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Current Who would win in a fistfight: Rancid or Operation Ivy? Assume that the band members were all twenty-five years old.
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Somedays I stare into the sun and think, "I bet you were a guy like me once. Violent inside. Until you unclenched your teeth and let it all out. Are we that desperate for validation? Fuckin' quitter."
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Papa was a rolling stone but I am more like a twenty sided die
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I'll only miss you a touch / entirely way too much
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I'm bitter like toothpaste and oranges, baby
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Nicholas



He got her name right. Fuck yeah. Due to the almost complete drought of non-urgent interactions he’d had with these people, it felt like a gamble to address her as anything other than "You". Besides Archie, he couldn’t quite recall having ever said any of these people’s names out loud. But she was Eli. What was that short for? Elizabeth, perhaps. Seems probable.

He, and apparently the various squirrels that had casually spotted her in passing had been so fixated on her that they literally hadn’t even registered that there was another girl with her. Nic took a quick gander at her. She was really posh and put together but something shot her seemed vaguely familiar. He knew that he knew her face but something just wasn’t clicking. And he was definitely going to put it together.

”Natalie you remember Nicholas, don’t you? He was at the bonfire.”

NATALIE. That’s it. She was Natalie.

Though hearing her name made him feel brighter, like a burden had been lifted off of his shoulders, it didn’t jog his memory in the slightest. Was she in the forest? If so, he’d been too preoccupied by negotiating the release of the Jell-O shot in his grasp to actually sort out who was who in a timely manner. If he realized that he was going to rub elbows with these people, he’d have investigated them. Figured out what they--

Nopenope, he cut himself off. No psychological biopsies today. This was his chance to win the love of the very same siren that he had locked eyes with from all across the way at that very party. The very stars had aligned to create this moment, quite literally in fact, and there was no way that he was going to let his diabolical diagnostics ruin it for him.

He gave Natalie his best smile, Nebraska’s finest, fresh off the vine. “It’s wonderful to see you. Gee, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks, hasn’t it. With all the excitement with the loading bay, the breakout, the forest. Actually, would you mind explaining what had actually happened in the forest? I’m a little fuzzy on the details.” he shrugged his shoulder and arched his eyebrow, chuckling.

“That’s some smooth operatin’ if I’ve ever seen any. That was goddamn amicable. Nicely done, kiddo. You did that like you actually cared what she had to say,” Nic felt the warmth of his father’s familiar nonstop commentary buzzing into his right ear. ”After all, nobody beats a black bear in a fist fight but here in America the most lethal carnivore is man’s best friend.”

Nic dug his finger into his ear, feeling for a wireless earpiece that he could just claw out. All he found was ear wax. ”We’ll bag these ones just like the last couple before the raid. After all, I know we had our differences but you're still my son. And if there's anything in this world that is true, it’s that there's nuthin’ that stops you from gettin' her done."

He clawed at his ear again, desperately hoping that he was being pranked. All his pinky finger found was a vacant canal of non-electronic stillness. Was there something wrong with him? Was this the moment that his dam finally give way to the deluge of disorientation? He couldn’t make sense of it. He felt foolish. He felt embarrassed AND he felt like there was a decent chance that the girls could hear it.

Or worse. Was one of them making the noise? No. Of course not. That would be preposterous. Clearly it was just his imaginatio running rampant. Either way, he felt like he was riding right up onto the verge of looking really weird and he just couldn’t think of any right-ear-related excuses, so he shifted his posture and acted like he was swatting at a mosquito.

“Little critters are out in swaths today,” he laughed heartily, each exhalation topped with a dollop of jolly antipathy. He had to make sure that neither of them caught on to what had just happened. Should he show her the snowglobe now? Did teenaged girls even like snowglobes? Was his self-restraint holding him back from finding his place in the world or was it merely allowing things to fall into place. Damn. Damn! Damn.

”How have you been? Were you in the loading bay too?”

Thank God she didn’t notice. No. This was a time for expressing feelings, for pouring the foundation of something special. If he tipped his hand now, if he jumped the gun, he may as well just jump straight off of The Promise.

Was it Natalie that was bringing this trepidation out of him? Was she… a MIND READER? He disregarded the notion. The odds of this random girl being responsible for this extremely personal, sudden intrusion as he tried to find the means to express himself, the way to make a very specific and limited portion of his true feelings known, seemed infinitesimally low. But the chance was still there. He’d have to test her. Just to see.

As he unrolled these thoughts, he watched Natalie carefully, intent on determining whether she was reading him live. Nope. She didn’t seem to have any tells that he could pick up on. So either she wasn’t a mind reader, which was objectively extremely probable, or she had been practicing her poker face long enough to avoid detection. Given that he, himself, had been raised to be he improbable thing that you’d have to be paranoid to suspect was actually out there, it only felt fashionable, karmically savvy, to extend the courtesy of suspecting someone else might be equally as treacherous.

It then occurred to him that it had been a solid minute since Eli had asked the question. And it was incredibly rude of him to have kept her waiting.

“Oh, sorry. I thought about it a little bit and, honestly, my mind just started wandering. No--not wandering, I.. Yeah. I was there. And I’m really sorry.”

“You see,” he took a deep breath, “when Archie was doing his whole Mr. Hyde thing, I had just been stepping out of the kitchen. I’d rigged a fire extinguisher into an explosive. I’d meant to lob it into the loading bay, where those… people were coming from. But then I saw you. And, even with all of the other terrible things happening, I couldn’t find it within myself to look at anyone else. Because Archie was charging right at you. And I’ve seen… I’ve seen a lot of things but I didn’t want you dying to be one of them. So I threw it your way.

