John sat in the back of the bar, watching the news. Everyone stared in horror at the unfolding events. A news anchor spoke tersely, "Reports from around the globe indicate this is not confined to the USA. Major cities in every continent report millions hospitalized and uncounted numbers dead. This plague, which came out of nowhere, appears to be the work of some previously unknown villainous mastermind."
A man tapped John on the shoulder. He had expected it after ignoring the summons earlier. He got up and followed the man back toward the bathroom. Going through the door they teleported to a distant room. Ten costumed people sat at a large circular table. John recognized a few. One, the villain Plasmarc, laughed. "Too bad you're out of costume. I can now find you wherever you are hiding."
"I'm a small time hero. I use a camouflage uniform to gather information for the police so they can catch criminals." John took the nearest vacant seat.
"So what is your power?" the Japanese heroine, Blade Mistress, asked. Her mask covered her entire head, but her skintight costume accented a figure which would have done any model proud.
"Small precognition," John replied. "I can sense where to find a criminal so I can gather evidence against them."
"Why didn't you see this coming?" the Australian hero, Shepherd, asked. His costume consisted of an armored trench-coat and a blood red face mask.
"Short range and only a two hour limit." John shrugged. "I probably have to get out because I recognize five villains who will certainly hunt me down. I thought we had more."
"Your power is pathetic," said Basilisk, a villain who could paralyze enemies with a glance. "You could have made a bundle with that by cleaning out casinos."
"Some of us have a conscience." John stood and leaned on the table. "I can't stand the idea of killing someone, so I can't go out and get into battles. Everyone needs help against drug peddlers, pedophiles, and-"
"Shut up, loser," Basilisk said. "Your side lost. Simple as that. We must be here because someone met the victory conditions."
"Correct," the administrator, the being who gave everyone their powers and initial equipment said. "One particularly heinous villain released a plague around the globe. Within two weeks, the world population will be under a billion. Nothing the heroes do will ever prevent catastrophe, because it has occurred. Of your initial four hundred globally, there are only eleven surviving villains and heroes because many have already fallen."
"You sound like it targeted heroes," Shepherd said.
"It may have. Along with villains."
"Many had already perished beneath my hands." The Russian villain, Jetski, a pun on the Russian word for tough, smiled. "Too many fools took powers for this or that, but I took extreme fitness with eternal youth. I will never be sickened by a disease. Your power is pathetic. I would only have needed to outlast you."
"Whatever. Having been notified, what does that change for us?" John asked.
"I will retrieve most of your equipment and remove your abilities. Only the perpetrator will remain at full strength."
"Fine. Take care of me first. I was about ready to call it quits anyhow," John said. He stood, ready to leave. The administrator followed him back to the bar they had been in. John smirked. "Want to take my car back to my home?"
As he drove, John ignored his passenger. Finally, the administrator said, "Why are you disguised as a man?"
"Because I'm disguised as a particular man." John replied. "His name is John, this is his car and earlier today he was asymptomatic. Nobody knows he's dying. Now all those other clowns can leave me alone because I died."
"And nobody will ever guess you were the most successful villain of all."
"I suppose now is the time you tell me you represent an alien race which is headed here to colonize and I just made it easier." John stopped at a light and looked across at the administrator. "I want to be a collaborator. Humanity can make good servants if you do it right."
"Your history suggests otherwise."
"Marketing is key. If you look at the western world, we're all just slaves to corporations." John smiled over at the administrator. "Pitch your people as refugees who bring succor to a world threatened by the same criminals who forced them from their homes."
"None would believe such a claim."
"Are you bringing billions of colonists?" John continued as though it did not matter. "Of course not. If you had FTL, then you wouldn't have chosen such a lame scheme to try and weaken us before taking over."
"Giving a bunch of people super powers to change the world, then making it a competition between good and evil?" The light changed and John accelerated through the intersection. "Sounds like the plot from a B movie. You wanted someone to kill most of the people in a grand scheme, it was the way to gain the bonus. You even gave a ten year limit so that we would have incentive to work fast."
"I have time constraints."
"I wanted us to have a little leeway, otherwise I might have waited a bit longer." John sighed, then said, "I hated having to kill all those people, but I left the groups which are below replacement value. That means your people will be favorably viewed because we'll have a continual labor shortage for the next century. After that, they'll be seen as just everyday folks."
"My people won't arrive for another sixty-two years," the administrator said. "We expected a planet with only primitive, single-cell lifeforms. Certainly not a civilization capable of learning everything we can do within a few generations."
"So we have some time for the numbers to shift more in your favor," John said. "Oh, we're getting close. How many folks are you bringing, anyhow? It could matter."
"Three hundred million. As many as we could save when our sun began expanding."
"Further along in your stellar sequence. Small wonder you expected only basic life forms."
John pulled into a modest community. The administrator kept quiet for a while, then said, "We wanted the base DNA sequences, which match ours. Your world needs no modifications for us to find it comfortable. All I needed to do was plant seeds we would find appropriate for our nutritional needs."
"So you're not a spy, just a farmer?"
"More or less. I trained for reconnaissance along the way."
"You have three hundred million on colony ships?" John pulled into a driveway, stopped the car and looked over at the administrator, a shocked look on his face. "How can you keep that much life support running?"
"We stay mostly in cryosleep, only coming out every couple of centuries for a month of medical rehabilitation."
