular condition and keep that on file, and then combine it with all the other scans of all the other particular conditions you're searching for, and keep your fingers crossed that that will be enough. But if something new that you don't have on file shows up, then you're not going to get a positive reading. Which means that just like an anti-virus software package, you have to keep your profiles of mutant genetic sequences and energy signatures up to date." He shrugged. "I wouldn't have put money on you developing something that was so new the scanners didn't recognise it, but it's always theoretically possible." Martin's face took on another rueful look. .oO( Which means that I may have given away an advantage by letting myself be scanned. Tsk. Wish I'd known that before I came over. ) A few moments of reflective silence passed as Martin mulled over this and a few related topics, and Delroy went back to the pamphlets. Eventually, Martin said, "What would you think if I said I don't think I'm a mutant, exactly." Now it was Delroy's turn to raise a quizzical eyebrow. "What do you mean?" "I've got a suspicion that my powers may be supernatural in nature," said Martin gravely. "Okay then. Just for the sake of argument, what makes you say that?" Martin hesitated, then said, "There have been two times recently, Thursday afternoon and night, when I've had what are either hallucinations or visions when I've fallen asleep. St. Christopher told me that I've actually inherited two sets of powers, both of them supernatural, one that comes from God and the other, ultimately, from the Devil." Delroy stared at him. Martin sighed uncomfortably. "If you want, you can put the whole thing down to stress." "I'll keep that in mind," said Delory, deadpan. "In the meantime, do you believe they're stress related hallucinations?" "No," he admitted. "The advice he gave me was spot on in dealing with that demonic sock." And even as he said this he wondered how Delroy would react. "You didn't say anything about a demonic sock," said Delroy accusingly. "Yeah, well, you know. There was a lot of weird stuff going on, and I kind gave you the edited version." "Uh-huh," said Delroy neutrally, making Martin feel even more guilty. Fortunately he was saved from further conversational grilling when there was an explosion nearby, sending debris flying about the street. A sinister sound of stringed music instruments could be heard. "Wha? Oh no!? went Delroy, as he recognised two competing music themes." "What?" demanded Martin. "We've got to get out of here! Look! It's the Banjo Duelling Kangaroos!" Tomorrow: Hah. Betcha weren't expecting them. A team-up. And the Diabolicals will probably be using the confusion to do stuff. Author's notes: The stuff about mutant detectors is something I made up for the mainstream LNH. It sounds much more plausible when it's being explained by a character who can break the fourth wall. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #43 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 25 Last time: The Banjo Duelling Kangaroos attacked. There were two kangaroos. And they were duelling with banjos. Most everyone else was trying to get out of their way. .oO( Well, everyone who has any sense, ) thought Martin as he tried to help bystanders to escape. The Kangaroos had that sort of effect. Most people fled. The Kangaroos were Just Too Darn Weird for most people to cope with - and apart from everything else their duels almost invariably had a video clip-like atmosphere that involved lots of pyrotechnics and explosions. But some people, some people just stopped and STARED. And an unlucky few were so overcome that they did the equivalent of dropping to their knees and drooling while their minds checked out to the Hotel California and never came back. Nobody knew where the Banjo Duelling Kangaroos came from, although rumours that they were escapees from the Grant Morrison run on the 'Doom Patrol' were still circulating. Martin found one lady who was backed up against a wall, whispering "...not kangaroos... no, not kangaroos..." to herself. "Ms? Are you okay?" Martin asked, but she didn't seem to respond. He picked her up and bounded away, his leaps eating up several meters at a time. Under other circumstances he would have been revelling in that sort of physical achievement, but now was neither the time nor place for enjoying himself. Certainly Delroy had been pretty adamant that they should get the heck out of there, and had been quite incredulous when Martin had made his decision to stay and help: "You're not going to try and play hero, are you?" Delroy had said. "You've only just *gotten* a metahuman ability, and you have no idea how to use it, let alone whether it's going to be any good against *them*!" "I don't plan to tackle the Kangaroos," Martin had said with a touch of sullen resignation. "I'll just try and help people get out