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My name is Lenore Pittman, and I'm a superhero.
And yes, my name actually is Lenore. My mom and dad are both
English professors, and they're complete Poe junkies. They'd read those poems to me over and
over when I was a kid. I was so lucky the other kids didn't know, or
school would've been even more embarrassing.
Worst day of my life? I come home from school one day, wearing black
clothes, with some black eyeliner and lipstick I'd borrowed from Susie Petrosen.
My mom looks at me and gasps, "Lenore! Are you... a goth?"
"Oh yes, Mom," I say. "Your little angel is a dark and dreary
vampire-loving goth with a closet full of black trenchcoats, fishnet
hose, and Marilyn Manson CDs." Hey, I hated school and was tormenting everyone with withering sarcasm. And it backfired completely.
Mom called Dad. Dad rushed home. They both took me to Hot Topic and bought out the store.
Hyoo. Mill. Lee. Ating.
It's not like I wasn't trending that direction anyway. But having
parental approval for it was the worst. I considered going bowhead to
get back at them. But by then, I was already halfway through
"Carmilla" and was burning a hole in the Type O Negative discs. We
had a little bump on the road when I decided I liked Lovecraft more than Poe, and even then,
they reacted by buying themselves some Lovecraft collections and getting
me a bunch of Elder Sign jewelry.
Supportive parents are the worst thing in the world.
Anyway, I got through high school as the weird Cthulhu
goth and graduated to Metro City University as the weird Cthulhu goth-punk -- mainly 'cause the mosh pits at the goth
clubs are way too tame. I'm majoring in Developmental Psych -- I never thought it would appeal to
me, but I just love the coursework.
A while back, I ran into some other students who decided they wanted
to summon some spirits. Now I love spooky, gothy stuff, but I'm no
sucker. I'd already figured out that you can just move a Ouija board
pointer anywhere you want, and everyone will still believe ghosts are
doing it. So I tagged along for some lulz. And there really were gonna
be some epic lulz, too, 'cause I checked out their summoning rituals
beforehand -- tragically mistranslated stuff from a cheap copy of the
Necronomicon. I mean, there were invocations to Cowthulu and
So there we were, standing in a circle, chanting "Ia! Ia!
Costcothulu fhtagn!" And I'm having trouble keeping from laughing.
Everything's going hilariously, 'til we get to the point where
we're passing a dagger around the circle (and we couldn't find a real
dagger, so we're using a steak knife. No, seriously!), and I go and
jab myself in the hand hard enough to draw blood. And like instantly, bam,
I pass out. And when I wake up, everyone's freaking out. Not about me
-- they're hallucinating and speaking in tongues and all kinds of crazy
shit. I end up having to talk everyone down. Rotten way to end a
summoning, isn't it? Not even one appearance by Nyarlathosteve.
So, long story short, I make sure everyone's home safe, go back to
the dorm, hit the hay, and wake up in the morning to find that my arms
have turned into oily black tentacles. I'd love to
tell you I reacted with sensible aplomb, but to be honest, there was a
bit of screaming and flailing going on. But I soon figured out how to
change them back into arms.
And after a little experimentation, I figured out how they worked a
bit. Basically, I could turn my arms into hyper-elastic tentacles that are part solid matter and part
inky black horror-juice. I can also grow six more tentacles out of my
back. They can stretch a few hundred feet, but I can't reshape them much
-- I can hit people with them, I can wrap them around stuff, and I can
stick to walls with them. I can't turn them into hands or claws or
hammers or anything. I can even see through them, so I can have 'em
chase bad guys around corners.
I've gotten a bit of X-ray vision, too -- not too much, just enough
to let me see through clothing. Yum yum. I can heal up from almost
anything -- I once lost a finger to Painkiller, and it completely
regrew itself before the end of the night. I have creepy black blood, though, and everyone says I start to
look scary if I use my powers for too long
without a break, but I've never actually noticed anything different. Not saying it isn't so -- just that I can't perceive it.
Oh, and of course I checked on the other folks who were in on the
summoning. Nothing unusual about any of them. If they manifested any
powers, I sure never heard about it.
