Month: April 2015

No Chapter this Week

I hate having to do this so often but the semester’s almost over and I just don’t have time to write right now.

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Chapter 51: Trust Issues

Hawthorne paced as Will laid back on the couch. Stalker had gone to check on a disturbance and left them to watch the cameras.

Hawthorne looked over to Will. “I don’t trust him. I don’t trust him with my face, and I can’t believe you trust him with your name.”

“You worry too much,” Will said. “Stalker may be insane, but he’s one of the good guys, and I trust him. He wouldn’t tell anyone if his life depended on it.”

“I don’t know how you can trust someone like that. The way he smiled…it actually looked like he could kill me.”

“You have good instincts then. A lot of heroes and villains fake that, you picked out one of the few who would go through with it.”

She stopped pacing.

Will raised an eyebrow. “Stop worrying. He doesn’t kill just anyone, and as far as I know he’s never killed a hero. But I know he’s a killer. More importantly, I know that he would kill me, or you, or anyone else who he thought needed to be killed.”

“And you’re okay with that? You’re okay with him knowing your name and your face? You said he’s insane.”

“He is. Stalker has absolutely no regard for his own life, and he is capable of killing somebody without any remorse. But his lack of self-worth makes him one of the most objective people I’ve ever met. I know that if Stalker ever runs his blade through my heart it’s because he realized that I’ve done something that I need to be killed for. Stalker, for all the good he does, is not a hero. Stalker is a true vigilante, and he doesn’t consider any law more important than his own.”

“And what is his law?” Hawthorne growled out. “How does he decide who deserves to live? Does he only kill killers? Because the courts could handle that. Does he only kill people who can’t be redeemed? Because that’s bullshit. You’re sitting here justifying a murderer when you told all of us exactly why a hero is never allowed to kill. What gives you the right to say this guy is any different?”

Will sat up so he could meet her eyes. “If you knew, for a fact, that a man was going to kill hundreds of people if you didn’t kill him, could you do it?”

Hawthorne didn’t say anything, but the look in her eyes could kill dragons.

“You wouldn’t. You would try to find another option, because you’re a hero, because you can do things that give you the luxury of having hundreds if not thousands of other options. I would do the same, as would anyone on the council. But Stalker isn’t like us, he can’t wrap someone in a tree so tightly and quickly that they’d never get the chance to set off a bomb. He can’t run fast enough to take the bomb out of the city, or defuse it, or chuck it into orbit. But he could slit that man’s throat and never look back. For anyone without powers, that is the only real option they’d have. Stalker doesn’t live in a world where there’s always another choice, he has to accept the choices he’s given. If he kills someone it’s because there was never another option. That’s why I can trust him, because he can and has made a decision I could never make without hesitation. I trust him with my face because the day he kills me is the day that I become the man with the detonator, and there’s no one I think is better suited to the task. And I’m asking you to let this go before he gets back, not because I want you to trust him, but because I need you to trust me. Because there are people in this city who would gladly kill all three of us if something goes wrong. And the chances of us making it through that with him are much better than the other option.”

Will could hear her grinding her teeth. She still looked angry, but it had toned down a bit during his speech.

“You wouldn’t have even told me about Allspades going missing if I hadn’t tracked you down. Burnout, Mach, and the kid probably still don’t know. You’re asking me to trust you when you won’t even tell us one of our members has gone to the gray side. You’re not our guardian, and you’re not actually a therapist, so stop acting like you know what’s best for us, and start helping us understand why you think the way you do. Promise me that much, and then I’ll trust you.”

Will stood up. He walked over to her and held out his hand. Hawthorne looked him in the eyes and shook it.

A snort came over from the exit. Stalker held a hand over his mouth, but his shoulders were shaking visibly.

“She actually said gray side,” he managed to force out between giggles. “That is the nerdiest thing I’ve heard in weeks.”

Will sighed and looked back at Hawthorne. “We really can trust him, I swear.”

Hawthorne nodded slowly, but she had trouble taking her eyes off the giggling madman.

Stalker managed to get himself under control, and his hand disappeared into his hood like he was wiping off tears from his hidden eyes.

“Any news?”

