Diane Castle / Mimeo / Mimeographic
A Whateley Universe novella (that was originally supposed to be merely a brief vignette)
by Diane Castle
Mimeo lay back and thought over his life. Damn, he’d had a great time. Nothing he’d really want a do-over on. Maybe things hadn’t started out so great, but he’d fixed things once he got the chance.
He remembered growing up way back in the Fifties and Sixties. New York City was a great place to live. Okay, so it was sweltering in the summers, and it was freezing in the winters. But there was a ton of great stuff to do. And he’d done a ton of cool stuff in his life…
He was born Benjamin Victor Roberts, back in October of 1952. He didn’t remember his mom too great. She’d been a dancer, and she’d run off with a musician when he was maybe six. His dad had raised him. Vic ‘Greaseball’ Roberts was a small-time thief with some big-time childhood pals. That pretty much kept him out of real trouble. Cops knew that pursuing Greaseball Roberts on stupid Misdemeanor Theft charges was a bad idea when Roberts was an old pal of Salvatore ‘Scars’ Mellini, who was an up-and-coming lieutenant in the Lucchese Family and took orders direct from Bad Al Lucchese himself. Messing with friends of the Lucchese Family was bad for your career, and sometimes bad for your health too.
So Benny Roberts had a pretty easy life. His dad didn’t care if he skipped school now and then, as long as Benny didn’t cause his dad any big problems, like having to go down to the school to listen to the principal blah-blah-blah about ‘the importance of learning’ and other bullshit. His dad didn’t care if Benny was off playing with friends until whenever, as long as Benny didn’t wake him up when he snuck into their tiny apartment. His dad didn’t mind if Benny tore the shirt or pants he was wearing, since his dad could steal a new pair for him some time soon. And his dad was pretty damn happy when Benny started running numbers for Roberto ‘Bobby the Banker’ Lapanza. That was a pretty keen job for a nine-year-old. Benny knew it was because his dad was still pals with Scars Mellini, but still, it was a pretty keen job.
Benny didn’t know that he was poor, or that he lived in a bad part of New York City, or even that most dads didn’t steal for a living. And he didn’t care. He thought his dad was great, and he thought the area where he lived was great. He thought his job was great, too. He was pretty fast for his age, and he knew the streets like the back of his hand, and he was real careful when he had cash or numbers books on him, so no one managed to rob him in the whole time he ran for The Banker. That got him noticed by The Banker’s bosses.
The problems started when Benny was twelve. It wasn’t his fault, either. Really. So he did a little grifting on the side. So what? Lots of kids did. He didn’t cheat The Banker, and he never touched the collections. Maybe that was the problem. He was too honest. Too trustworthy. That year, there were a bunch of darkies who were trying to muscle in on the numbers rackets in the Lucchese Family’s territory. Sunshine Winslow’s boys. Some of them were real assholes too, and didn’t have any problem with trying to beat the crap out of a kid just for running numbers, or stealing your hubcaps, or putting a potato up your exhaust pipe so your car wouldn’t run, or pouring a bag of sugar into your gas tank, or little stuff like that.
The problem really started the night that Scars Mellini came over to his apartment and talked with his dad about what they wanted Benny to do. His dad thought it was great. A chance to really move up in the world. A chance for Benny to make enough money that his dad could just sit around all day drinking beer and playing the horses. A chance to start on his way to some day being a ‘made man’ for the Lucchese Family even if he was still only twelve. Scars Mellini wanted Benny to go over and whack three of those darkies. The Luccheses had it all laid out. A kid could walk right into the apartment building those guys were using, and no one would be stopping him or even paying any attention to him. They’d been watching from across the street, and kids ran in and out of the place all day long. Every adult got stopped and frisked, or maybe even thrown down the front steps head-first, but the goons guarding the place ignored all the kids. Then nobody would be ready when some kid slipped into that ‘office’ room they had up on the third floor, and he could shoot ‘em all before they even figured out he was a threat. And afterward, a kid could squeeze out through the partly-blocked window for that ‘office’ and run down the fire escape before reinforcements busted in and shot his ass full of holes. Mellini had it all figured out. A kid could get in, and a kid could get out, and the only kid small enough that Mellini also trusted to do the job was Benny.
Benny knew he was in trouble. Big trouble. He knew he didn’t want to take the next step up and ‘demonstrate his loyalty’ for Bad Al Lucchese. Benny had never had anything against stuff like numbers and the other stuff that didn’t hurt anybody. But cold-blooded murder was something else. He knew that he didn’t have a lot of choices. Scars Mellini was an important lieutenant for Bad Al Lucchese, and what he said went. And Scars told him flat-out he had to hit those guys… or be hit.
Benny knew what that meant. He was twelve, and probably not going to see thirteen. He didn’t want to shoot anybody. He really didn’t want to get shot to death. He’d been planning on option number three, to tell the truth. Hopping a freight car and riding down to Florida, where his mom had some relatives he figured he could go live with until it all blew over. And what the hell, Florida might turn out to be a great place, and maybe he’d just never come back.
But then, the very next day, while he was pulling his clothes and stuff together to make a run for it, he’d just keeled over in his own living room. He could still see his dad standing over him, yelling at him to get up and stop fucking around. He’d struggled to his feet, and grabbed the armchair to stand up… And he’d ripped the frigging arm right off the chair!
That was when he manifested. He was a mutant! He was a frigging powerhouse, was what he was. Suddenly he was growing, and putting on muscle, and eating like there was no tomorrow. In a week, he ate so much his dad had to rob three grocery stores, and he grew almost a foot, and he put on a hundred pounds of solid muscle. Solid mutant-powered muscle. His dad had to rob a haberdasher’s place too, just so’s Benny had shirts and pants and underwear and socks and shoes in a couple different sizes, because he was growing like crazy.
Bobby the Banker came by every day to see what was going on. After all, Scars Mellini was putting a lot of pressure on The Banker to get his best numbers runner to get with the program. So Benny was spending a lot of time lying on his bed and pretending to feel really crappy. Okay, so some of the time he really did feel like shit. And some of the time, he was so hungry he could hardly think. But he knew one thing. If he could just stall until he was all well again, he could split for Florida, and be a superpowered mutant too!
Benny could lift the front of his dad’s car up over his head. (He tried it late one night when no one was looking.) He could run faster than cars could follow him on the city streets. He could jump up to the second story balconies of apartment buildings. He could bust up the furniture in the house by accident. His dad punched him in the face for accidentally knocking the arm off the couch, and it was like getting whacked with a pillow. But his dad had to get three fingers splinted, and was really pissed about that. Benny figured he was unstoppable.
Well, he figured he was unstoppable right up until he came home the next evening and found out his dad had let some of Bad Al’s muscle wait for him in their kitchen. The rat bastard. It was Jerry ‘the Jack’ Santini and ‘Crazy Tony’ Olivera. And their guns. Jerry the Jack was a made man, and word was he made his bones back before Benny was even born, by beating two guys to death with a car jack. Crazy Tony Olivera had a shotgun that he carried everywhere with him and he even had a name for it. He called it ‘Sally Baby’ and liked to sit around polishing it over and over and over. Benny thought the guy was completely nutso. Well, you didn’t get a name like ‘Crazy Tony’ by being Mister Normal.
Jerry and Tony opened up on him as soon as he walked into the kitchen. Too bad for them he turned out to be bulletproof.
Not that it hadn’t hurt. A lot. And the bullets didn’t bounce off, like in the comic books. The shotgun pellets sort of did. A little. But the slugs from Jerry’s Army .45 kind of punched in hard enough to stick in him. And when he didn’t go down right away, they just kept shooting until they ran out of ammo and Jerry went for a gun he had in an ankle holster.
That was when Benny stopped standing around like a frigging moron. He punched their lights out, smacked his old man with the table, and lit out. He just ran. He didn’t think about where to go, or what to do, or even what might be out there waiting for him. That was his next big mistake. He ran down the stairs and out the front door of the apartment, and took off down the street. Jerry and Tony’s wheelman was parked across the street from the apartment house, and he opened up on Benny. The guy had a frigging machine gun, and he put half a dozen bullets into Benny’s back as Benny sprinted down the street. But Benny never stopped running. He ran about twenty blocks before he figured it was safe to stop.
Benny jumped up to a second floor balcony, and then scrambled up the fire escape to the roof. It was a five story apartment house, and luckily no one was up on the roof. It was still too frigging hot out. He ran to the corner of the roof and looked off down the street. No one was following him. Good. Now he just had to deal with being shot full of lead, and having the whole damn Lucchese Family after his hide.
He busted into the place. The roof door was locked on the inside, and he didn’t have a crowbar. But he didn’t need one anymore. He grabbed the doorknob and pulled as hard as he could. He ripped the roof door off its hinges. He went down the stairs and over to one of the apartments. Then he knocked, politely asking if ‘Murgatroyd’ lived there. An angry voice told him to get lost. He moved down the hall and tried it again. It was an old scam his dad had shown him: no one’s named Murgatroyd. Everybody’s heard the name, but there’s no one who’s really named that. When one place didn’t answer, he tried knocking louder. Once he was sure no one was answering, he twisted the doorknob. Hard. As hard as he could. That busted the lock like he’d gone after it with a pipe wrench. A quick check showed the place was really empty. He pulled off his shirt and checked himself in the bathroom mirror. He had bullets punched into him. Which was bad.
And then, as he watched in the mirror, the bullets got pushed back out and his skin went back to normal! Okay, he had the beginnings of some small bruises. But he’d just been shot! With a .45 and a shotgun and a machine gun! He ought to be dead. He wasn’t. He wasn’t even injured!
That was when he realized his skin could do some sort of shapeshifting thing, sort of like that guy Mudman who was running around in Manhattan. He tried a few things while he was looking at himself in the mirror.
He could make his skin pucker up, and move around, and even change color. He could make his face look different. He tried some other stuff too. He found out he could make himself be taller or shorter or wider.
And then it dawned on him how he was going to get even with the Lucchese family.
Benny stole some clothes out of the closets in the place - he needed something that didn’t have bullet holes punched all through them. He put the clothes on and made himself shorter and fatter until he pretty much fit in the clothes. Then he changed his face enough that no one would recognize him, and he headed for a flophouse he knew about over by the East River. He got some sleep, and in the morning even his bruises were gone. Wow, this was one awesome superpower. He snitched a half dozen apples and a big wheel of cheese and a big knackwurst from a corner grocery, and he went back into the heart of Lucchese territory, to one particular building. And he waited for Tony Olivera. Okay, he waited up on the roof of the building across the street from Crazy Tony’s apartment house.
He finished the apples and the cheese and the sausage, and he was still hungry, even if it was a huge sausage and a damn big wheel of cheese. He was going to have to figure out a way to get enough food for a growing superpowered boy, or he was going to be knocking over grocery stores like his old man. And that would be a big problem, because he didn’t have Scars Mellini’s protection, so the cops would be after him in a shot.
He waited. And waited. His stomach was grumbling angrily, telling him he needed more food. But he stayed put, because he didn’t want to miss anything. Around noon, Crazy Tony Olivera came home from the hospital. The creep had a few broken ribs and a black eye and a limp, but was walking around. Perfect. Benny waited until Tony got mad enough to kick his girlfriend out of the house. Girlfriend? The broad hustled it for money over on Fourth Street most nights, and Tony was a convenient place for her to hang out and catch a few zees. Tony had a third-floor apartment way nicer than anyone Benny knew. Okay, guys like Scars Mellini had better places than this, but Benny hadn’t ever been near homes like those.
Benny went into Tony’s apartment house and went up onto the roof. Then he climbed down from there to Tony’s floor, which was easy - he was strong enough that he could hang on a concrete block by one finger and lift himself up - and he went in through an open window. He knocked out Tony. Again. And swiped his clothes. Then he stood in front of the mirror and changed his shape until he looked just like Tony, black eye and everything. He stopped and ate half the food in the fridge while he planned out just what he was going to do.
He took ‘Sally Baby’ and went down the street and robbed a bank in broad daylight in front of maybe thirty people. He even shot the shotgun off and put a couple pellets into a guard’s leg. Then he went back to Tony’s, put Tony’s clothes back on his unconscious body, left half the money lying around all over the floor, poured most of a bottle of whiskey into and onto Tony, and split. Once he was three blocks away, he called the cops and claimed he was one of Tony’s neighbors and Tony was threatening to shoot him with a shotgun. The cops zipped right over, and solved themselves a bank robbery without even trying. Tony was still out cold when they hauled him off to jail.
Benny took the money he hadn’t left on Tony’s floor, and he rented a halfway decent hotel room. Not under his real name, though. That would be stupid. The hotel was fancy enough it even had room service. Benny had never had room service before. He ate three steaks, four baked potatoes, and nine glasses of cream soda. Man, this was the life! Okay, the hotel manager came by twice to see if he was hiding five or six other people in there, and Benny had to spin him a line about having worked hard all day and missed lunch and breakfast. Finally, Benny slipped the guy a C-note and the guy got off his ass.
Benny played it smarter the next morning. He ate a big but still normal sized breakfast from room service, and checked out. Then he had another big but not freakish breakfast at a little diner around the corner. And then he ate another breakfast at a restaurant a few blocks away from there. After that, he went shopping for clothes. He looked like a baby-faced twenty-year-old college guy with serious muscles. So he went shopping for the right kind of clothes. He bought himself a decent shirt and pants, a nice pair of shoes, and some new underwear. Then he bought a big attaché case like he saw some guys toting around, and he used it like a suitcase. At another store, he picked up another pair of shoes, two more shirts and another pair of pants, half a dozen boxers and half a dozen undershirts. And some socks. And a tie, in case he had to look dressy. They all went into the case, along with some stuff he picked up at a drugstore. A toothbrush and toothpaste, a hairbrush and comb, a shaving brush and a straight razor, and some deodorant.
He ate lunch. He was careful to eat a reasonable amount in three different places, so no one would notice he was eating so much. Then he went after Jerry Santini.
That afternoon, he pulled the same scam on Jerry Santini. He went in through Jerry’s window, knocked him out, posed as Jerry, and robbed a nearby bank. Then he called the cops on Jerry. And, like before, he kept half the money. He picked out an even nicer hotel and checked in for a couple nights. He ate a nice meal in their dining room, and then another dinner at a little Greek place around the corner, and then a third meal at a diner down the street. So there weren’t any traces of ‘some guy who ate like half a dozen men’ at this place. The day after that, he did the same thing to his rat bastard father, complete with leaving half the robbery money on the floor.
The day after that, he did the same thing to Scars Mellini, which was harder, since Scars had a bunch of thugs all around his house. So Benny waited until Scars was driving himself to Madame Li’s whorehouse. Benny ran fast enough to yank open the car door and jump into the car. He punched Scars out and took over the steering wheel until he could step on the brake and stop the car at the side of the road. Then he parked around the corner from a bank and hauled Scars into an alley. He slipped on the blazer and hat Scars was wearing, made himself look like Scars, took Scars’ .38 out of his shoulder holster, and robbed the bank. Then he ran back to the alley, dumped the gun and hat and blazer, and arranged Scars like someone mugged him.
All four guys got arrested, and all four were found with the weapon used in the crime, plus a lot of the stolen money. Armed robbery and grand theft. Plus, according to the paper, the cops were pushing for attempted murder on the shotgun thing, since Tony Olivera was a serious creep. All four of them had done time before, and so they were all looking at being in prison for a long time.
The day after he took care of Scars Mellini, while he was reading the paper and eating his third lunch, he decided he was officially a supervillain. And he decided his supervillain name would be ‘Mimeo’. He was like a human mimeograph machine, copying their looks. He didn’t realize then that his name was a lot more accurate than he thought.
After that, Benny went to see Bad Al Lucchese himself. Most guys would rather stick their head in a garbage disposal. But Benny Roberts was no palooka. He wasn’t even Benny Roberts anymore. He was Mimeo, and he had superpowers, and he didn’t have to take shit off anyone, not even bigtime gangsters like Bad Al Lucchese, who had an uncle who actually ran the whole Lucchese Family. Mimeo was only twelve, but he was over six feet tall, and he weighed maybe two hundred pounds of solid muscle. Solid super-strong mutant muscle. He was strong and fast and tough, and he could do the shapeshifting thing too. He could face Bad Al and maybe even get himself a job out of it. He sure couldn’t hide for the rest of his life. And if this didn’t work, well, he’d just run off to Florida, like he’d planned before.
He took some more of the money he’d stolen, and he bought himself a nice suit. Then he wore the suit when he went to see Bad Al. Al Lucchese lived in a fortress. Well, a big fancy house with a yard around it, and a huge fence around that, and armed men patrolling the yard, and probably a lot more armed men inside the house.
