Thursday, 29 May 2014

Heroes and Villains XV - Endgame

Heroes and Villains XV - Endgame

"Hey, you can't go alone!"

It was Cypher.

CYPHER: You have any idea how much danger you're in already?

MINDSWEEPER: I don't understand

C: You narrowly escaped Hollowheart. That was an assassination attempt. The Golden Child saved you. You can't wander the land any more. You're coming with me.

M: Where are we going?

C: To meet some old friends.

The purpose of our journey became clear as we began to approach a large isolated tower. The stronghold of the Council of Superheroes.

M: How do we know we won't be attacked as we approach?

C: They can't risk it. Any attack coming from that building would be seen as an act of war. Just as my friend here will tell you…

It was Anchor.

ANCHOR: Military use of superheroes would lead to a civil war. Well, less a war, more… outright genocide.

M: Is that what he wants?

C: I can't be certain, but my only hope, our only hope, is that part of his mind is missing. The mistake he made with Hollowheart is a good sign.

Two clicks came from somewhere behind me. I saw Anchor limber up a little, then rock back and forth slightly. Cypher was mumbling into a mouthpiece I hadn't initially spotted.

Anchor was a lot faster than I anticipated. I barely saw the punch, but I did see the wall crack, then crumble. A bright white exterior gave way to shattered black bricks.

M: Won't that raise the alarm?

C: We've got a contingency plan.

I'd never seen her before, but she was beautiful.

UNBEARABLE CUTENESS GIRL: I am NOT doing that EVER again!

angstboy wasn't far behind her. He held a barely visible baseball bat which flashed red and was dripping with blood. He was also wearing a tutu.

a: Being used as a decoy is too degrading?

UCG: No. You almost got blood on my dress you… you… aghhhhh…

C: Calm down. Are the security forces neutralised?

a: As many as we could get to. There may be a couple more heavyweights inside.

C: Thank you. Stay close, make sure the human stays alive.

M: You're taking me hostage?

C: No, shit-for-brains, just shut up and write all this stuff down.

I saw angstboy smile for the first time.

C: Enough, Darren, I need you to stay angry.

He nodded, and the smile disappeared.

C: We go left.

M: How do you know which way to go?

C: Measure Man told me. I preferred him as Accurist.

a: Yeah, the new name sucks.

C: As does his new attitude.

M: Uncooperative?

C: I didn't give him the choice. Gave him some spiel about how he was letting down the cause while I read his mind. I now have the blueprints for every inch of this building. There was one problem though…

"FLOOR PLANS DON'T INCLUDE STAFF MEMBERS!"

I saw the wings just after I heard the booming voice.

M: Gabriel…

C: It's Michael, you idiot. The Sword of Christ. Where's Daddy?

ARCHANGEL MICHAEL: GIVE ME CYPHER AND THE REST OF YOU MAY LIVE!

C: Stand back...

The rest of the group moved back as Michael advanced, flaming sword in hand. Cypher spoke, her words barely audible at first, then rising in volume and number until she seemed to be an entire choir of voices. Speaking in tongues neither impressed nor intimidated the angel, and he rose his sword high, flames dancing around him, as he seemed to enter an execution stance.

His eyes slipped from his target. Unbearable Cuteness Girl was crying.

UCG: It's over. It's over. It's over.

A laugh from Michael. A laugh that could not have come from an angel, but something altogether more… demonic. No. It hadn't been his laugh. It was Cypher. It echoed around the room until it was joined by a growl, also demonic. Not Cypher, and certainly not Michael. I heard the sword drop and hit the floor. As I opened my eyes again I saw the flames extinguished, along with Michael's smile.

AM: No… you can't… it's against the rules…

C: God has gone. He won't save you now. CERBERUS! DRAG THE BASTARD TO HELL!

So much blood. Another one down.

The tower was quiet all the way to the top.

C: So… this is what remains of the Council. Bullhead and the Unfinished Man, right at the top of the tower.

