Talk 4-IV

Miss Very Well

“Okay, does there have to be a shocking revelation like every five minutes? I mean-”

No, shut up, shut up, now is really not the time.

It almost felt like a reversal, some sort of cosmic karma. Heads turned, faces shocked and panicked as they desperately sought the source of the sound.

Standing on a table on the other side of the room, next to the corridor that lead to the bathrooms, was the speaker. For the briefest of moments, I had thought it was the resident teleporting sadist, but that was just the nerves talking; the voice sounded nothing like hers, deep and possessing an odd hollowness compared to her light and clear tones.

I feel I should interject something at this point. Superpowers have been around for my whole life. The only points of reference I have for a world without them are literature, media and the experiences of previous generations. I've been raised not only as a member of "Generation Cape", but by parents who interact with them on a regular basis. My best friend is a cape geek, my school is a few blocks from the very first Tower, in the city with the highest concentration of powered individuals in the world. Superheroes, supervillains; I'm used to them. They’re very much part of an ordinary world for me. So you should take it on faith that when I say something’s abnormal, it’s ab-friggin-normal.

The… thing standing on that table was abnormal.

Vaguely man-shaped, it had no distinct features; no face, no musculature, no… bits. Instead, it was a shifting conglomerate of what appeared to be large, brown, oddly-textured worms of various thicknesses and length. They curled and twisted around each other, forming knots and whorls, ducking in and out of visibility as they slithered along. I was too far away to actually make out any sound, but in my mind they squelched and made other appropriately disgusting noises.  

I think I might have actually shuddered, and the rest of the people in there seemed to share that opinion, including Black Armor. He visibly recoiled, and a staggered shield appeared in front of him, angled plates that blocked off the majority of his mass while still giving lines of sight.

“Hey, that’s a pretty clever little shield, isn’t it? He doesn’t really seem the type.”

Because we know so much about him. And would you please just shut up?

Worms seemed to notice the reaction he (it?) was getting, and reacted accordingly. The worms froze for a second, then began moving again, faster this time. After a couple of seconds of frantic movement, they held position, then contracted, and suddenly instead of a horrifying alien mass, there instead stood a man-shaped figure, almost smooth, with sculpted musculature that reminded me of the statue of David. With a start, I realized that the brown tendrils weren't worms at all. They were branches. Once I’d noticed, it became obvious: the strange texture was gnarled wood, the small outcroppings twigs.

Were they some kind of shifter, one with the ability to transform into a living mass of plant matter? I didn't know for certain, but I was pretty sure that shifters were normally inorganic matter when they transformed. Sabah would know for sure, but Sabah wasn't here.

"Sorry about that," he said in that some hollow voice, sounding slightly sheepish. "I tend to forget how scary combat mode can look." He gave a little shrug, and the motion was surprisingly normal for something that had looked like an eldritch horror. It was actually quite disarming. "I was just about to finish up," he lifted an arm to reveal the teleporter, trussed up in tendrils, "and switch back, but then I realized that I had the perfect opportunity for a really cool entrance, and I think I jumped the gun a little."

Black Armor stared at him from behind his shield. I couldn't see his face well, but if I had to hazard a guess at his expression, I’d say somewhere between confusion and caution. “Who are you?” he asked warily.

The wooden man held his free hand up to his face. “Gasp,” he said dryly (and yes, he said the word ‘gasp’), “you mean you don’t recognize me?”

“No, I do not. Should I?”

“Well, sure. I mean, I'm only part of…” he trailed off, as if remembering something. “Oh, of course, they haven’t made the announcement yet. Silly me.” He flourished his hand, and gave a bow. “You can call me Stump, and I am the newest members of the New Chicago Guardians.” He rose, and tilted his head in a manner reminiscent of a grin. “You can all treat this as a bit of an exclusive preview,” he said to the crowd, before turning back to Black Armor. "That's me, so now it's your turn. Who are you?"

"No one important," he replied slowly. "Just someone trying to help. So if you'd just take these two, I will be on my way."

Stump shook his head. "Sorry, but I'm afraid that's not how it goes. Right now my team-mates are working on getting rid of the little surprises that this lot left behind, and once they get here, they're going to want to have a little chat with the mystery guy who somehow appeared in a terrorist-held school cafeteria, and somehow subdued them. Though," he added,"you didn't exactly do a bang-up job of it. If I hadn't dealt with little miss teleporter here, she'd probably have done some very nasty things."

It was subtle, so subtle that I almost missed it, but Black Armor's shield was expanding, ever-so-slightly growing larger. "And if I do not want to 'have a chat'?"

"That's funny, I don't recall saying that it was optional." He looked around, and sighed. "Come on, man, do we really want to do this?"

"No we do not."

"Seems we're at an impasse, then." He paused, then clicked his fingers. "Oh wait, no we're not! Because in less than a minute, the rest my team are going to come busting through that door, and-"

It happened almost too fast to process. A ball of fire came smashing through the main doors, sending them spinning away. At the same time, Black Armor snarled and waved his hands, and suddenly everything was black. He'd blanketed the entire room in that black field of his. I tried moving, but I couldn't: there wasn't any resistance, my limbs just wouldn't move.

I tried breathing, couldn't, and started to freak out, but after about 5 seconds, it disappeared, and I stumbled forward, gasping for breath. Everyone else was having a similar reaction to me, so thankfully no-one noticed the conspicuous breathing coming from thin air.

I spun, looking around. At the door, a team of heroes stood, scanning the room, and Stump still stood on his table, looking around frantically. 

Black Armor, though, had disappeared.