And none of them had ever faced someone like Mimeo before.
He marched up to the front gate and faced the goon sitting there. “Hey. I’m Benny Roberts. I run numbers for Bobby the Banker. I think Mister Lucchese would like to hear what I know about those bank robberies that Tony and Jerry and Scars pulled this week.”
That got their attention, like sticking their dicks in a wringer.
They’d done pretty much what he figured they’d do. They frisked him, which was a big waste of time when he wasn’t even carrying a penknife. Then they took him off to a small room where a couple armed goons could watch him, and got Bobby the Banker to come over and verify that he was really little Benny Roberts.
After maybe an hour, he was led at gunpoint by two idiots with machine guns who didn’t know you didn’t use the end of the gun to poke people with. They thought they were jabbing him in the kidneys pretty hard, but they didn’t know they were jabbing a guy who could probably take a punch from frigging Champion. He had to pretend that they were bothering him even a little bit. They pushed him into a big library room with Mister Lucchese sitting up front behind an impressive desk, and two hardmen with .45’s in shoulder holsters standing on either side of him looking threatening. The Banker was sitting in a small chair off to Lucchese’s left, looking like he was nervous enough to pee himself.
Lucchese snapped, “Banker! Is dis the kid you was telling me ‘bout?”
Bobby nervously gulped, “Uhh, yes sir, Mister Lucchese. Benny Roberts. ‘Greaseball’ Roberts’ kid. He’s been running numbers for me for three years now, and he’s been real reliable. My best runner.”
Lucchese glared, “Then how come you tell me Benny Roberts is only twelve, and this guy looks more like twenny or so?”
Bobby started sweating harder. “Umm, Mister Lucchese, you see, that’s the thing. He turned into a mutant just a little more’n a week ago. Two weeks ago, he was a normal skinny five-foot-tall twelve year old. Now he’s… a mutant. I couldn’t believe it, but I saw him every day for a week, and he grew like an inch and a half every day! His dad’s been bitching the kid’s been eating enough for ten full-grown men. And the kid’s busted their couch, their chairs, a bed, a dresser, and a bookcase. By accident. He’s really strong.”
Lucchese turned his glare to Mimeo. “So. Roberts. You beat up my boys? And you walk in here like nothing’s the matter? Like you’re safe ‘cuz you’re a kid?”
Mimeo tried not to grin too big, ‘cause everyone knew Bad Al had a bad temper. “Mister Lucchese, I’m not the one who ambushed a twelve-year-old kid in his own house with a couple gunmen. Funny how those guys, and the guy who let ‘em into my house, and the guy who ordered the hit, all went nuts and committed bank robberies this week.”
Lucchese got a calculating gleam in his eye. “So, you got mental powers? You made ‘em go rob those banks?”
Mimeo grinned a little wider, but he made sure to be respectful enough not to get killed right away. “No sir, Mister Lucchese. I did better’n that.” And he changed into Crazy Tony Olivera, right in front of their eyes. Well, not completely. Just from the neck up, so he didn’t rip his clothes apart. Tony Olivera was wider than Mimeo was, and not as tall.
A couple soldiers jumped backward, like he was gonna explode. Lucchese’s eyes bulged. Mimeo waited until he had everyone’s attention, and then he changed back to himself.
“Whew,” breathed Lucchese after a moment. “So yer wunna dose mutant superpowered guys, huh? What’s ta keep me from fillin’ ya wid a few hundred slugs an’ dumpin’ you inna East River, smart guy?”
Mimeo had spent hours thinking how this was probably going to go. Everyone knew what Bad Al Lucchese was like. Plenty of people told stories about him. Like the time Bad Al’s cousin Vincenzo was supposed to be watching a big money transfer and got distracted by a sexy blonde, and missed it when the Marinellos switched the money for a briefcase of newspaper. Bad Al supposedly got so mad he gouged out one of Vincenzo’s eyeballs with a spoon and made him eat it. Which was supposed to be why Vincenzo was now called ‘Vinny the Patch’.
Mimeo said, “I’ll tell you why, Mister Lucchese. I can get every one of those guys back out of jail. If you want. Say, Tony Olivera’s in the slammer, and his trial’s just started, and a guy who looks exactly like Tony robs another bank, and even gets caught by a news reporter and a photographer. Pretty much shoots the DA’s case out of the water, right?” Lucchese nodded carefully. “But that only happens if I’m alive and healthy. And cooperative. But I can do a lot more than that. Imagine if a guy you think’s gonna testify against you suddenly gets seen running around like a crazy person in Central Park screaming about martians kidnapping him. Not much chance anyone’s gonna believe what he says on the witness stand, right? Imagine if your worst enemy in the entire city suddenly shot the DA in the head in the middle of a crowded restaurant, in front of fifty witnesses who could identify him. Maybe even the ADA who’s causing you the most trouble…”
Lucchese really sat up at that. He hadn’t thought about how much a shapeshifter could help him.
Mimeo went on, “Or what if everyone knew there was a guy who looked like your twin, running around town causing trouble? Say, you’re at a christening or something, in a church, in front of five hundred people including priests and nuns and cops, and some guy who looks just like you is busting up a bar five miles away at the same time? Then you’d never be in trouble for anything people saw you do, because everyone already knows about your double.”
“Smart kid,” muttered Lucchese.
“Oh, but there’s more. Lots more,” Mimeo said. “You see, any cop who gives you trouble? Oops, there’s a photo of him with a twelve-year-old hooker. Or him taking a payoff. Or him shooting one of your men in the back of the head, execution-style.”
Lucchese’s consigliere said from the back of the room, “This kid’s been thinking about his powers, Al. I think we ought to put him on the payroll. If we had a guy who could look like Irish Ed, and could walk right into Irish’s place, and then shoot all of Irish’s people… Or he could look like one of Sunshine’s darkies and go commit a couple crimes with lotsa witnesses… Or… Well, there’s a lotta ways to use someone who can look like anybody. You could knock off the rest of the Five Families, starting with that asshole Louie Gambino. You could control all the judges you need. You could put half the cops in the city in your back pocket.”
Mimeo said, “There’s just one thing. I only take the jobs I want to, from here on out. You don’t like that? I go offer my services to someone else in this town.”
Lucchese glared, “What makes you think you can say dat ta me, and just walk outta here?”
Mimeo said, “Maybe you didn’t notice. Olivera shot me with his shotgun. Santini shot me with his pistol. Their wheelman nailed me with his tommygun. Do I look like I got any bullet holes in me?”
Lucchese sneered, “So you think you’re fast?”
Mimeo shrugged, “Not that fast. Go ahead and shoot me.” He opened his suit jacket and unbuttoned his white shirt, showing his undershirt. “Come on. Shoot me in the guts. Right here. Right now.”
Lucchese stood up. “Never bluff Bad Al, kid. Big mistake.” He pulled out a .38 Special from a hidey-hole under the desk, and emptied it into Mimeo’s stomach. The deafening sound rattled the windows.
“You know, this isn’t as much fun as it looks,” smiled Mimeo.
Lucchese and his men stared in shock. There were six bullet holes in Mimeo’s undershirt. Mimeo pulled the undershirt up and picked the still-hot bullets out of his flesh, dropping each slug on the floor. Then he held up his undershirt until everyone saw his skin un-pucker and go back to normal.
“Yeah,” Mimeo smiled, “I’m bulletproof. And I’m strong. Like ‘pick up a Buick and smack you with it’ strong. I could be a real hardass about it, but I’m not interested in fighting it out to take over one of the families. I like money. I don’t like constantly looking over my shoulder and wondering when I’m going to get double-crossed. So how’s about you just think of me as a contractor? Your own private contractor. Not anyone who’s gonna step on your toes, or be a problem. Nope, just a guy you can call up and ask to go take care of the problems you already have.”
Lucchese said, “I’ll think about it. Where ya gonna be?”
Mimeo smirked, “I’ll be in Tony Olivera’s apartment. I hear it’s empty right now. I’ll just keep it warm for Tony, ‘til he’s back. In ten to twenty.”
Bad Al let him have the apartment, and even told Ginny the hooker to keep Mimeo happy if he wanted. Well, a twelve-year-old boy with a twenty-year-old’s body had hormones running out his ears. Mimeo had wanted. And Ginny was pretty frigging wild in the bed. Not the prettiest girl you ever met, but she could do stuff with her mouth you wouldn’t believe.
It was two weeks before Bad Al’s consigliere called Mimeo over to the house again. This time, nobody bothered to search him.
A couple guys led him into a much smaller office with nice chairs and a bunch of books on one wall. Sitting in one of the chairs was the consigliere. “Hey Mimeo, I’m Paulie Pezzini. Call me Paulie, or ‘Ribcage’. Everyone does. Can I get you something to drink?”
Mimeo sat down and sat, “Thanks, Paulie. Can I get a cream soda with a lot of ice?”
“Sure.” Paulie sent one of the hardmen off to get a soda for Mimeo, and a beer for him.
Paulie got down to business. “Bad Al wants to use you for a lot of smalltime stuff, but I’m trying to get him to see you as a real valuable resource that you don’t waste. And I’ve got something right up your alley. The Gambinos just imported a hitter. Guy’s a mutant too. They’re threatening the entire Lucchese family. The guy’s a fucking nightmare. He hit one of our safehouses last night. Killed twelve of our soldiers and blasted the place apart. We’re damn lucky one soldier was smart enough to play dead, and we got the story. This guy, he’s one of these energy blasters. He flies, he blasts red beams out of his hands that blast shit to pieces, and he’s got some kind of red energy wall he can put up around him. Machine gun bullets bounce right off it. But we got you, and no one knows about you. The Gambinos sent us a note. Attached to Prettyboy Karski’s body. Or what’s left of it. We turn over all our numbers and cathouses and loansharking to them, or this guy’s gonna turn Madame Li’s cathouse into scrap. Tomorrow night at midnight. They know we can’t stop their hitter.”
Mimeo grinned, “But I can, right?”
“Right. I sure hope so. Because, if you can’t, it’s all-out war. If you don’t stop this guy tomorrow night, we go to the mattresses. And this guy can bust our hardest sites like they’re cardboard. With this guy, the Gambinos will win in the long run, no matter how many of them we pop.”
“How much is it worth to you?”
Paulie nodded, as if he’d been waiting for this part of the talk. “Fifty grand. And the lease on Tony’s place, paid for a year. We’re not getting Tony out of the slammer anyways, there’s too much bad blood since he gunned down a couple of the Bonannos’ soldiers last year, and he wasn’t even supposed to.”
Mimeo smiled, “You got yourself a mutant-buster.”
They shook hands on it. Paulie even made small talk with Mimeo for a bit, while they drank their drinks. Paulie wanted to know if Ginny was keeping him happy, and if he was having any problems. Mimeo told him he was good. But as soon as Mimeo got home, he started thinking about taking down some flying blasting guy.
By the next evening, he’d carried about a ton of cinderblocks and a stack of rebar up to the roof of Madame Li’s. He built what looked pretty much like a lawn chair out of the stuff. He made sure it faced the Gambino territory, figuring the guy would be coming from there. He made sure to set it right under a fancy light someone had rigged up so you could have a little private get-together right on top of the building, where no one could see you. And he waited for midnight.
Sure enough, a few minutes before midnight, he spotted a red glow up in the sky, coming from the center of the Gambino territories and heading right for him. He figured the guy wasn’t too worried about anyone taking him out. That was when he realized he was thinking pretty much the same thing. One of them had to be wrong, didn’t he? He hoped it wasn’t him.
By the time the guy got within a couple blocks, he had a big glowing wall of energy going in front of him. Mimeo had a better look at him. The guy was wearing an outfit kind of like he thought he was Champion or something. Tight fabric all over him, a big cape that came down past his ass, and a stupid-looking mask over his face from the nose up. The guy was moving pretty fast, maybe thirty or forty miles an hour. Mimeo could run faster than that, but he sure couldn’t fly.
Mimeo waited until the guy was above the next building and was getting ready to do something. He didn’t know what the guy was going to do, but the guy had his hands up near his head and looked like he was straining. Okay, it looked like the guy was constipated, but Mimeo figured he’d give a fellow mutant the benefit of the doubt. Mimeo sat back in the fake chair and flipped on the light.
The guy sort of jumped backward in mid-air. Wow. Mimeo figured it had to be really cool to be able to fly around like that. Mimeo waved the guy in. “Hey glow-worm! Come here! Let’s parley!”
The guy was careful, at least. He flew around the roof looking for some kind of trap. Maybe half a dozen guys with tommyguns waiting to ambush him, or something like that. Hell, if Mimeo was planning on that kind of set-up, he would have busted into an armory and gotten some grenade launchers to handle the guy. But Mimeo wasn’t planning on killing the guy. He didn’t mind a little stealing and stuff, but killing was crossing a line he wasn’t ready for. He’d seen what hardmen like Crazy Tony Olivera were like, and he didn’t want to be like those loonies.
“Hey redboy, you got a name?”
The guy floated ten feet above the roof, about forty feet away from Mimeo. The guy had no idea that Mimeo could chuck the cinderblocks and rebar in the fake chair a hell of a lot farther than that. Maybe the guy could take a bullet off that red energy thing. But he’d have to be a lot tougher to take a cinderblock fastball right down the pipe.
The guy carefully said, “I’m Jack.”
Mimeo grinned, “I figured you’d have some super-hep super-name, like the Red Smasher, or Energy Man, or something.”
“Uhh, no. Just Jack.”
“Well, ‘Just Jack’, I’m here to make you an offer. Drop the Gambinos and work for my friends, or else.”
“Or else what?” asked Jack with a smug smile.
“Or else you’ll have to fight me,” Mimeo told him.
“You?” Jack almost laughed. “Didn’t they warn you about me? Look at me! I can fly. I can blast a brick wall apart. I can put up a wall you can’t shoot through.”
Mimeo asked, “So, why not come to work for us? We pay better.”
Jack frowned, “If I backstabbed Louie Gambino, I’d be on the run for the rest of my life. No thanks.”
Louie Gambino, huh? Mimeo smiled as he suddenly got a really funny idea. “Okay then. You ready to fight me?” He casually rested his hand on the back of the cinderblock chair.
Jack did laugh out loud that time. “What? You’ve got a big fancy gun behind your chair?”
Mimeo grinned, “No. I got the chair.”
He had a good grip on a cinderblock, and he swung the block like he was throwing sidearm. Then he dodged to the other side of the chair as fast as he could, which was pretty frigging fast, and he threw another cinderblock.
Jack hadn’t expected anything like that. The first cinderblock hit his red wall and knocked him backward. He fired at Mimeo and missed. The second cinderblock nearly punched through the red energy. The only trouble was Mimeo had been counting on taking this jerk out with one of those cinderblocks.
Jack dodged quickly and zipped around to Mimeo’s right. Mimeo found out it was a lot harder hitting a moving target, especially one that was moving up and back and to the side all at the same time. The next two cinderblocks went flying under Jack and behind him. Jack let go with a series of red blasts, a couple of them knocking the cinderblock chair apart, and the last one catching Mimeo in the side and knocking him a good ten feet through the air. Fuck! That hurt!
Mimeo hit the roof hard, and rolled just fast enough to avoid the next couple blasts. Damn! He hadn’t thought this out. He just might be in trouble. He zigzagged back to the cinderblocks and heaved one at Jack, who dodged sideways to avoid it. Jack was so busy watching the cinderblock he didn’t see the handful of rebar coming at him like a half dozen spears, and he took one right in the leg. “JESUS! You BASTARD!” he screamed.
The one rebar punched through the red energy, but it didn’t have enough force left over to punch through Jack’s leg, just whack him a hell of a good shot in the thigh. Jack dodged some more and moved in closer, blasting at Mimeo with everything he had, and trying to keep Mimeo away from the rest of the rebar.
And then Mimeo felt… stronger. More powerful. More… energized. Suddenly - somehow - there was a red energy wall in front of Mimeo too. Jack’s blasts were smashing into Mimeo’s red wall. Mimeo could feel every impact, like Mimeo was holding up a big metal shield and Jack was hitting it with a sledgehammer. And it was pretty obvious Jack didn’t know what the hell was going on, even though it was Jack’s own power. Mimeo didn’t know what was going on either, but he knew it was something weird, and he knew it was making Jack crazy.
Mimeo jumped for the cinderblocks again, the red energy wall moving with him, and he flew over the pile. No, he didn’t make an enormous jump. He flew over it and didn’t come down. He was floating, about four feet above the roof. He was flying.
