Sunday, July 16, 2017

Book 5, 49: Blue Boy, Red Boy

It's a conclusion: Next, whenever, (it's hard to get back on track once you've let yourself slip), Book Five. Who doesn't love a (double) superhero wedding?
In the original version, Lois, Lana and Lucy Lane all got married to Blue, Red and Jimmy Olsen at the same ceremony, in what I like to think was the most harmonious, least stressful day in the history of Metropolis. 

Book 5, 49: Blue Boy, Red Boy

Charlotte went through the door into Superintendant Hite’s office low. The fight with Daji had been scary; without her sword’s power to guard her, Charlotte would have died in some lame old school district office, killed by the terrifying Fox Woman demon who’d brought down two dynasties before swearing her services to Takofanes. King of Ivory. 

On the other hand, it remained the case that a sword was not a gun, and that you did not poke the tip of your blade out of your sight. So this time she tried a reversed fleche, holding her sword, wrist over, so that the pommel thrust into mystery, while the cool, white blade lay over her shoulder, tucked against her cheek as she came in, balanced and fast. 

The Eight Spirit Dragon shield might have helped; it was hard to tell when you were being punched by a small mountain. The gigantic creature who had punched her tried to follw, but it was , bent over and cramped by the office, and the two statues that, for some reason, Director Hite kept in his office, and by the desk, and by the weird, flickering lighty-imagey-hologrammy-Speed Force-effect thingamajig that was bouncing between two blue doors in the middle of the air, in the background. 

Also, it couldn’t move very far and still keep Bruce and Brian pinned against the wall with its other hand.

So Charlotte shook it off, rolled under the legs of the first statue, which made it darn hard for Big Brick Boy to punch her. (You try standing in a bathroom stall with two other guys, with one hand locked on the wall, and try punching a midget rolling between one of the statue’s legs, Charlotte thought at the imaginary person who thought that Cement Dude was taking it easy.) . 

That brought her close enough to the In-No-Way-Rolling Stone to slash its arm just above the elbow.

Charlotte honestly didn’t know what she was expecting to happen next. No, really. Gyrpoc Guy looked like he was actuallyl made of stone; but, on the other hand, the Pearl Harmony Sword was made of high tensile orichalchum with a technetiated edge, which wasn’t quite questionite, but pretty good even before you threw in the magic; but, on the third hand, for those as had them, the thing was magic; and on the fourth hand, just to make it a game that couples could play

--Her sword went right through it and the massive arm went flying, and black ichor sprayed everywhere. Charlotte had to stifle the impulse to apologise. She had not meant to main the guy. 

Bruce landed three point, pulling at his belt. “Damn!”

“What?” Charlotte said.

“I knew I knew I’d used up all the flares I packed, but I was hoping that I’d screwed up and thrown an extra one or two in the old utility belt.”

“And . . . no?” Charlotte asked.

“No,” Bruce said. “Sometimes, always being prepared isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.”

“You’re cute, though,” Charlotte said. “So I forgive you.”

“Yeah,” Bruce said. “But these trolls are just like the ones in The Hobbit. Turn to stone if you expose them to UV light, which you get a lot of in magnesium flares. Although turns out And if I’d really been prepared, it’d already be victory party time.”

For some reason, Brian snickered, then caught himself. “Oh, you kids. And I don’t have a solar light spell. Turns out they’re Divine sphere.”

“Shouldn’t we. . “

Charlotte trailed off, because the troll wasn’t bent over, thinking about how life would be with no arm, any more. It was turned around, and suddenly it had two arms again, and it looked like it was about to use both of them to explore the many ways in which gigantic, igneous idiots could kill annoying teenagers.

“Oh.” Bruce said. “And it regenerates like a D&D troll.”

“Like, how regenerates,” Charlotte asked. “Like Wolverine, or is this where I chop him to bits and Brian cauterises the stumps with fire so that it can’t regenerate?”

“Stumps?” Bruce asked, as his rifle appeared in his hands, and the top of the troll’s head blew off –where did he keep it? Real life wasn’t a video game!—“I call brains.”

“Trolling, trolling trolling, keep ‘em doggies trolling . . . With fire!” Brian said. 

“Not fireball,” Bruce said. . . 

“I may not play nerdy roleplaying games, but I got it the first time when you explained blast radius,” Brian answered. “Just when I finally had a use for my version of Burning Hands.” A lance of flame, small, easily controlled, played over the gaping hole that Bruce’s bullets had blown in the troll’s skull. 

The troll lurched, and then fell. It would have been messy for everyone, on account of the room being so small, it hadn’t landed right against its turned-to-stone colleague, and ended up lurching to the floor. Charlotte jumped clear of the giant, troll feet that rammed beneath her and hammered the wall so hard that plaster dust came down. 