I couldn't imagine I'd ever figure out anything I could use the
tentacles for (Ahem, mouth
closed, please.) (I mean it, shut up now.),
until a few weeks later, when a couple of cars pancaked near my dorm.
Everyone was standing around waiting for the EMS guys to get there, but
one of the cars caught fire, everyone started panicking, and almost
before I knew it, I'd stepped up, torn the car doors off with my
tentacles, and pulled everyone to safety.
One of the TV stations tracked me down a day or two later and sent a
camera crew after me. "Ms. Pittman, are you a superhero? Are you trying
to give misguided goth kids a role model they can
look up to?"
I hate being ambushed by news crews with stupid questions. So I
smiled real big, popped all my tentacles, and said, "Don't call me Ms.
Pittman. The name is Squid Kid!"
Then I flipped off the reporter. I love live TV!
Aaaaaanyway, skipping forward a bit, blah blah blah, yadda yadda
yadda, which brings us to last night when I finally got to have my
"pleased to meetcha" meeting with the already-fairly-famous Gamma Girl.
Everyone but me has already met her by now -- every time she's been
free, I've had classes or mid-terms, and every time I've been free,
she's had family stuff to do. Every time there's been a crisis, one of
us has shown up but not the other.
I'd kinda been dreading the meeting anyway, to be honest. Nothing
against Gamma Girl -- I guess I've just gotten attached to my status as
the newbie hero. Even El Phantasmo has been doing this stuff longer
than I have, and I'm pretty sure he's still in high school. And being
the hero with the newest debut date has certain advantages. Namely, it
gives you permission to screw up. Not that I enjoy screwing up -- it
makes the Chrome Cobra sigh and pinch the bridge of her nose. And not
that I even screw up very often. But ya know, when it happens, everyone
says, "Aw, give her a break -- she's the newbie."
Okay, actually, that part isn't really all that great either.
But it's fun to be able to goof off and have fun while superheroing.
It's like, when you're the newbie, you've got special permission to be
the Fun One -- seems like the seriousness gets highlighted for
I mean, everyone else has fun and goofs off some -- except Chrome
Cobra. And Hypothermia, 'cause man, he's serious and grim. And Jonni
Rotten, who goofs off, but is still scary about it. But Wheelman and
Defender and Penitente are laugh riots, and even Atlas, Star,
and Express crack some wise.
Heck, Miss Mega's a complete sports fanatic and always gets into
huge arguments with everyone about sports stuff. And the one time the
Mustangs invited her down for one of their Superhero Days, she got told
to leave early 'cause she got worked up about the game, over-did the
aggressive trash-talk, and punched out a length of railing. Only time I
have ever seen her lose her cool was bellowing at the umpire, and it was so awesome.
So yeah, everyone else gets in some fun while superheroing, but I've got the rep for having more fun than anyone.
Did I just go off on a tangent? I think I did, didn't I? What was I talking about anyway?
So the thing is -- Gamma Girl is now the newest superhero in Metro
City, and she doesn't really come across as a screwup or goofball. She
starts off by punching out Strych-9, then beats Professor Kaboom's
ass over the city, follows up by scamming a bunch of time-traveling dinosaurs, takes down the Grouch, and then
clobbers Terrordactyl and Devil Wasp solo. I mean, I've gone up
against my share of supervillains, but my powers don't really lend
themselves to serious badassery, ya know? I'll never be the type who
soars through the air and punches out the bad guy on live TV.
So the upshot is -- the Star finds out we haven't even met yet, and
he calls us both, makes us pick a time, and makes us stick to it. This
really kinda pisses me off. I would've shown up to meet Gamma Girl
eventually, but getting ordered into it? It's not like I was avoiding
her on purpose -- it was just a matter of schedule conflicts. So to hell
with it -- I was going to show up and be as rude and pissy and
unprofessional and not-even-a-little-fun-loving about the whole thing.
And then Gamma Girl gets there in her fancy blue-and-white bodysuit
and professionally-designed atomic "GG" logo and hits me with her
secret weapon. She brings her daughters' autograph book and asks me
to sign it. It's not like I can refuse my adoring public, right?