It finally dawned on him. “Holy shit,” he whispered to himself. He’d just picked up Jack’s energy wall, and Jack’s flying power too. He really was like a mimeograph machine, he could copy superpowers too! Could he do the energy blasts? He could feel the energy coursing through him, so maybe…
Only one way to find out. He watched as Jack went nuts trying to blast through Mimeo’s red energy wall, and he tried to copy Jack. Concentrate, pull hands back, and push out with the hands.
He pushed. A blast of red energy erupted out of each hand, and one of the blasts even hit Jack’s energy wall. Jack was looking pretty shaken over there. Not that the blast had clobbered him, but Jack pretty clearly didn’t know what to do about someone who wasn’t a pushover. Mimeo grinned. Maybe Jack didn’t know what to do in a fight when he didn’t have the upper hand, but Mimeo sure did. Little Benny Roberts had been a scrapper, and had been in dozens and dozens of fights, some of them with guys a hell of a lot bigger and tougher. He’d learned how to fight, and how to fight dirty, and how to use anything you could get your hands on. Only now Mimeo had a lot of things he could get his hands on. He had his own powers, and now he had Jack’s powers too. So maybe…
Mimeo tried something else. Combining their powers. He flew straight at Jack, his red wall protecting him from another half dozen frantic energy blasts, and he punched Jack in the stomach. His superstrength plowed right through Jack’s energy wall, and Jack folded up like a cheap tent. Mimeo quickly hit Jack in the jaw, and Jack dropped unconscious the fifteen feet to the rooftop.
Mimeo landed next to Jack’s body and cautiously checked to make sure Jack was out cold. So far, so good. Mimeo knew where Louie Gambino’s main joint was. Hell, most of New York City did. Plenty of liquor, plenty of (illegal) gambling in the back, and plenty of hookers upstairs. It was also one of Louie’s hardsites, with the top floor being Louie’s bank and home away from home, with maybe two dozen hardmen living there full-time. Everyone knew that. It was just that you couldn’t get up to the top two floors without using the elevator that had its only controls on the top floor, or else going up one of two really narrow staircases that were covered by guys with tommyguns behind bulletproof walls. There was no way to bust into a place that secure without about two hundred armed soldiers who you didn’t care if they got slaughtered.
Unless you could fly in from above and blast the crap out of them before they knew you were coming.
Mimeo couldn’t stop grinning, as he stripped Jack’s costume off the guy. He couldn’t believe how lucky he was. He, Mimeo, had the coolest powers on the planet! He was superstrong, and he could shapeshift, and he could copy other guys’ superpowers! He could own this city if he played this right!
And he didn’t have to kill Jack to handle him. No, he was going to do something way, way worse.
He changed his face so he looked like Jack. He changed his body a little so he had Jack’s shape. Jack really didn’t have the build to be flying around in a superhero suit. The guy needed to be working out a lot more. Then Mimeo put on the costume. He flew straight to Louie Gambino’s place. Shit, flying was the coolest power ever! He started out by blasting a dozen huge holes in the back side of the building with those energy blasts. Jack had such a cool power! Then he flew in through one of the gaping holes he’d blasted in the top floor, with his red energy wall up. And that was a good thing, because there were about a dozen Gambino hardmen blazing away at him with everything from revolvers up to machine guns. He blasted holes in the floor until the floor gave way and they all fell into the cathouse bedrooms below. In the best imitation of Jack he could manage, he yelled, “Better get the fuck outta here because I’m torching the place, assholes!” He busted into the ‘bank’ area and chased all the tellers and accountants out of there, also warning them he was going to burn the place down. They ran like roaches when the kitchen light goes on. Then he helped himself to as much money as he could easily stuff into the biggest moneybags he could see.
Once the streams of people fleeing from the building turned into a trickle, he checked the rest of the upstairs. Once he was sure the place was really empty, he did start a fire in the bank area, using a pile of Louie Gambino’s money. Then he flew out of the building and down to where Louie Gambino and a dozen of his soldiers were blasting at him with pistols. He kept his red energy wall up, so all the bullets bounced off it. He yelled, “Hey Louie! The Luccheses gave me a better offer, so SUCK ME!” And he flew off into the sky, while Louie Gambino screamed at him.
He headed back to Madame Li’s carrying three moneybags stuffed with cash. He played with his new powers for maybe another hour as he waited for Jack to come to. As he was doing loop-the-loops over the roof, he started feeling kind of weak. Like he might pass out. He landed and knelt down for long seconds. What the hell was happening to him? What if this was some kind of mutant disease or something? He had no idea. Once the weakness passed, he was okay again. He nervously checked. He was still super-strong: he could bend the rebar like it was chickenwire. He could still change his looks. But Jack’s powers were gone. He looked at his watch. Shit! He’d only had those cool powers for maybe four hours.
And it dawned on him that he had another reason not to kill people. He’d better not kill any superpowered opponents, or he’d never be able to copy their powers again!
Okay, new rule: fight other mutants and copy their powers. But make sure you didn’t kill them. Oh, and make sure you didn’t hurt ‘em so bad they’d have to retire.
He took off Jack’s costume and put his own clothes back on. And he waited. Jack came to about an hour before dawn. Jack struggled to his knees, groaning and carefully wiggling his jaw. He yelled, “You BASTARD! I think you broke my fucking JAW!”
Mimeo grinned. “I did way worse than that, Jack. I put on your costume, flew over to Louie Gambino’s joint, blew the crap out of it, robbed him blind, set the place on fire, and told him I’d switched to the Luccheses. I think he’s kind of mad at you now.”
Jack struggled to his feet before he realized he was standing there stark naked. “You FUCK! Do you have any idea what the Gambinos are gonna do to me if they catch me?”
Mimeo tossed him one of the bags of cash. “So here. Take the money and run. There’s enough cash in there for you to go live someplace nice, where they can’t find you. I hear California is great all year ‘round, and with your powers, you’ll never have to worry about earthquakes. With this much money, you can retire.”
Jack looked suspiciously at the moneybag. “Why the deal? You coulda just killed me.”
“Not my style.” Then he lied, “If I kill you, or the Gambinos do it for me, I’ll lose your powers too. So I’m keeping you alive and safe.”
“I oughta…” Jack growled.
Mimeo gave him a wicked smirk, and then he tried out the great big lie he’d made up while he was flying around. “Don’t even think it. I’ve got your powers now, and all the powers from the other superpowered guys I fought. You saw me. I got super-strength from one guy, and then super-speed from another, and invulnerability from another, and shapeshifting from another one. Plus your powers. How’re you gonna fight someone with all my powers, and all yours too? Just take off. I left your costume over by the cinderblocks. Get dressed and fly home. Don’t go back to your apartment or hotel room or wherever you’re staying in town, the Gambinos will be looking for you there. Fly home to wherever you really live, and pack your stuff up, and get the hell out of there before the Gambinos send muscle after you. Then you can vanish. Live the life of Riley. Keep those powers all nice and safe for me.”
“You bastard, I hope they blow your nuts off!” Jack snarled. But he believed Mimeo, which was all Mimeo cared about. Bullies like Jack didn’t fight you when you could kick their ass. Mimeo watched as Jack slowly limped over to where his costume was. The guy looked kind of pounded, and his leg was still bleeding some from where that rebar punched into his thigh. Mimeo strolled off and walked through the roof door. He was downstairs and gone, long before Jack dressed and flew off.
Mimeo went straight home. He got a decent six hours sleep, he did Ginny four or five times once he woke up, he let her make him a breakfast big enough for four or five normal guys, he ate it all while he pretended to listen to her talk about whatever bullshit she had going on that day, and then he went to see Paulie.
The whole Lucchese hardsite was as nervous as a whore at confession. They searched him, checked with Paulie before letting him into the mansion, and kept watching him like he might turn into a bomb at any second.
Paulie was a lot more relaxed than anyone else Mimeo saw. He welcomed Mimeo into his office, got Mimeo a cream soda with ice, and sat down to chat. “Hey, amazing work last night. I got no idea how you did it, but you did way more than any of us figured you could possibly do. Madame Li and her girls are very happy that they still have their homes, and I think the next couple times you go over there, they’re gonna reward you until you can’t walk.” He grinned wickedly.
Then Paulie got down to business. “Our friends in blue got us the police reports. Somehow, somebody was using a catapult or something, and launching concrete blocks and rebar over a one or two block radius around Madame Li’s. Nobody got hit, but there’s windows busted out, and some walls that are going to need some repair work.”
Mimeo said, “Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry!” Paulie laughed. “We don’t have to pay those pricks for repairs! And even better, the Gambinos are going insane today over their mutant traitor who wrecked Louie the Luger’s place. How’d you manage that?”
Mimeo lied pretty easily, since he’d figured out last night he was going to have to explain something to somebody sooner or later. “I beat the crap out of ‘redboy’. Wasn’t easy, but I got in enough shots with the concrete blocks and the rebar spears that he went down. He’s a big coward if he can’t take you. I threatened to tear him apart if he ever came near Lucchese territory again, and I sort of ‘accidentally’ mentioned the bank on the top floor of Louie Gambino’s place that nobody could bust their way up to… but a flyer could get to pretty easy. He settled for second best. He decided to rob them and run away. I figure by now, he’s two, three states away and flying as fast as he can.” Well, that last bit was probably true.
Paulie just grinned. “That’s great, kid. When I tell Al this, he’ll probably come up with a little extra to sweeten the deal. He’s hated Louie Gambino for a long time. And the Five Families won’t even come after us. We didn’t break the truce, the Gambinos did. And it backfired like nobody’s business!”
Mimeo went home. He didn’t get those two moneybags out of hiding until he was sure Ginny was gone. Fifty thousand from Bad Al, maybe something extra, and this. It took him a while to count it all. Two hundred thirty-seven thousand bucks. He decided he would take a plane some place and blow most of the money on a wild vacation. Cuba was out now because of that Castro nut, but Las Vegas was a possibility, even if the Five Families had a lot of ties there. Maybe Europe was the place to go. He just needed to get Paulie to put together some ID that said he was legal age, and not a twelve-year-old kid.
Paulie came through with some ID, and Mimeo took a plane to Monte Carlo for a wild couple weeks of parties, gambling, girls, and fun. He made up his mind that he wanted to do that a hell of a lot more. He just needed the money, and the ID. Any ID. Any ID at all. As a shapeshifter, he could be anyone, and look like anybody. Hell, he could pretend he was the Prince of Monaco, or anybody! Well, except he couldn’t speak Monaco-ese, or whatever they spoke in Monaco. But still, he could pretend to be anybody rich and American. One of those Goodkinds or Astors or Vanderbilts or something.
When he got back to New York, he took it easy. He found a new girl, Janet, and sent Ginny off. Ginny’d been pretty happy to get an introduction to Madame Li, since Madame Li’s place was a huge step up from working Fourth Street. Janet was a lot prettier than Ginny, and liked having a boyfriend with money to spend on her, and she wasn’t turning tricks all night either. Janet didn’t know as many tricks in the bed as Ginny did, but she learned fast.
He read the papers and followed the bank robbery trials of his dad and the three Lucchese soldiers. All four creeps ended up getting a lot of jail time. Whenever Paulie called him, he went to work. But Paulie was smart enough to keep Mimeo’s powers under wraps. No two-bit stuff, and nothing that let the other Families find out just what Bad Al’s new contractor could really do. As far as Mimeo knew, none of the other Families had any idea Bad Al had his own private contractor, much less that the contractor could do stuff no one normal could do.
Mimeo did a couple special jobs for Bad Al. Jobs that were easy for him, but impossible for anyone else. Louie ‘the Luger’ Gambino and Bad Al had a lot of history between them. A lot of bad history. So no one was surprised when Paulie got word from one of his stoolies that Louie was going to set up Bad Al. Paulie called Mimeo and asked him to go find out what Louie was planning. Paulie and Mimeo both knew that was pretty much impossible for anybody normal, if Paulie’s stoolie couldn’t find out.
Mimeo had an easy time of it. He made himself look like one or another of the Gambino footsoldiers, and he infiltrated a couple of Louie’s meetings as ‘dumb muscle’ in the background. Louie liked having a lot of firepower around, in case someone like Bad Al tried something. And Louie liked showing off how smart and sneaky he was. So Mimeo knew what Louie was up to, just by standing there and letting Louie tell his lieutenants how fucking smart he was.
First, Louie tried to frame Bad Al for a run on ‘Sam the Slicer’ Genovese’s gunrunning operation. Somehow, the Genovese family heard about that ahead of time. Well, Paulie was pretty fucking smart, and he’d figured out who in Bad Al’s family was ratting them out to the Five Families, and so Paulie fed that guy some information. Sam the Slicer caught Louie’s soldiers red-handed. The Five Families came down on Louie like a ton of bricks.
Then Mimeo played dumb muscle again, this time at another meeting where Louie was organizing a hit on Bad Al, and so word about that got out too. After Louie took some of his own soldiers apart looking for ‘the stoolie’, his family quietly ‘took care’ of Louie, sending him off to Las Vegas ‘for his health’. Word was that they’d buried most of him somewhere out in the desert way south of town. Bad Al just about did a victory dance over that one.
Mimeo figured he was on easy street. He figured he would be doing half a dozen little jobs for Bad Al every year, and living the life of Riley the rest of the time. But that was before he ran into Plus and Minus.
Plus and Minus were a pair of superheroes who worked together a lot, in one of those ‘theme name’ deals. Plus was another guy with the ‘flying blaster’ powers, and Minus was a busty brunette with energy absorber powers. Most of the Big Apple figured they were doing more together than just fighting bad guys. They wore masks, so no one knew whether Minus was pretty, but everyone who’d seen them agreed she had a great rack.
Mimeo was just doing a typical job for the Luccheses. Paulie had been real careful to keep their ace in the hole hidden up a sleeve, so the other families didn’t start escalating. Paulie was pretty damn smart, and understood the Five Families tons better than Mimeo did. Even a lot better than Bad Al did. Paulie was damn certain that if the other Families - hell, if Bad Al’s own family - found out the truth about Al’s new ‘contractor’, there would either be out-and-out warfare to decide who got to run Mimeo, or else Mimeo would just get buried somewhere so nobody could have him. Neither of those sounded good to Mimeo.
The job was supposed to be simple. Someone had knocked over the last two shipments of drugs coming in from the docks. The cops weren’t taking credit for it, and it wasn’t a mob hit, and it looked like someone was blasting the trucks apart. The Lucchese family thought a vigilante was going at them with a grenade launcher or a mortar or something. Paulie thought it was some superpowered prick, either mad about the drug trade, or stealing enough to open his own business. Either way, it was bad.
So Mimeo had another job. Security on this drug run. He was riding in a convertible that was traveling about a block and a half behind the two panel trucks that were carrying the drugs and the footsoldiers guarding the stuff. The top was down on the convertible, and he was enjoying the breeze. ‘Momo’ Tratini was driving, shooting his mouth off like always. The guy was a great wheelman, but you couldn’t shut him up for love or money. “So’s anyway, dere’s the place where ‘Tino the Nose’ Lucchese shivved these three guys who were tryin’ ta put a hit on him, fuckin’ Gambino’s, ya can’t trust ‘em as far as ya can piss, and dat street dere is where… FUCK!”
Momo stood on his brakes as two supers flew in, one holding the other in his arms, and the flyer blasted the first truck’s front tire so the truck crashed onto the sidewalk and smashed into a building.
Mimeo’s reflexes were a lot better than a normal guy’s. Even a top wheelman like Tratini. He was over the windshield and leaping off from the hood of the car way before it screeched to a halt.
The guy who flew - and just blasted the shit out of the first truck - was carrying a girl with a big rack and long dark-brown hair. She turned and stared at the second truck, and it just stopped running. The engine just died, like the electricity was cut off. Mimeo knew who these two had to be. Paulie had been filling him in on the supers in New York City, and the supers that the Five Families had managed to hire as contractors over the last ten years, and a few supers who might just show up someday and cause big trouble, like Deathmaiden or Etna or Madame Terror. These two had to be Plus and Minus. Which meant trouble, since he had no idea if he could copy Minus’ powers, or if she could knock out his powers before he got close to her.
It didn’t matter. He’d told Paulie he’d give it his best shot. He was already sprinting right at the two supers. And he was pretty damn fast. Paulie had timed him at over sixty-five miles an hour on a flat straight road, not that they were admitting that to anyone. Mimeo took a running jump onto the back of the second panel truck, and jumped from there straight at Plus.