of the way until the Deadly Serious Squad or somebody turns up and deals with them." Delroy had given him a sardonic look. "So much for keeping a low profile, huh?" Delory hadn't failed to notice that Martin had pulled the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head once the two of them had left Mutant Town. But the comment had produced a useful outcome, as it had caused Martin to pause for a few seconds and try to morph his metal-alloyed body into a simulation of an anime battlesuit, complete with half face covering visor. He just hoped that in the stress of the moment he didn't inadvertently shift from a clean-cut looking rocketranger wannabe into a hideously deformed mutant of superhuman size and strength with metallic cancer growths. About the time he came to his third group of refugees, another costumed hero appeared on the scene. "Quickly, fellow doer-of-Good!" the man exclaimed, "Where are those fiendish Kangaroos?!" "That way!" pointed Martin. "My thanks!" he proclaimed in a stentorian voice, and strode forth. "Halt, musically malevolent marsupials! I, Exclamation!Master!, command you to desist in destroying the city!" The Kangaroos flinched, much to Martin's amazement. How did he do that? Did have some type of voice-of-command power or something? Then to his horror they turned their banjo playing upon the newcomer. Exclamation!Master! staggered back two steps from the combined force of the banjo playing. Nearby, a newsstand - which had so far avoided being destroyed by flying debris - collapsed. "Nay, I... will... not be driven away... by the likes of you!" Martin watched this with growing apprehension. He had no idea whether he had the wherewithall to go up against the Kangaroos, but he had a growing sense that he had to do something. Then, in a moment of inspiration, he lit upon the idea of a distraction. He scuttled around the perimeter of the battle, grabbed a piece of debris, and hefted it towards the Banjo Duelling Kangaroos, hoping to distract them for long enough for Excalmation!Master! to regain his equilibrium. Then he found them turning their attention to him! Meanwhile, Delroy was several blocks away, waiting and worrying about what trouble Martin might be getting himself into. He didn't notice the cloaked and hooded form of Tsurlich approaching until she put a hand on his shoulder. He spun around, immediately on the defensive - this was the big city after all, and you could never be too careful. Tsurlich dropped the hood of her cloak, and Delroy's eyes bugged out as he got a look at her. Then he started to scream. The sound went totally unnoticed amongst the noise coming from the banjos. Tomorrow: Unless I can think of something clever that will pad out the fight scene, Martin and Exclamation!Master! will probably run off the Kangaroos. And I guess I'll have to think up what Tsurlich has done with Delroy after she finished terrorising him... Contest results: Well, there was no particular *single* suggestion that excited me into incoherent gibbering, but after the extra time to think things over, it occurred to me that I could get a really creepy result if I took Jesse Willey's suggestion of an evil being made out of body parts and combine it with Martin Phipps's recommendation of sticking to the succubus. So, imagine for instance the situation where you've got some poor schmuck who's seduced and used (perhaps carnally, perhaps not) by this apparently beautiful woman - and then when she's finished with him she lets him see that in truth she looks like a *very* grotesque patchwork corpse, and his mind shatters. Or perhaps is shattered by her, using some sort of magic that uses his horror and magnifies it to insanity-inducing levels. Anyway. Thanks for all the feedback from everybody. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #44 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 26 Last time: A team-up with Exclamation!Master! against the Banjo Duelling Kangaroos. The Kangaroos turned the full force of their banjos against him, and in a panicked moment Martin tuned and ran. The resulting series of leaps were enormous - well over five meters each - prompting the student to think to himself with a touch of embarrassment, .oO( Oh yeah, I forgot I could do that. ) As he circled around to see if he could make a second sniping attack at the Kangaroos from another quarter, he wondered how most superheroes, or villains for that matter, were able to keep calm enough to remember what options they had. Let alone figure out which was the best to use in a particular situation. .oO( I don't think I'm cut out for this. ) As he came full circle he could hear the stentorian voice of Exclamation!Master! admonishing the Banjo Duellers. E!M! seemed to be having some effect, since the Kanagaroo's response mostly consisted of counter-denouncements with musical backing rather than the full blown musical