Part 1 of 3
Zion paused in the act of lifting a kitten down from a tree.
He was frozen, immobile, for so long that the kitten decided to take matters into its own tiny paws; scrambling from his grip, it scaled up his arm, down his body - claws hooking into the white bodysuit - and jumped to the ground.
As it sat on the pavement and began to wash itself, the golden hero moved again. He turned his head, looking around at the cityscape that surrounded him. Then he lifted his hands, as if observing them for the first time.
For another long moment, he didn't move.
The next thing that happened was unprecedented; he had spoken but once in his thirty-year career, and that only to whisper his name.
This time, he shouted; his voice startled curious passers-by, and sent flocks of birds scattering into the sky.
"Oh, for fuck's sake!"
It had happened again.
I hadn't even been trying to write fanfic, this time. Just browsing the boards.
And now, I had been dropped into the equivalent of the cockpit of a jet fighter armed with nuclear warheads. I had no idea which was the control stick, which was the go-faster pedal, and which was the button to press to make things go boom.
Zion had an absolute metric fuck-ton of powers. And the bastard hadn't thought to label any one of them before vacating the premises for me.
Basic actions, at least, I could handle. That was a start. I could walk, talk, move my hands. But walking was going to get really old, really fast.
Okay, I thought as hard as I could, I need a movement power.
About twenty percent of the vast array of powers available to me presented themselves, while the others receded into the background.
A power that won't also destroy everything around me.
About half of the remaining powers faded into the background. Mentally, I gulped. That had been close.
Flight, for preference.
A large chunk faded back.
I looked hard at what was left. Nothing distinguished them, one from another. Mentally, I assigned labels to them. Flight, non-destructive, one through ... two hundred and eleven.
Fuck it. I picked number seven, and activated it. It seemed to be vanilla flight. My feet began to drift off the ground.
Okay, let's see what twenty percent power does.
The passers-by gaped at the softly glowing golden hero, who appeared to be staring at his hands and mumbling to himself. Many already had their phones out; the ones who weren't still filming him were now using those same phones to frantically look up the number of the local TV station. Footage of Scion was pretty good. Footage of Scion speaking was pure gold. Footage of Scion swearing … there wouldn't be enough room on the cheque for all the zeroes.
And then there was a crack, and he disappeared straight upward, through the tree, leaving a glowing golden trail behind. A rather thick branch, which had been in the way, fell heavily to the pavement. Some thought that they heard a rapidly fading "FUUUuuuuuuuuuuu..."
He never did reach the 'k' sound. Or rather, he did, but it went unheard, because he was in vacuum by that point. Applying some control, he arced over, narrowly missing the Simurgh – who had moved aside just moments before – and plunged back into the atmosphere.
She watched him go, then began to chuckle.
The golden streak blasted down through rapidly thickening air, leaving a long golden trail behind him. It was slowing down rapidly, but not rapidly enough. A British Airways jumbo jet loomed into the golden hero's path; he twisted frantically, missed it by a few dozen metres.
The pilot of the aircraft blinked twice and looked at the copilot. "I say, Cedric, whatever do you make of that?"
Cedric scratched at his ear. "I couldn't say, Bernard, old chap. Although, I believe that it somewhat resembled that Scion fellow, only tumbling through the air out of control."
Bernard nodded. "I rather came to that conclusion myself. If you'd be a good chap and take over the controls for a moment?"
"Certainly, old fellow, certainly," agreed Cedric. "What appears to be the problem?"
"The problem, Cedric," Bernard told him firmly, "is that I find myself with a rather pressing need to change my underwear."
Still screaming, still attempting to slow down, Zion blasted through the middle of a flock of migratory geese. By a minor miracle, he hit none of them, but they were dragged so far off course in his slipstream that they ended up colonising a remote island off Africa.
And then, just before he would have regained control, he was faced with, and failed to dodge, one last obstacle. The impact caused a minor, localised earth tremor; snow slipped and filled the brand-new crater in the side of Mount Kilimanjaro.
From within the snow-filled crevice, a muffled voice was heard to utter two extremely heartfelt words.
Okay, let's try that again, at about point zero one percent power.