Minus spotted him coming, and stared at him. He suddenly slowed down in mid-air, and Plus blasted him before he could fall. He went flying backward and landed hard on the sidewalk. Fuck! That hurt! And his clothes were trashed. He had a big hole blasted in the front of his shirt, and the back of his suit was ripped up from hitting the concrete.
This was bad. He’d heard Minus could absorb energy, but he hadn’t realized she could absorb any kind of energy. He didn’t know what kind of energy it was when you used your muscles or ran, but it was some sort of energy. And she’d sucked off that kind of energy while he was in mid-jump.
Plus came at him again, and he quickly moved to put Plus in between him and Minus. Then he moved toward Plus. The guy lifted up a few more feet and threw a blast at him. Mimeo dodged quickly and leapt for the crashed panel truck. He ripped off the rear bumper and hurled it at Plus. The guy blasted it out of the air. Mimeo ripped off one of the rear doors and threw it. Plus dodged sideways, and Minus stopped it cold. Mimeo ripped off the other door and threw it. Then he threw some of the bricks knocked out of the building wall. Then some more car parts. Plus and Minus were bracketing him, switching off, taking turns either blasting the stuff or stopping it in mid-air.
It took him about a dozen throws before they were close enough that he felt it. He felt that energized sensation like he’d picked up from Jack. And he felt something else. Something new. It felt like a pull. A pull inside him that maybe he could even use. When he was sure he had their powers, he sprung his trap.
He leapt into the air, aiming for Minus. When she stopped him in mid-air, he hit her with a blast of Plus’s power. That caught her by surprise. She got knocked down, even if she maybe still managed to absorb some of the energy blast. Plus fired off a couple blasts of his own, and Mimeo used Minus’ power to suck down all the energy. Plus just floated there like a big moron, not figuring out what was going on. Mimeo flew right at Plus and punched him in the jaw through that energy wall, stunning him. Then he felt a ‘draw’ as Minus tried to drain his copied energy power. He threw Plus at her. She stopped the body in mid-air, but then she couldn’t also deal with Mimeo flying in to clip her. Not unless she wanted to just drop Plus on his head. Mimeo hit her in the stomach, and she went rolling across the asphalt. Plus’s body hit the street with a thud.
Mimeo grabbed Minus by her collar and lifted her into the air. He warned her, “Don’t try anything, or I’ll have to hurt ya.”
He held her up in the air and walked her over to where Plus was struggling to get to his feet. Plus begged, “Don’t hurt her. Please!”
Mimeo said quietly, “I don’t know why you two are after these trucks, but you gotta stop. Now. I’ve copied your powers, so the next time I see you, I’ll just put both of you in the hospital. Or worse. I’m giving you a chance to clear out and leave this to me. Blast me, I’ll pretend to fall down, and you grab the babe and split. Your last chance, before I get rough. Real rough.”
Plus was about to argue, but Minus frantically shook her head no. So Plus fired off a couple big-looking blasts that Mimeo sucked down at the same time he threw himself backward to the wall. Plus grabbed Minus in his arms and skedaddled.
Mimeo was pretty pleased with himself. He saved the shipment, he chased off a couple real superheroes, and he was pretty sure he’d stopped the raids. And he hadn’t had to kill anybody, or bust up a hot brunette.
But not everyone was all that pleased. Bad Al was pretty pissed about how it turned out. Al had wanted those supers in little pieces all over the street. Mimeo just stuck to his guns. He told Bad Al face to face, “No sir. You don’t kill supers. That gets you the bad kind of attention. The Families would come down on us like a ton of bricks. So would every super in the tri-state area.” And Paulie backed him up, so finally Bad Al kicked a bunch of chairs to pieces and gave in.
But Plus and Minus must have ratted him out to the other supers in New York City. Which meant more trouble for him down the line, even if he didn’t figure it out for a while. The next month, he faced off against Brick, and pounded him. A few weeks after that, he had to take on Tornado, and managed to win that one too. Then, maybe a month after that, he beat Quarterhorse. There wasn’t any such thing as teams of superheroes back then, just people like Plus and Minus, or the occasional meet-up, so Mimeo figured he was in pretty good shape.
He was wrong about that.
A few weeks after that, Tornado came after him with Quarterhorse and Plus and Minus, all at the same time. They had him on the ropes for maybe a half a minute, before he felt their powers kick in. He used Plus’s power and blasted Tornado out of the air. He used Minus’s power to stop Plus’s power blasts. He used Tornado’s power to blow Quarterhorse through a wall. He used Quarterhorse’s speed to dodge everyone. He tied them all up, stripped off their costumes except their masks, and left them all bare-assed naked tied to a lamppost. He warned them, "Leave me alone! Or next time, I’ll do worse to ya!” And he was gone long before Plus blasted the superheroes loose.
Over the next few months, he faced off against most of the other supers in the city. And he kicked every one of their asses. He figured he was pretty much the top dog of New York City for the year and two months after he got his powers. And he still wasn’t even fourteen years old yet! He had the niftiest powers ever. And he could copy the powers of a whole team of supers and kick their asses from here to Jersey City! He was starting to think he was unbeatable.
That didn’t last.
And he should’ve figured it out ahead of time. Quarterhorse wasn’t stupid. He got a bunch of the New York City superheroes together to stop some really big threat that was all over the papers. Mimeo read about it. How could you miss it, when it was front page stuff for over a week? One of the papers nicknamed them the Empire City Guard, since they’d just guarded the Empire City from a deadly threat. And they had teamed up with more than just Tornado and his old foes Plus and Minus. And then they teamed up again to stop that giant monster thing in the harbor.
But Mimeo didn’t realize that those jerks might really keep doing stuff together when they needed to. So eventually Mimeo got treated to the other end of the stick, when a big team of superheroes tackled him. Looking back on things, he was pretty sure he was one of the reasons the Empire City Guard stayed together after their first two big battles that brought ‘em together. And he figured he was maybe the reason they even thought about teaming up to begin with, since Quarterhorse and Plus and Minus were the core of the Empire City Guard back then.
At first, things went pretty well for him in the fight. He got Plus’ flight and blasting, and clobbered Brick. He got Brick’s strength, which wasn’t really much better than his own, and he knocked Quarterhorse through a window. He got Minus’ energy absorbing powers and knocked out Tornado with them. There were eight of them, and he was pretty sure he’d managed to copy maybe four or five of them and take half of them out before they sprung their trap.
It turned out the whole thing was a big stall. They were bringing in an old lady in a wheelchair. He didn’t know what her powers were, but there was no way he was going to hurt some old bag who couldn’t even walk anymore. That was when she wheeled herself right up to him and she focused on him. And he absorbed her power.
She was some kind of high-end precognitive, even if he hadn’t known what to call it back then. He suddenly saw. He saw way too much. He saw a thousand future paths, all leading from where he was right that second. Every path - every join and twist and turn - crashed through his brain like a sledgehammer. He couldn’t stop seeing. He saw everything from him dead on that street, to him talking to the famous European supervillain Baron Z, to him smashing up half of New York City in an all-out war against superheroes and supervillains and the U.S. Army, and everything in between. He couldn’t take it all in. It just hurt too much! Every image exploded in his head like a hand grenade. Every image blasted him with sight and sound and sometimes smell and maybe even taste, until his senses were utterly overwhelmed. He collapsed to the ground, deaf and blind, in utter agony, and begging someone to make it stop. They’d cuffed him and tied him up with chains off a battleship or something. The chain was too big for even him to break.
When the old lady’s power finally wore off, about four hours later, he found out he was in a jail cell. A special jail cell made of steel alloy with special reinforced concrete behind that, and a cell door that looked like it belonged on a frigging safe. The one cop keeping an eye on him couldn’t stop bragging about how tough that cell was.
They’d given him a choice. Since he was only thirteen, they couldn’t legally put him in Riker’s, or one of the other prisons. And what were they going to charge him with? Getting into fights with other superpowered mutants? Hell, he could claim self-defense on most of those. The cops and some snotty DA told him what his choices were. He could either go to juvey (which everyone and their brother knew couldn’t hold him, and they would have to let him go when his sentence was up or when he hit eighteen, anyway)… Or else he could go to this new thing, Whateley Academy. And that part made like no sense at all. They wanted to put a guy like him in some sort of snotty prep school full of hoity-toity rich pricks in fancy clothes? Were they out of their minds? He told them he’d think about it. That gave him time to figure out what to do.
It also gave him time to try to bust out of that cell, but it turned out the cell was just as tough as that jerkface cop had said.
He would’ve told those guys to go shove it, but they had someone who wanted to talk to him first. The guy was flying in to talk to him, and would be there the next day. Jesus, who the hell would fly in just to talk to him? And how far away were they, if they wouldn’t be here until tomorrow?
It turned out it was the infamous Baron Z. Baron Z came all the way from Europe to talk to him! He was really impressed, even if he wasn’t about to admit it. He never was really sure afterward if the precog image of him talking to Baron Z was the same as what really happened, but it was close enough for him.
The Baron sat him down in a private room that normally was used for lawyer-client conversations. Baron Z smiled menacingly, “From what I hear, you’re going to be the toughest of our lot at Whateley.”
That was when Mimeo figured out that he hadn’t heard the truth about Whateley Academy yet. He tried the politeness bit first. “Sorry sir, but what are you talking about?”
The Baron laughed unpleasantly. “I didn’t think they would explain all about Whateley in front of those police officers. Whateley Academy is a brand new place for mutants. Only mutants, and only teenagers. A number of us have run into problems with training powered sidekicks… or assistants or followers or whatever you choose to call them. We have boys and girls manifesting mutant powers, and we need a place to train them in their abilities. But no superhero will let us do that. At the same time, the superheroes can no longer train their sidekicks. Stupid American laws. But this time, it is good for us. The heroes need a place to train their ‘future superheroes’. We need a place to train our future members. And then there are teenagers who have not yet chosen sides. It is far better that some of these children choose to remain neutral, than for them all to think that they must automatically join us or else oppose us. We have formed a tentative agreement with a number of other superpowered organizations world-wide. We are going to send as many young mutants as we can to Whateley, and if the people there truly will respect the neutrality we desire, then we can let them train our people until they graduate from ‘high school’ and make their way in the world. The Syndicate and the Black Mask are but two organizations favoring our worldview that are supporting Whateley Academy. The Communist countries, Russia and China, are afraid this is some sort of master plan to steal all their young mutants - as if we would try something this stupidly obvious - but every other country seems willing to cooperate.
“Many of the superheroes are also supporting it. Champion and Lady Champion and the Empire City Guard and a dozen others, including some people who aren’t mutants, but have a certain hero ‘reputation’ in the business, like the Reverend Darren England, if you’ve heard of him. But we do not trust them. We do not think they will give our children the training they deserve, and we do not think they will present the training in a ‘neutral’ manner. We would like you to go to Whateley to find out. We want you to learn everything you can, and to send back secret reports on whether they truly are giving the kids like you a fair chance. You will not be the only such agent we have there, but we will not tell you who else we have placed there.”
Mimeo said yes. He didn’t know it then, but it was the smartest thing he ever did in his whole life. And so, in the fall of 1966, he became one of the first students to attend Whateley Academy, and one of the first students who would have a chance to attend a full four years as a high school student in a school that was designed for mutants. He knew it was either going to be the greatest four years of his life… or the worst.
In early September, he had to pack a couple suitcases and catch a train up to New Hampshire. The Dunwich depot was a dump after leaving from a great place like Grand Central Station. Dunwich was a tiny little backwater that looked smaller than his old neighborhood, and probably had a couple hundred people tops. The place didn’t even have a single traffic light! Then there was a short trip in an old schoolbus up to Whateley Academy. By then, he was expecting a couple pup tents and a one-room schoolhouse.
But the campus was really pretty okay. It was small, but not too small. There were two decent-sized dorms on low hills just northwest and northeast of a small campus that was set in a sort of a tiny valley that was really more of a bowl-shaped dent in the landscape. All the boys were over in Emerson Cottage, and all the girls were in Dickinson Cottage. Emerson had Mister Garrity as the house dad, and Dickinson had Mrs. Wilson as the house mom. Both buildings had been rebuilt in the past year or two, so they were pretty well set up.
The boys pulled their luggage off the bus and found themselves looking at a five-story building. If you included the attic rooms up in the peaked roof. Mimeo had seen buildings like this before. In pictures, anyway. Emerson Cottage looked like someone had stolen it off the campus of Harvard University and then taped a bunch of ivy up the sides to make it look like it was supposed to be here. The ivy only went about six or eight feet up the sides of the building, so it couldn’t’ve been growing there for all that long.
An old guy who looked about fifty or so stepped out of the building and faced them. He said in an annoyed voice, “Welcome to Whateley Academy. I’m Mister Garrity. Not ‘Garrity’ or ‘Harold’ or ‘hey you’. ‘Mister Garrity’. I’m your dorm parent. I’m not here to be your buddy, or your mommy, or your maid. I’m here to keep you boys in line, and keep you from ripping the building apart. I might even try to keep you from ripping each other apart. Every one of you is a mutant. Every one of you has powers. Some of you have already found out what you can do. Some of you have already tried to prove you’re the neat new superhero, or the dangerous new supervillain. But don’t think you can bully your way around this school. You’re not the only tough guy out there, and you’re not the toughest guy on the planet. You’re not even the toughest guy around this cottage. And TRY to use some common sense, because fights between superpowered individuals tend to be massively destructive, and will get you punishments that even YOU don’t want to get. Got it?”
A bunch of kids nodded or said ‘yes sir’. Mimeo noticed that a couple of the kids had a ‘fuck you and your mother’ look in their eyes. He tried to remember each of their faces. If they thought they were tough guys, then he might want to look them up later. Or maybe he’d have to kick the shit out of them later to show ‘em who the real tough guy was.
Mister Garrity went on, “You may not know this, but Emerson Cottage is named for the American author Ralph Waldo Emerson.”
Several guys snickered at the name. Mimeo had a hard time not laughing out loud. Who the hell named their kid ‘Ralph Waldo’? His parents must have really hated him. Jesus, they might as well have named him ‘Please Beat The Crap Out Of Me’ Emerson.
Mr. Garrity rolled his eyes. “Thank you for once again restoring my faith in the utter imbecility of the teenaged male. As I was saying, Emerson Cottage will be your home for the remainder of your high school experience, so try to make it a home, and try to treat your fellow students as if they were the loving family so many of you apparently lack. And, pushing that metaphor much farther than it should go, think of me as that uncle who doesn’t put up with any crap and is perfectly willing to drag you by the ear out to the woodshed if you cause any problems!”
A couple of the kids actually looked like they were falling for that. Mimeo wondered how dumb you had to be to have superpowers and be worried about some old coot who looked like he’d have trouble managing a roomful of fifth graders.
Mr. Garrity explained, “All of the campus buildings you’re going to be using have been renovated and spruced up from their prior, extremely dilapidated state. Which is just as well, because not even you lot should have to use an ice-cold outhouse in the middle of winter in the New Hampshire mountains.”
Mister Garrity took all of them on a tour of the dorm. It had five floors, if you counted the peaked roof with its windows that jutted out like there were more rooms up there. Mimeo didn’t think attic rooms sounded that great, if the winter was as nasty as Mister Garrity was saying.
“This is the main floor. The first floor, for you Americans, and the ground floor for you Brits. Since we’re in America, we’ll try to avoid the confusion by always calling this the first floor, and the next floor the second floor. This room is our foyer. If you invite a girl from Dickinson over, she goes this far, and no further. Trying to sneak a girl up to your room will result in some serious punishments.” Garrity stared at one smirking redheaded guy and snapped, “Yes, Mister Greaves, I will know, because I’m a mutant too, and I have powers that make your ice-creation powers look pitiful.”
Mimeo looked at the stunned look on the guy’s face. Maybe Garrity could read minds, or maybe it was a good magic trick. Either way, it sure knocked that guy down a peg. Hmm. With that bright red hair, Mimeo would’ve figured Greaves was more likely a fire-thrower. He hadn’t fought an ice-thrower before. That could be a neat power to mess with.
Garrity led them further into the building. “Now down this hall, we have a small bathroom - really useful for guests from Dickinson, so try to keep it clean enough that they won’t immediately storm out of the building once they see it - and a laundry room and a small kitchen. The door over here is my office, with my private quarters on through there. Assume that you can knock on my door to talk about a problem from eight a.m. until seven p.m. without risk of my ripping your throat out. After that, it had better be a life-threatening situation that cannot wait until morning. There is a curfew, too. You have to be in your room by ten. Eleven on Fridays and Saturdays. This isn’t ‘lights out’. You can study all night if you want, as long as you’re not disturbing your roommate and your neighbors. If you have a girl over here, you will walk her back to her dorm by nine, regardless. The dorm mother over there is not nearly as nice as I am.