onslaught with pyrotechnics that they were known for: "Stand down and halt your senseless rampage!" "Well noahw, just whut makes you think we-all're interested in what you've what to say?" said Joe, his fingers idly plucking at the strings of his banjo. .oO( The Kangaroos can speak? ) marvelled Martin. ( I never knew that. What's with the really bad Southern accent though? ) "Because the forces of Good will inevitably triumph over your rampage!" proclaimed E!M! He was looking a bit peaked, as though the effort of getting the Kangaroos to stop and exchange verbal barbs rather than musical holocaust with him was beginning to take its toll. "Oh, noahw it'll be a cold dahy in Miami when that happens," smirked Bob, who similarly was strumming out a continuous undercurrent of chords. It was almost sinister: a quiet holding pattern of music with the practically implicit threat that when they got bored with talking, all Hell would break loose. Another impulse overtook Martin, and he bounded in and snatched one of the banjos away from its owner. The remaining armed Kangaroo snarled and let loose a barrage of sound, which tore up road beneath Martin's feet and sent him impacting against a wall away down the road. Before the Kangaroos could do anything more, however, Excalmation!Master! redoubled his efforts, bringing the marsupials to an effective halt again. "I warned you that you could not prevail here! Did you think the righteous defenders of this city would let your perfidy pass unchallenged!?" "And just who do you think you arhe to stop us?" snarked Joe. "I am... Exclamation!Master! Member in good standing of," and he quickly pulled out the small card that Kid Kicked-Out had given him earlier that same day, "the Legion of Net.Heroes (Looniverse Y chapter). Ably assisted by..." and here he raised his voice and looked in the direction of Martin, who was pulling himself up from the ground where he'd gone splat. "I haven't thought of a superhero name for myself yet," yelled back the somewhat disgruntled Martin. "Ably assisted by I-Haven't-Thought-Of-A-Superhero-Name-For-Myself- Yet Lad" concluded E!M! .oO( Oh God, ) thought Martin. The Banjo Duelling Kangaroos (now sans one banjo) gave the pair of humans a sour look. "Well geht you next tahm, Exclumashun!Master! And you too I-Havunt-Thought-Of-A-Superhero-Nahme-For-Myself-Yet Lad," one of them said, and then they vanished. Tomorrow: Martin discovers Delroy's gone missing. Author's notes: Oh. The Kangaroos can speak. I, uhm, hadn't been sure about that. It's strange what impressions you can get, sometimes. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #45 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 27 Last time: The Banjo Duelling Kangaroos were chased away. Exclamation!Master! crossed his arms and said in a more normal tone of voice, "Well, they were a tough pair of cookies." Then he glanced over at Martin. "You okay, son?" "I think so," he said, reflexively checking himself for cuts and bruises. Then, .oO( Why am I worrying about cuts and bruises? I grew back my hand after it was blown off! Lord, was that only yesterday morning? ) Oblivious to this internal monologue, E!Master! said, "Thanks for the help with that. They were much stronger than I would have dreamed. I'm going to be giving a statement to the authorities now. If you're going to do the same, I'd suggest you cook up a cover name." "What, I-Haven't-Thought-Of-A-Superhero-Name-For-Myself-Yet Lad won't cut it?" Martin said pointedly. Exclamation!Master! smiled sardonically. "The Kangaroos are super- villains. No matter how intelligent they are, supervillains tend to be stupid in rather specialised ways. People who create incredible inventions and then use them to rob banks rather than simply patent them are like that. They, at least, would take a name like I-Haven't-Thought-Of-A- Superhero-Name-For-Myself-Yet Lad at face value." .oO( Unlike people who dress up in their underwear to fight crime? ) Martin thought to himself. There was, he felt, a rather obvious need to do something worthwhile with his abilities, but was feeling dubious about being a superhero. In the end Martin decided to stay and give a statement as well, using the codename MegaMetal BlastLord (which simply highlighted the influences of the handles used by other online RPG players). Then he morphed himself back into as much of his normal shape as he could and went looking for where Delroy had gotten off to. He spent the next hour or so searching the crowd. It took him so long because he was somewhat distracted by his disgruntlement at not being able to fully remove the metal growths from his face and arms. It was absurd. He could grow a working IR laser to burn a demonic sock, but he couldn't remove - or at least shift around - some metal plating on his skin? He supposed he could take what he was stuck with and try to arrange it so that he looked like