Blue Shooter nocked up five arrows at once, and aimed them all at the OverDone. Keybounce aimed a hand at him, ready to discharge a lightning blast. Mauler likewise moved his arms back, ready to slap his palms together and fire his at an instant's notice.
"Go ahead," the OverDone said, "Take your best shot!"
Blue Shooter shrugged, said "Okay," and let his arrows fly.
Faster than the eye could follow, the OverDone pulled out what looked like a flashlight and pressed a stud on its side. A bright, humming blade of light about a meter long leapt out from the cylinder's front end. With expertly honed skill, he moved the light-blade in front of each of the five oncoming arrows as they arrived, batting all of them aside as though they were toys.
Keybounce gasped, and followed up Blue Shooter's arrow barrage with a lightning zap; the OverDone parried it with his lightsaber just like he'd done with the arrows. "Electromagnetic god, eh?" the OverDone chided him. "Even gods need to move." He cast a telekinesis spell, augmented it with a hand-held telekinesis beam he'd put together himself, and augmented that with his telekinetic mastery of the Force. Keybounce found himself in an iron grip impossible to break out of.
"Don't make me angry," the OverDone said as he pinned Keybounce to the sky. He gritted his teeth and snorted, trying deliberately to make himself angry. "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." And with a clench of his fists, a startling metamorphosis occurred. His muscles bulged outward, ripping through his clothing, and his skin turned green. He doubled in volume and octupled in mass. "RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGH!" he yelled. "OVERDONE SMASH!"
Havok looked up, and noticed the Scientist's young, beautiful daughter still hovering dangerously close to where the OverDone had emerged. "Tsybd!" he yelled. "Get clear of MACRON One! I'm gonna turn it into a supernova!"
Tsybd gasped, and shot away as quickly as she could fly. That was the opening Havok needed. He pointed both fists at MACRON One. "Like Santa Claus said to Rudolph in the Rankin/Bass claymation adaptation," he proclaimed, "FULL POWER!"
Havok's twin ringed beams arced through the air, and then the heavens shone with his blinding white wrath. His aim was slighty offcenter, but it hardly mattered. The OverDone, and a quarter of MACRON One's entire length, disappeared within that blinding spherical curtain of light. The air shattered with the roar of thunder. The telekinetic grip on Keybounce ceased instantly. Havok imagined armor and girders melting and vaporizing, and was a little surprised that the two halves of the giant flying robot that weren't caught in the fireball didn't sag in opposite directions or drift apart.
When the light finally started to dim, the OverDone was nowhere to be seen . . . but neither was the destruction that Havok had hoped for. "It's still in one piece!" Havok said, incredulous. "There's a bit of damage here and there, and everything's scorched, but that's all. How the hell could MACRON One survive my blast? That was thirty-five D6!"
"They must have some incredible armor on that thing," the Scientist commented.
Havok sighed. "Well, at least that pompous 'over-done' guy is out of our hair now."
At that moment, the earth shook. Or maybe it was the sky. From ground zero of Havok's blast atop MACRON one, a flickering yellow-orange shaft of light began to rise. No — it wasn't just light, it was flame. The column of fire crept higher and higher, and soon, little jets of flame began to form on either side of it. The jets grew longer, and formed into . . . into . . . wings! Like the wings of a great, flaming bird. The flaming column congealed, and resolved itself into the body of The OverDone. He hovered there on gigantic flaming wings, with a fiery halo illuminating him from behind.
"You are witnessing the birth," the OverDone's voice boomed, "Of the OverDone Phoenix!"
Keybounce slapped his palm to his forehead. "Havok, you dummy!" he called out. "You just gave him another origin story!"
The OverDone Phoenix swooped down until he was hovering barely a foot off the ground, right in front of the Scientist, Brick One, Havok, and Blue Shooter — and Agent 456. Before any of them could react, he projected his Phoenix flames outward in all directions. A wall of fire rushed over them all. Blue Shooter successfully dived into a ditch at the side of the road. Havok's force field kept the full brunt of the flames at bay from his body. Brick One was tough enough not to be hurt. Agent 456's standard-issue flak suit protected him — or at least, most of him.