So all three of us head back to her home and meet the family. Star hangs out and drinks some coffee with Gamma Girl -- okay, Renee -- and her husband Dan in the kitchen. I play Wii Boxing with her
kids Becky and Melanie, which is far cooler because they're much more
into treating me like a rock star. Especially after I play against
myself using my tentacles.
And yeah, fine, I go hang out with the grownups, too. The Windlers
got this awesome Brazilian coffee. Definitely beats the convenience store coffee I have to live
on during most patrols.
So okay, Gamma Girl is just fine with me.
I would've liked to have stayed at her house longer, but we got a
call from Penitente. He just got word that Shakedown busted out of the
pen and was holed up in a warehouse on the south edge of town. He can
take on the properties of anything he touches, so he's not usually
someone you want to take on solo. I mean, he's not particularly strong,
but who wants to try to beat up a guy who can turn his body into bricks
just by picking up a piece of busted masonry? Luckily, he's entirely
unorganized and a bit dumb in general -- he just can't deal with it when
you have a bunch of people attacking him.
So we meet up with Penitente on the roof of a warehouse across from
Shakedown's hideout. El Phantasmo shows up a minute or two later with
his usual entourage of spooks and spirits.
We're waiting to see if any of the other local heroes are going to
show up when we got a nice little break of good luck -- Shakedown comes
out of the warehouse on a cigarette run.
Unfortunately, he comes out with Mr. Punch, Judy, Big Earl, and
Black Sunshine -- Punch's Boys, who he'd apparently just joined up
with. And they see us.
Punch's Boys aren't the worst bunch of bad guys you'd want to
fight. I mean, we've beaten them plenty of times. But I'm not sure we
can beat 'em with our current crop of super-people.
And in a bit more bad news, the Star and Gamma Girl go charging at the
exact wrong people. Can't really blame 'em -- both of them are pretty
new to the hero biz in Metro
City. But they pick the wrong people to fight with, and it's gonna mean
trouble for all of us.
Gamma Girl flies right at Black Sunshine and starts shooting. Granted,
he seems like an easy target -- cranky headbanger in a White Zombie
T-shirt surrounded by black-colored flames -- no obvious defenses. Only
thing is, the guy absorbs energy from almost everything he's exposed to
and uses that to power himself up. He absorbs all kinds of radiation,
plus heat, negative energy, cosmic energy, psionic energy, sonic waves
and vibrations, electricity, lasers, magic, and plasma blasts. About the
only stuff he can't handle are cold attacks and straightforward kinetic
energy -- which means that Penitente probably should be taking him on,
not Gamma Girl.
The Star, meanwhile, makes a beeline for Judy -- another mistake. I'm
willing to bet that her entry in the Assembly of Order's databases
boiled down to "electricity-slinging supervillain girlfriend" -- but
she's not someone to underestimate. She's definitely the most
ruthless person in the gang.
And all that electricity in her veins makes her really fast and agile.
She's no speedster, but she's definitely quick enough to avoid most of
what Star can throw at her.
Phantasmo throws himself at Big Earl. Seems a bit of a mismatch -- Phantasmo's a skinny kid,
Earl is almost seven feet tall, superstrong, and moderately dim. But
Phantasmo's probably the only one of us who'd have a chance against
Earl. He won't be able to beat Earl up, but all those ghosts will at
least slow him down a little. I hope.
Penitente gets stuck with exactly the thing he wanted to avoid --
taking on Shakedown solo. Shakedown kicks off his shoes so he can turn
himself into asphalt, which Penitente doesn't
have much of a good way to punch through. So his best bet is to try to
keep his distance, try an occasional judo throw, and hope Shakedown
doesn't get in any lucky punches.
And then there's me. Lucky, lucky me. I got stuck dealing with Mr. Punch.
I don't like Mr. Punch. It's not so much that he's a clown. It's more that he's a complete
douchecanoe with a nasty giggle. And that he's a clown. A creepy dumb stupid clown. With an electrified dumb
"Heya, Squiddie," he says, swinging his dumb clown hammer at me. "How's stuff going?"