Then I realised what had just happened.
The universe just played an Iron Man prank on me, didn't it?
Zion rose from the snow-filled crater and hovered about fifty feet in the air. He slowly turned in midair, surveying the terrain. As he did so, particles of snow were repelled from his body by the steady golden glow.
"Right," he declared. "Found the go pedal. Time to work on some other stuff."
Pausing, he glanced upward, then shook his head. He started flying upward, accelerating somewhat less quickly than before, but still gaining an appreciable amount of velocity. He came to a more-or-less smooth halt before the Simurgh, and stared.
Far from being the impassive harbinger of doom known to the world for the last nine years, she was, to all appearances, laughing hysterically. There was no air this high up, and thus he could not hear her; in his head, however, he heard the laughter.
He glared at her.
She laughed harder.
Eventually, he flew back down into atmosphere, leaving her to tumble over and over in the sky, her wings flexing spasmodically, as she clutched at her sides in pure, unadulterated mirth.
Maybe I should have beaten her up.
Nah, I haven't got the heart.
"Pet," intoned Coil, "I need to know the chances of trouble happening before lunchtime."
Dinah blinked. "Ninety-nine point nine nine eight three six percent." She smirked.
Inside his mask, Coil's eyes opened wide. "Chances of trouble happening in the next hour?"
Dinah's smirk widened. "Ninety-nine point nine seven nine six percent." She began to giggle uncontrollably.
"Pet," Coil snapped, "behave or you won't get -"
The sound of crunching rock came from above, and then part of the ceiling fell in. Scion drifted down through the hole, then turned to look at Coil. "Nope," he stated.
Coil shut down that timeline. It didn't matter. Dinah was still giggling madly. The reinforced concrete wall across the room transformed to tapioca, and slumped to the floor. Scion leaned against the edge of the new opening, arms folded.
"I believe I said, 'Nope'."
Chief Director Rebecca Costa-Brown was not in a good mood. She had been getting reports of erratic behaviour about Scion all afternoon, and she had no idea what it meant. Even Contessa couldn't get a read on him.
She got up and strode to the window, looking out at the cityscape of Washington, DC. I can't wait to get back to -
A golden glow washed across the room and someone smacked her on the ass; she whirled, bringing her hands up defensively.
"Hey, cool," Scion marvelled, looking down at a scorched spot in the carpet. "I got it dead on."
Rebecca stared. "Are you really Scion, or are you just pretending?" she demanded.
He burst out laughing. "Yes."
She paused. "Wait. Which one?"
He controlled himself to the point that he was merely grinning widely. "Does it matter?"
She glared at him. "Why did you smack my ass?"
He nodded, still grinning. The expression looked so wrong on that normally-mournful visage. "Sorry, couldn't resist. It's just so smackable. Plus, there's … this." He held up his hand, and golden sparks floated across to her face. She backpedalled, but the wall intervened.
"What the fuck is that?" she snapped.
Approximately three seconds later she found out; a weird sensation began to spread across her face, radiating from her right eyesocket. Just as she began to reach toward her face, the prosthetic eye popped out of her skull with such force that it flew across the room and smashed her computer screen. She blinked, then realised that she was blinking both eyes at once. Seeing with both eyes at once. She felt her face to confirm her supposition; she wasn't wrong. For the first time in eleven years, she had two eyes again. This did not help her peace of mind.
"How the hell did you do that?" she demanded. "Eidolon couldn't do that."
He shrugged. "Bullshit magic space whale powers? Anyway. I'm not just here to give you a new outlook on life. I'm here to tell you that it's all been called off."
She felt a chill down her spine. "What's been called off?" she snapped.
"The apocalypse," he responded. "End of the world. Y-twenty thirteen. The Big Oops. I know you've been preparing for it and all, and I really hate to spoil your fun like this, but ... well, I'm just not feeling it, y'know?"
"Not feeling it?" she repeated, trying to make sense of his somewhat manic delivery.
"Exactly!" he replied, with a broad grin. "So I'm calling it off. Done deal. If anyone still wants to go a few rounds, I'm sure we can find a nice empty world and make it into a crater, but right now, not overly interested."