But the Scientist . . .
His last thought, before he lost consciousness from the pain, was "Dammit, I should have made the ED in this suit resistant."
"Daddy!" Tsybd screamed. She dived straight down toward the OverDone Phoenix.
Agent 456, burned but still very much in the game, looked up at his ex-girlfriend divebombing his position. He spoke into his wrist comm: "MALAVs, come back! The girl, Tsybd, she wasn't there when the anti-electrostun armor was handed out. I repeat, the girl doesn't have anti-electrostun armor!"
It wasn't until he released the transmit stud on his wrist comm that he noticed how badly burned and melted it was. The flames had ruined it. There was no way any of his allies had heard what he just said.
Tsybd was descending as rapidly as she could, but flying was still new to her, and she didn't want to go so fast that she couldn't stop before hitting the ground. So it was no big surprise that Wake flashed down past her — not so close as to catch her in his namesake, but close enough that it looked like she was standing still in comparison. Speedster versus speedster, Wake thought. He put his fists in front of himself and angled straight toward the flaming apparition that was the OverDone Phoenix. Hmmm . . . who was that other new green guy, standing to one si—
Wake slammed into the Phoenix . . . and passed right through him as though he didn't exist. He smashed straight into the pavement below, knocking himself senseless.
The green stranger standing 6 meters away stopped gesturing, and the Phoenix vanished. Then the stranger reignited his own Phoenix effect. "Hah!" they heard him say in the OverDone's voice. "You fell for the oldest trick in the book: a simple illusion spell! I told you I was a master sorcerer."
Tsybd landed right by the Scientist's side. She didn't care about Wake, or the OverDone, or anyone else nearby. All that mattered was her badly burned father. The same pain that had knocked him out had now awakened him. His charred hands, shaking from the trauma, were trying desperately to piece together some odd-looking gadget. "My young, beautiful daughter!" he coughed. "Get the glime capacitor from my parts bag!"
"Daddy, don't try to move!" she told him, terrified at his injuries.
"Hurry!" he said.
Against her better judgement, she obeyed, and after an instant's digging in his satchel she handed him an eight-centimeter-long cylinder with a few odd nubs sticking out. He snatched it from her hand and stuck it into a perfecly-shaped receptacle in his gadget. Tsybd could have sworn that receptacle wasn't there a second ago. He pressed the entire apparatus against his belly and pressed a button with his left thumb. It hummed, and a wave of relief washed across his face. "There we go!"
Tsybd watched in astonishment as his third-degree burns faded and vanished, leaving perfectly healthy, unscarred skin behind. "Burn-a-tron heal-o-matic 2000," the Scientist explained. "I put '2000' in its name 'cause it makes it sound like it's from the future."
The OverDone, still hulked out and flaming like a firebird, reignited his light saber and glared at Brick One. "I see you have hardened, resistant defenses," he said. He sighted along his light saber and pointed at one obscure spot on Brick One's brick-shaped body. "But you don't have Lack of Weakness."
At super speed, the OverDone charged up to Brick One light-saber-first. But he'd telegraphed his blow, and Brick One was ready for him. The instant he got close enough to hit, Brick One threw a punch at him. Brick One missed; but he expected that. He wasn't trying to land the blow. He was using his skill with punching to put himself on the defensive; those 9 skill levels with punches could be used offensively or defensively. It was almost ironic. He could make himself harder to hit by throwing a punch than he could by dodging. The OverDone's light saber swung through empty air where Brick One wasn't, completely failing to connect.