Stalker nodded, his smile as wide as ever. “Plask is going to be in his club tonight. Even after the last time, it’s still the time he’s most vulnerable. Your boy will be there tonight, or he’ll have to wait who knows how long until he’s got another shot.”

Will looked at his feet and sighed. “If Plask finds Allspades at the club before we can get to him, this whole night’s gonna go straight to hell.”

“And that makes your feet extremely interesting,” Stalker said matter of factly, as if he believed it completely. He too looked at Will’s feet.

“No,” Will shook his head. “But these are nice shoes. I really hate ruining nice shoes.”

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Chapter 50: Pacing

Knight took another five steps and turned around. He’d been pacing back and forth for most of the day, waiting for his chance to end Plask once and for all.

“Why are we still here?” He almost immediately regretted saying it out loud. She talked less when he didn’t.

They have to find him first; you know that. He doesn’t spend every night at that club anymore.

He could hear her giggling. She always tried to get him to loosen up before missions. She hated the way he always moved around. On the last mission she’d threatened to strap him to a chair if he didn’t sit down on his own. She would have too, if she’d ever had the chance.

“The man has more money than anyone else in the city. It shouldn’t be this had to figure out where he’s spending it.”

Ah yes, I can see tomorrow’s paper already. ‘Local Businessman Assaulted in Dressing Room.’ Plus you get your face on every camera in the place. It’s a nice start, but I think you may want to find a different route to fame.

He could almost see her sitting on the table in front of him, her legs crossed and hanging just above the floor.  She’d be smirking, and her eyebrow would be raised just enough to tell him she was being sarcastic. Of course, her tone could tell him just as much a lot more easily.

“Give me some credit, Page. I would follow him somewhere a bit more secluded than that. At least I’d be doing something then. I’m going nuts sitting here.”

Well, you are talking to a dead person. If you can get used to that, I’m sure insanity won’t be a problem. What’s a couple more voices in your head? You could handle that no problem.

“Thanks for the reminder, Page. But I’m still not convinced you’re not a ghost. I’ve seen enough weird shit to believe it, and you’re the type of person to keep bugging me after death.”

She didn’t say anything, and he could tell she was sticking her tongue out at him.

Like you were any better. You followed me around like a sad puppy those first few months. You could lift a motorcycle with one hand and you were homesick. I swear you would’ve asked for a nightlight if you thought you’d get one.

Knight rolled his eyes. “6 years and you still bring that up. It’s not the magic bullet you think it is, you know.”

Maybe. But it always cheers me up. And that’s all I’m really after anyway. Now, do we need to go over it again? I’m not going to be able to throw up a shield if you mess it up this time.

“I can stop bullets fine on my own. And Plask isn’t so paranoid he’d drop anything big enough to hurt me for real. If I can get to him before he walks out the door, then he’s a dead man. Nothing he has will get in my way.”

Because that plan worked so well last time.

Knight turned away from the empty spot on the table.

Shoot. I’m sorry, Mason. I didn’t mean it like that. None of us were ready for what happened that day. If Helen didn’t see it coming, then nobody could.

“Information wasn’t my job. Protecting you was. You shouldn’t have had to wear out your shield. King shouldn’t have had to take that bullet. Queen should never have been alone when she was attacked. It was my job to take the hits, because we knew I could take it.”

A gust of air blew by his face. “You know I never liked it when you talked like that. That isn’t why we needed you.

“But it’s why I was there, no matter what you three thought. I was there to be a shield, and I had accepted that. I didn’t fail that night, I failed three years ago, when I got that sword and decided I’d rather swing it around than take hits for you all.”

So that’s why you gave it up. I always thought you should have just had a new one made. I’m sure Mach would have helped if you’d asked.

“I’ve talked more with the kid than I have Mach. I don’t think he’d be too keen on doing me favors.”

I think you might be surprised. He didn’t say anything when he recognized you after all. Even if he forgot about it a few minutes later.

“I suppose I have you to thank for that. I never could stand the masks.”

Plus you look awful with helmet hair.

“Plus I look awful with helmet hair,” he agreed without thinking.

Be glad they got rid of the early costume designs then. They were actually going to give Thomas a crown, remember?