“If you cook anything in the kitchen, you will clean up afterward. To my satisfaction. Otherwise, you get to clean the entire ground floor, including the bathroom, and then clean the kitchen again. And we will keep this up until you finally clean everything to my satisfaction, even if it takes all term. If you leave anything in the kitchen refrigerator, it is up for grabs. Which, around here, usually means it will be devoured in a matter of minutes. Don’t leave anything out unless you don’t mind it being eaten. Don’t leave anything nefarious out for someone else to eat, or you’ll be going to see Dr. Alexander about your ‘sense of humor’. Use the laundry room too. Wash your bedsheets and your clothes, so the girls in Dickinson don’t think everyone in the dorm is a foul-smelling slob.
“There’s a large room downstairs suitable for a party, but it would require all of you to want to clean it, spruce it up, host the party, and clean up again afterward. There’s also a smaller room behind that one which is suitable for storage. Suitcases, clothing you aren’t wearing for a couple months, that sort of thing. Now let’s journey upstairs.”
Garrity led them up a freshly-painted stairwell to the second floor. The hallway ran the length of the building, with open rooms on either side. “All the freshmen will be on this floor, and will be sharing rooms. The upperclassmen get singles, this year anyway, since there are only a few dozen kids in your freshman class, but fewer than that in the higher grades, and we have fewer seniors than any other grade. That’s because the school’s too new to have anyone who could have gone here for even one full school year yet, much less three years of high school. I have already selected rooms for you and pinned the names on the doors. If you don’t like your roommate, just shut up about it, because you only have to put up with him for a year, and he’s probably not enjoying dealing with you either. And if you really don’t get along with him, find someone on the floor to switch roommates with you.
“Each floor above the ground floor has a bathroom at each end. The bathroom at this end has everything including showers, while the bathroom at the other end is simply toilets, urinals, and sinks. You should be able to work out for yourselves how to make best use of that information. The far end of each floor also has a ‘sunroom’. Think of it as a lounge, or a study hall, or a den. It is not a recreation room or a dining room or a boxing ring. And actually use the showers. You’re not six anymore. If you run out of toothpaste or shampoo or soap, we have a little store next to the cafeteria in Dunn Hall, where you can buy more. I don’t recommend you go into Dunwich to buy things, unless you go with at least one other person, preferably a group of four or more, and you each take one of these.” He held up a glowing white crystal on a chain. “There are some dark wizards living in Dunwich, and I haven’t been given permission by the headmaster to go over there and rip their hearts out.”
Mister Garrity didn’t smile at that. Shit, maybe it wasn’t a joke.
Mister Garrity went on, “Besides that, the headmaster says at least one of them can’t be killed that easily.” Most of the crowd had a shocked look. Mimeo didn’t know whether to be shocked, or just refuse to believe the old codger.
Garrity kept going, “So don’t push your luck with the citizens of Dunwich. They’re not all as ordinary as they look. And don’t go exploring outside the campus boundary: that fence all around the school. A couple sides are Native American land, and they have permission to rip you a new one. Plus, they have the ability to rip you a new one. There are places in these mountains that aren't safe for anyone to go into. Not even me. Almost all of these now have fences and warning signs around them. If you think a place ought to have a warning sign around it, and it doesn’t, maybe someone hates you enough to take the sign down before you got there. Or maybe something is hungry enough to take the signs down so it can get a nice mutant-powered dinner.”
An interested-looking kid raised his hand and asked, “Why would a puma take a sign down?”
Mister Garrity stared a hole in the kid. “I didn’t say puma. Or wolf, or bear, or anything like that. One reason this school is right here is because this area is too dangerous to let ordinary teenagers be around. The old Whateley Academy that was originally here had a surprisingly high ‘accidental death’ rate. Where we’re talking an ‘accidental death’ that maybe required a closed casket funeral, because something cut the kid’s heart and lungs out and ate them. Or worse.”
Mimeo didn’t know if Garrity was telling the truth or not, but he figured he’d better ask around and find out.
Garrity let everyone wander around for a few minutes and find their rooms. Mimeo had to admit the bathrooms were better than the one he had back in New York, and his bedroom would’ve been pretty good if he didn’t have to share it with another frosh. The cardboard pinned to the door said ‘Mimeo / Parker’.
While Mimeo was looking at the room, there was a knock at the door. A nice-looking blond kid drawled, “I guess you’re Mimeo? I’m Parker. George Robbins Parker.” Parker looked like a blond guy who would get hired as a movie star in Hollywood to play the wholesome teenaged son in a Walt Disney movie.
“Mimeo. Pleased ta meetcha.”
Parker wrinkled his forehead a bit. “Are you from New York or something?”
“New York City.”
Parker smiled, “You sound like it.” Mimeo thought he sounded normal, and Parker was the one who sounded different. “I’m from Virginia. I’d shake hands, but that’s not a good idea.”
Well, the guy sure sounded like he was from the South, complete with drawl and nice manners and everything. That was when Mimeo spotted the guy was wearing leather gloves. “Allergies or something?”
Parker’s smile got a lot sadder. “Something, I’m afraid. I… My main talent is an ability to touch things and get psychic impressions off them. Who handled it, what it was used for, what the users were like, that kind of thing. But you’d be surprised how many ordinary things have been used for something nasty somewhere along the line. And picking up a knife that was used for a murder? It’s like being shoved into that murder and re-living it. Most of the time, it really sucks. That’s why I wear gloves and long-sleeved shirts and long pants all the time.”
Mimeo stopped to think about how miserable it would be to get Parker’s power. That old bag with the prediction power? That had been nasty. But Mimeo wasn’t feeling like he was getting Parker’s power, so maybe he’d be okay. If not, he’d make someone switch rooms with him. He’d just be sure not to get into a fight with Parker.
Parker complained, “Some times it’s like living in the middle of thirty movies, with stuff going off in my brain every time I touch something that I haven’t cleaned off first. I mean, I can eat meat, but I have to ‘feel’ it being killed while I eat. So I try not to, except for the really good stuff like steaks or sirloins.”
Mimeo nodded without saying anything. After all, what the hell was he supposed to say? Maybe ‘that sucks’? Parker already knew that.
Parker added, “So, if we can just keep our stuff separate and you don’t touch any of it, I ought to be fine.”
Mimeo shrugged, “Sure. I’m not gonna need to touch your stuff.”
And it turned out Parker had a cabinet, all wrapped up in barber paper, being shipped from home, so he could keep all his stuff in it and not touch anything he didn’t want to.
Mimeo asked, “What about the walls and your desk and your bed and stuff?”
Parker groaned. “That. Well, I can usually get anything ‘clean’ if I scrub it long enough, so I’m just going to be spending my first couple days here scrubbing everything on my half of the room. Sorry.” Mimeo was glad he wasn’t getting a big dose of George’s power just by being in the room with him.
Before Parker could get started, Mister Garrity called everyone to follow on the tour. Parker made sure his gloves were on, and followed Mimeo out. Mimeo hoped that the walls and bed in the room hadn’t been touched by anyone too awful, because Parker’s talent didn’t sound that fun. It sure wasn’t as neat as Mimeo’s powers.
As Mister Garrity led them all out of the dorm and down toward the school buildings, he lectured, “Now there’s not a chance you’ll refrain from using your powers. No teenager does, unless he already knows how awful the consequences are. Usually, he only cares about the consequences to himself. So let me spell out the rules. Don’t damage anything, especially in Emerson. Don’t use your powers outside the Whateley campus. Don’t use your powers on days or times when I have warned you ahead of time. This last part is important. We have delivery trucks coming in every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and their delivery hours are between nine in the morning and four in the afternoon. That’s so they have time to drive up here from Berlin, and then drive back. These truckdrivers do not know about Whateley Academy. We have our own plumbers and maintenance men and even a nurse for our clinic, but we still need to call on special repairmen once in a while. And that doesn’t address the issue of inspectors: building inspectors, food inspectors, school accreditation inspectors, and so on. Showing your powers in front of any of these outsiders is grounds for expulsion. Period. The only hope this school has - the only hope you have for a chance to find out what we have to show you - is to make sure no one else learns about our secret. Understand?”
He turned and glared at them until every one of the boys had nodded or said ‘yes’. Mimeo quickly nodded yes, as he remembered what Baron Z had told him. There were really powerful people out there who really needed this school to work, and having a few hundred of the most dangerous people on earth pissed off at you sounded like a really bad idea.
They walked down into the slightly bowl-shaped dent in the terrain that made up the main campus area. They walked across a grassy area that had a statue at its center. Around them were three good-sized buildings, a small church, and two brickwork foundations where other buildings had stood but had been torn down.
Mister Garrity pointed out the statue. “This is a statue of Noah Whateley. He founded the school that was originally here. It was a mediocre school full of mediocre teachers and mediocre students, and it went bankrupt in 1962, due to declining enrollments and rising costs, not to mention the dire need to renovate or rebuild most of the campus. No one that went here ever amounted to much, except for a handful of students who ended up as dinner for some particularly nasty things. You’re extremely lucky that Doctor Alexander and the Reverend Darren England have personally spent time last summer and this summer, clearing as many of the threats as they could.”
One of the boys stuck his hand up. “THE Doctor Alexander? The wizard who closed the Paris Portal and beat up Angelique when she tried to stop him?”
Mister Garrity smirked, “Yes. That Doctor Alexander. You’ll be happy to hear that he’s your headmaster. So don’t make him mad at you. He’s fully capable of pounding any five of you into the ground. And, in case you don’t know, the Reverend England will be teaching a comparative religions course and leading church services every Sunday morning. Strictly optional. Don’t underestimate the reverend either. Among many other things, he’s personally responsible for making it safe to walk the streets of Dunwich at night. And the problem was not a mugger. The problems, plural, were soul-sucking devils so horrific that if you saw them you’d piss yourselves before they had time to get their talons on you.”
The same kid stuck up his hand again. “If this area is so dangerous, then why are we here?”
Mister Garrity smiled evilly. “Because no one else will be nearby. You can fly around or blast hillsides apart or warp reality, or whatever your powers can do, and no one will ever know. All the energy users and magic users at this school create problems that would ruin the electrical and radio infrastructure of any city in the world. And because this is a recognized school: by keeping the name Whateley Academy, we can hide behind the long-standing reputation of Noah Whateley’s recently-bankrupt school. The bank foreclosed on this dump when it went bankrupt, and almost immediately it was bought up by an international organization that was actually a front for a coalition of superpowered individuals of all sorts. There were Champion, Lady Champion, some of the original Mystic Six, some of the founding members of the Empire City Guard, a group of religious leaders fronted by the Reverend England, some of the famous European superheroes, and so on. Some of the better-known neutrals included Dr. Alexander and Dimension Man. A wide variety of players on the other side also contributed, although we’re not supposed to mention them by name without prior permission. I’ll tell you one: Cagliostro. I have his permission to mention him.”
Greaves, the red-headed ice-thrower, burst out, “YOU have HIS personal permission to mention him by name?”
Even Mimeo was impressed. Cagliostro was an internationally known bad guy with huge magical powers, and not a big sense of humor. The British Broadcasting Company had done a special on him five or six years ago, and Cagliostro had been so pissed off when he found out that he had magically shut down most of the BBC for almost a week, until some good-guy wizards had come in and fixed things. If Garrity was tossing around Cagliostro’s name, he either had balls the size of trucks, or else he really did know Cagliostro. Either way, Garrity was someone to watch out for.
“Yes,” Mister Garrity calmly said. He went on, as if tossing around a bad-tempered major-league supervillain’s name was nothing. “So let me point out the highlights of this quaint little campus. As you can see, two buildings have been razed. As funding emerges, we’ll build new structures there and enlarge the buildings we already have. The church is over there. It’s small, but I seriously doubt it will be filled on any Sunday, given the nature of the average teenager.” Then he pointed at the boxy building that looked like it was one very tall story, with very high windows twenty feet above the ground. “This is our gym. The old gym wasn’t fit for anything.” He pointed at the largest building. “This nicely-revamped building here is Schuster Hall. It has most of your classrooms, so naturally you’ll avoid it at all costs. The smaller one over there is Dunn Hall, where you’ll find the cafeteria. Since the food is there, I know you’ll be going there frequently. Even though there are several classrooms in there too.”
Mister Garrity pointedly avoided the church, telling them they could go there any Sunday and meet Reverend England in person. Mimeo hadn’t heard of this ‘Reverend England’ guy, but if he really had helped stop the Blood Madonna, and that giant tentacle-thing that attacked Hong Kong in the Fifties, and the other stuff Mister Garrity hinted at, then this England character had to be pretty tough.
Garrity led them through the gym, which was large enough to hold two boxing rings with a volleyball court laid out in between, and still have space for running laps around everything else. Mimeo spotted the boxing rings and wondered if regular students got to use them.
“This way, boys. Let’s get on to Schuster Hall. I’d like to wrap this up in time for all of us to have a decent dinner in Dunn Hall in a bit.” The boys all seemed to be happy with that news.
They walked through Schuster Hall, with Mister Garrity pointing out the entry that was old wood and still looked pretty classy, as well as a bunch of other stuff.
“Pay attention to the comfortable chairs and the large fireplaces in this room. You will eventually find this an excellent place to arrange meetings with the damsels of Dickinson, particularly in the colder months.
“Note this room here. Think of it as a ‘trophy room’. The uniforms on the mannequins are all real, and donated to the school. Some of them were even donated by the individual who normally wore them. This room stays locked normally, so visitors and inspectors and parents don’t get a surprise.”
Mimeo took a good look in that room. There were a couple superhero uniforms, but there were also a couple supervillain uniforms. Plus some paintings on the walls. There was one incredible painting of Lady Champion flying up into the sky, her blonde hair swirling behind her head. Whoa. Now that was what a superheroine was supposed to look like. Minus might be stacked, but this babe made Raquel Welch and Ursula Andress look lame. That pouty lower lip just screamed sex appeal. And that outfit! Jesus! She looked like she couldn’t be more than twenty or so, which maybe meant it was an old painting, because she was supposed to be the chick who used to be Miss Champion, and Miss Champion started superheroing in Chicago more than twenty years ago. So. An old bag now, but that painting showed everyone she used to be a hot number.
The trophies were neat too. Especially the big thing that looked like a rifle made for a rhino. Not a rifle for people to shoot rhinos. A rifle big and bulky enough for an intelligent rhino to use if it needed to shoot at much bigger stuff. He really wondered what the story was on that.
Mister Garrity took them past the administration offices, saying, “I expect some of you will be regular visitors to this area.” It wasn’t much. There was a secretary, and they could see Doctor Alexander’s office door, which was shut. There were smaller offices on the other side, for a counselor and a class advisor. At the back was a room labeled ‘Clinic’, which Mister Garrity said had a nurse on staff full-time. Mimeo supposed that made sense, when they were out in the middle of nowhere.
Mister Garrity pointed out the auditorium, and also a flight of stairs that led down into the basement. Or so Mimeo guessed. Turned out he was wrong.
“These stairs lead to some brand-new tunnels where we have set up some maintenance access, as well as our new labs for our inventors.”
Weird. Underground labs, just like a supervillain’s underground lair or something. Who in the world came up with that one?
Garrity led them all over to Dunn Hall after that. He said, “There’s a tunnel that connects Dunn and Schuster, too. You’ll appreciate that a bit more when you’re rushing to your next class and there’s three feet of snow on the ground and the outside temperature’s down below zero.”
Mimeo just shrugged. He’d noticed that the temperature didn’t bother him as much since he’d become a mutant. He figured it was part of his super-tough-guy package.
Dunn Hall was okay, but definitely not as spiffy as Schuster. Just sort of institutional junk, like his old elementary school. The halls were lined with lockers, and the classrooms looked like any old classrooms. The school store next to the cafeteria was a bit bigger than he expected, but not any bigger than Endo’s Grocery in his old neighborhood. Even with the aisles for textbooks and school supplies. Like Mister Garrity had said, there was everything from sweatshirts to toothpaste, just like a little corner grocery. He made a note that there was a bunch of snacks and stuff for sale there. He knew darn well that Parker would never touch anything that anyone else had already handled, so he could buy snacks for himself and keep them in his room and they'd be safe from his roommate. Put that together with the ‘really clean room’ thing, and Parker was shaping up as a pretty decent roommate. As long as Mimeo’s power-copying didn’t start picking up any of Parker’s talent.