She stared at him, jaw slowly dropping open. Then she darted across to her desk and slammed her hand down on a button. Sirens wailed, steel shutters dropped into place over the windows, and containment foam billowed out of hidden nozzles. Within seconds, he was hidden from view.
"Now let's see who you really are," she muttered, gingerly touching the skin around her newly regrown eye, as if she thought it might vanish at any moment.
But when they dissolved the foam, all they found was an empty cavity, in the shape of a human body. The only thing in the cavity was a note, which she later determined to have come from the top sheet of a notepad she kept locked in the bottom drawer of her desk.
The note read: SRSLY? WELL, L8TRZ. ZION.
Emily Piggot looked around as the golden glow illuminated her office; hovering outside was …
"Holy shit," she muttered. "Scion."
And then he wasn't outside; without so much as a flash of light, he was in her office, standing right beside her.
"Yup," he agreed. "Me."
She fought down the distaste she felt at this, the most blatant of capes … "Wait a minute," she blurted. "You don't talk."
The golden figure beamed down at her. ""Sure I do," he assured her. "I just never had anything to say. Now. Got something important for you to see."
"I'm a busy woman," she began, but she found herself rising out of her chair all the same. "Put me down!" she ordered.
Scion regarded her with a raised eyebrow. "Nope," he replied. "Like I said, something you have to see."
And then her office disappeared, replaced by a conference room. Piggot knew conference rooms; she knew them very well indeed. This one easier to recognise than most, as there was a conference going on in it.
The people attending the conference, two of whom she recognised, turned in surprise.
"Uh – Director Piggot!" exclaimed the blonde woman in the power suit.
"Okay," Scion stated. "Introductions. Principal Blackwell. Principal of Winslow and general fuckup. Mr Gladly. Teacher of World Affairs and total fuckup. Mrs Knott." He paused, tilting his head slightly. "Nice lady, not a fuckup, but could do with more initiative." He cleared his throat and went on. "Mr Quinlan. Alcoholic math teacher. What's 'er face. PRT stooge and comprehensive fuckup. Alan Barnes. Divorce Lawyer and morally bankrupt. Emma Barnes. Wannabe supermodel, total bitch, and unmitigated bully. Madison Clements. Wannabe human being, toady and bully. Mr and Mrs Clements. Need better parenting skills. Taylor Hebert. Bullying victim. Danny Hebert. Father of Taylor. And Sophia Hess. Sociopath, instigator, bully, cast-iron bitch … and otherwise known as Shadow Stalker, of the Wards."
He turned to Piggot. "Shadow Stalker got into Emma's head back in oh-nine, and she's been egging Emma and Madison on to bullying Taylor ever since. Taylor got shut in her locker? Those three. Blackwell? Covered it up faster than cat piss in loose sand. Your PRT stooge there? Pushing for the coverup, here and now. So this is what you're going to do. You're going to fix this shit. Because I'll be paying attention, and when I decide to do something, the words 'blast radius' will be attached to it. Do I make myself totally understood?"
Piggot nodded numbly. Scion didn't move, didn't say a word, but Sophia Hess was suddenly standing beside them. She looked startled, went to shadow – and then reverted straight back to human.
"Nope," Scion told her cheerfully. Then he turned to the principal. "Blackwell. Throw the book at those two, or I'll be back."
Abruptly, they were airborne; Piggot couldn't figure out where they were. Then she saw the wall, and the community that it surrounded … "Ellisburg," she gasped.
Scion nodded. "Right first time," he praised her. "Now, in case you're wondering if I'm really, really serious ..." He held up his finger, where a tiny golden globe winked into being. He blew at it, and it floated away, gaining speed and size, accelerating down toward the walled-in domain of Nilbog.
"Just by the way," he commented off-handedly, "have you ever wondered what I could do if I really put my mind to it?"
"Uh … " she began, but then had to shield her eyes as the golden flash bloomed across the landscape. All that was left was a crater, following the inside of the wall, but a good hundred metres deep.
He grinned at her. "That wasn't it."
Back at Winslow, Principal Blackwell stared at the spot where Scion had been standing. Then she looked back toward Taylor and Danny.