The OverDone snorted, and ran back a modest 20 meters. He waited at super-speed for Brick One to react, and then when Brick One finally came charging toward him two seconds later, he thrust his left fist forward using his cosmic-ray-induced stretching powers. With Brick One unable to throw a punch at this distance, his defensive punching skills were worthless. The OverDone's fist easily rammed into the living brick, with the full force of the OverDone's hulked-out super-soldier spider strength and Shao-Lin martial arts training. It sent Brick One flying back eighteen meters, into the hillside next to the road; the impact with the hill didn't hurt him, but the original punch was more than hard enough to knock the wind out of him.
Mauler and Keybounce started diving toward the rest of the group on the ground, but the OverDone only laughed an evil laugh. "Ha ha ha! You pathetic 250-point weaklings are no match for me! I've survived more origin stories than anyone!"
The Scientist narrowed his gaze. Then his eyes went wide. "That's it!" he proclaimed. He scrambled to his parts bag and exchanged his burn-a-tron heal-o-matic 2000 for a long metal rod. "OverDone," he called out, throwing the rod at him like a javelin, "Catch!"
The OverDone easily caught the projectile and held it over his head. "Another one of your toys, Scientist?" he gloated. "My correspondence course in subatomic physics has made me into as much of a gadgeteer as you are!"
"Now, Keybounce!" the Scientist called out. "Shoot the rod with a full-strength lightning bolt!"
"I hope you know what you're doing," Keybounce replied, and blasted the metal rod.
Instantly, a massive jolt of electricity surged through the rod and went right through the OverDone's body. It had acted as a lightning rod, drawing in all the energy of Keybounce's blast and using the OverDone as a human grounding wire. Blue-white arcs crackled over the OverDone's hulked-out Phoenix-flaming body, until they obscured him from view entirely. Then a column of lightning bolts shot upward from the point on the ground where the OverDone had been, and the scorched, half-melted lightning rod clattered to the ground. And from out of the lightning storm, a frightening apparition with a lightning body and flaming Phoenix wings materialized menacingly overhead.
The OverDone's voice boomed from the blue-white-and-flaming apparation. "I have become living lightning! I am now . . . the OverDone Phoenix Vulcan!"
"The what?" asked Brick One and Havok at the same time.
"The OverDone Phoenix Vulcan!" the OverDone repeated. "You know, Vulcan? Like Black Vulcan on the SuperFriends?"
"Ohhhhh!" Brick One and Havok said in unison.
Keybouce hovered there in terror, aghast at what his lightning powers had just made. Mauler continued to descend in even greater alarm.
"Keybounce," the Scientist instructed, "Use your magnetic powers on him!"
"But he's not carrying any ferrous metal!" Keybounce retorted. "I can't move him around!"
"True," the Scientist said with a twinkle in his eye, "But you can put him in an intense magnetic field."
Keybounce squinted. "What are you —" Then, realization dawned on him. "Ohhhhhhh!" He held out a hand, and induced a multimegagauss field across the OverDone's position.
"Mauler!" the Scientist called out next. "Can you expose him to your warp core?"
"Are you kidding?" the Romulan starship-as-man said. "A bare warp core emits more kinds of dangerous radiation than you can shake a stick at!"
The Scientist rolled his eyes. "Just eject your warp core at him, ya big baby."
"Okaaaay," Mauler winced. From somewhere in his midesction — or perhaps it came from his nether regions — a glowing cylinder about 20 centimeters long shot out and fell right toward the OverDone. Mauler would not be able to travel faster-than-light, or recharge his batteries at anything but a snail's pace, until he got it replaced. The tiny warp core tumbled down until it was practically atop the OverDone, and there in Keybounce's intense magnetic field, warp plasma shot out and arced around until all of it hit the OverDone Phoenix Vulcan squarely. The plasma, the radiation, the antimatter, the magnetic field — it all added up to an airborne particle accelerator, with the OverDone as its collision target.