“Because his ego needed the boost obviously. He could almost sit through a meal without talking about how good the food he used to eat was.”

It was really bad.

“But the rest of us missed burgers, not lobster.”

There was a knock at the door. Agent Craig’s voice filtered in from the other side.

“Get suited up, Knight. Plask is going to be at his club in 3 hours. We want you to be there first this time. We don’t want him to have the place set up for you this time.”

Time for you to go. But at least I managed to win for once.

“Win?”

You stopped pacing didn’t you?

Knight looked down. He’d been standing in the same place for the last few minutes.

“I guess I did.” He smiled. “You win, Page. Just keep it to yourself okay? Thomas would never let me live it down if he heard.”

Don’t worry. Not much need for gossip when you’re dead. Plus I haven’t actually seen him in months. Queen either. Most people don’t really feel the need to hang around.

“I guess bugging me was just too much fun to pass up then.”

Another gust of air blew by his face. “You’re really hopeless you know that?

“About what?”

She didn’t answer.

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Chapter 49: Awakening

 

Dusk had fallen on the city by the time the train car pulled to a stop. Hawthorne stepped out. At Will’s insistence she had pulled her helmet back into its seed form and loosened her outfit so it looked less like the armor it was. She nervously ran a hand through her hair. Even if he had seen her real face once before, it felt unnatural to be unmasked near him.

Will stepped out behind her. He hadn’t tried to disquise his face, but she couldn’t help but notice the way he kept his eyes pointed towards the ground for the entire time they were in the station.

She half expected him to turn into the first motel to wait out the night, but he kept walking, winding his way through the streets. After thirty minutes of seemingly random turns, she started to grow concerned.

“Will, where are we going?”

Will paused. “We need to meet up with somebody. I’m sure he knows we’re here by now, but we shouldn’t make any moved until he gets here, and he’s probably not sure if I’m waiting for him yet.”

“He’s a hero?”

Will chuckled. “Anywhere else, he would’ve been. But real heroes don’t get the title here. He’s antisocial, violent, and probably nuttier than half the villains in other cities, but if he wasn’t then he would’ve been killed years ago.”

“You flatter me.” A deep but smooth voice echoed through the empty street.

Hawthorne whirled towards the voice.

“You have a jumpy one here, Will.”

“Most people on our profession aren’t exactly used to being snuck up on.”

“You could have warned her.”

“But then she would never learn.”

Hawthorne’s eyes danced between the two, but she had finally had enough.  “She is also right here. Is this who we were waiting for?”

Will nodded. “Hawthorne, meet Stalker, but you might hear the locals call him The Black Swordsman. I’m afraid you’d have to get used to him sneaking up on you. He does it to everyone.”

“Except you.” Stalker stepped out of the shadows. He was short, barely 5 and a half feet if you counted his hood, and he wore a long black coat with two long straight swords crossing his back. The coat hung open, revealing darkened armor beneath it. His face was completely shadowed by a hood, no matter how the light hit him.

He turned to Hawthorne. “Forgive me if I don’t shake hands, but Will rarely brings good news. Interesting times follow him like a witch’s curse.” He cocked his head towards Will. “So am I going to play 20 questions, or do I get to know the whole story straight out.”

“We need to know about an incident a little less than a year back. Some black suits came in to take out a local. Three of them died, and the last vanished.”

Stalker tilted his head. “That’d be The Meridian. Plask? If you’re going after Plask, I’ll warn you right now to stay the hell away. The man’s a pig, but he’s smart and he’s cruel. You could probably catch him no problem, but nothing you do is gonna stick.”

“No,” Will said. “We’re not after Plask. The fourth black suit, the one who escaped, quit and ended up becoming a hero. I’ve been watching out for him these last few months.”

“Let me guess, his bosses didn’t like that? And now they’ll go after him unless he puts an end to Plask.”

“They didn’t threaten him openly, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was their backup plan. We need to stop him.”

“No.”

It was the first time Hawthorne had seen Will look surprised.

“No?” He growled out.

Stalker turned away. “Plask is a disease. If I thought killing him would help my city, I’d have done it myself years ago, but I’m not going to save him.”