They ended up in the cafeteria. The food was free, and part of the school tuition. That was probably fair. That was probably a lot more than fair for him, since he knew damn well he ate like a gang of polar bears on some days. The cooks obviously knew what they were facing, because they had a shitload of food laid out. He grabbed a tray and went down the cafeteria line, grabbing enough food to hold him, without worrying about anybody else seeing him do it. Hell, Peterson, the guy three people ahead, was pushing three trays, and all three were as crammed full of food as Mimeo’s one. Mimeo briefly wondered how the hell Peterson’s family could afford to feed that guy when he wasn’t at Whateley.
Mimeo sat down next to Parker and one of the other freshman kids he’d met while on the tour, Randy Tunstall. They were sitting across from four fairly cute girls. He noticed that one of them, the brunette girl with the bright yellow eyes, had a tray that was nearly as full of food as his own. He smiled at the girls, “Good evening, ladies. I see you’ve already met Randy and my roommate George. I’m Mimeo.” The other guys seemed kind of shy, and the girls really seemed shy, but he knew his way around women, and he wasn’t all that nervous. He decided he was going to make friends with every sexy chick in school who didn’t piss him off, and pick a ‘girlfriend’ once he knew what each of them was like.
He noticed that the teachers and staff were sitting at a far table away from the students. Garrity seemed busy putting the moves on a forty-ish redhead. Mimeo figured if Garrity got lucky, maybe he’d stop being such a grouch, and maybe then Garrity would be too ‘busy’ to keep a close eye on all the guys in Emerson. That could work to Mimeo’s advantage.
On the way back to Emerson, Mimeo noticed that there were a couple other unused dorms within walking distance, including one up on a hill on the far side of the main campus, but the other dorm buildings were falling apart. There were few enough students that no one needed the other dorms, which was good, because it turned out you couldn’t even go wander around in them without having the ceiling fall in on you and stuff.
He and Parker had a nice chat on the way back. Since they were both freshmen, they were looking at four years here. Mimeo didn’t say out loud that it looked a hell of a lot better than juvenile prison, but he was sure thinking it. Instead, they talked about stupid stuff. Parker’s family, and the other guys in the dorm. Mimeo figured he was one of the youngest kids at Whateley. That didn’t mean anything as far as he cared, since he figured he could kick the asses of any half a dozen other kids there. He figured he could just manhandle the teachers.
That was when Parker happened to mention that some of the teachers were supposed to be superpowered themselves. A couple of the upperclassmen already told Parker to watch himself, because some of the teachers were used to fighting supervillains. Or maybe even fighting superheroes. And everyone had already heard from Mr. Garrity that the headmaster was Dr. Clifford A. R. Alexander. The Doctor Alexander. Doctor Alexander was a high-powered mage who had a reputation for doing things his way, no matter what. In his time, he’d fought superheroes and supervillains alike, because he was supposedly really working at fighting things that weren’t supposed to be anywhere near Earth. Mimeo figured that made Doctor Alexander the best choice for headmaster: nobody thought he was going to be backing the other side, because he’d battled every side at one time or another.
That evening was pretty okay, too. Mrs. Wilson, the dorm mom for Dickinson, brought the freshman girls over to the first-floor lounge, and she and Mr. Garrity played chaperone while the new guys got a chance to talk with the new girls. Mimeo met some hot chicks. Parker wasn’t there, though. George decided to get started on stuff, and he spent the whole evening scrubbing his walls and furniture clean of psychic traces. Mimeo figured it would probably pay off somewhere if he did something nice for Parker, so he made sure to tell a lot of the girls about his roommate who couldn’t touch stuff but was an okay guy. Mimeo figured the chicks who didn’t want to put out would be running after Parker, since they could be sure he wasn’t going to get all grabby and shit like that. That would tell Mimeo who not to waste his time on. By the time Mimeo got up to his room to go to bed, George was asleep. It looked like he’d fallen asleep in the middle of working, because he was still dressed and everything. But a lot of George’s side of the room looked a ton cleaner than before, and smelled a lot cleaner too. The whole room smelled like a pine tree.
The next morning, Mimeo had a huge breakfast. It was so great being able to eat as much as he wanted, and not have to worry about other people figuring out he was ‘different’. Then all the freshman boys and girls (and a number of other new kids who were sophomores and juniors and seniors) all had to get the big ‘welcome to Whateley’ talk from Dr. Alexander in the auditorium over in Schuster Hall. There weren’t that many of them, so the freshmen were all crowded into the first half dozen rows, with the others behind them. There were only about forty-five freshmen and about twenty-five upperclassmen there for the talk. Mimeo had already figured from the crowd at mealtimes that there was only about 110 students total in the whole school. So that meant seventy new kids, and forty kids who had been here for one term already.
Dr. Alexander walked out on the stage and smiled at them, “Good morning, and welcome to the first full year of Whateley Academy. The new, improved Whateley Academy. I’m your headmaster, Doctor Alexander.”
Mimeo didn’t think Dr. Alexander looked anything like the photos he’d seen. He’d only seen Dr. Alexander as a demon-ass-kicking guy floating in mid-air in a tuxedo and black cape, wearing a wicked-looking beard. This guy looked like a college professor, including the tweed blazer and the glasses. The only hint that this wasn’t someone to jack around with was the hard eyes.
Dr. Alexander went on, “I know you’ve gotten your introductions and first tours from your house parents. They’re living in your dorms to help you, and I want you to remember that. If you have problems, talk to them before your problem becomes a confrontation, or an explosion. And since we’re talking about a school full of mutants, I want you to realize that I’m talking literally when I say ‘explosion’. Talking it out is always going to be better than fighting it out, even if you’re sure you can win the fight. Because if you fight it out, you’ll have to deal afterward with your house parent. And me. Misbehavior will lead to punishment. And around here, that is usually going to be doing work that you really don’t want to do. I don’t expect everyone here to get along with everyone else. You’re mutants. Not saints. I do expect you to use some common sense and get help before you turn your dorm into a scrapheap.
“This is a school. You’re going to be learning what every other high schooler in this country learns. Plus the things that led us to set up a school out here in the middle of nowhere. Control of your powers. Respect for property. Dealing with other mutants and with non-mutants. You have four years of classes, so there’s no excuse not to learn something useful here. I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before. But I’m not going to tell you that learning is fun. It seldom is. It’s usually boring, or tiring, or downright painful. I am going to tell you that you have the opportunity to learn things that will help you for the rest of your life, in ways that you have yet to imagine. The world out there is not going to give you a magic ‘everything you want’ card just because you have powers. You’re going to need to earn a living, in one way or another. To do that, you’ll need to learn what we have to offer.
“Now, I know your dorm parents already gave you the talk about blatant use of your powers when others are around. Let me emphasize this. Every morning, you’ll need to check the note on the front door of your dorm as you leave it for breakfast. That note will tell you which times for that day are off-limits for displays of your powers. Expect that you will be restricted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, between nine in the morning and four in the afternoon, except when the note says otherwise. Similarly, there may be restrictions on any Tuesday or Thursday with no prior warning. Restrictions on Saturdays and Sundays will be rare, but are still possible. Emergency repair jobs, emergency visits by doctors, and even the occasional visits from parents are all possibilities. Those of you with powers that are not detectable by non-mutants, such as some psychic powers, may talk to your dorm parent about use of your particular gifts during off-limits times, but you may not seek out visitors and try your powers out on them. We do have enough psychics and wizards around this campus to be able to tell if you do so.”
He went on and explained the rules about classes, and schoolwork, and even wandering around by yourself. He and that guy named Reverend England had spent months stomping around the area, cleaning up evil spirits or whatever, and posting Keep Out signs around all sites the students still needed to avoid. There were a couple things within a couple hours walk of the school that were too tough for even him and Reverend England to banish without risking their lives. Or worse. He also explained that he had enchanted the fence around the school to keep any serious problems out, so even walking around at night ought to be completely safe, as long as they stayed on school grounds.
He also talked about codenames: he said they were optional, but he really recommended one if you were going to be wearing a uniform. On either side of the law. He pointed out that his own life would have been easier at times if he had a ‘secret identity’ to duck into.
It turned out Mimeo was one of the few kids who already had a codename, or bothered to use it. Some of the kids who didn’t have a codename still had nifty powers, but everyone with a codename already was someone to watch out for.
After that, they all had to get registered for classes, just like any other school. They had to sign up for English and math and science and humanities, and they were supposed to take junk like foreign languages too, if they wanted to go to college. But that was where the normal part tailed off. Everyone had the option of regular ‘run laps or play volleyball’ P.E., but the other option was boxing. Which really meant learning to fight other mutants. Mimeo signed up for that as fast as he could. The cafeteria in Dunn Hall cooked enough food for a small army, since shapeshifters like Mimeo and blasters and a bunch of other kids all ate like a dozen dockworkers. The classes had the normal school bullshit, but they also had stuff like ‘Introduction to the Mystical Arts’, which was taught by Dr. Alexander himself some terms, and ‘Introduction to Psychic Powers’. One of the teachers for that was the house mother for Dickinson. Maybe Garrity was telling the truth about her, after all.
And then there was testing. Mimeo got a message from Mister Garrity that he was supposed to go to Ideomotor’s office at a scheduled time for ‘testing’. He had no idea what that meant. But Ideomotor was this geeky guy in a bow tie and suspenders who played with dowsing rods. Mimeo just sat in a chair for three minutes while Ideomotor waved weird rods at him. It was nothing like any kind of testing he’d ever imagined. When Ideomotor finished, Mimeo had his first powers testing evaluation. He was a brick, and a shapeshifter, and a ‘power mimic’, which was supposed to be extremely rare. Shit, it wasn’t like Mimeo hadn’t known all of that already.
And then, even before classes started, Mimeo had to stand up for himself. A couple juniors and seniors in Emerson were busy pushing the freshman boys around and telling them what was what. Like Mimeo was going to put up with that kind of bullshit after he’d nearly beaten the entire Empire City Guard! The three guys were Roddy, who was a flying brick, and Jerry, who was a lightning blaster, and Chris, who was some sort of spirit-catcher and had the spirit of the wildcat so he was strong and fast and had some kind of magical ‘claws’ he could make appear over his hands. Roddy and Chris were seniors, and Jerry was a junior. All three of them had started back in spring term, when the school first opened. And they thought that made them special.
Mimeo bulled his way up to the front of the freshmen and got in their faces. He said, “I’m Mimeo. And as far as I can see, I’m the top dog around here. I don’t kiss up to losers like you. I’ve fought REAL tough guys. If you want me to do what you say, you’re gonna have to prove you’ve got what it takes. What say we step outside and we see if you three pinheads can keep from getting tromped into the mud?”
They didn’t like that. So Mimeo stood as close to them as he could, trying to get little bits of their powers. Okay, not much happened. It looked like he was going to have to get them to go all out to get the good stuff. He grinned wickedly at the prospect.
It was pretty much like he figured. Roddy and Chris tried to tackle him while Jerry tried to fry him. They didn’t even have decent teamwork, like the Empire City Guard. Or just Plus and Minus, by themselves. After a couple really hard punches, he got Roddy’s power, and he suddenly had something like a force field all over his skin. Once he had that, Chris couldn’t claw him up, and Jerry couldn’t hurt him with those lightning bolts, and he was just as strong as Roddy. Maybe a little stronger, since he had all his own powers too. He used Roddy’s body like a club to knock the crap out of the other two, then he wrestled Roddy to the ground and took him out with a few dirty shots to places guys didn’t like to get hit. Roddy still fought like a schoolboy, so it was easy. Mimeo figured that Roddy thought he hadn’t needed to learn how to fight once he got that ‘flying brick with super-strong force field’ power. What a dumbass.
Mister Garrity had stormed out to see what was going on, and why two or three trees had been knocked down with another one set on fire. Mimeo had been ready to stand up to him too, but Mister Garrity was no one to piss off. Mimeo found out later that Old Man Garrity was a retired supervillain who had kicked serious ass back in the day. Garrity was a powerful wizard, and he kicked Mimeo’s ultra-strong butt all over the place. Sure, Mimeo could get his power. But Mimeo didn’t know shit about doing magic. He could feel something weird coursing through his body, but he couldn’t use it. And Garrity could use it. Jesus, could Garrity use it! Mimeo was magically flung into the air, but he used Roddy’s power to catch himself. He flung a lightning bolt in Garrity’s direction, but the old man just waved it away like it was a spitball. He tried moving in on Garrity, but suddenly gravity went haywire, and he was slammed into the ground. Then, when he managed to get up again, gravity suddenly crapped out on him and he got launched skyward like a rocketship. And he couldn’t figure out how to use Garrity’s power, dammit!
It took a while, but Garrity wore him down. Him! That old man wore Mimeo down! If Garrity wasn’t smashing him into the ground, he was flinging him a mile into the air, and Mimeo couldn’t find a way to get around Garrity’s tricks. If only he knew how to use magic, he would’ve toasted that old bastard!
But he didn’t. He could beat the crap out of guys like Roddy and Chris, but superpowered wizards were a different story. He didn’t like that. He didn’t like that at all. And he didn’t know what to do about it, but he knew that he needed to figure it out if he was going to be the top dog at Whateley.
He got ‘detention’ for it. Chris and Jerry and Roddy got two weeks of crap jobs around campus. He faced Dr. Alexander and argued that he was only defending himself - and his fellow freshmen - from three bullies. He even thought to point out that he took it outside first, so the building didn’t get trashed. And he lied that he thought Mister Garrity was sticking up for the older guys. Dr. Alexander sentenced him to replacing the four damaged trees.
Mimeo thought it over, and he asked around about the powers that different kids had. He figured out how to do the job. He got Roddy to punch him a few times. Roddy was happy to do it, especially when Mimeo wasn’t hitting back. Then he went right over to Dickinson and got a junior girl codenamed Lift to push against him until he got her gravity-warping powers. After that, he had no trouble flying over to the forest and pulling up a tree and flying back with it in tow and planting it in the ground. It took him less than two hours to get all four trees replaced. Roddy was pretty pissed off when he finally figured out that punching Mimeo again had helped Mimeo do that detention in no time.
And about two weeks after that, Mimeo accidentally figured out how to use his powers to help him do schoolwork. He hadn’t expected that his powers would make him smarter than he used to be, but now he could read hundreds of pages in an hour, and remember all of it. And he could do math in his head. It was just the understanding part that threw him for a couple weeks. He wasn’t getting the algebra stuff, and he didn’t get how to write a paper like the kids who were getting ‘A’s. He hadn’t ever been that great at school work anyway, so he figured he’d make do with ‘C’s and ‘D’s and shit. Meanwhile, he found out that Mister Gastmyer, the P.E. teacher who taught boxing, was what they called a ‘paragon’, which meant he had some kind of psychic ability to know how to do whatever he needed to do, which made him a real bastard to box against, since he always seemed to know where you were going to punch next, and he always knew how to counter your move. But Mimeo volunteered to box against Mister Gastmyer one day when no one else wanted to. And he got Gastmyer’s paragon power for four hours afterward. He actually did really well against Mister Gastmyer in the ring, even if most of the match was both of them dodging out of the way of the other guy’s next move. Mimeo wasn’t expecting anything else, but when he got back to his room and looked at his homework, things just clicked. He just knew how to compose a paper, and he just knew how to do the algebra. He wrote his entire English paper and got two weeks of algebra homework done before the power faded. It was that ‘paragon’ ability. But, since he understood how the algebra worked for a few hours, he still understood it a lot better after the power faded. Same for writing a paper. So he just volunteered to box against Mister Gastmyer every time he had homework he didn’t know how to do. Plus, after the first three times, he understood how to use the paragon power well enough to out-box Mister Gastmyer, since he was a hell of a lot stronger and faster and tougher than the guy to start with.
A few days after that first match against Mister Gastmyer, Gastmyer had Mimeo box against Gina. There were several girls in the boxing class. Since most of the time, what really mattered was speed and strength, there wasn’t a ‘weight class’ thing for the boxers. No, you just boxed against anyone who was roughly as good as you were. Most of the girls sucked at it - well, plenty of the guys sucked at it too. But Gina was one of the few girls who didn’t. She did this thing he hadn’t been able to get a handle on yet, where some of the time she was doing a ‘Superman’ thing like Roddy did. But most of the time, she didn’t have it.
After having fought Minus and a couple other super-powered chicks, not to mention getting his brain squished by that old bag who could see into the future, Mimeo didn’t do the ‘gentleman’ bit. When he fought girls, he fought them. No taking it easy or treating them like they were made of glass. Some of those chicks could wallop you if you got soft.