The OverDone Phoenix Vulcan buzzed and popped, and then, warp plasma started wafting out of his lightning feet. A spark shower erupted from the top of his lightning head, swirling like the spiral tracks on a particle detector. Against the backdrop of deepening night, the tips of his Phoenix wings flashed like diamonds in the sun. More sparkles appeared, and swirled around him faster and faster, until at last they formed the shape of . . . one of those old drawings of an atom.
The OverDone said, in a voice even deeper and boomier than before, "I have now become . . . the Radioactive OverDone Phoenix Vulcan!"
On the ground near the Scientist, Wake groaned and clambered out of the miniature crater he'd made in the pavement. The Scientist said with glee, "Wake, you're awake!"
Wake folded his arms and scowled. "Like I haven't heard that one before."
"Wake," the Scientist said, "Get ready to fly at maximum speed, as close by the the OverDone as you can. I need you to catch him in your shockwave!" He turned to Tsybd, and addressed her: "My young, beautiful, no-longer-virgin daughter!"
Tsybd winced. Somehow, this was an even worse name than before.
The Scientist tossed a spherical something into the air. "Use your telekinetic powers to position this directly over the OverDone's head. Press the white button on the back of it at the instant Wake passes next to the OverDone. Both of you, go!"
Tsybd grabbed the sphere with her mind and whisked it above the flaming radioactive lightning hulk who was hovering all-too-close-by. At the same instant, Wake left the ground, kicking his legs so hard they created their own sonic boom. Agent 456 and the Scientist both got caught in the trailing edge of Wake's wake, and covered their ears from the noise. Wake aimed for a point just to the right of the OverDone. He could feel the heat as he passed. The moment the front tip of his shock cone caught the OverDone, Tsybd triggered the sphere, and a rippling beam enveloped both the OverDone and the shockwave that was now upon him. The very air seemed to quake with the force of a million hammer blows.
"Sonic amplifier!" the Scientist yelled over the din. "It turned Wake's shockwave into something truly astounding!"
The vibrations blurred the OverDone from sight, his lightning body and flaming wings notwithstanding. His lights went dark. The region in space where his body had been wadded itself and seemed to tumble into a void of its own making. Then, in seeming defiance of every natural law, a green radioactive lightning flame streak shot upward and vibrated itself back into reality, more powerful than ever.
"Now," the OverDone said, "I am the Radioactive OverDone Phoenix Vulcan Shaker! You fools! I have more origins now than any supervillain or superhero in history!"
The Scientist turned to Blue Shooter, and tossed him a tiny metal trinket about an inch on a side. "Put that on the tip of one of your arrows."
Blue Shooter caught the wafer-thin almost-square, and stared at it in disgust. "A pair of silver bars?"
"It's an army officer's rank insignia," the Scientist explained. "Shoot it at the OverDone's forehead. Or what passes for a forehead on that mass of special effects."
The blue archer shrugged, clipped the insignia over the tip of a normal arrow, nocked it up in his bow, and fired. Like any of his other oddly-shaped trick arrows, it easily hit its target. The rank insignia stuck to the flying mass of origin stories, and for an instant, he became Captain Radioactive OverDone Phoenix Vulcan Shaker.
But only for an instant.
For all its anguish and terror, for all its cruel indifference and unfairness, for all its harsh tricks and unbreakable rules and unforgiving bleakness, the universe is, ultimately, sane. There are limits to how fast you can go, how hard a substance can be, and how ridiculous one's circumstances can become. There is an uncrossable line, a physical limit, to just how many origins a character can have.
The OverDone crossed that line.
The lightning stopped. The shaking stopped. The flames stopped. The light saber stopped. The captain's bars fell, meekly, to the ground. All that remained of the OverDone was a tiny wisp of smoke, wafting gently into the night sky until it dispersed in the gentle wind and was gone.
The Scientist looked on with just the barest hint of a smirk upon his face. "Just be careful," he said, "Not to overdo it."
AUTHOR'S NOTES FROM 2022:
Send comments regarding this Web page to: Roger M. Wilcox.
Click here to go back to my main old stories page
Roger M. Wilcox's Homepage