he was cosplaying to imitate Seven of Nine from the Star Trek: Voyager TV series, but that would only pass muster in casual circumstances. There was no way he'd be able to pull off an excuse like that at a formal occasion, like graduation. After a while it began to occur to him that Delroy wasn't around. With mounting concern he checked with the casualty lists of people who'd been physically hurt or put into shock by the antics of the Kangaroos - and was briefly relieved to find that his companion wasn't listed there. Then he went back to the university, hoping to see if he had gone home. Martin recalled that Delroy had seemed a little bit miffed when he had told him that he'd been holding back information about the evil socks and stuff. But he wasn't there either. By now it was mid-afternoon and Martin was starting to get worried. He decided to go back to where he'd last seen him, and if, after a bit more checking, he couldn't find him Martin'd put in a missing person report. He walked back to the city, keeping a lookout for Delroy, but failing to be on the watch for traps by evil socks. Tomorrow: The trap. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #46 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 28 Last time: Martin couldn't find Delroy. Lisa ran into Martin and pretended to be in shock. "Oh! Oh don't go back there! It's horrible!" "What?" said Martin. He glanced down the alley where she had come from, even as he unthinkingly began to disengage her from clinging to him. There was a shape lying under some rubble. He felt the particularly unpleasant clenching of the stomach as dread took hold. "Uhm, look, just wait here, okay?" he said absently and moved closer for a look. In response Lisa put forth a chocked-back half sob. The body was lying under some rubble, and seemed to be mangled. The head was still intact though, and Martin recognised Delroy's features. He gagged and turned away. "Are you all right?" she asked, pale and trembling herself. "Oh, you're not, are you?" "I... He was a friend of mine..." he managed. He felt numb. Of all the stupid things to happen. She hugged him. "I'm sorry. It's a dreadful way to be killed." "Yeah," he said, accepting the support she offered but not really taking comfort from it. He felt horrible. If he hadn't dragged Del off to Mutant Town this morning they wouldn't have been anywhere near here... And then Exclamation!Master! wouldn't have had any helping in stopping the Banjo Duelling Kangaroos. No, that was silly. Some other superhero would have turned up to help. That was the way these things worked, wasn't it? Eventually he realised that he had a beautiful woman snuggled against him, resting her head against his shoulder. He felt vaguely that he should prise her away again; accepting a hug from a stranger in times of stress might be acceptable, but it could go on for too long. There were matters of decorum to consider. Worse, these days people were so paranoid about shows of affection, mistaking (or just taking) love for lust. He continued to hold her; it felt right somehow. In that golden moment he managed to forget Delroy. Managed to forget everything except how happy he was to be in her arms. But even as he sank deeper into a pink fuzziness, his attention was caught by a feeling of wrongness. A growing feeling of wrongness. A sudden surge of panic and alarm jolted him away from her. "Are you all right?" she asked guilelessly. He stared at her, feeling a fool. Obviously his paranoia about being accused for sexual harassment was getting to him. He felt like you do when you wake from a nightmare, and the harder you try to make sense of what was so frightening, the less coherent those fears became. He began to stammer out an apology, then stopped. The sense of certainty was becoming clearer as he tried to make sense of his feelings, not less. Martin stared at her, then demanded, "What are you?" She grabbed him by the throat and hefted him up in (another) Byrne Grip, then planted a tongue kiss in his mouth. Despite his sense of danger and revulsion, he felt a surge of desire for her. "I am the one who's going to bear your children." Tomorrow: Another fight scene. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #47 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 29 Last time: Martin was lured into a trap by Lisa He knew it was counter-intuitive, but Martin found that being held up by the throat focused his mind amazingly. Delroy was dead, crushed to death from the looks of it - although that was now suspect - and he had forgotten it in a moment of lust. Lust!? He was supposed to be preparing to take vows, damn it! *How* could he have possibly been in such leave of his senses as to be overtaken with lust, of all things? Fortunately, supernatural intervention was a plausible explanation. It wasn't the first time that he'd had his mind mucked with, after all. He grabbed her own hand and began to crush it, hoping to loosen her grip about his windpipe before he lost consciousness. This did no good. Then a moment of inspiration hit him, and he realised that if he had control over his body shape, then he could create intake vents lower down on the back of his neck and pretend to be at her mercy. Slowly tuning blue might have been a nice touch as well, he thought as he began to feel revitalising air passing into his lungs again, but he had no idea how to carry that off subtly enough to make it credible. With an apparently weakening grip he gasped, "What did... you do... with Del?" As he did so, he allowed his attention to fuzz slightly, trying to recapture the impressions he was getting of the evil within her. "Killed him, of course," Lisa lied. "Broke him and then dumped some bricks on him to make it look like a wall collapsed." She shrugged. "Though why you're concerned about a human is beyond me." "Mutants and humans..." he began to protest. Hmmm, there seemed to be a... well, Martin was black and didn't really like terms like 'dark aura', but there was a definite pall of evil about her. "You're not a mutant, idiot," she said. "You're one of the Nightkind. Specifically, you're one of the Teenaged Giant Half-Breed Fallen Angels. Remember?" "Neph... lim?" "Ah, you remember," she said. "Yes, the Nephilim. Still in denial, are you? Look, you don't belong with the humans. The silly panics that they have about mutants is nothing compared to what they'd feel about entire races who are blood of their blood but are possessed of an alien soul. You especially wouldn't fit in one of their human religious groups. You wouldn't be happy, and when they discovered what you were, you wouldn't live for long. You belong with your own people; with us." He decided to fish for more information. "I'm not a..." "Tsk. You are in denial. Don't listen to the words then. Listen to your own dark soul." And then she reached out to him. Spiritually, that is. Martin whimpered as he felt it. It was an attraction to her. It was not, strictly speaking, sexual - although a young man in early post- adolescence probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference and could be forgiven for interpreting it in those terms. It was more like the blind drive of migratory birds to fly halfway around the world, he thought, or of salmon to travel thousands of kilometres to spawn (and then die), or of millions of lemmings to rush over a cliff. But even those comparisons were too tied up in physical biology to be anything more than generalisations for the spiritual certainty that she sparked within him. This is what her pall of evil actually meant, in explicit terms - and it was a part of him as well. He wasn't human. He was a creature of the night. He felt a horrible, wonderful urge to simply embrace this darkness within him. A dreadful certainty gripped him: that if he hadn't already been told of his dual nature by St. Christopher (and had been occasionally worrying about the consequences ever since) he might have forsworn his humanity there and then. Instead he lashed out at her, knocking her away. She seemed to recover remarkably quickly. "Did you really think that another Nephalim wouldn't know about the trick of adjusting your body to bypass the pain from a point of attack?" she asked as she struck at him with a punch that would have severely dented a concrete wall. Martin dodged. "You're a fast learner, but I've been at this for a long time." Suddenly there was asian man standing there, looking casual. "Damian did warn you that he had a strong will, Lisa," said Kien, hands in pockets. "That he did," admitted Lisa, continuing to circle, looking for an opening to attack Martin with. Kien smiled, then lunged at Martin. Martin blocked and tried to counterattack, but his strike passed straight through the man. Lisa struck again, and again Martin blocked. This time his hand passed through her as well. Then he was struck from behind by something he couldn't see, and sent sprawling to the ground. He tried to think; what could he be up against? Invisibility? Intangibility? Telekinesis? Holograms? Desperate for something to offset their advantage, he tried using that 'spirit sight' that he had been using to examine Lisa earlier. Ah! There she was! The young man looked insubstantial - and somehow Martin knew that he wasn't there. The woman was simply somewhere other than she seemed. Martin jumped up and formed a massive club with his arm, then took a wild swing that contrived to attack the illusion/hologram/thingy of her while at the same hitting the real Lisa as part of the carry through arc of the swing. She went flying. The asian man looked rueful but not particularly concerned. Martin was wondering how to deal with him when a generic ravening blast of coruscating energy hit him and sent him sprawling to the ground again. When he