And Gina really tried to wallop him. She went right into the supergirl bit. Mimeo could feel it when she went super-strong, even before she tried to hit him. Like Roddy, she could put more power into a punch than Mimeo could, but Mimeo was still nearly as strong, and could take a hell of a punch using his shapeshifter powers. After three punches, one of which he blocked and one he dodged, he felt the buzz as he copied her powers. He hit her back. Hard. She flew backward. Literally. She flew and landed just outside the ring. She gave him an angry glare as she tried to figure out what the hell he’d done. But he just grinned and waved her back into the ring. She lifted off the ground and flew back to a spot in front of him.
He could feel the energy field all around him and through him, but it wasn’t like when he copied Roddy’s power. Roddy’s energy field was just there, all the time. With Gina’s power, he had to concentrate really hard to hold it. It kept slipping away, like he was trying to hold water in his hands. While he was sprinting. Through a hurricane. She tried a couple more punches, and found herself backpedaling. He was now at least as strong as she was, but his own power made him a lot faster and quicker. So he could block her punches and then hit back just as hard as she could hit. Maybe a little harder, since he had his own strength too, and his form was better, and he was bigger. He could see it in her face. She knew she was in trouble.
Suddenly she flew to the far corner of the ring and dropped to the ground. She strained furiously… And it felt like she’d hit him over the head with a truck.
When he stopped seeing stars, he realized he was down on the canvas, on his hands and knees, trying not to keel over any further. And he could feel what she’d done. It was some kind of mental attack. He hadn’t seen one like that before, but he could feel what it was by the way his brain was running around loose inside his head. He could suddenly read her mind, and most of the minds close by. It was freaky. She was glad she’d won, and worried that Mister Gastmyer would be mad at her for cheating. Mister Gastmyer was so frigging smug about Mimeo finally getting taken down. Half the other people were shocked, and half were glad they didn’t have to fight Mimeo or Gina. And lots of people were glad Mimeo finally got what was coming to him.
But as soon as Mimeo used Gina’s superman power to stand back up so he didn’t have to risk falling on his face again, the mental part shut down. Huh? He had to figure this one out. He could read minds. Or do the superman bit. But not both at the same time. And he had no idea how to do the bit where she pulled out that giant mental hammer and whacked him one. He needed to figure that out. Somehow.
Oh! Sure! He knew how to figure it out. He volunteered to spar with Mister Gastmyer at the end of class. He was still shaky, but it only took a couple punches for him to get Gastmyer’s powers too. Then he had no trouble managing a stalemate, especially when he still had Gina’s powers too. And when he applied Mister Gastmyer’s powers to Gina’s power, he got it. The whole thing was some sort of psychic power. And the way to learn how to use Gina’s power was to learn. He needed to take that “Your Powers and You” course that he’d shrugged off. And he needed to take those special classes for psychics and mages and stuff, and then learn how to wield their powers, for the next time he ran up against them. Being able to copy other people’s powers, even for only four hours, was the neatest power ever! He just had to be smarter about using his powers.
He needed to learn as much as he could. Which meant Whateley was the perfect place for him. He went to work, studying everything about superpowers he could.
Well, he did that, once he kicked Gina’s ass in the very next boxing class. He let her start with the supergirl trick, and he closed with her. Fast. He took a couple hard shots from her while he copied her powers, and then he pounded her. He hit her just as hard as she was hitting him. Maybe a little harder. When he knocked her back and she flew out of the ring, he didn’t let her get away. He flew after her and kept punching, not letting her switch over and use her other abilities. They traded punches in mid-air, knocking each other around, until she yelled, “I quit!”
After P.E., she came up to him and whined, “You’re a real bastard, you know that?”
He just smiled. “I’m not the one who cheated in boxing class with a psychic attack. And you notice I didn’t whine about that.”
He grinned wider. “Anytime you want, babe.”
He knew perfectly well she wasn’t going to put out for him after that. But he didn’t care. Gina wasn’t bad looking. Better looking than Ginny and almost as good looking as Janet. But there were several babes around Whateley who were ‘Hollywood Starlet’ gorgeous, and after them there were some other really sexy skirts at Dickinson. He’d find one who wanted what he had to offer. After Ginny and Janet, he wasn’t planning on being a frigging monk while he was up here.
It took him another week and a half to find a chick who was pretty enough, and also interested in what he had, and also ready to put out. Carole, who was from some dumpy little town in Europe and grew up with even less money than he used to have when he was little. She was a flying brick type, and she was a wild woman in the sack. Plus, she could hit him a couple times and give him a copy of her powers, and then they could sneak out. They’d fly off to Berlin, which was a cowtown, but had bars and nightclubs and fancy restaurants. And motels. He had thousands and thousands of bucks to spend, and she liked that. A lot.
It took him another month after that to find out that the headmaster really was trying to keep things neutral. The headmaster came down hard on Mister Belker, one of the science teachers, who was pressing hard on the kids who weren’t already deciding to be superheroes. Mimeo got Gina to hit him a couple times until he got her powers, and then he flew over and read the guy’s mind to make sure. Dr. Alexander had warned the guy to stay neutral in class, or get fired. Mimeo started sending off little messages to Baron Z’s contact over in Montpelier.
School was sort of normal, and sort of… really not.
They had regular Saturday night dances in the gym. That sounded normal. But having dances with girls who could fly made dancing a lot more fun. And a bunch of the girls in Dickinson were so gorgeous they deserved to be in Hollywood, with hardly any of them being real dogs. Although Miranda’s roommate Debbie was so ugly you’d think she was part snake or something. Miranda said Debbie was really nice, and really miserable about turning into a freak when she got her powers. Shit, that had to really suck. Miranda got some of the losers in Emerson to dance with Debbie by promising to dance with them herself afterward. And since Miranda looked like a young Rita Hayworth but with bigger tits, there were guys who would’ve nailed their dick to a tree to get a dance with her.
The first - and only - panty raid on Dickinson got busted up ten seconds after the guys opened the front door, because Mrs. Wilson was some kind of Esper and detected the guys sneaking in. But they still got a couple dozen panties, because Nathan was a speedster, and Mimeo had swiped a copy of Roddy’s powers so there were five flyers zipping in and then taking off from the nearest window. The girls didn’t just scream at the panty raiders. Some of them hit back. Lift and Gina and Terri and Miranda pounded the guys they could catch. Well, Miranda didn’t pound anybody, but the two guys she caught up with ended up running back to Emerson stark naked. She was strong enough to rip guys’ clothes right off. The girls like Carole, who could defend themselves if they wanted to but would rather have fun, didn’t try pounding any of the guys. They mostly just waved a pair of panties about and teased the guys, flying or running away so no one could catch them. Doctor Alexander and Mister Garrity really chewed out the whole dorm for that little prank. Only the guys like George (who couldn’t be in the panty raid for fear of what he might touch) and Eddie (who was in a wheelchair because his mutation made his arms and legs get freakishly small) got away without punishments.
The punishments were sort of normal. But when you had guys who could benchpress a Chevy, you had to kind of tailor the punishment to the kid. Nobody liked getting sent to work in the sewer system, which was supposed to be so freaky that ordinary sewer stuff like being downstream of the Emerson toilets wasn’t the worst part. Mimeo found it pretty hard to believe there were really monsters in the sewers, until Roddy came home from one punishment detail with some slimy thing that looked like it was right out of a horror movie. And it wasn’t quite dead yet. A couple of the deviser guys bought it off Roddy and offered to pay him for every one of the things he captured alive. Mimeo never found out what those guys were doing with shit like that, and he had enough sense not to ask. All you had to do was watch a few monster movies to get a pretty good idea of what those nuts were probably up to in the deviser labs.
It took Mimeo until Christmas break to realize just what he was learning. He went back to New York City and met with Paulie to see what was what. That was when he realized that he was learning to use his brain instead of his fists. Or maybe, use his brain at the same time he was using his fists.
Paulie invited him into his private office for a cream soda, and explained, “After this summer, the Five Families really cracked down on all of us. Any mutant contractors we hire? The Empire City Guard is gonna eat that guy for breakfast, and then come after whoever hired the guy. Bad Al had to eat crow for hiring you, and he really didn’t like that. So we don’t know what the hell we’re gonna do with you. We can’t use you. But we can’t let you walk off and go work for someone else.”
Mimeo thought it over for a few minutes before he realized he already knew the answer, and he was already doing it for Baron Z. He grinned, “No problem. Let’s say I’m now an undercover operative. Get Bad Al to set up a meet with reps of the Five Families, and we’ll lay out the deal about this new school for mutants. The Families are gonna want to keep informed about this. And their contacts are gonna want to hear about it. We can make a fortune just passing information along.” That went a lot better than he figured: word from The Syndicate was out, and no one wanted to know where Whateley Academy was, or what the real names of the future contractors there might be, or anything that would get superpowered headhunters from The Syndicate down on their necks. But plenty of wiseguys wanted to know codenames for who they might be able to hire in a couple years, and who they might have to defend against in a couple years.
Back then, Whateley didn’t have a ‘winter term’. Everyone just stayed away from the snow and ice for a two-month winter break, and went back for spring term. Given what it would take to heat the whole damn place during the middle of winter, it made sense to him. Plus, he took Janet on a four week vacation to Brazil. He figured what Carole didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. Hell, he figured Carole knew the score, and was probably living it up on the Riviera or something, trying to squeeze money out of horny rich guys.
When spring term came around, he signed up for “Your Powers and You” as fast as he could. And that class was a frigging gold mine. They didn’t know how all these powers could work, but they knew the powers did work, and the energy to run those powers had to come from somewhere. And they knew more about mutant powers than anyone in the world. Well, except for maybe a couple mad scientists who wouldn’t tell Mimeo anything, they’d just experiment on him instead. No thanks.
He studied hard after that. He studied English, so he could sound classy when he talked. He even took an acting class so he could learn how to fake stuff and lie better. He took some French and some Spanish, because it would be way easier to pick up hot babes on the Riviera and in Paris if he spoke their lingo enough to take ‘em out to dinner. He learned chemistry and stuff, so he would know about explosives and acids and things. He learned everything he could about boxing from Mister Gastmyer, and even some wrestling moves Gastmyer knew.
Over his four years at Whateley, he took every class he could on powers and magic and psychic stuff. Not that it was easy. More than once - okay, in pretty much every magic or psychic powers class he took - there was a teacher or staff member or someone who was in his face about him not being allowed to take the course because he didn’t have the powers to do the coursework. Morons. He could sit next to a wizard or psychic and bug them enough for them to get pissed at him and do something to him, and then he could get enough of their power from that to do any of the in-class coursework. And if he needed more power, he just got someone to fight a little with him so he could really get the juice. For a couple of the magic final exams, he went and got Old Man Garrity to blast at him for a few seconds, so he was powered up enough to kick ass. When Garrity found out why Mimeo wanted to get magically blasted, he didn’t accuse Mimeo of cheating or anything. No, he laughed out loud and told Mimeo that he was using his brains and to keep it up. And Mister Garrity told Mimeo that back when he was the supervillain Cagliostro, he always tried to use his brain to outsmart his opponent, long before it got to the 'punch them in the face' part of the battle. After that, Garrity was willing to magically attack Mimeo anytime he asked, and even taught Mimeo a couple really cool spells. Okay, Mimeo found out that he had to fight some wizard enough to get the magical powers and also the Quintessence before he could use Garrity’s spells, but once he got the Quintessence, one of Garrity’s spells was a way to pull in more Quintessence, so he could keep powering the other spells he liked, until his wizard powers finally faded away. Garrity said that Mimeo might eventually be able to keep powering up with Quintessence and doing magic even after the wizard powers went away, but Mimeo never quite got the hang of that.
Mimeo took the main Psychic Powers class his sophomore year. Gina was in there too. It turned out that people like Gina had a psychic power that let them do several things, but only one at a time, and this was really rare. Usually, the people who had this had some sort of PK thing, and some sort of Psi thing, and some sort of Esper thing. The teacher called it ‘multiple-use psychics’ or MUP for short. Gina didn’t like Mimeo calling her ‘MUP-Girl’. By then, she’d picked out a codename for herself, and people who didn’t want to call her ‘Starpower’ had better be ready to fight her. Mimeo was always ready to fight someone, so he was one of the few people who could get away with not calling her that. Even if he thought it was a pretty decent codename. Not that he was ever admitting that to her.
The year Whateley offered the special ‘Advanced Powers’ course, Mimeo jumped on it with both feet. He learned about Warpers, and the different types of bricks, and devisers, and other neat stuff. Okay, some of what they were teaching he pretty much ignored. The main teacher thought devisers were just a weird branch of mutants who were really doing magic, but Mimeo wasn’t convinced. He’d copied powers from wizards before, and he’d copied powers from a couple devisers too, and they just sort of felt different. Not that the teacher paid any attention to what he said. She was a mage, and so she was sure devisers were doing some sort of magic too, and that was that as far as she was concerned.
The teacher was also sure that Mimeo didn’t really need to do the ‘fighting to copy powers’ thing and it was some sort of psychological crutch. Mimeo was sure the teacher was dead wrong on that one - he’d tried hundreds of times to copy powers just by sitting next to someone for an hour in class, and it never really worked. It sure never worked anywhere near as well as getting into a twenty-second fight with them. Not to mention that he didn’t ever get much of his roommate George’s powers just by rooming with the guy for months their freshman year, which actually Mimeo was pretty happy about given how sucky George’s power was. And for the really high end mutants he copied, it seemed like the more effort the person put into the fight, the more Mimeo got of their powers. But the teacher had her mind made up and never listened to Mimeo about it.
Mimeo also learned about power mimics in that class. They weren’t usually supposed to be able to get a full-strength copy of powers, but he could. And they weren’t supposed to be able to use powers more than some upper limit on strength or energy or something - the teacher finally had to admit that no one really knew the technical details. But Mimeo still hadn’t hit an upper limit. And power mimics were supposed to have a set number of ‘slots’ of powers they could copy before they were ‘full’. But Mimeo could copy entire people, not just powers. They tested him about a dozen ways, before they had to admit he was right. He could copy six people, and get all their powers at full strength, and hold all of those powers (plus his own) for just a hair over four hours.
One term, he even took one of the beginner deviser/gadgeteer classes. That was kind of freaky. He found out that he could get a deviser’s powers by fighting them and letting them use their inventions against him. But he had to take it really easy on ‘em, since almost all the inventors were pretty much normals when it came to strength and toughness. And he found out that he could get deviser powers for four hours and be able to look at devises and just sort of know how to work them and maybe even how to fix them and once in a while even how to make them. At least until the copy of their powers faded, and then those devises were once again weirdness locked in a box, as far as he could tell.
It took a couple years of thought to work out how he wanted to run his life. He wanted lots of money, but he didn’t want to have the Five Families - or someone a hell of a lot more dangerous than that, like Baron Z, or the whole fucking Syndicate - on his ass all the time. He didn’t want to work for anyone else. He finally figured it out.
Once he graduated from Whateley, he used his powers to rob an armored car. Then he vanished. Literally. He changed his face with his shapeshifter powers, used some fake ID he had already paid a guy to make, and ‘became’ a rich twenty-something playboy. He spent the next couple years having a great time. He blew millions of bucks on dames and casinos and dames and cars and dames and everything else. And dames. Then he needed to commit another robbery that would net him five or ten million so he could do the same thing again, for another couple years.
Only that time, the robbery he really wanted to pull was out of his league. His targets had maybe twenty million in untraceable jewels hidden away in their castle in Romania, and they were never going to report it if he stole from them. Because they were supervillains. But they had a couple other mutants working for them, and a bunch of soldiers with high-end firepower. He cased the joint and checked out who was in there. He figured out the powers that he needed for the job. What he really needed was a brick with a strong PK force field for protection from that firepower, and someone who could fly or run maybe a hundred miles an hour for the getaway, and someone with enough psychic talent to hide him from the esper who lived in there. He stewed about it for days.
The answer was obvious once he figured it out. The answer was Interleague.
Interleague was a really new European super-team, and they had all the powers he needed. So all he had to do was fight them. He needed to fight them close enough to his target that he could finish with them, hit the castle and steal the jewels, and make his getaway before his copied powers faded away. He spent another three weeks figuring out how he could lure Interleague to the area to battle some ‘threat’, and then he’d tackle them. The fighting part was easy. They led off with their speedster and their blaster. The speedster was fast, but didn’t have anything else. The guy hit Mimeo maybe thirty times before Mimeo copied his powers, and not one of those hits was more than annoying. Once he copied their speedster, he dropped the guy with one super-fast punch. Then he polished off the rest of the team in under a minute, sprinting around them at super-speed and pounding them as they tried to take him down. Then he ran at maybe a hundred forty miles an hour to the target, and hit it. Their esper never saw him coming. Their flying blaster couldn’t hurt him. The anti-tank weapons the soldiers used couldn’t hurt him. The vault couldn’t stop him. He flew out of the vault with maybe twenty million in gems, and then ran. With his own brick powers giving him durability, and his copied speedster powers giving him the speed, he could run at top speed for as long as the speedster powers lasted. When his copied powers finally quit on him, he was about two hundred miles away from the heist, just outside Salzburg, and he just used his regular powers to run into the town. He strolled into the best hotel in Salzburg, got a room, and rested up for a day or two. Well, he banged a couple of the maids too.