“Specifically, I threw it behind Archie. And it blew. Just like I meant it to. But I’m not sure it really did anything for you. It was kinda stupid, actually,” he said pulling up the sleeve of his jacket and showing her the scar and scab where the shrapnel had crashed into his arm. “I actually almost killed you. Because I wanted to… I wanted to stop Archie--I didn’t know it was Archie--from killing you. But ultimately, he’s the one who protected you from me.

“And yeah. I, uh. After that, I saw one of the other girls that you guys hang out with being crept up on by some commando type. I assumed he was one of the bad ones, so I threw a chair leg at him. But it turns out he was a security officer, so I got to spend a couple hours being interviewed about it all.

“So yeah, I was there. Are you okay? It looked like you were having a real bad time with it all.”
Nicholas



Feeling the familiar heft in his hands, he couldn’t help but smile. If he didn’t like what he saw, all he had to do was point and click. Then, with the slightest adduction of his index finger, he could crop them right out of the frame. If he wanted to. Oh, God. He was writhing with pleasure as he imagined how many problems he could solve.

Now, he was having the slightest bit of trouble making friends. In fact, every time he had seemed to find it within himself to reach out socially, at least one person ended up dead. Who knew how many other corpses the kids were bumping into. He knew that death was a part of life but he had thought that the amount of decomposing bodies he ran into would, like, generally decrease after the militia had been disassembled.

He thought about Anderson. Apparently Anderson was the werecroc, presumably sent into a murderous frenzy by the spontaneous homicide served up to him. Nic could still recall the ambience. That was probably the most dead bodies he’d ever seen at once. Some of his friends, if they were his friends, were almost amongst them. You’d think that surviving something like that would have brought them together as a group. But that wasn’t the case. Amelia, the punky one, had tried to murder him after he tried to protect her.

He understood the logic in her actions but felt a massive twinge of regret when he considered that he was apprehended by the remainder of the guards before he got the chance to explain that he had been trying to protect her. And then there’s the fact that he improvised a bomb that he tossed to Anderson. Possibly could’ve killed his aspirational best friend. He’d never had a guy friend his own age, really. Never had a bro. How fucked was that? And how fucked was it that, if it weren’t for The Cafeteria Colossus, he would’ve killed his angel by trying to protect her.

Aw, well. Life was too short for regrets. Better to just bottle that shit up and shove it deep down inside of you. All that heavy shit. All that densely ethically complicated shit. No use crying over spilled blood. He had to keep a move on. After all, if he stood still too long, all of his feelings would sort themselves out, just like blood. The only thing that kept them in the state of functional fluidity was the nonstop motion that they were always going through. Shutupshutupshutup, he thought to himself. Get your game face on.

And just like that, he felt his lips arch into a smile. One of uncommon intensity, radiating levels of sincerity so extreme that it was inhuman. He looked out across the freshly fascist-leaning fields of the fragile frontier.

“Go get ‘em son. Put all those freaks where they belong,” he heard the unflappable Nathan Adair whisper in his ear, almost feeling his dear old dad’s finger pressing on his own. There they were, pulling a trigger as father and son. He thought about it, as a juggernaut of a grin exploded through his skull and splattered across his face. He cackled as an electric crackle of “fuck it” flowed through him, jolting his muscles like a dead frog in a lab.

Nic recoiled.




“Aaaggggkkhhhhhhh!” Nic hucked, feeling his eyes open, he realized that he had no concept of how long he’d been screaming. His cheeks were hot and moist, like the condensation outside a cup of hot cocoa. And his throat was sore from screaming. The residual pain from the toll it took on his throat was almost enough to spark a whole new cycle of screaming. But this wasn’t the time or place for that. This was a new day. This was gonna be a good day.

“Do you know why it’s going to be a good day?” Nic asked himself as he unraveled across his carpet. “It’s going to be a good day because I’m going to make it a good day.” He crawled across his carpet with the same momentum as a man trying to find a handhold as he felt down a waterslide, only he felt the berber burn as his slithering scrubbed away at his skin. “I’m going to kill anyone who tries to make it a bad day. And if I find one more dead body, then whoever made it is going to find themselves playing the role of the second dead body I see today.”

He’d hardly left bed since the cafeteria incident. His part in casting an Area of Effect shrapnel spell in the cafeteria on a whim seemed dumber and dumber the longer he thought about it. Maybe it could’ve killed Archie. Maybe not. Needs further study.

He slapped himself. Thoughts like that coming in automatically were what he hated most about himself. The first thing he’d been taught to find out about someone when getting to know them was what their weakness was. His dad really loved all that Sun Tzu stuff. The Art of War. Every enemy has a weakness. That’s the problem with hating yourself, is you know exactly what to do to wage a war for the fucking ages.

Ironically, in his time with the counselors and psychiatrists back in Alabama, he never bothered reading anything like [I]How to Make Friends and Influence People{/I]. It was pretty much all Quentin Tarantino all the time. Drowning out his firsthand memories of violence with another man’s fantasy-fetish-violence.