looked up, there was another of them. "Martin Martin Martin," said the newcomer, a caucasian man who Martin, with his attention still slightly fuzzed into spirit sight, had a vague sense of recognition about. "You really are a stubborn young man, aren't you?" Tomorrow: More fight scene. The Daily Super Short-Short Story #48 A Devil Came Down to Georgia 30 Last time: Martin fought with the Diabolicals. "You're the sock..." Martin managed to say despite the pain he was in. Whatever Damian had hit him with had packed quite a punch. Yet now that he knew what to look for it was pretty obvious that the man standing before him with a hand surrounded in menacing kirbykrackle was being directed by a malign force on his left foot. Indeed, he was so busy pinpointing the wondersock with his spirit sight, while also trying to keep peripheral tabs on his other two assailants, that he didn't even recognise the body the sock was wearing. "I am indeed," said Damian through TJ's mouth. Off to one side Lisa began to pull herself out of the wall that Martin had thrown her through. Suddenly Martin felt a fit of anger. To be honest, it was more-or- less what the diabolicals had been hoping for - if they couldn't seduce him to the Dork Side of the Farce, then provoking him to give in to wrath would be a slower but just as acceptable alternative. Too bad for them that they had no idea that Martin wasn't *just* one of the Teenaged Giant Halfbreed Fallen Angels, or that his powers were far greater than anything they were anticipating being able to control and manage, even as a group. The student's sudden rage swelled up within him like a red tide, and with untelegraphed speed he leapt forward and grabbed the sock's meat-puppet and was away. Damian tried to prepare something, but Martin savagely generated a large but measured jolt of electricity and pumped it into TJ. For a few seconds Damian was befuddled as he found himself unable to work through the spasming form of the monkey boy that he had possessed. By the time the sock had realised why he no longer had voluntary control of TJ's muscles and was preparing an occult attack that didn't require his host, Martin had grown two extra limbs, had torn the sock from TJ's leg, and was generally ripping the evil woollen parasite to pieces. Damian squealed as the hate-engorged Martin methodically tore apart the fabric of the wondersock, and continued to squeal even after Martin had spend several minutes unravelling him. Martin only really came to his senses when TJ suddenly pushed him aside, poured a quart of gasoline over the evil sock, then stepped back and threw a lit match on the sodden mass. TJ watched Damian burn. Then he turned his clear unblinking stare on Martin, and Martin was struck by the sight he must be making. He'd completely lost control of the aesthetics of his shape again; the carefully formed smooth metal surfaces that Martin had shaped to look like sculpted human musculature were gone, once again replaced by jagged collections of metallic bits. He still had those two extra arms, making him look like some pagan Hindu deity. And he had the wings and those two jet engines. (It was only in that moment that Martin realised that his abduction of Damian and flight away from the sock's allies had been a literal flight - he hadn't run away from them at speed, he'd taken to the air and was now somewhere on the far side of the central business district of Net.ropolis.) In other words, his form had followed his function - and in those minutes his function had been to kill and destroy. Suddenly overcome with fatigue, Martin put his face in his hands. He must look like a monster. Well, he *was* a monster, and his only saving grace was that he had the choice to be otherwise. Control. He had to get control of himself. He took a deep breath and looked up. TJ hadn't moved, and was still staring at him in that utterly disconcerting way. Martin didn't know what was worse: the prospect of people seeing him like this and fleeing in horror, or TJ's completely freaky stare. Well, considering what the man had been through, Martin realised it would be only natural for him to be in shock. He was probably in an even worse way that Martin was. The student asked, "Are you okay?" "I'm really pissed off," said TJ. "But that's not important at the moment. How strong are you? Are you up to destroying the other three of them, because if you aren't then we should start running." Tomorrow: Martin and TJ make start making plans. _The Daily Super Short-Short Story_ series and the wondersocks created by Arthur Spitzer, and used with belated permission. The Banjo Duelling Kangaroos are Usable Without permission creations of Arthur Spitzer. The Teenage Giant Halfbreed Angels epithet for the Nephilim/Nephalim cooked up by Andrew Perron, then slightly modified by the Writer. All other characters created by Saxon Brenton.Back to the Index.