UNFINISHED MAN: Quite the little convoy you have here…

C: The mighty Bullhead. Chief among superheroes. The ultimate. Impossible to corrupt, they said. Bullshit.

BULLHEAD: Shut your mouth. Now.

C: We're not under Council jurisdiction. Not now. Not any more.

I did not expect speed at the top of a tower. As Anchor charged, a knife flew from Bullhead's hand and sliced Cypher's throat open.

As Bullhead raised Anchor above his horns, time shifted again, and Cypher seemed to fall in slow-motion.

B: No power now asshole. Evens the score a little, doesn't it?

I noticed Unbearable Cuteness Girl whisper to angstboy, and he put his bat down carefully.

As I began to close my eyes to pray for a quick death, I noticed Bullhead's arms were beginning to buckle.

A: Not as such. I'm stronger than when you last saw me. I can channel my power through you. You can lift a man, but not a planet…

Fear swallowed Bullhead as he realised he was going to die. Cypher rose, picked up Bullhead's crushed remains and threw them at the Unfinished Man.

C: You stupid, arrogant prick. You know I can't die. What did you expect would happen?

Before he had a chance to respond, Anchor had lifted him.

A: No speech for you. Shame, really. Tends to add a bit of drama. Well, never mind, fuckface. Time to die!

Raised high, he was brought down fast onto Anchor's knee. It snapped him into two pieces. Anchor began to continue snapping the pieces into smaller segments.

A: Now he's finished. So am I. There's nothing left for me here. I'm just going to be used by them again and again. I'm never going to get to have a real life. Goodbye.

He stepped to the edge, and slipped backwards from the tower. It was so fast, none of us were able to react quick enough.

Cypher waled to the edge and peered over.

C: He's gone. He's gone.        

Monday, 26 May 2014

Heroes and Villains XIV - Cypher

Heroes and Villains XIV - Cypher

Cypher was another hero proving difficult to find. It seemed as though a few wished to deny her existence completely. I was shocked, as she was definitely on the heroes list I had. Nobody seemed willing to explain, and I didn't have permission to speak with the Council of Superheroes.

Eventually I tracked her down to an abandoned asylum. Her costume made her appear far more androgynous than the average depictions of female heroes I was used to.

CYPHER: Yeah, the comic book guys didn't try to pretend I'm a prostitute either.

MINDSWEEPER: Sorry?

C: You were wondering where my tits are. Under my clothes. Yes, I am a real psychic and this isn't just feminist rhetoric. What do you want?

M: You don't know already?

C: Reading minds is difficult, you have to wade through a lot of shit to get to what you want, but I do know you're not trying to get in my pants, which I guess is a nice change.

M: I interview superheroes. I was wondering why you've been crossed off the list.

C: I've been abandoned.

M: I don't understand.

C: OK. Beginnings, right. The name's Lou. Short for Louise, but nobody calls me that. Not for a long time. It was supposed to be funny. Lou Cypher. Idiots. The Council decided they were going to try to trick God. So they made me immortal, 'killed' me, and I got sent up to Heaven, only it went wrong.

M: Because, technically, you weren't dead?

C: Not exactly. When I got up there, I found out that God was gone.

M: What do you mean?

C: God just wasn't there. Turns out He'd just called in one day and said He wasn't coming in. Holiday, off sick, nobody knew. Of course, they couldn't let anyone else know that, could they?

M: They hypnotised you?

C: Drove me insane. Ruined my life. Destroyed my contract. COmics will sell if you're an immortal psychic. Demented atheist, not so much.

Until I spoke to her, she'd attempted suicide more times than she cared to count. Being immortal had its drawbacks, she told me.

C: It's nice to meet someone who cares, or at least pretends to. Make sure you tell them I'm getting better.