He’d been escorted out of the cafeteria by a pair of guards who brought him in for questioning because he’d technically tried to kill a high ranking staff member. Which, under most circumstances would’ve seemed extremely reasonable. But this wasn’t most circumstances, this was [B}SPACE[/B], babe! And in space no one gives a fuck. They understood and let him on his way. Unfortunately, in inspecting his belongings, they had completely disheveled his first aid kit. It would actually be less work, at minimum wage, to save up for a new one and purchase it than it would to restore order to the mess that they’d made of his equipment. He didn’t even get the opportunity to help with triage since the entire space station entered martial law.

“Fuck the faculty and their food rationings. I haven’t eaten a bite since the first shot was fired. I don’t need their rations. I can just wait until things are back to normal,” he said, feeling resolved in his commitment to fast for the entirety of the next month. He’d never tried fasting before but it had no effect on his confidence.

“Actually, I could really go for a bagel right now,” so much as saying such an absurd sentiment summoned a symphony in his esophagus. “Maybe even two bagels. Yeah,” he thought as he looked in the mirror. “Actually, since food’s out of the question, maybe I can search for love.”

Kk-ckk, he clicked his tongue as he winked at his reflection.

Slipping on his yoga pants and a leotard underneath a leather jacket, Rolex in place, he picked up his satchel before stuffing a snowglobe into it. It was a snowglobe filled with specially treated rose petals that could be shaken about inside of it. And they shook violently over a painstakingly hand-painted recreation of the Promise. He spent ninety-three of the last 140 hours working on it. Looking at the literal cut corners within some of the architecture’s less obvious spots, he couldn’t tell if he was proud of that or not, but he did know that there was a very special girl out there that would probably tell him what she thought about it.

And like that, he was out the door. He was jogging along. He had no idea where he was going. He had no idea where to find her. He didn’t even know her last name, but he did know that her first was Eli. He couldn’t tell if he was being a hopeless romantic or an idiot anymore. He just knew that he had miraculously found the motivation to step outside. The oddest thing happened when he was jogging around the pseudo-urban dystopia. For the first time all week, he saw himself.

Not metaphorically. He literally saw himself. He saw the way that the spandex clung to his body, just how flattering it was on him. But, around himself, he saw leaves and tree limbs, so he turned around. And he looked for a tree. There was a slight rustling.

“Archie, is that you up there?” he asked, tenuously approaching the tree. Had he infected one of the guards? Were they running surveillance on him? He tip toed up, watching the perspective shift skyward, until they were on a branch so thin it would be impossible for a person to put their weight onto it. So this was some kind of parahuman, then. “Hey, it’s okay. My name is Nic. I’m not gonna hurt you. Unless you hurt me or pretty much anyone else. In that case, I’ll kill you.

Then, the perspective zigged. And zigged. Twisting around the wood, looping like a snake. Stopping. Starting. Turning. Then starting again. Until it was on the ground, in the grass.

It was a squirrel.

A squirrel with antennae just like Nic’s. It seemed preposterous. But there it was. It had Nic’s antennae. Now that he was looking at it, it seemed apparent that it was unusually large, to the extent that it seemed preposterous. Nic had to know what was up with this squirrel. That meant he would have to capture the squirrel. When he was a little boy, his father had assigned him the task of chasing a squirrel specifically in order to train his dexterity and reflexes. That said, he literally never succeeded in catching one.

But things were different now. He was older. Faster. More powerful.

And better at throwing things. That was the important one. He waited for the creature to turn around. Then, like David lodging a stone into Goliath’s forehead, he slung his entire satchel at the squirrel, eliciting a frightened squeal as it realized that it was being preyed upon. Shocked by the sudden head trauma, it was sluggish enough for Nic to grab by the tail and stuff into the very satchel that had landed onto it a moment prior.

The Promise, being a space-faring vessel, didn’t exactly have a standing army of microbiologists on board, but fortunately, he knew exactly one. His name was Richard Edwin. He and Nic went back a ways.




“So why does this squirrel have antennae like mine? I’ve never known anyone else to ever develop external antennae? Why can this affect a squirrel? My virus doesn’t do that. Does it?”

“Well, Nicholas, it kinda looks like it does. What we’ve got here is a bona fide specimen of Ratufa Astra, colloquially known as Trevor’s Flying Squirrel.”

“That’s a flying squirrel?”

“Nah. It’s a flying squirrel in the same sense that we’re flying humans. It was ’discovered’ by Jason Trevor, who realized that some of the squirrels onboard the space station were biologically distinct from the ones back home that had been taken before launch. By all conventional metrics, it’s a bit too fast for evolution, so we suspect that the population of the various onboard wildlife may have been engineered to thrive in the rigid conditions offered onboard. But that’s just a theory. It’d seem that they are alarmingly bad at record keeping and it’s hard to convince the more senior faculty that dissecting the genome of the onboard squirrels should qualify as a primary concern regarding what projects are offered funding/time with the limited equipment available.”

“Ah. So… this squirrel doesn’t have parahuman powers?”

“No, Nicholas. Can’t say it does. Say, what do you think your ‘superpower’ is?”

“I can see through other people’s eyes by emitting a virus that convinces their body to construct the facilities to transmit their sight back to my brain.”

“Close. But nope. Your superpower is that you’re always sick and your immune system is just barely effective enough to keep the virus on the ropes. ‘Your’ virus, as you call it, is actually a constantly mutating lineage of viruses. Somewhere along the line, you constructed a strain that can spread amongst the squirrel population. That’s your superpower.”

“You’re supersick,” he continued. “One day it’ll probably kill you and we’ll call it old age. Just pray to God that you don’t ever get AIDS, or geesh, you are one fucked duck. Speaking of fucked ducks, though, did you know that we got AIDS from chimps. I’m reminded of that because you have introduced a pathogen into the squirrel population. We’ve actually gotten a lot of reports of these horny little critters,” he chuckled. “Now be honest, did you fuck a squirrel?”