Alan Barnes cleared his throat. "Surely you aren't going to let a superhero dictate school policy?" he suggested.
She nodded. "Quite right, Mr Barnes … " which was as far as she got.
Taylor recovered first from the shock. She tugged at the sleeve of her hoodie, then turned a fascinated gaze on Emma. "Wow," she commented. "I never knew your dad let you get that tattoo."
Emma looked down at herself, shrieked, and covered herself with her arms. Madison hid under the table, then promptly popped up again, blushing furiously. Everyone else in the room was performing a similar action, save for Danny and Taylor Hebert. Because they were still fully dressed.
Danny rose to his feet; Taylor followed him, picking up her sheaf of notes as she did so. He cleared his throat. "Well, I think Scion was serious about it. Call us when you're more … uh … clothed. We'll talk."
Principal Blackwell, arms and hands covering important parts of her anatomy, looked up at him pleadingly. "Can you get someone to bring clothes in to us?"
He grinned, widely and not a little maliciously. "Sure. Just sit tight."
As they walked out of the school, Taylor turned to him. "Were you going to do that thing she asked? About clothes?"
He chuckled out loud. "Oh, hell no."
Director Piggot found herself sitting in her office chair once more. A card was propped up against her desk, with golden handwriting crawling across it. She picked it up and read:
Sorry to love you and leave you, but duty calls, and there are S-class threats to spank. Sophia is in one of your cells. I think she's a little pissed. You might want to tell her to stop swearing. She has such a potty mouth. I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked.
Oh, and by the way, your kidneys and leg muscles should be back up to speed in about two weeks. Love and kisses, Zion.
"Jack Slash." The voice came from above.
Jack looked up. "Oh, fuck me." He turned to run.
He didn't get very far. A golden form, arms crossed, floated down in front of him. He drew his knife, slashed. The golden skin did not score. The white bodysuit parted, then reformed.
"Hm," noted the villain. "Actually," he continued, putting the knife away, "I've been meaning to talk to you about your methods … "
Scion shook his head. "Seriously, Jack? This? Nope."
The glowing hero reached for Jack Slash, but a tiger-striped form interposed herself, grasping Jack's arm, rendering him invulnerable.
Scion sighed. A red bead lifted off the tip of his finger, whirled in place a few times, then streaked away. There was a distant detonation. Siberian looked very briefly startled, then vanished.
With a roar, Crawler leaped upon Scion; Jack Slash managed to duck out of the way, just in time. Scion rose into the air, holding the grossly malformed body of Crawler aloft with one hand.
"WHAT THE FUCK?" bellowed Crawler from a dozen throats at once. "FIGHT ME!"
Scion shrugged. "Okay." Golden light began to emanate from him; he glowed more and more brightly. Crawler bellowed and struggled in his grip, but made no headway. The light became too bright to stand with the naked eye. Gradually, it faded away; Scion was alone in the sky. His white bodysuit was busy repairing the burns that Crawler's acid saliva had done to it.
"Fight's over," Scion noted, then descended to the ground once more.
"Now then," he decided, cracking his knuckles. "Let's see how this goes … "
Emily Piggot stared at the mangled mess that had once been Jack Slash. "What happened to him?" she asked, not sure whether to be horrified or admiring.
"Well, he kept on trying to talk," Scion told her, "so I had to stop him from doing that. So I broke his jaw. With Shatterbird, as it turns out. And then she kept trying to encase me in glass, so I had to break my way out, and he was the closest thing at hand. After that, she kept trying to get away, so I had to beat her into submission."
"With Jack Slash?" she asked, almost certain of the answer.
He shrugged. "He was conveniently at hand," he pointed out.
"So at what point did he die?" she asked, out of morbid curiosity.
"You know, I wasn't paying attention," Scion admitted. "But I did bring you a live one." He reached into midair and pulled out a cute, blonde-haired child.
"Bonesaw!" she exclaimed, stepping back.
"Relax," he told her. "I removed all of her implants. This is Riley."
Riley clung to Director Piggot. "Are you my mommy?" she whispered.
"And her memories, back to age six," he added. "Because god knows, I wouldn't want those memories."