"Fascinating. We could learn so much from your people." John got out and waited for the administrator to do the same. "Do you want to go take care of everyone while I wait for you to come back. You do want to take up their gear."
"I have a claim from Magnum Death that he delivered the disease around the globe." The administrator gave John an indecipherable look. "Can you explain how this was your plot when he has the resources to deliver it everywhere?"
"Sure. I made it using the power you actually gave me while impersonating a skilled doctor who might have been able to manage except he wasn't as good as anyone thought." John opened the door. "I didn't know you could be in several places at once."
"I'm not really. How did your ability to manipulate machinery at all scales make a disease?"
"Nanotechnology. Same thing you used to give us our powers," John said. "It can do a lot of things, but not everything. That's why a few powers were off the table form the start."
"So you used Magnum Death to achieve your goals?"
"Yep, to try and save the human race."
"I'm unsure if that makes you a hero or a villain."
"The means count. I killed a lot of people. That's why I intend to disappear after this."
"How can you collaborate if you disappear?"
"I don't need to," John said. "Your people will be happy to share the planet with us. With the numbers remaining, we can work together. I already did my share. Now, you do yours."
"My people will face the same discrimination they did back home before our sun ran down. It will be worse here because we cannot interbreed."
"Humanity will lack the numbers to marginalize your people. You come with technological resources to ensure you will begin rich. You will be wealthy beyond your wildest dreams." John motioned toward the open door. "Let's get inside before someone overhears."
They went inside the modest house. John left the administrator in the breakfast nook and went to the bedroom. She emerged after several minutes, having shed her John disguise. Sixty, with dark flashing eyes and once black hair peppered with silver, Sarah had only her height in common with John. The administrator took immediate note of the change. "Your disguise was quite convincing."
"It needed to be. I spent a lot of effort donning it so those others would be fooled."
"They aren't a problem. Do you have details on making humans willing slaves?"
Sarah stared at him, shaking slightly. "Why won't they be a problem?"
"I already killed them," the administrator said. "Now, do you have your plans somewhere I can readily access them?"
"You always planned to kill us." She knew he was only here virtually. Teleportation was impossible. That clue had led her to figure out how he managed the illusion.
Sarah grabbed a remote and toggled a switch. The administrator smiled. "You were very clever. Putting up a Fermi shield to keep my virtual form out. To prevent me from activating the remote kill switch at my leisure. Inconvenient, I dislike traveling in my physical form, despite having changed it to fit in with your society. Give me a moment to gloat about how I intend to kill most of your species and enslave the tattered remnants.
Sarah backed away, her eyes round with horror. "I'm an ally. I never betrayed you. Please, I want to live. Just let me live and I'll do whatever you want."
"I want you to die." He slowly reached into his jacket. Sarah smoothly opened a drawer behind her and pulled a revolver. She aimed center of mass and pulled the trigger three times.
"I expected your treachery." She stood over his now prone form and kicked the rod away from his hands. She had no idea of its actual use, but it looked like a telescoping cylinder. "You're inside my home, armed with a collapsible baton, I defended myself. The police will take you away and I will disappear where you will never find me. But first, I want to gloat.
"I will never have to kill anyone." Sarah hadn't for the plague either. That was on the man who released it- a virus she modified so that certain groups faced a less deadly version which still generated antibodies capable of stopping the deadlier strains loosed elsewhere. "You survive and the government puts you into a lab to see what you truly are. I disabled the kill switch in me while making it seem like it was still functioning. Just to hear your real plans. You told me three hundred million of your people will show up in sixty-two years. That gives me plenty of time to use your own tech. I already backtracked the signals you used to monitor us. I know where you base out of. This is the problem of having a farmer try to play tech games while spying. You trained for neither. While I was never a spy, I am a pretty good engineer."
"I will claim you are my accomplice. That you were a collaborator. They will investigate you as well."
"Sure you will." Sarah looked at his blood, a dark shade of green, and said. "I can just point out the cut I got from your baton."
She stooped and wiped a little blood from the scrape she got pulling the pistol out of the drawer onto the baton. "They'll take you and I'll go disappear. That disguise earlier was from using nanotech to alter my appearance. I got your technology from copying your implants. The ones designed to kill me at your whim. You really were sloppy."
"My people will get revenge for me."
Sarah ignored him. The rest of her plan, to build space industry and let the government create a space fleet to stop the aliens would never reach his ears. She could see it to fruition because she could use reverse engineered tech to stay perpetually young- she might even share with the rich when she wanted to remain in a single identity. She had enjoyed taunting the little prick, but everything else would only work if people had no clue she was manipulating them. She dialed 911. "Help. Someone armed with one of those collapsible stick-things broke into my house. I shot him and he's bleeding. I need some police and an ambulance."
And with that, the era of superheroes was over.
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I love this! Amazing flow and I remained captivated throughout. You could’ve written an entire novel and I would’ve absorbed it in a day. You’re an amazing writer, please never stop!
I loved how you brought Corona into your story. It fitted saw well. Also enjoyed the multiple twists. The explanations were a major plus. I liked how you didn't leave any loose ends. Just one doubt, so once she activated the Fermi switch, his virtual form couldn't enter. But it felt like he immediately transformed into his physical form. I guess, adding a line their might clear things up for the reader. I felt a bit confused there. Other than that, it was a great story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 👍
I loved this Charles. And the ending. Wow. Please keep writing.