Bruce stepped over to the blue doors with the flickery thing going on in it, cocked his head, reached in, pulled back. 

The Sword Auralia was in his hand. “Hot potato hot potato hot potato,” Bruce yelled, throwing it in the air.

Charlotte could only wonder what it all looked like to Director Hite, who was clearly, uncontrollably, falling between the doors to Earth and the Old World like someone caught between two Portable Holes, as a result of Brian opening a matching portal in his office to the one he’d opened to the Old World. She wondered, distantly, how the modern reincarnation of Kilbern the Skyfather would ever get himself out of that mess, and realised that she didn’t really care. 

Also, she was pretty sure that Principal Guzman didn’t like him, either. 

And in the time it took for Charlotte to think that, Brian had swung his hands up, cast an eldritch flare that flickered between his hands. Like that, Auralia was gone. “There, like to see any of these assholes. . . “

“Brian!” Charlotte said.

“Sorry, but that’s what they are. Anyway, like to see any of these evil geniuses for a better tomorrow who’ve been tripping over themselves trying to get at Auralia get it back from where I just sent it.”

“Just in time, too,” Bruce muttered, as Professor Paradigm appeared in the office, with his usual, antiseptic, scientific, now-you-don’t-now-you-do-see-me teleportation effect. It was, as usual, the least weird thing about the guy, what with his power armour with all its Ditko curls and edges, and the lights on spokes that stuck up from his chest, like an old time office lamp, that lit his face with colours that you wouldn’t know were actually in light unless you’d had the misfortune of dealing with the Tatammy High’s craziest, and also onliest, drama teacher. Also, for some reason, he’d added ammo pouches to his belt area.

“I hope we don’t have to fight,” Charlotte said. “It’s pointless. We’ve been prepping what we were going to do if we ever had our hands on Auralia in our home dimension for months now. It’ll take you forever to find it, and even Tesseract couldn’t get into where it’s being kept.”

Charlotte looked at him, and it was her turn to try to send a message by cocking her head just so. “You know, if you can eat enough humble pie to ask her.” Because Charlotte was sure that the reason that Paradigm didn’t have his lieutenant leading all his ops was precisely the fact that she was more powerful than him. 

Paradigm’s face didn’t even change at that. “I’m not angry, you know. Only disappointed.”

“Sh’yeah, right,” Brian said.

“You know, you children think of me as a supervillain who manipulated reality to get a job at your school. But the truth is, I am an educator. That’s all that I am. Really, I have a good job, one that allows me to indulge my supervillaining hobby. Who knows? Maybe, one day, it’ll be more than a hobby and a sidelight; but I do relish my opportunities to educate the broader public, help it see that this reality they imagine they live in, is just a curtain covering something entirely more interesting. In the meantime, I am an educator at your high school, Miss Wong, Master McNeely; and even though you are not enrolled in any of my classes, unfortunately, does not mean that I cannot teach you an important lesson about reality and young love.” 

Uh-oh, Charlotte thought. He was going to tell the parental units. Auntie Ma would be fine with her dating Bruce. She wasn’t 100% sure of Uncle Henry’s reaction, but he was at 90%, unless he’d seen Brue die in a time-travelling adventure he couldn’t talk about, as sometimes happened with superhero parents. On the other hand, Bruce’s Dad would go ballistic –What could she. . . 

And then her train of thought turned into the disoriented express, as Professor Paradigm pulled a weird, prismatic device out of his left ammo pouch, and began to speak again. “Mr. McNeely, you thought you could never win Miss Wong’s heart as yourself, so you created a new personality to woo her. Well, good on you, because you can’t try to be a better person without it having some effect. Miss Wong, you were torn between the love of two boys, even though you were always at least 60% sure that they were the same boy, because you’re just such a disgusting try-too-harder.”

“What I’m curious about,” he continued, “Is what happens when the pretence becomes reality.” With that, he threw the prism down. It crashed in a tinkle of multicoloured glass, and the room was swept by a rainbow of colours that were off what a rainbow’s colours should be by ninety degrees. 

And when Charlotte’s eyes were seeing actual things in normal light again, Professor Paradigm was gone.

But there were still four people in the room, because Bruce had turned into Bruce –and Scout.

“You stay away from Char Char, you toothless hayseed,” Bruce snarled.

“Ah think Miss Wong knows who the real man here is.” Scout answered. The two of them turned on each other like they were about to settle it right there, in the middle of the crowded room; only Brian stepped between them.

Charlotte, meanwhile, was, determinedly, forcefully, with all of her kung-fu self control, not crying; not saying out loud, “Why does everything always happen to me,” even though, right now, she couldn’t find the basic fairness not to think it to herself, not to crumble within, and wish, once again, that she could hide in her room and blast Taylor Swift against the walls until her ears bled and she never had to think about Bruce McNeely again.

Some victory party.

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