It was good to see she'd seemed to have rediscovered a purpose. Turns out some people just don't need gods.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Heroes and Villains XIII - Accurist

Heroes and Villains XIII - Accurist

I left Anchor feeling disappointed in humanity. Superheroes clearly not as uplifting as I'd bargained for. Hoping that there would be more positive examples, I traced my finger along the entries in the directory. Eureka! Accurist.

Seeking him out, I found a lot of people who barely remembered him. Not a good sign. Eventually one of them took pity on me and delivered me to his laboratory.

"OLD MAN! YOU'VE GOT A VISITOR! HE'S OUT FRONT!"

MINDSWEEPER: Are you the superhero Accurist?

A snort. Derisory laughter. Refusal to meet my gaze.

M: I've been authorised to speak to you.

ACCURIST: You got a time machine boy? That's the only way you can speak to him.

M: Your assistant told me…

A: There's a reason he's only an assistant, kid.

M: At least explain your superpower…

A: I got rebranded, kid. Measure Man. Awful name, but it describes waht I do. I can dose anything with absolute accuracy first time.

M: That's pretty specific.

MEASURE MAN: It was born out of a drive for functional superheroes in the mid-Seventies. It was deemed that the permissive Sixties had influenced the Council a little too much. I worked with local hospitals for a while, helping sick kids, working with addicts, until we got sued and my funding was cut.

M: Who would sue you for that?

MM: Copyright case from a tech company. Multiple cease and desist orders. I toyed with the idea of poison, but the Council vetoed it. Shame really, as I'd have got the dose perfect.

Heroes and Villains XII - Anchor

Heroes and Villains XII - Anchor

Following Inadequatron's less than spectacular system error, I decided it was time to speak to a human again. The humans have the most superheroes, and barely knowing where to start, I settled on Anchor.

Anchor is huge, at least by human standards. A mountain of a man, if you'll pardon such a clich├ęd expression, thought it is fairly accurate.

MINDSWEEPER: Hello, Mr. Anchor, sir.

ANCHOR: Hey dude, the Council of Superheroes told me you were coming. Why so formal?

M: Uh...

A: Relax… I'm not going to hurt you.

M: How did you discover your power?

A: It was weird, I joined a baseball team in my early teens. Figured it'd give me something to do. Only I was too good. Every ball knocked right out of the park. I wasn't big back then, so nobody had any idea where the extreme strength was coming from. Turns out I was hitting with a force roughly equivalent to the weight of the whole planet.

M: Wow, that's amazing! So what happened to all the trophies you won?

A: The government had me taken off the team as soon as they figured out what was going on. I was transported to a secure unit for testing. I've been here for four years now. They said it's not safe for me to be near people. They let me out when dangerous people get close. The one phrase I remember was "Jesus Christ, what if he gets into a bar fight?"

M: Well, you are incredibly powerful… 

A: Remember, I have to be touching the ground for my power to work…

M: So if you get lifted…

A: Or tripped…

M: No power?

A: Exactly. The other problem is acceleration.

M: What do you mean?

A: If I can't hit someone fast enough, it's not going to hurt.

M: And that's harder with the additional weight?

A: You'd think so, but the weight gives me greater control over gravity. I'm rooted more to the ground and can effectively reverse the flow to get better acceleration when punching.

M: That's pretty cool.

A: I thought so, until they controlled my diet. Essentially I'm the world's most powerful melee weapon.

M: Only effective at short range?

A: Got it in one.

M: So you have no real life?

A: The government won't admit any military use for me, but why else won't they let me have a normal life? That's all I want.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Heroes and Villains XI - Inadequatron

Heroes and Villains XI - Inadequatron

The robot mills reminded me of the Kingdom of Hammers. Very noisy, but more regular. There was definitely a distinct pattern to it. It wasn't long before a greeter bot appeared.

GREETERBOT: HELLO VISITOR! HOW MAY I BE OF SERVICE?

MINDSWEEPER: I am here to meet Inadequatron.

G: COMMAND NOT RECOGNISED.