Hawthorne slammed her gloved fist into the wall. The two turned to her. “Are you an idiot? I know you don’t think we’re here to save Plask.”

“No,” Stalker said. “I think you’re here because Will’s sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. Again.” He shot a glare at Will. “This kid came here on his own. Will made it clear he wasn’t threatened, and if he survived the Meridian collapse then he’s tough enough to take care of himself. He doesn’t need us to save him from the black suits, and I won’t waste time trying.

Hawthorne’s eyes narrowed. “Bullshit. If you gave half a damn about helping people, you wouldn’t care about that. Don’t pretend you know what he’s going through from a ten second conversation. You’re right, it was his choice, but that doesn’t mean he should have had to make it alone. And we don’t have the right to walk away just because he expects us to.” Her outfit began to sprout vines; they reached out from her, twisting their way towards Stalker. “You don’t want to stop him? That’s fine, but you will tell us what you know about that club, or I’m going to hang you from the nearest flagpole until you do.”

She felt the man’s shadowed eyes lock with hers. He began to smile, his teeth almost glowing white behind the shadow of his hood. Then he began to laugh. It started as a chuckle, but it grew louder and more frantic the longer it went on. Hawthorne took a step back. The vines slowly retracted back into her suit.

Will took a step closer to her, and waited for the laughing to stop.

When he had calmed himself down, Stalker looked towards Will. He managed to speak, but the laughter was still hidden behind every word, and his glowing smile still stood out from the shadow like a crescent moon in a starless sky. “She’s a fun one, Will. She might actually be able to survive here.”

Will took another step to put himself between them. “I’m not interested in putting it to the test. Will you tell us about the club or not? She’s not kidding about the flagpole, and we don’t have the time it would take for you to get bored up there.”

The figure chuckled again. “I’ll help, I’ll even help you track the kid down. But not here. Come back to my place, this town has too many ears for even you to keep track of.”

Stalker began to walk away, but Hawthorne grabbed Will’s arm before he could follow. She spoke in a whisper. “He’s actually insane, isn’t he?”

Will sighed. He spoke normally, but Stalker didn’t seem to care. “Stalker would be classified as a gymnast. He has enhanced reflexes and flexibility, along with the muscles and bones to handle the stresses that puts on his body. But whatever happened that made him take up the mask changed the way his head thinks. Standing up to him the way you did impressed him, more than it would almost anyone else, and threatening him impressed him even more. He is not sane, but he’s kept up this life in this city longer than any unofficial hero has in half a century. In this city, being insane is the best defense anyone can have.”

“But he’ll help us?”

“He said he would, and so he will. He might even be professional about it. He’s insane, but he has his honor, twisted as it is.”

Will followed Stalker down the street, and Hawthorne followed a step behind.

Stalker led them across town, ducking down side alleys and avoiding any street too brightly lit. It took them another 45 minutes, but eventually he stopped in front of a plain brick wall. Hawthorne watched as he reached for a brick at his eye level and pressed it.

The brick sunk deep into the wall. The spot of blackness quickly spread, flowing between the bricks until the rough outline of a door had been carved into the side of the building. The section of wall swung inwards and upwards, revealing a shaft and a ladder into the ground below.

“Welcome to my home.”

Stalker dropped into the shaft, ignoring the ladder, and Will followed suit. Hawthorne considered it briefly, but quickly grabbed the ladder instead. She didn’t know about Will, but she didn’t have the bones to handle a drop too large and he told her to avoid using her powers if she could help it. She heard the door swing closed behind her as she climbed down.

When she reached the bottom, she was surprised. Stalker’s hideout was small, maybe the size of two dorm rooms if that. He had crammed a couch against one wall, and wall opposite if was covered in monitors. Each one switching between a dozen cameras each. He could probably watch the whole city from his couch.

Along the far wall from the entrance was a computer, hooked up to three monitors of its own, and that’s where he sat.

Will stood behind him while he pulled up the footage of the Meridian. Hawthorne’s eyes kept darting between them and the wall of monitors. The light in the shaft clicked off behind her and she turned to look. A second door was next to the entrance.