“Excuse me,” Nic said, given pause.

“I’m just joshin’ you. But seriously, did you ever unload on a squirrel, point blank, with your antennae. This answer actually does matter. Not for anything concerning you. Just for my research.”

“Well, first thing: No. Second thing, I’m really uncomfortable now, Doctor Edwin.”

“If I were you, I would probably just wear a hat, or you know, something to stop you from spitting that stuff out everywhere. There’s no telling what this could mean for the ecosystem.”


Setting the squirrel free upon walking back out the door of Doctor Edwin’s office, Nic realized that this was perfect. He had the perfect solution for finding Eli. He could just run laps around The Promise until he found her, cheating by piggybacking on the vision of the squirrels he’d infected, since evidently every human he’d ever infected had habitually drank enough to clean it right out of their systems.

There was that involuntary emission in the cafeteria before he threw the chair leg at Gennedy. So those people probably all had it now. Unless they drank which, knowing them, they almost certainly had. It only took three hours of running laps around the space station for him to coincidentally bump into her.

“Hey, it’s Eli, right? Man, the last couple times we’ve bumped into each other have been some of the worse days I’ve had in recent memory. I choose to believe that there’s no correlation in that. How are you?”
Nicholas



Peeking over the top of his lunchtable, improvised shelter that it was, Nic saw that the beast was momentarily disoriented, perhaps made pensive by the biting cold burst. That was the right move, right? His angel wasn’t an angel, so he supposed that he could take that as validation, to one extent or another. Natalie, the one that had been at the dance with Archie, had latched onto the werecroc’s leg. But she was about as effective as a python trying to crush the ribcage of a big rig’s front tire.

Fortunately, she seemed to be invincible. Or at least close enough. Either way, she was seemingly going to do a better job protecting his angel than he could. That was, until he could finagle something more powerful. Completely unarmed at this phase, it seemed illadvised to continue in that particular melee. As he leaned against the overturned table that held him, he decided that when he got out he’d have to look into what sort of weapons or self-defensive measures were legal onboard. And if there was nothing he’d find a way to make his own.

Using the scalpel that he’d added to his first aid kit, he loosed the screws on the underside of the lunch table. About forty-five seconds of tooth-gnashing twists later, he had liberated a pair of steel chair legs from the table, each about three feet long, hollow and straight. Excellent. He slid them into the backside of his pants before thinking on how to extract his angel. But brainstorming for Operation: Rapture was put on hold when he heard the sound of gunshots. He’d have to have a little faith in Wonder Girl for the time being, he supposed.

Nononononono, he thought as he crept for the exit. Wherever Archie is he’d probably never forgive me if I let his girlfriend get killed to protect my angel. It then dawned on him precisely how much of a possessive sociopath he sounded like. Worry about that later, that’s what hell is for. He decided to proceed anyhow. It was novel being in a combat scenario without communications with his father to guide him. Maybe novel wasn’t the right word for it. It was terrifying being in a combat scenario without communications with his father to guide him. Exaggerated by the fact that he didn’t have eyes on anyone in the vicinity. He felt completely blind.

At that, he felt his antennae perk up before violently emmitting a stream of his retroviral carriers into the air. They smattered against the ceiling before spreading out over the room like a cartoon soundwave. It was an involunatary physical response. He’d be embarrassed if he weren’t busy fearing for his life and everyone else’s. That is, everyone else who wasn’t already dead.

He saw an imposing man with his gun at the ready happening upon the girls. He said a few words that Nic couldn’t hear. Probably dabbling in some villainous monologue. He’d have to send the Devil a Thank-You card sometime to demonstrate his appreciation for the fact that what he’d thought was a nonsensical fictional trope was, in fact, an ironic reality. But before the guillotining gunman could seal his peers fates, Nic darted in from the loading bay before diving behind a large plastic garbage cart that the janitor had never quite put away.

In order to conceal his position, he tilted his skull and jutted out another stream of carriers to imply he was positioned closer to the opposite end of the cart before, a split second later, flinging one of the steel chair legs directly at the man’s skull, sentencing him to death, shouting “Angelus enim meus!”
Feb 14 2020
Day Three


I shake my hands like I’m rolling dice as I loosely clutch the deceased brain matter between my fingers. Hands ironclad and distant at once, like a socially anxious deathgrip, perhaps more accurately called a life grip. Makes me wonder how I ever managed to kill people before. Sure, it was me but it wasn’t really ME. That part of me is dead and bloated.

I’m getting off topic, it takes a minute but I start to feel the knots unravel. My biceps burn like I’ve been trying to churn sand into butter but I am making progress. And after that minute blows away, I take another. Drat. I should’ve bit the bullet and nabbed the tools from my mind palace. Boo fuckin’ hoo, I guess. Too late for that now. Finally, I feel the grey matter give way, with a measly three minutes remaining.

The fatty, muscle decorated organ has disintegrated, unraveling into a haphazard association of Cerebra, one of the most potent resources in the world. I’d recount its many idiosyncracies but I’m the slightest bit strapped for time, with only two minutes remaining until my inner demons descend upon me. I already feel my intestines trembling as they march up the hill, preparing to cross the barrier and meet me here in Innerheim.