"Shut up, dumb clown," I say, dodging just barely out of the way.
"Aww, Squiddie, you're gonna give me a complex," he giggles. "I'm gonna start thinking you don't wanna hang with me."
"I don't like to hang with people who dress up as clown puppets that
kill their wife and babies and crocodiles," I say. I'm all about the
snappy banter. "You got your fancy hammer, why didn't you go with more
of a hammer theme instead of the dumb puppet
"Hey, I'd already picked out my theme," he says. "Made sense to go
with someone everyone would recognize. People really enjoy the familiar,
"Why are you even bothering trying to justify your fashion choices to me?"
"No reason. Just small talk. Fills the time before I hit you with the mallet."
And then he goes and hits me with the mallet.
It's not as bad as it sounds. I mean, the mallet is about the size of
a sack of potatoes, but it's not
designed to do much more than hurt like the dickens and make you look
like an idiot. Hell, remember what happened to that Bloodblayde guy
after he killed the Minuteman? The Notorious Nine grabbed him, broke
his arms and legs, and dropped him off in front of FBI headquarters,
just to make sure no one associated him with any other villains. Only
the serious psychos want to get reps as hero-killers.
I guess I should feel lucky that Punch actually cares about
non-lethality in his equipment... but all I'm really able to think about
doing is curling up in a ball and wishing my teeth and joints would
I don't think anyone else was doing much better. I caught a glimpse
of Penitente just barely staying out of Shakedown's reach, of Big Earl
pushing his way through a wall of ghosts as he chased Phantasmo, of
Black Sunshine knocking Gamma Girl back with flame blast after flame blast. We were getting thrashed.
"Alright, guys, we don't have all day. Let's get this finished up,"
yells Punch. He stands over me and raises his mallet, crackling with
I'm in the perfect position to see something high above us, something
big, something falling fast. I don't even have time to yell a warning
for anyone or brace myself. There's a thunderous "Kra-THOOOM," like someone just dropped a bomb on us, and we all
get bounced in the air.
Miss Mega's finally made it to the fight.
"Aw, hell," says Black Sunshine. "She's wearing headphones."
"Who's playing tonight?" asks Judy. "Please tell me it's someone with a good record."
"It's da Falcons," rumbles Big Earl. "Dey ain't won a game since last season."
"Oh, hell," moans Black Sunshine. "We're all gonna die."
Miss Mega looks around and smirks. She swings around, locks on Big Earl, and smiles -- a seriously dangerous smile. "Earrrrrl," she says, like a cat getting ready to bat a mouse around.
Earl isn't the smartest supervillain around, but you sure can't
question his bravery. He's the only one of Punch's Boys who has a chance
of holding her off -- and they've done this dance often enough for him
to know he's about to get stomped.
Punch's Boys have forgotten about the rest of us. Fine with us --
makes it the perfect time to switch opponents.
Phantasmo is freed from having to deal with Earl, so he makes a
beeline for Judy. Sure, she's fast, but she can't avoid all those
ghosts. So before long, she's been pinned down by ghosts while
invisible poltergeists throw trash cans at her head.
Star throws some of his cosmic snares on Shakedown and starts
flinging cosmic blasts at his skull, while Gamma Girl starts pouring the
radiation blasts on, trying to see how hot asphalt has to get before it
Penitente is the only one of us who stands a good chance of putting
any hurt down on Black Sunshine, so he wraps his whip around his neck
and kicks him in the stomach every time it looks like he's about to fire
off any flame jets. Still, it doesn't look like it's much fun for him
to be that close to a heat source that hot.
I'm the only person who doesn't switch dance partners. But I've
recovered enough by now to get some tentacles around Mr. Punch's mallet
and take it away from him. I hit him with it a couple of times, but I
don't know how to activate the electro-shock charge, so I just fling it away and tie him up with
as many tentacles as possible.