M: Go meet Inadequatron.

G: COMMAND NOT RECOGNISED.

M: OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE!

G: COMMAND NOT RECOGNISED.

M: Never mind, I'll find him myself.

G ROGUE VISITOR! SECURITY ACTIVATION IN THREE...

M: Calm down.

G: SORRY SIR. HOW MAY I HELP YOU?

M: Inadequatron?

G: SECURITY ERROR! DISGUISE FAILURE! ACTIVATE SELF DESTRUCT SEQUENCE!

M: That's not really necessary.

INADEQUATRON: HUMAN DISCOVERED! SECURITY PERIMETER BREACH!

M: Your guards let me in.

I: MUTINY - DETECTED! ACTIVATE SELF DESTRUCT SEQUENCE!

M: I have a pass. I am an ambassador from...

I: HELLO VISITOR! HOW MAY I BE OF SERVICE?

M: I'm here to discuss your rivalries with superheroes.

I: INFODENTIAL CONFIRMATION

M: Confidential information?

I: ERROR! ERROR! GATEWAY FAILURE! ACTIVATING SELF DESTRUCT SEQUENCE!

M: Good grief, not this again…

I: SELF DESTRUCT MODULE NOT FOUND. SHUTTING DOWN…

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Heroes and Villains - X - Gotharella

Heroes and Villains - X - Gotharella

Across the street I found the next superhero. Gotharella wore a veil, though it merely obscured her beauty rather than hiding it completely.

MINDSWEEPER: I hear you were in love with a superhero. What happened?

GOTHARELLA: I've… it… didn't… I… part of the power I have…

M: I don't understand.

G: I consume sadness. It's a difficult process, and sometimes it has brought me close to death.

M: How?

G: You understand how awful you feel when you're sad. Imagine for a second, that you have in your head the sadness of an entire city. A country. A continent.

M: I have no idea how much that would hurt.

G: Projecting it can kill.

M: And you were worried you'd turn into a killer?

G: No, it's not that, I was making him happy, and that was sapping both of our powers. It was better for us to be alone.

M: That's really sad.

G: That's my point.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Heroes and Villains - IX - angstboy

Heroes and Villains - IX - angstboy

Coffee. Black. No sugar. Strong. Through squinting eyes I could see rising steam. Steam or smoke. Definitely steam, the ban ruled out smoke. It was far too early to be awake. I had no idea why he chose this place, but I was lucky to get an interview at all.

MINDSWEEPER: So… Angstboy, what brings you here?

angstboy: You. Idiot. And it is angstboy. Lowercase a.

M: You can tell that by my tone of voice?

a: Don't be stupid. I just want you to get it right for your little magazine, seeing as it's so damn important to you.

M: Who are your sidekicks?

a: I'm not a superhero. I'm a sidekick. Unclaimed. I hang around with Gotharella and Unbearable Cuteness Girl though.

M: Don't you have any male friends?

a: What, like the ones who keep trying to kill me? I don't know, there's some weird kid who keeps coming over.

M: You look after a child? That's a heavy responsibility.

a: Do you even listen? I'm not responsible for him, he just keeps coming to my house. The neighbour's cat keeps wandering in, and he comes over to play with it.

M: Is he well behaved?

a: He has some kind of hypnotism vision thing, tried to use it on me once. Saved my life another time though, so I guess he's ok.

M: What about Gotharella?

a: Some crazy witch woman. She's pretty but she has no reflection, it's weird. Got cursed or something. Fell in love with me for some reason. Then she saved my life too. So I guess that worked out ok.

M: And the other girl?

a: I had a crush on her. It didn't work out. That was a long time ago anyway. Christ, you ask a lot of questions. We're just friends now. No idea how she still puts up we me. I can't be worth her time.

M: What do you mean?

a: She killed an Iron Lord of Death. Made his heart explode just by smiling at him. That's incredible power. Like I said, I'm just a sidekick.