So I begin to recite my oath:
So long as I may live
Never again will I be one to give
The innocent a cause for grief
Or the idealistic cause for disbelief
As the paul of nihilism descends
I will be one on whom the people can depend


At that, the Cerebra finishes melting, bubbling with power as the last of its stillness evaporates before the brain matter slithers up my arms, oozing and fonduing over my flesh before collecting the majority of its mass behind my skull, above my neck, like a symbiotic exoskeleton called to action by the very same duties that I am bound. I feel it, enhancing my sight, granting me the skills of my fallen predecessor, paradoxically making me feel more like myself than I have in a long time and also transcending the very notion of my humanity. Yes, it is good to be amongst The Thinking Men.

And then, they cross the gates. Climbing up from a lower plane, they tumble into Innerheim clumsily, seemingly washing into the realm the way that a shadow stretches off of your body and onto the evening Earth. Mostly, Maleftos seems to have brought a hastily assembled platoon of whatever doubts had been running through my mind at the time. Sure, it’s an affront to my self-esteem, but to make up for they were carrying some remarkably heavy artillery: Dreadsabers and dread grenades. Clearly they were going to attempt to get some cheap shots in by capitalizing on my classic weaknesses of self-doubt and depression. Fine.

“Maleftos you dumb son of a bitch. This is the same bullshit I’ve been dealing with my whole life. I’m over it.”

“You keep saying that, but that has yet to be seen. Soon enough this body will just be another corpse that you mine for Cerebra before we do this dance over and over. Y’know the thing about self-doubt. They kill you today, you kill ‘em tomorrow.”

“Shut up. At first I was gonna kill you because it’s what you’re supposed to do to someone that threatens you. Now I’m gonna kill you because the only thing I hate more than myself is the new Star Wars trilogy.”
Nicholas



Nic had been by the cafeteria’s exit when the festivities began. As per usual, his head had been so firmly up his own ass that he failed to respond with the efficiency that he should’ve been conditioned to. It obviously would’ve been suicidal to bum rush the armed assailants, so he decided to hold off on that front, even as he heard the wet splotch of red-hot scarlet splashing onto the ground. So he turned his back in favor of a short-term tactical retreat, rushing low to the ground to the kitchen, with the same four legged stance as a rushing weasel.

Once inside, he wasted no time. The kitchen staff screamed, quite reasonably, before they realized that he was not one of the terrorists. They were all low to the ground, hands over their heads, many cuddling up like they were trying to share body heat in an earthquake.

“What’s happening?” one of the kitchen staff asked.

Not feeling particularly chatty, Nic simply snipped, “I’ll give you three guesses” before throwing the cupboards open. “Useless. Useless,” he snapped as he sorted through, shuddering as he heard the continued sound of explosions, screams and gunshots. Some of the people he’d briefly gotten to know last month were there. He wasn’t sure if he’d call any of them friends but that guy, Archie, wasn’t a dick and that was a start. Finally, he found what he was looking for: Peanut oil. Shortly thereafter, he ripped open a bag of sugar, dumping a helping of the oil into it.

“Fire extinguisher: Where is it?” he asked. One of the cowering cooks pointed him in the right direction. “Wonderful. Thank you for not being completely useless,” he condescended unintentionally before offering a small apologetic salute.

At that, he got to work, slathering his mixture on the outside of the extinguisher until it was positively caked. Then, borrowing a lighter from one of the cooks, he set it alight. Stealing a teflon from the supply closet, he rolled the flaming fire extinguisher onto it, having formed an unreasonably heavy, extremely hazardous, sling. At that, he decided that it was time to get his darling little fire retardent grenade the fuck away from him and out of the kitchen.

Creeping out of the kitchen, he had been planning to sneak back towards the front of the melee using the tables as cover. Didn’t work out that way. It was a good plan though. His pa’ always said that “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” It appeared that the insurgents had unleashed a were-crocodile upon them.

“No.” Not just upon them. Specifically their dog was about to sic his angel, the one who he’d heard clear as day from across the way at the party last month. “Not happening,” Nic said, swinging his flaming teflon sling towards the creature’s hind leg.

She’s mine, he thought as the steel burst directly behind the creature, having impacted against the tile of the cafeteria, unleashing a burst of scarlet steel shrapnel and pressurized carbon dioxide. An instant later, Nic felt his arm fly back, stinging. Sore from carrying that thing? Doesn’t matter. He took cover behind a table that had found its way onto its side before rubbing his arm down, realizing that he’d evidently caught a piece of shrapnel in his forearm. But if it kept his angel safe, it was well worth it. And if it didn’t, well… fuck. It probably wouldn’t, with his luck. The only thing he was really good at was hurting innocent parahumans.

The were-croc was probably gonna be fine. And he would probably fail to make a meaningful move against the terrorists.

Alright. Let’s look at our little to do list rationally: 1) Remove head from ass. 2) Neutralize were-croc. 3) Neutralize gunmen. 4) Perform first aid on everyone in the goddamn room. 5) Ride off into the sunset with his angel in his arms after she confesses her love for him, on account of how brave he had been. 6) Repeat step one, as needed.
Feb 7 2020
Day Two


Then, like a mist being swept away by the wind, I felt Maleftos’ influence recede. ‘Fifteen minutes, huh?’ I thought to myself. Well I can do a lot with fifteen minutes.

Staring into my soul, I saw the very canal that I had just emerged from. I swore I would never take in the dread again and that was true, I absolutely will not. Seeing my corpses lain about in the stream never fails to make me uncomfortable. Having just been reborn though, I reached out to the freshest one, a vacant body only hours old. This would suit my purposes better than the others.