But again, everyone's paying most of their attention to Miss Mega and
Big Earl. Like I said, he's not the sharpest
yellow-pushpin-in-the-cork-bulletin-board, so he knows how this is
about to go down. But he still goes in and swings his punches. I don't
know if he thinks maybe he'll have a shot this time or if it's machismo
or if he's just doing what he thinks is right. He dances around her and
throws a punch at her face. She blocks it easy, as well as the next two
he throws. She catches his fist after the fourth punch and squeezes --
not as hard as she can, but hard enough to make him groan, no matter how
hard he's trying to keep up his manly facade.
After that, she grabs him by his shirt and tosses him about 20 feet
in the air. Then as he's coming down, she punches him, overhand, almost
casually, and he smacks into the pavement at her feet. There's a crack that's probably mostly from the concrete, and the shockwave blows traces of pulverized asphalt into everyone's faces.
I love Miss Mega like a sister, but ye gods, whenever she does this
stuff, she makes me nervous as hell. For someone so
nice, she sure as heck knows how to intimidate the hell out of people.
She picks Earl up again, tosses him lightly in the air a couple of
times, and says, "What do you think, Earl? Think I can punch you clear
into near-earth orbit? Or just the upper atmosphere?"
"Okay already!" yells Punch. "We give!"
"You sure?" Miss Mega shouts back at him. "I've just barely started on Earl!"
"Don't try to play the hardass, Mega," Punch says. "Everybody knows that's not your thing."
"You want some of this, clown boy? You sound like you want a free translunar voyage?"
"You got a clean surrender, and you still wanna trash talk?" says Punch. "Take the win and be done with it, alright?"
Miss Mega shrugs. "Okay, fair enough." She sets Earl down on the ground and says, "Do your part."
"Settle, boys, we're beat fair and square," says Mr. Punch. "Not worth putting Earl in the hospital."
And believe it or not, that was it, or pretty much it. Judy was
pissed about it, but she followed the order. Black Sunshine tried to put
a good face on it and joked that he almost had us all beat. Earl just
sat down and looked miserable. Shakedown tried to make a run
for it, but Star held him off the ground with his cosmic snares so he
lost contact with the asphalt and turned back to normal.
After Penitente called the cops in, we all ended up sitting around.
None of us heroes actually relaxed much -- what if Punch decided to try
to escape after I unwrapped my tentacles? Punch and his crew were
probably calmer about the whole thing than we were.
"Tell me something," I say to Punch while we wait. "You say you knew
Mega wasn't going to punch Earl into orbit. You say you knew it was just
tough talk. So why surrender? Earl could've taken the
hits, and she wouldn't have hurt the rest of you that badly."
"Yeah, but again, she'da put him in the hospital easy," says Punch quietly. "And I wanted to save him the humiliation."
"So?" I say. "What if the rest of you could've gotten away?"
"Hey, kid, not all supervillains are the Legion of Malevolence, ya
know?" he says. "Earl's part of my crew, and I do what's best for my
Finally, the guys from the Special Operations Squad show up, bag up
the bad guys, and take off. After that, we all go home and enjoy some
Hot Pockets and a snifter of brandy. No, of course not, we stand
around and argue. The Star's pissed off at Miss Mega, so they yell at
each other for a while.
"You crossed the line, Miss Mega!" he says. "You can't threaten to kill people. That's taking things too far."
"Come on, Star," she says. "I had no intention of doing him any
serious harm. Big Earl can take a lot worse than that. It was more about
persuading the rest of his pals to stand down and surrender. Which, you'll note, they did."
"I'm still not comfortable with that level of aggression,
especially from someone strong enough to knock over a skyscraper. And
that you were listening to the Falcons game suggests to me that you were
purposely trying to make yourself angry."
"I wasn't listening to the game, Star," she says. "How crazy do you
think I am? I was listening to Flogging Molly. They jumped to the
wrong conclusions, and I figured I'd play along so they'd surrender
"Seriously?" says Star. "Why were you listening to music at all? You
could've tuned that in to the police bands and kept track of crime
instead of listening to music."
"Well, because the police bands are boring and mostly useless,"
says Miss Mega. "And because it's boring jumping around the city so
sometimes I wanna listen to some tunes."
