And they have become irrelevant.
With supervillains effectively extinct, superheroes have become idle and are in danger of losing their funding and their livelihoods. Fearing this, a team of heroes have come up with a drastic plan: to create a team of supervillains who answer only to them, staging crimes so they will have someone to fight.
These are the stories of the men, women and monsters who take part in this dangerous program.
These are Almost Infamous: Origins.
Previously on Almost Infamous: Origins: Prospects, Unwanted, Torches and Pitchforks, The Redcape, Family Business, Villain Worship
By Matt Carter
Hamilton, New Zealand, British Empire
Odds favored me being one of the most talented technopaths on the planet (I could make nearly anything running on electricity my bitch), and my intuitive aptitude in engineering was probably unmatched by anyone without a handful of letters after their names and an impressive career as a mad scientist on one of the bigger countries’ most wanted lists.
But I wasn’t a mad scientist.
I couldn’t even afford to be a mad grad student.
I was just a girl with no legs in a homemade mech suit, getting ready to blow the fast food restaurant that had just fired her to hell and back.
And maybe, just maybe, enjoying watching her ex-boss trying to defuse the situation.
“Helen, be reasonable!” he yelled, ducking the jet of focused flame I used to shatter the front window above his head. I didn’t mean to kill him, but I was enjoying watching him suffer.
“I am being reasonable; I’m giving you a chance to escape with your life. In three minutes, though, Farley’s Fish Fry is going to be a pile of rubble whether you’re in it or not,” I said.
“They won’t go soft on this, Helen! They’ll brand you a villain! A monster!”
I laughed, my voice no doubt distorted by the shoddy digital filters I’d built into the suit, “Then I’m a villain. And if I’m a villain, call me Firewall.”
Truthfully, I didn’t mind being Helen Campbell too much, and I only meant for the suit to be called Firewall (its most current of many names, and one I was still liable to change), but in for a penny, in for a pound, I wagered. I hadn’t started building the suit as a gateway to villainy, far from it. Back when I was still in that engineering program, this suit had been a passion project of mine, a pathway to a greater world. With the resources that the school had to offer and my skill and intellect, it could have one day been a suit that could allow the common man to stand on even footing with superheroes. It would make them irrelevant, and allow for a world where people were truly equal and not beholden to gaudily dressed gods.
And if the money had held out, maybe it would have.
If you haven’t already guessed, the money didn’t hold out.
My mother was a great woman, but not a rich one, and my father… well, perhaps it was best that he was absent, but since mum said he had money, maybe I could have made some sacrifices and held my tongue, though it would have been difficult. While mum encouraged me to be whatever I wanted to be in life, she couldn’t provide me with that life, and no matter how many side jobs she and I took on, they just couldn’t afford university.
Dropping out of my life’s passion was somewhere close to the top of the list of worst things to have ever happened in my life, and when that list included growing up a half-Maori bastard super woman who’d lost her legs below the knee to a birth defect in one of her majesty’s colonies that wasn’t too fond of most of those factors, that says something.
And yet, I didn’t lose my temper. I could have, but I didn’t. I was famous for it, and god only knew how many times mum had to tear me out of some place in a rage when I was growing up, but this time, I held strong. I knew that if I just focused and did what was necessary, I could get into the program at a later point and I could still do great things with my life. I was even still able to work on the Firewall suit on the side, and though I lacked the best tools and components that the university had to offer, I was able to do surprisingly well with what the scrapyards had to offer. She was a misshapen and monstrous-looking mess of metal, but on the inside, she was something to be proud of.
Then Hugo fired me, citing budget cuts, and, well, any and all filters to that temper disappeared, and it was time to blow the ever-loving fuck out of a shitty restaurant.
I gave them fair warning, at least, yelling through the suit’s loudspeakers that I would destroy the restaurant in ten minutes and for everyone to evacuate. That only left Hugo inside, doing his captain going down with the ship impression, while most everyone else had run, or at least stuck around to see what heroes would inevitably come to try to knock the piss out of me.
Note the try. While hardly the most cutting edge piece of technology in the world, the Firewall suit had a strong compliment of weapons including sonic generators, flamethrowers, homemade rockets and an anti-grav unit that could lift a car and launch it close to half a mile. Couple that with the ability to lift several tons on its own and limited low-altitude flight, and I wagered I could’ve fucked up a fair few heroes. I wouldn’t win, nobody ever won in the long run against the superheroes, but I would’ve made a damn fine show in my last, terrible temper tantrum, wouldn’t I?
My only wonder was, where were they? There were enough people with phones around, enough police standing and waiting in the distance. Surely I’d been reported. Probably just waiting for the moment to make this as flashy as possible. Well, I’ll give you flashy.
“One minute, Hugo!” I yelled, launching a few rockets to blast letters from the sign.
“You don’t have the guts!” Hugo taunted, weakly, brandishing a mop at the window. I had to admit, for a shit manager, he had balls when pressed against the wall. Didn’t think he had it in him.
“I’ll crush you if I have to, Hugo!”
“I’d like to see you try!” he yelled, enough conviction in his voice to make you almost believe he meant what he said. One small rocket exploding the head of his broom, however, convinced him that maybe this wasn’t worth it, and he took off running out the door.
And now for the grand finale.
I closed my eyes, reaching out to the phones in the crowd. Those that weren’t getting this on video already soon were as I turned all their eyes to me.
“You think this is a fair world? It isn’t!” I roared, turning to face the crowd. “Just because they say you’re special, it doesn’t mean you are, even when you are special. Just because you can change the world doesn’t mean the world will give you the opportunity to do it. And so, today, watch what happens when… you know what? Fuck this speech. Who wants to watch me blow some stuff up?”
They’d looked like they were ready to nod off when I started to say something meaningful, but promise them destruction and they all started cheering like fools. I ought to have turned my weapons on them, given them a few harsh life lessons, and should I have had any ammunition after this, maybe I would have.
For the moment, though, I would give them what they wanted. I opened up with all the weapons Firewall had to offer. I coaxed her into pinpoint, beautiful destruction, raining fire and rockets and chunks of asphalt and concrete from the parking lot the size of cars on the restaurant. It went up in a beautiful mushroom cloud of flame and smoke, raining debris as far as the eye could see. Soon enough the walls caved in, and for a brief matter of moments, I felt the anger abate, and let pride take over.
Green triangles of electricity opened up in the air above me. Soon enough superheroes would pour through these Tri-Holes and try to take me in. I could have fought them, but that would have ruined my suddenly good mood.
Instead I opened up the front of the suit, pulled a lighter and a pack of cigarettes from one of the inside cargo pouches, and lit up.
The hero who popped down in front of me, some prissy little blonde bitch in a white and gold suit meant to sculpt his muscles, glowered at me.
“Hands where I can see them,” he said. American. Of course he is.
Smiling up at the hero hovering before me, I said, “What seems to be the problem, officer?”
However, he soon finds villainy in a world where the heroes have long since defeated all the supervillains. While half the world’s heroes seem to want him dead, the other half want to hire him as their own personal villain to keep them relevant. Choosing the latter course, Aidan enters a world of fame, fortune, and staged superhero fights that is seemingly everything he ever dreamed of . . . at least until he sees what truly hides behind the cape-and-mask lifestyle.
Almost Infamous will be released on April 19th, 2016, from Talos Press. Find it wherever books are sold (including the Amazon link I so helpfully put in the cover above).