Having only fourteen minutes to prepare myself for Mal’s Bullshit Barrage, I drug the fresh corpse out of the canal and over to a nearby altar, the very altar that I had lain upon before my first undoing. I had burnt myself for the sake of others many times, even many times more than I had been taken under by the all consuming dread that threads itself through my life.

Thirteen minutes remained. My toolkit was a ways away. While it was probably possible that I could retrieve it in as little as three, that would also cost me an additional three minutes on the return, leaving me only seven minutes for my rituals. No. Maybe it could work, but it’d probably be optimal to just get my hands dirty. Ho hum.

Thinking it through had cost me another of my precious minutes. So, with twelve remaining, I peeled the eyes of my prior self open. I had to part the eyelids with nails, seeing as laying face down in the dread had caused the damnable fluid to congeal into a viscous substance. Not unlike glue. Kissing my self on the forehead, I set my hands over his ears and sat him upright.

“You were a good man, Arnie. A brave man. You deserved better. Don’t worry,” I advised myself, just as much as I was speaking to my other self, “We’ll have better. Just take a deep breath and let me take the wheel. Sometimes to make an omelette,” I hiss, placing my right hand on the forehead and the other upon the back of his neck. “you have to break a few,” I drove my right hand downward, like a twelve-year old playing Whack-A-Mole. Seeing the scarlet, borderline blackened, spatter, I inflated my lungs, needing the air in spite of the literally dreadful stench, “Skulls.”

Clocks ticking. Nine minutes left. So I handily parted the skull at the sagittal suture, like a DVD case, before reaching inside, sweeping out a metric fuckton of cerebrospinal fluid and eventually working my fingers around the occipital lobe. Bingo. I flapped my fingers to and fro before gently persuading it to secede from its cerebral union. Yes. And out it came. My hand coated in the dreadful ooze that eeked its way out of the brain. I held it up to the sun: beholding it as a beekeeper would his honeycomb.

Six minutes left until Bullshit Barrage and I still haven’t even begun the ritual. Hopefully Maleftos doesn’t have any of my more powerful inner demons on speed dial or I am totally fucked.
"I write these stupid words and I love every one
Rivers Cuomo

Hi. I'm Nightrunner. Sometimes I write things. Stupid, stupid things. I should write more of them. So the idea of this page is just to post them. Half of my motivation for doing so is to hyperinflate The Guild with low-quality/high-quantity drivel. The other half is to boost my average number of posts a day. If you have any thoughts on them, post them. If you don't, go read something better.
Feb 6 2020
Day One


It is said that the truest way to demonstrate that you are pleading is to place your palms skyward. But, if you continue begging for long enough, then eventually the weight of the world will find itself resting in your hands, just as the mist becomes the dew so too the dread that hangs in the air condenses until it runs through your hand as casually as a stream steps upon a canal. Soon enough you’re swimming in it. Somehow sooner still you are drowned in it. The men I used to be are dead and bloated, saturated by the dread.

Upon emerging from the canal that I had carved for myself, I made myself two things: a promise and a simple sandwich. The promise was that I would never taste dread again. I would not find myself in such a sorry state as I had so constantly been in recent times. I would seize opportunity by the throat and force it to breathe in the dread on my behalf. The sandwich was ham and cheese, my favorite. All things considered, it’s fair to say that I deserve it, I’d say.

I had hardly finished placing the bread atop the cheese when I felt the oddest sensation happening upon my intestines. I felt them writhing in pleasure, at once slithering about like snakes and galloping like horses. In spite of my forthcoming jubilation, I felt that something sinister was afoot and so, at once, in a single bite, I’d taken the sandwich into my maw, neither taking the time to chew nor swallow, instead flexing my abs powerfully enough to crush my stomach, predicating a change in pressure so intense that the entire sandwich rappeled into my gut faster than an army ranger.

“So I see I wasn’t quite subtle enough, dearest Arnold,” I garbled hatefully, sounds muffled by the pudding-like trail of bread that had eroded and been abandoned all about my insides. “Very well, then. I should’ve known that you were far too literally and figuratively introspective for such methods to have an effect on you, dear rival.”

“You oughta know by now that it’s not a matter of subtlety, Maleftos! There is no amount nor is there any sort of bullshit that you can send my way that I cannot overcome,” I shouted out at the top of my lungs.

“We’ll see about that. As the Lord of your Inner Demons, many bulls kneel before me, so to speak. And everything of theirs is mine to do with as I please. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes. And we’ll see just how much of my bullshit you can contend with,” I said, biting my tongue several times as I spoke the words. Then, after a moment, I added “You really oughta take better care of our body. You look terrible. It’s like you’re literally trying to kill me off with all the cholesterol and cheese.”
Nicholas



Adolescence truly is a magical time. Most people, when around age thirteen or fourteen, start to see the shape of things to come creeping over the horizon. But trying to see into the future, for most people, is as unachievable as trying to smell the shape of a dancing flame. Surprisingly few ever really appreciate that peeking over the edge of tomorrow isn't as finite a task as peeking over a countertop.

The true magic of adolescence isn't the curse of a faulty foresight. Rather, it is the inner alchemy of an aging heart. As you learn that even gold can rust and that as long as you hold "forever" up as an immutable constant, its' end can only ever be at an arms-length, always within reach.