"You've got to have some more sense of responsibility," says Star. "People rely on us, you know."
"Don't you deride my sense of responsibility. This isn't the
Assembly of Order, and you don't get to imply I'm not a good superhero
just because I'm not a gung-ho cartoon like Madame Ultimate!"
Ya know what? This is a wildly stupid argument. The Star is
completely ignoring the fact that Miss Mega saved our butts. Miss Mega
is ignoring the fact that casual use of her really extreme superstrength makes heroes, villains, and civilians nervous.
And at the same time, the Star should know by now that Miss Mega is
an overprotective mama-bear who gets to cut loose on
superstrong supervillains about once a month, if she's lucky.
And not to come off as a Little Miss Rules Lawyer Stick-in-the-Mud, but even I listen in on the police and emergency bands. It'd be great to get to
listen to music during the slow parts of the night, but I'd feel so
guilty if someone needed me and I was too busy messing around with my
Luckily, it didn't fall to me to jump into an argument with two
fantastically powerful people who could probably knock me clear into
the next county, 'cause Atlas showed up around that time, and everyone
Atlas is a really likeable guy, and he's got a real knack for getting
everyone calmed down and friendly with each other. Sure beats the way
the Cobra does it -- manipulation and occasional threats. Anyway, it's
hard to believe that Atlas was considered a third-stringer in the
Assembly of Order -- he seems like the kind of person who should've been
leading the whole group.
Anyway, our group is breaking up, heading off to do their own patrols, and Atlas calls me over before I can leave.
"You know the Alpha Alliance, right, Lenore?" he asks.
Duh, of course, I know about the Alpha Alliance. They're one of the
big three superhero teams, along with the Liberty League and the
Liberty Squadron. And the Assembly of Order, if they were still
around. They're based out of Los Angeles, but
they operate on a global and galactic scale.
"One of my old teammates from the Assembly is the new leader of the
Alpha Alliance," says Atlas. "Aegis owes me some favors, and the
Chrome Cobra and I decided we should try to get you an internship with
the Alpha Alliance."
"A -- a what?!" This is a bit much for me to take in. "Since when do
superteams do internships? What makes you think I need an internship?!
I don't have time for internships -- it's the middle of the semester,
man! How the heck -- ?!"
"Hold it, hold it," he says. "The Alliance is starting a new
internship program, part outreach, part training for younger heroes,
part recruitment. We figured you'd be a perfect candidate 'cause none of
us have the time or skills to help give you any real training. And the
internship wouldn't start 'til summer -- you could even get university
credit for it. They just want to interview you for now."
"Interview?" I'm still going a little crazy about this. Is this a
good thing or a bad thing? "I'm not
ready for an interview. I don't have any good interviewing clothes.
What are good interviewing clothes anyway? How long do I have before
this interview? Do you know how much I hate interviews, Atlas? Why
didn't you guys ask me first?!"
"Seriously, Squid Kid, slow down, or I'm calling Defender in to trank you down," says Atlas. "Aegis says the interview
is a formality -- it's a competitive thing, but there weren't many
applicants, and with me and the Cobra vouching for you, you're a
shoo-in. They'll just wanna review your past history and experience, ask
you a few questions to make sure where you'll fit in as a teammate.
Don't worry about interviewing clothes -- wear your costume. And the
interview's scheduled for the day after tomorrow."
"The day after tomorrow?! Atlas, how am I gonna get to L.A. in two days? Plane tickets are gonna be super-expensive!"
"I promise, we got it worked out, Lenore," he says. "Iota has an
experimental jump-jet that can get you to Los Angeles in just a few
hours. He's heading out there for a conference anyway, and he said he'd
be glad to give you a ride."
"My professors are going to have a cow," I say. "A complete 20-megaton plutonium cow."
"No, they won't," he smiles. "The Cobra's already contacted 'em and
cleared it with 'em. Even if they could resist her persuasive skills,
they'd never want to stand in the way of the Alpha Alliance, right?"
And at that point, I give up. So I'm going to L.A. in two days. I
better go buy a bucket or two of sunblock.
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