“Escape routes,” Stalker called from his computer. “One way in, dozens out. Including a few decoys and a couple I never use, just in case someone sees me using them.”

“If we were anywhere else, he’d be paranoid,” Will said. “Around here, he’s just cautious.”

Hawthorne nodded and returned her attention to the screen.

“Found it. I don’t have access to the cameras on the inside, but we can see all the entrances and we can see in a couple of the windows.”

They all stared at the screen intently.

“You’re boy should be the one walking in here. Not sure if you’ve seen his real face, but his hair’s dyed here. Unless it’s normally bright blue.”

“So that’s Page next to him,” Hawthorne said.

“He told you then?” Stalker asked, but it really wasn’t a question. “She doesn’t make it out of this. Neither does that one.”

He pointed at the screen. A lanky man with dark black hair walked into the club.

“King,” Hawthorne said.

Stalker skipped ahead. “Nothing we can see for the next few minutes.”

The video played again. There was no sound, but they could see through the windows. Everyone had stopped dancing; they had pulled to the side of the room and most had pulled out guns. Every once in a while they saw somebody or something thrown into view.

After a moment, Will spoke. “Their firing pattern changed. They’ve been knocked down.”

“She’s going to die soon, isn’t she?”

This time she saw it. A few of them stopped firing and shifted their aim.

“This is what he can’t remember,” Hawthorne said.

The front doors were blasted open and a body came flying through. He was the lucky one, they saw large dents appearing throughout the building’s walls. The saw the orange glow of a fire through the open door.

They saw A few people run out the back and climb into a car in the alley.

“That was Plask,” Stalker said.

The building began to shake, and the wall on the west side began to buckle. One more body came flying through that wall and they watched as the whole building started to come down.

Hawthorne expected to see Allspades come running out the front. But there was no sign of him as the building collapsed.

“This is where I stopped watching,” Stalker said. “But if what you said is true, then he must have survived this somehow.”

“He’s a tank,” Hawthorne said. “Is it really that surprising?”

“Surviving the collapse makes sense,” Will said. “But there’s a fire burning too; with the building collapsing he should have suffocated before he got out.”

The wreckage finally settled, and they waited.

It only took a few minutes, but it was long enough that they would have looked away if they didn’t know what to look for.

The center of the rubble began to shift.

A bright white light spread from the center, pushing the wreckage away in every direction. Just as quick as it appeared, it was gone, and they saw him standing, covered in the same white as the glow.

Stalker shut off the feed and turned towards them.

“I thought he was a tank?”

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About Powers (Potential spoilers/hints in second half)

 

About Powers (Not April Fool’s Joke)

Before I get into the actual material there are  a few things I should say. This partially comes about from limited writer’s block, as well as IWannaBeATiger’s comment/question from last time which broaches a topic I believe deserves some addressing, if not actual clarification.

I will not deny that this is for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s. This story is largely nebulous and in my head, and the only part of it that has been solidly placed since the origin story chapters is the ending, which unfortunately my brain is unlikely to change unless something significantly better comes up. As such, if I do not get some details such as this down in a public manner such as this, I fear I will lose track of them in the future. Several existing character bios will likely receive further updates in the next few weeks for similar reasons, as I feel the development of a few character’s has stalled and I need to work on that.

Despite this, there will be no direct spoilers, however, there will be hints in this post to Will’s power as well as some clarification of powers in this ‘verse as they currently work in my head, because it is possible I will get some sleep and decide to modify small parts, or create exceptions to them. In the case of modifications, I will do my best to inform those interested, and in the case of exceptions I will find a way to work an explanation into the story somehow. In the same vein, anything in this post that is especially plot relevant will work its way into the story somehow. If this does not interest you, or you would rather piece what you can together, feel free to skip it. A secondary link will be placed in chapter 48 that leads here and a notice will be placed for future readers.

Before I get to the details however, I wish to make another announcement. Rumor’s Block will be turning 1 year old on April 30th. As such, I believe I should celebrate by asking any reader’s interested to submit questions to me, whether by commenting below (or on the previous chapter) or emailing me if you prefer to remain anonymous/have your question be a surprise at kingandcommoner@gmail.com. I will answer any questions I can that are not directly pertaining to the ending or the specifics of Will’s power (though general questions about his history or the reasoning behind his fame are applicable). I will answer any questions that meet those requirements submitted before the 30th and selective questions submitted afterwards, which will be added to the page. I will even, within limits, answer questions about myself if you are interested.