When the one girl, the bossy one, blood-spattered and beautiful shouted something sarcastic and desperate, he wanted to respond faster. By all accounts, he should've responded faster. He was trained to respond faster. But this felt too horrible to be true. Like all the remaining reason was being torn from his iron fists like taffy. The truth was stretching so thin that he could see through it, like a window into the unimaginable, or perhaps more like a television.

As Nic stared into the gunshot that had once been a face, he thought back to the last time he'd seen someone hurt like that. The first girl he ever loved. Or at least said that he loved. Anyhow, there were a few brief and perfect hours in which they really did have forever ahead of them.


Four Years Ago
Nebraska, The United States of America, Earth


Back when there was a sun above his head, back when there was an Earth beneath his feet, back when the world had another side, there was a time when he knew how to take a hit without ever being guarded. He was a young boy, exactly thirteen years old when he was luxuriating in the midwestern sunshine, feeling his skin glisten and bead with sweat. He was his father's right hand, his pride and joy. Though he was barely pubescent he could taste the freedom under his wings, feeling the entirety of the heavens upon his back without even a single devil on his shoulder.

It was his thirteenth birthday. Uncle Derek, very possibly his father's closest advisor and Nic's own personal hero, was manning his grill and unleashing a torrent of hellish fire upon slab after slab of beef. In it's penance it was all rendered perfect, delicious. There was probably literally no one in the entire nation who could cook a better burger, Nic figured, as he wiped an amalgam of ketchup, mayonaise and grease from his chin. Nic was taken aback, choking on a crouton-sized nugget as a molten whiteness swallowed his face. He almost screamed before realizing that his father had merely wiped his face with a kleenex.

"If this were the field, you'd be dead. And that'd be a shame. You'd be the most handsome little victim. So how does it feel, my boy? It's been a long while since I was a teenager."

"I dunno, dad. Nothing feels all that different. I guess that means I've been ready all along. So can I start driving yet?"

"No, son. I know you're not as reckless as the other boys but that really is dangerous. I promise that you'll be behind the wheel before you even know it. I want it as bad as you, really. Why do you think you get CAT scans every week? The instant that your brain has developed you'll be rolling down the road like thunder. But there is nothing in the world more important to me than protecting my family. And you know who the familiest family I have is?"

"Me."

"That's right, private. Don't you forget it. Now go enjoy your special day," he said with a punch on the shoulder before winking, "And that's an order."

The sun peeked over the fenceline, glittering against the electric fence, promising that it was going to be a good day. Uncle Derek and the other men of the militia had gone all out, giving him a day to remember, playing paintball-hide n' seek until the sun set. Exhausted and gleeful, he collapsed into his fresh bedsheets, soaking his linens with his pungent and glistening adolescent marinade. His ankles took root, as had his ass but as the base of his skull hammered into his pillow, he felt a gentle but noticeable resistance.

"Yes!" he screamed in a hush, producing a collapsed cardboard box from beneath the cool side of his pillow. Even in the almost nonexistent light of the deepest hours of night, the moonlight let him see the text scrawled under the red ribbon that hugged his present tighter than his ribs could hold his heart. It read 'A secret mission for my little man. You can do this. I believe in you. Love, Dad.'

Inside the box was a key, a plain and unremarkable household key that was laid atop a manilla envelope. Along the envelope's edge, there was a name written in sharpie: "Bridgette Munroe". It wasn't a name he was familiar with. But there were plenty of neatly organized documents to unload for him. It was like a puzzle box.

"When I was your age, I was crazy about girls. I know it's pretty tight around here. Always cramped and there aren't exactly a lot of kids your age. If life hadn't dragged me down this road, I wouldn't have chosen to raise you this way. There's not a lot I can do about that, now. After all, we're here. But don't let anyone say that I don't love you. We discovered reports of a rumored teenage para at the local high school. It took a long time to fish her out but thanks to the carelessness of the school faculty we were able to ID her: Brigette Munroe. We gather that her power has something to do with enhanced optics but specifics have been scarce.

I don't think it'd be good for morale if the rest of the guys knew that we were running surveillance on high schoolers using social media under the guise of our meme accounts, which is why you are going to keep this one on the down-low. Get eyes on Munroe. Keep a log of her activities. Keep me posted on the daily. And most importantly: Have fun, sport. I love you.

Sincerely,
Your Father, Sergeant Nathan Adair"




Archie offered: "Help them. Find someone with a badge and bring them here."

"Anything obvious? You could grab a tampon from any one of these pussies and come fucking staunch the bleeding!" Lynn garbled hatefully.

One of them said come here and the other one said go away. Between the talk of tampons and teleportation, Nic found himself woefully unprepared and out of his element. Dropping into a situation without knowing everything about everyone ahead of time was as far from his comfort zone as.... well, as far as The Promise itself was from his literal comfort zone back in Nebraska.

He'd have to make notes on these people and their abilities later: Archie. Lynn. Eli. Amelia. And Deadmau5? Not to hurt them, he told himself. He'd never let that happen again. But so that he'd always know his options.

Option B, I guess. Handle the problem. Help stop the bleeding. After all, finding someone with a badge to stare at a corpse wouldn't help anyone.

So he decided to hop behind a tree momentarily, ripping off his fatigues and shearing a portion of the leg away that he could stuff against the officer's face in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Probably wouldn't work but it seemed reasonable that, when in doubt, it was slightly more advantageous to make a brash and unconsidered move than none at all.