M: You do have powers though right?

a: I once almost beat a villain to death with a baseball bat.

M: Interesting.

a: Don't be a patronising asshole. The bat was formed entirely of my own angst. Beating people senseless with the metaphysical is really difficult.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Performance

Performance

Caffeine is banned for athletes, even though it is otherwise a legal substance. Perhaps we ought to contextualise the use of other drugs in order to better helpt those with addictions.

That said, I'm not sure how useful regular heroin use would be in an office situation. The filing would degenerate into chaos. I think, in all honesty, I'm just a bit confused because it is a hundred metres between my desk and the boss's office.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

The following recipe is from a recipe book given to me as a Christmas present. It is an excellent cake to make for your family at Christmas, or any time really, but be warned, it may destroy any diet plans you had for the New Year.

Brooklyn Blackout Cake
- From Annie Bell's Baking Bible

KIT
Clingfilm
2 x 20cm non-stick cake tins with removable bases, 5cm deep
Food processor/hand whisk
Bread knife
Unsalted butter for greasing tins

FILLING
75g cornflour
600mL whole milk
300g golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
100g cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g unsalted butter, diced

Blend the cornflour with ~200mL milk until smooth. Bring remaining milk to the boil in a small non-stick saucepan with the sugar, syrup and cocoa, whisking until smooth. Add the cornflour solution and bring to the boil, stirring constantly until you have a rich, thick custard.

Remove from the heat, and add the vanilla and butter, stirring until it melts. If it seems lumpy, use a food processor or hand blender to fix it. Pour into a large bowl, cover the surface with clingfilm and set aside to cool. Stir before use.

CAKE

180g unsalted butter, diced
300g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
280g plain flour
200mL whole milk

Preheat oven to 190 degrees (170 if fan oven) and butter both cake tins.

Cream the butter and sugar together in food processor/using electric whisk, then incorporate the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Sift together the dry ingredients, and add them half at a time to the creamed mixture. Add the milk while the motor of the food processor is running.

Divide the mixture between the cake tins, weighing for accuracy, smoothing the surface of each. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Run a knife around the collar of each cake and leave to cool.

When the cakes are cold, remove the collars and slit each one in half with the bread knife. Whizz one of the top halves to crumbs in the food processor.

Spread one of the bases with one quarter of the custard. Sandwich with the remaining cake base, and spread another quarter of the custard over the surface. Top with the remaining layer, and coat the cake with the remaining custard. To finish, coat the whole cake with the cake crumbs. Chill the cake for a couple of hours, then cover with clingfilm. Remove from the fridge 15-30 minutes before eating.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Writing

Writing

"I'm a writer. You won't have heard of me, but you'd feel ill to know how much I earn. I don't know how it happened. If I knew, I could tell you how and you'd be as rich as me. Not that I'd actually tell you...

Anyway, I always thought I'd wind up as so much more, but with the cash I have, I can't complain. You must think I'm a total asshole by now, given my boasting, but you'd hate my job, or at least hate me for it.

This job is a loaded gun pressed against my head twelve hours a day. Every time I hear that damn typewriter click I am ready to scream, convinced it's a trigger about an inch or so away from my right temple. I feel the pressure of the barrel against the side of my head, cold metal on my skin. Just as it starts to hurt, it comes. That white hot muzzle flash of inspiration that almost knocks me out.

When I wake up, it's done.

Another one of those shitty poems that you find in those birthday cards your grandmother keeps sending you.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Circus

Circus

The clown stilt walker was our biggest draw. He'd walk around for a while, then fall. The stilts were made from sand, well compressed. The laughter could be heard at least two blocks away. Later, as he sailed through the air on stilts of glass, the audience simply gasped. Gazing at the garish makeup covering the bruises from the first fall, they failed to see the slight reflections showing what the stilts actually were. Classic misdirection. We earned so much money from that one spectacle. We went through far too many clowns, but it was worth it.