Below this break is the portion discussing powers. If you wish to avoid it, I will place a link here once chapter 49 is written.

Back to Chapter 48                                                  Onward!

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As some of you may have noticed, and a few of you may have even taken a look, there is a section in the background about walkers, which includes power classifications. These classifications include names I rarely use any more, with a few exceptions, and one that has never actually made it into the story at all. I will not go over these in this unless it is in specific relation with what I have to talk about.

One detail from that page that is important, is that there is no actual classification for heroes that can fly. This is partially because several of the classifications within can cause flight, but also because flight is a rare power in this world. Several powers in Rumor’s Block are capable of breaking physics, or have no actual reason to interact with physics as we know it, but very few can defy physics in the way that flight needs.

There are two key components to flight, lift and maneuverability (of course the actual physics of it is far more complicated than that and anyone who knows more about it than me is of course free to comment on how wrong I am). Lift, for many powers, is rather easy to achieve. Many telekinetics have the strength to lift themselves, as can wind manipulators.

Maneuverability is another matter. A wind user still has to suffer the effects of momentum and inertia, so changing directions is a daunting task to say the least. A telekinetic could easily push themselves harder than they can take and crush their own spine. As such, most of the walkers who can fly cannot do so particularly quickly, and it is more useful as an emergency tool than a method of transportation.

That being said, walkers like Miss Mirror exist. Miss Mirror is classified as a tank because A, she hits hard and can take hard hits, and B, she requires physical contact to inflict her power. Her ability to fly is a result of a quirk in her power allowing her to reflect gravity as well as air currents at angles in order to accelerate quickly. As such, if she is not moving still or at an upward angle, she is actually on a ballistic path.

The main reason for describing this is to help demonstrate the two main categories of powers. Physical and Mental. A physical power is any that does not directly effect you mind or those of others, a mental one is, of course, the opposite There can be overlap, but it, outside of telepath/telekinetic combos, it is rare. As such, manipulators like Burnout and Hawthorne would both be considered purely physical powers despite them controlling their specialties with their minds. Unimportant, despite being a result of universe hopping, has a purely mental power, because his ability to interact with the world does not change, only how he is perceived in it.

Flight is almost always a result of having a power that is both physical and mental. Miss Mirror can fly because she has an accurate awareness of all forces affecting her at all times, allowing her to use her physical power of reflection in order to direct it in such a way as to allow flight. Most telekinetics capable of lifting their own weight cannot fly because they do not have the type of awareness necessary to use their powers on themselves, and as such cannot properly identify how they need to adjust in order to control themselves. Being a telepath would not help because they cannot sense their own minds and, as such, cannot use the extra sense as a reference point in the way that Miss Mirror can. Similarly, Burnout is almost capable of flight, but if he were to attempt to maneuver in the ways that would suggest true flight he would undoubtedly fail.

Physical powers outnumber mental ones, especially in active heroes, because they are easier to control, and, in most cases, more useful. However, mental power users capable of becoming active walkers are often the most feared and respected of their kind.

As for Will. I will admit here that one of the main reasons for his success is that his power is both mental and physical to a very large extent. He is not capable of flight, but the versatility of his power is a direct result of that combination.

Now for the actual hint to his powers. Excluding the earthquake, Will has actively used his powers twice in the story, completely on screen, so to speak. There have also been several passive uses of his mental ability.

It has always been my intention to hide Will’s ability until relatively close to the end of the story. However, that end gets pushed further back nearly every story arc and the likelihood of me not revealing at least part of it grows slimmer. In all honesty, my main concern is that I do not disappoint with the extent of his power after I make you all wait however long I do. However, his power was one of the first three things I knew about this story, and as such, I cannot and will not change it now. So, I ask those of you interested to keep speculating and keep an eye out, because there are more hints to come.

To anyone who actually read this far, thank you. I’ll be here next week.