Their cacophonous arguing seemed to die all at once before he returned however. When he stepped out from behind the tree, he noticed that half of the crew was gone, seeming to have disappeared altogether. So there he was, with his jeans in hand, his legs covered by the yoga pants he happened to be wearing. The only ones still around were two of the girls, one of which had been with Anderson, and Deadmau5.

"I'm sorry. I've really been out of it tonight but what just happened?"

Shortly thereafter, there was the sound of more agents storming their way. Nic did not trust them as they barked for him and his newfound associates not to move. He still really had no idea what was going on. In fact, it seemed like these people would be highly suspect. But it seemed like behaving rashly would probably get him killed. If there was a sign of real trouble, he'd probably have to get his head out of his ass. Fortunately, the insidious hypothetical danger never got around to materializing. Nic told them next to nothing because he knew next to nothing. He wished he was lying about not understanding. Next time, he promised himself, he would know. No more of this bumbling naive bullshit. No more.




After the interview/debriefing/interrogation/questioning, a couple things had become extremely apparent. One: Nic was apparently incapable of responding well to a surprise. Two: The faculty was either not right of mind or unfit for duty. Three: He wasn't prepared for medical emergencies if his mother wasn't there to patch him up.

So the day after he made up his mind. He couldn't legally serve in a military. Probably for the best. He couldn't be a cop, but in all fairness that probably would've been squandering his potential anyway. So it occurred to him. He'd make up for all the people he'd hurt in the last eight years by bandaging people day in and day out.

There's a hole in the world bigger than the hole in Officer Radvi's face. And Nic had decided that he would fix it. So he immediately committed to action, spending an easy hour getting certified in First Aid through a program offered on the station's infranet. After investing in a high end first aid kit, which he had divided up through his various pockets, he felt freshly prepared for whatever lay ahead.

He wasn't entirely sure if he felt a newfound resilience within his bones or if the warm morning rain was washing away the fatigue that had snowballed within him over the years. He was turning eighteen in twenty-six days. Twenty-six short days that had once felt like an eternity away. He felt the dross burning away from his heart as a newfound positivity, an earnest one left him feeling golden.

He found himself in a plaza, strolling down the street, intent on swinging by one of The Promise's bookstores, so he could peruse the textbooks for a couple medical classes he was considering taking. I wonder if there are any scholarships for parahumans like there are for ethnic minorities.
The weather is generally cold but otherwise not too unpleasant. There's not much in the way of snow, which is rather odd because about ten years ago the snow was very reliable around this time of year. All the evidence of global warming I've ever needed.

Not a war I'm personally interested in fighting. Not excited. How about you?

Movies

  • Scott Pilgrim vs The World
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Little Prince
  • 10 Things I Hate About You
  • Hush

Nicholas



"Sorry. I uh, I have a condition 'n all so the doctors gave me this. I think they set it to be much more sensitive than it should be. Archie. Anderson."

This poor is man is even more anxious than I am.

"That sounds inconvenient. Not so fond of warnings and supervision myself, these days," he nodded. "Not that I mean to imply that you shouldn't be hooked up to whatever it is. I guess I'm just.. babbling aimlessly. Nicholas. Adair."

That's what he was lacking, Nicholas decided. For all his coordination, he didn't have a true aim. He was missing a mission. So what was it going to be? He could determine that he would go back to the common areas and hunt down that girl he was staring at, pine for her affections relentlessly until he got either a giggle or a "Fuck no", or he could focus on being more proactive. Protecting all these poor parahuman youths from all of the Jell-O shots. Yes, he decided. That would be a worthy way to heroically sacrifice all of his power. After all, the two next to him seemed to be having a gay old time with their nudging and their kissin'.

Is that jealousy, I feel? After everything I've been through, am I really that petty?

Nothing a couple dozen Jell-O shots couldn't fix, he decided as he zeroed in on the rest of them. Then he felt his heart drop into his ankles as his conscience rang through him like a gunshot. Nononononono! Jell-O shots totally count. Five hundred and ninety-something days down the--! Bang. Bang. And bang. Those weren't epiphanies ringing like gunshots. Those were gunshots ringing like gunshots!

So, in a moment of clarity, he sheered himself away from the remaining Jell-O shots and shook off the lethargic weight of indifference that the last few years had coaxed him into. He felt his legs tighten but he was already bounding off the ground. He didn't so much breathe in the air so much as the air took him in. And he was leaping and crunching through twigs and sloshing through mud. As fast as he was, he couldn't help but notice that Archie, the kid with the medical device had somehow beaten him to the scene. In his almost masturbatory introspection there were a lot of things that Nic had failed to pay attention to, but failing to notice he was trailing someone he had just seen. This was a low.

I'll have to remember to feel ashamed about this later.

As he trotted up behind Anderson, he took in the schlock. It was uncomfortable. He felt his stomach warble but he tightened up his intestines, holding his posture straight and attempted to find some composure in the midst of the mess. He did feel his antennae involuntarily go erect in response to the excitement before emitting a puff of his spores. His hair was arranged to hide them in case of such an incident but the jog had somewhat tousled his mop, leaving them visible to the observant.

Not really sure what the correct course of action was, not ever having had much training in the way of triage. He wasn't really sure that there was anything that he could do. Wait a fucking second. I just met these people. How did something already go wrong?"

So he made his way over to the smart-looking girl. She sounded like she was taking charge. He only caught the wounds teleport and wound. Obviously he didn't belong here. Then again, no one did. "I seem to have missed the party but I heard noise so I followed Anderson. Is there anything obvious that I can do to help?"
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