"Wait, what?" she asked. "What am I supposed to do with -"
But he was gone.
The cloaked hero looked up. Scion was hovering overhead, arms crossed.
"Uh … can I help you?" he asked.
Scion shook his head. "No, but I can help you."
Eidolon frowned. "What with?"
"Your powers problem," explained Scion. "I know the solution."
Eidolon's eyes grew wide behind his mask. "What is it?"
Scion grinned. "Have you ever heard of a 'pub crawl'?"
They started in the middle of London. Working steadily, they drank each establishment dry, then moved on to the next. Six pubs in, Eidolon was starting to get quite a nice buzz on. Even Scion was looking a little tipsy.
Once they had cleaned out the pubs of London, they moved on to other cities. When Edinburgh heard they were coming, they had emergency shipments of alcohol brought in.
Eidolon's powers allowed him to keep up with the drinking, but only just. Pint after pint of booze went down his throat; Scion matched him, drink for drink.
When the last pub in the British Isles had been cleaned out, Eidolon looked around for his drinking companion. Scion was playing darts. He was throwing them at the dartboard in the pub in the next town. The alcohol seemed to have affected his aim a little; he was hitting the bullseye only on every other shot.
"Zion, ol' buddy," slurred Eidolon. "Reckon thass las' call now, huh? Call it a week?"
Scion shook his head as he threw; the dart whipped across fifteen miles of countryside and spitted the previous dart he had thrown. "Nope," he replied, and belched. The varnish all the way down the bar bubbled, three panes of glass in the window cracked through, and the jukebox started playing "Never Gonna Give You Up." Which was odd, because it didn't have that song on its playlist.
"Nope," he slurred again. "Now we get to th' real pubs."
"Real pubs?" asked Eidolon, absent-mindedly juggling two shot glasses, an ashtray, and a very upset cat. "Like in Boston?"
"Boston, hah," Scion told him. "I'm talkin' real pubs with real beer. Australia, mate. We'll start in Cairns an' work south."
They drew a few stares in the tourist city; after they had passed through, it was widely agreed that the bloke in the dress could sure put them away, but his mate had a real funny-looking tan.
Down the Queensland coast they went, draining the resources of every pub they encountered. Eidolon grew steadily drunker, and steadily more at peace with the world. Scion absent-mindedly cured dengue fever while he was there, and started the wet season early.
By the time they crossed into New South Wales, Eidolon was utterly shitfaced. He proved this by streaking the first game of the State of Origin, an exploit that put him on national news in no uncertain terms. This got him arrested for the night; Scion was nice enough to share the cell with him. They kept drinking; come the morning, the cell was swamped with tinnies and stubbies, and Scion paid their bail. They stumbled out into the morning glare, leaving the constables to scratch their heads over the piles of empty alcohol containers.
Sydney has perhaps the greatest concentration of pubs known to mankind, and the duo set about trying to drink at all of them. Scion held Eidolon's hood while he puked off the Harbour Bridge, then they set about drowning their sorrows once more. They weren't quite sure what sorrows they were drowning, but they were sure they'd think of them once they sobered up.
Eidolon was just starting to think he'd hit his limit when the news reached them; Behemoth was due to emerge shortly in Caracas. "Gotta go fight him," Eidolon told his steadfast drinking companion.
"We'll have one more for the road," Scion told him.
So they did. One more pub.
After that, they took off in the general direction of Caracas. Via, as it turned out, Monaco, Beijing, Sydney again, the Scott Antarctic Base, Paris, and Mexico City.
After that, Scion realised that he'd been holding the map the wrong way up.
They got to Caracas just in time for Behemoth to emerge.
He was utterly fucking plastered. Also, for some unknown reason, he was also wearing a lampshade on his head.
The resultant party just about flattened Caracas, but there were no casualties, except of course for the mass hangover that gripped the city the next morning. Behemoth dug himself underground once more, swearing eternal friendship with Scion and Eidolon.
When Scion looked around, Eidolon was curled up on the pavement, snoring.
"Poor bugger," he muttered, moving him to a spare bed in a hotel several miles away. "One of these days he's gonna have to learn to handle his booze."
End of Part 1