That was when he worked out his official M.O. He went and did the ‘rich playboy’ thing, using a different face and fingerprints. When he needed more money, he went back to looking like Mimeo. He’d pull some stupid supervillain stunt so some super-team would show up to save the day. Then he’d kick their asses and copy their powers. Then he’d be prepared to commit the real crime somewhere nearby using their powers, and he’d live off the proceeds for a couple years.
After a while, he figured out that he wasn’t considered that much of a international threat. After all, about all he ever did was beat up a super-team and run off. Not even that much collateral damage. Since the people building the threat ratings were normals and were worried about psycho killers like Deathmaiden and Deicide and crazies like that, he was pretty much flying under the radar.
And he kept learning. He learned more about how to use psychic powers. He learned more about magic, until he had over twenty really powerful magical spells, and he made sure he was always ready to fire any of them off when he faced a super-team. After all, you never knew when you’d get to fight a high-end mage and you’d get the power and a way to get enough Quintessence. He learned martial arts from little Asian guys. He learned how to plan a caper, and how to face off against an entire super-team, and when to get the hell out of Dodge.
And he learned he wasn’t like the other power mimics out there. Most power mimics, if they had three slots and they fought a guy with three different powers, they were hosed. Their ‘slots’ took a power each. His slots took an entire person. If he fought a guy with three different powers, he only used up one slot and had five more slots ready. Most power mimics had definite upper limits, and he had never found his. Most power mimics got their power just by being near their target, or else needing just to touch their target. He hardly got anything by being near the target, but he got a huge improvement in his copying ability if he fought his target and his target fought back. Most power mimics couldn’t copy powers from non-mutants. But he’d faced plenty of Imbued guys, and even a couple baselines who had learned magic, and he’d been able to copy their powers too. He didn’t know why his mimic powers were different, but they were. He figured he probably wasn’t really the classic ‘power mimic’, but something else. Something better. Not that he was ever going to tell anyone.
As he got older, his tastes got more sophisticated, which meant classier women and more expensive entertainments. He lost his New Yorker accent and learned to speak French and Spanish really well, so he sounded a hell of a lot classier. But he also found out entirely by accident that his age wasn’t a problem. Not if he could fight a super who had a really strong Regen ability. It happened when he was in his late thirties. He was fighting the Justice Brigade in Key West, just before robbing a drug lord’s stronghold. And he tackled this new kid they had. The kid had super-strength and high-end Regen. And it made Mimeo younger. He could feel the difference, even before he was done fighting them all. By the time the fight was over, Mimeo looked like he was in his early twenties. And the de-aging stuck. He stayed that age when the powers faded away.
Well, it sort of stuck. His new ‘youth’ wasn’t real, and it slowly bled away. After that fight, he aged a lot faster than normal. He was aging about a year for every three weeks away from that regen guy. In a little under a year, he was back to his real age of 38, even though he could keep faking the outward appearance with his shapeshifter powers. Still, he could feel it in his bones and ligaments. He wasn’t twenty-something anymore.
So he started planning more capers. And picking his opponents more carefully, since he really wanted that regen too. He wanted teams that had a Regen, as well as a flyer, because flying was so much fun. That, and a blaster and a mage and a Psi, if he could get all of them. Just a high-end mage would be enough, since he had a really powerful spell for shielding against the usual psychic powers, if he had enough Quintessence to wield it. And he had several major ‘blaster’ spells and two really good ‘barrier’ spells, so he could do without the Blaster power if he could just get a high-end mage with lots of Quintessence-drawing talents. The Justice Brigade was his favorite target for the next decade, even if they fought villains all over the globe so they were a real pain to plan for. But he liked the Empire City Guard and Interleague and the West Coast League and three or four other teams too. The guy with Regen in the Justice Brigade was strong enough that Mimeo de-aged to maybe 22 every time they fought, while the girl with Regen in the Empire City Guard was only a strong enough regenerator that Mimeo de-aged to about 26. By the time Mimeo hit forty, he was trying to map out a fight with a powerful Regen about twice a year. Once or twice, he didn’t even bother with a robbery afterward. He just liked being in his early twenties, instead of being an old man who just pretended to still be young.
It was just a pisser that, after all these years, the Justice Brigade finally found a trap he couldn’t beat. Maybe he’d gone after them too many times. Hell, he was still at least 12-and-1 against them, and about 30-and-0 against everyone else he’d fought since he graduated from Whateley. The Empire City Guard still made a big deal about beating him that one time, even though that had been over forty years ago, back when he was a snot-nosed thirteen-year-old kid who couldn’t even spell precognitive, and everybody that had fought him in that battle back then was long gone from the Guard, either retired or dead or both.
So, without any new regenerators to fight, he’d been getting old since he’d been locked away in Roxbury. After being stuck in that shithole for two whole years, he had aged up to his real age, and now he was in his mid-fifties. And he could feel it too. He could feel it in his bones, and he could feel it in his ligaments. It sucked being old. But he’d learned his lesson. He wouldn’t make the mistake of falling again for the trap the Justice Brigade had sprung on him.
In his lifetime, he’d figured out how to deal with armed killers. How to deal with the Mob. How to deal with superpowered foes. How to deal with entire super-teams. So it wasn’t all that hard to figure out how to deal with the Delahanty family. Every one of them was greedy. Most of them were too greedy. It hadn’t taken that much work to set one of them up so he was ready to cheat the rest of the family for a shot at the brass ring. It didn’t matter that The Necromancer busted into the jail before Mimeo worked the rest of his con, since all that preparation just made it easy to escape once that asshole Darrow refused to let him out. Okay, so back in the Seventies he’d had a run-in with Darrow over a rare power gem. It was just business. But Darrow was still holding a grudge about it, just because Mimeo had won the fight and had flown off with the gem. What an asshole.
Well, once Darrow’s assault on Roxbury had gone down, the surviving Delahanty came screaming to Mimeo for help. The guy was desperate to dodge the shitstorm that would be coming their way once the investigators figured out the Delahantys were the ones who got the Necromancer into Roxbury. Like Mimeo was really going to help a vicious little asshole like Eddie Delahanty. He tricked the bastard, locked him in the cell, and went looking for some powers to copy.
He flew out of Roxbury, figuring on fighting Darrow enough to get a copy of the old man’s powers. But Mimeo lucked out. He found a chick who looked like Ryoko from those Japanese cartoons. A chick who was an entire superteam by herself. She had awesome Regen: her regen was so powerful he de-aged to maybe eighteen, which was the best he’d ever seen. She had flight like a hummingbird, zipping around like she didn’t have to pay attention to gravity. She had blaster powers. She had a ‘punch right through forcefields’ power that was just unreal. She had superstrength. She could make real lightsabers! And she was hot, too. He always liked looking at the sexy superheroines while he fought them.
He didn’t get to find out if she had anything else, because Darrow was such a dickhead. But he got to fight the rest of her team: a PK superboy who could do the energy-reflection trick; a really sneaky density Warper who thought she was Batman or something; and a redheaded Wizard who was way up in the Darrow class of Wizarding power. He’d fought plenty of gorgeous babes before, but this redhead was in a class all by herself. And when she hit him with that blast of magical force, it felt like he suddenly had more Quintessence than he’d ever gotten before. Plus, he could suddenly see these colored lines all over the place. He knew what they were. He’d taken enough magic courses. But he could see the ley lines, and he could pull Quintessence right out of them. The redhead had some other powers that took him a minute to get a handle on, but that was okay, because Darrow and his lackey Nightgaunt were busy kicking the crap out of the hottie.
Mimeo warned Darrow not to kill the girl or else, and then he was ready to get a move on. Not that he didn’t feel bad about leaving the girl, but he had business to get to, and you didn’t mix business and personal. Plus, there was no way the girl would give him a roll in the hay for saving her. No, she’d do her damnedest to toss him right back into Rox C. And then there was Darrow: if the old fart gloated about his plans, then you knew that was what he was going to do, so it was a safe bet Darrow wouldn’t kill the girl.
Mimeo knew he had to go. He did have a time limit on these powers. He pulled in a ton of Quintessence, and he used his biggest power-hog: Cagliostro’s own personal teleportation spell.
Mimeo had always wanted to hit the Boston Diamond Mercantile. But the BDM was a bitch and a half to crack. He had been setting it up two years ago, when the Justice Brigade had caught him. That was why he was in the slammer in Boston, instead of in a security cell in New York, or Florida, or London, or Tokyo, or L.A., or Manila.
The BDM was famous for their security, even if they didn’t talk about exactly what security measures they had in there. It had taken almost a month for him to find out just what they used. You had to get past half a dozen armed guards and an on-duty mutant (their mutant security guys had different powers, so you never knew what you were going to be up against) just to get to the elevators. Then there were only two elevators that took you down the fifty or sixty feet to the sub-ground level where they kept the diamonds. Then the showcases were holographic, with the real diamonds set up in a magically warded, forcefield protected vault that was Fort Knox quality. Just the door was four tons of titanium alloy, and the locking mechanism had an adamantium cover to protect it if you got that far. Then, if you managed to get to the diamonds, they had two more security measures. They had tons of sand they could drop down the elevator shafts, burying the elevator and making sure that even a PK brick couldn’t bust his way back out. Ten tons of force? Big deal against a vertical column of twenty tons of sand that gave way when you punched the bottom of it. And, while you were stuck down there, they would release some special sedative gas and knock you out, so when they used whatever trick they had for clearing the sand, you were out cold and ready to be hauled off to Roxbury.
And there he was, with enough powers to take the BDM. Hell, he had enough powers to take Fort Knox, if only he didn’t have his four hour time limit! He teleported right into the foyer of the BDM. The armed guards opened fire on him as soon as they realized he was past their security entrance. The bullets just bounced off his PK field. So did the rocket-propelled grenade and the heavy weaponry. He ignored those jerks for a minute while he focused on the mutant barreling his way.
The guy was flying fists-first down the hall, right at him. At the last second, the guy let loose a huge blast of blue energy. Mimeo’s PK field ate it up. The guy crashed into him fists first, but Mimeo’s PK field held. Mimeo tried firing the blue energy back at the guy, but it didn’t cut through the guy’s blue energy field. So he pulled up a blue ball of the Ryoko-chick’s plasma power and hurled it at the floor under the guy. The explosion knocked the guy into the ceiling. Once the guy dropped back down and fell to his knees, Mimeo clocked the guy with a light tap. You had to be careful when you had PK powers, because if you could throw ten tons of force with the flick of a finger, you could accidentally kill someone really easy, and Mimeo still didn’t hold with killing people.
The blue plasma explosion from the Ryoko-chick’s power had also knocked down almost all the baseline security guys. One guy was still on his feet, though. When Mimeo turned around, the security guard had what looked like a portable anti-tank missile. The tube fired and hit Mimeo dead center. It exploded in a super-hot blast that could drill a hole through the armor of an Abrams. It punched through the PK field and speared right through Mimeo’s stomach. Super-hot gases erupted out his back and burned a hole in the wall behind him.
“Damn!” He cursed a bit, but the hole through him healed up so fast he hardly had time to knock out that guard before the damage had vanished. That Ryoko-chick’s powers were awesome!
He ripped open the elevator doors and punched out the floor of the elevator. Then he flew down to the diamond showroom. The guys down there were wisely running for the panic room, leaving the place to him. No sweat. He pulled up more of the redhead’s magic powers and ripped up the forcefield for the vault. Then he used the Ryoko-chick’s lightsaber power to slice up the magical wards. It even cut through the adamantium lock cover! Damn! He reached in and grabbed the rods controlling the huge bolts that locked the door in place, and he used the PK field to force the lock to turn, which yanked all the bolts. Then he tore the vault door off its hinges, just because he could.
He gathered up the uncut diamonds. The cut ones were too frigging hard to fence anymore, thanks to jewel identification devises that all the diamond merchants used. His expert eye told him that he had – after the cost of doing business with his fences – probably fifteen to seventeen million in diamonds. Not bad for a few minutes work. Not so great for two years locked in a hole in the ground.
The gas was flooding the room, but it wasn’t bothering him. He was guessing it was more of the Ryoko-chick’s regeneration powers, but it could be the brick’s PK field screening the stuff out of the air it let through. He didn’t care that much, as long as it worked. He shoved all the diamonds into a pouch and headed back to the elevators.
Shit! The elevator shafts were both blocked with sand. No matter how hard he hit the sand, it wasn’t going to fly back out of the shafts. Okay, time for the density warper’s powers. He made himself and the pouch go insubstantial, and he floated up through the sand. He didn’t stop until he was all the way out of the elevator shaft and standing on the roof of the building. Then he used the redhead’s Quintessence gathering powers one more time, and teleported to a safe house he knew about, way over in South Boston.
He was going to find the first set of clean clothes he could, Shift into a body that could wear them, and get the hell out of town. He needed some ID and a passport, so he could fly off to Europe. He already had a new identity that had been waiting patiently for the last two years. Peter Roxton-Thornhill III. And Peter had already bought one of his mansions and his biggest yacht off his previous fake identity, so he was going to be living in the lap of luxury as soon as he cleared customs in Paris and Shifted into Peter’s shape…
He lay back and stretched, enjoying the super-king-sized bed, and the smoking-hot redheaded twins snuggled in on either side of him. The bed rocked slowly, since it was in the master bedroom of his yacht, which was docked in one of the most expensive boating clubs in Marseilles. He still felt like he was eighteen again, even if his identity as Peter Roxton-Thornhill the Third meant he was pretending to be twenty-eight. He could stay Shifted to that appearance all the time, but in about thirty weeks he would be aged up to about twenty-eight for real, and he’d be continuing to get older every week after that.
The chicks were sleeping soundly, after he’d worn both of them out. Nowadays they called his powers Exemplar and Shifter, but that didn’t change what he was, and a high-end Exemplar like him could wear out any four hot babes if he put his mind to it. And after tussling with that gorgeous redheaded mage at Roxbury, he’d had a real hankering for some gorgeous, busty redheads.
He thought it over once more. Those kids back at Roxbury were still in their teens. Probably between fifteen and seventeen, all of them. They had to still be going to Whateley Academy. And there was no way there was more than one super-strong regenerating blaster who looked like Ryoko, or more than one incredibly powerful super-sexy mage who looked like a redheaded Faerie, or that many teenaged hotties who were density-changers who went heavy and light. The boy? Fairly ordinary high-end PK brick, but Mimeo liked flying PK bricks. But that team had nearly everything he looked for in an opponent. Incredible regen - hell, the best regen he’d ever fought. Flight - some of the fastest flight he’d ever had, with the best direction-changing he’d ever heard of. Magic - hell, incredible magic, and incredible Quintessence-drawing powers. Blaster powers, including that frigging awesome lightsaber deal. PK brick for armor and strength, plus that energy-reflection trick the boy had. The density-changing was icing on the cake, especially combined with the PK brick power. Okay, no Psi in the mix. He could live without that, when he had that much access to magic and to Quintessence.
He just had to use his connections as a Whateley alum to find out more about those kids, because he’d just found his new favorite targets. For the next couple decades. Forget the Justice Brigade and Interleague and the West Coast League. Those kids were his new playmates, whether they liked it or not.
The Ryoko-girl all by herself would be worth fighting, just for the regen and flight and blasting and that super-bad energy lightsaber. Plus, with her regen, he was never going to have to worry about killing her or even hurting her enough to knock her out of the superhero game.
The redheaded Faerie mage would be worth fighting, just to stare at her in action. But her Quintessence-drawing talents were worth it in themselves. Them, plus her wizard powers, made her a definite target. Okay, so he’d have to be prepared the next time he got her powers, so he could deal with the drawbacks. He could do that.
The others were just cherries on top of the sundae. PK fields were always useful, and being able to walk through walls made getting in and out of targets a hell of a lot easier, but he could do without either.
Yeah, in a few months, he’d find a way to tangle with some of those kids again. He was looking forward to it already. He was marking them down on his mental calendar. He’d go give them the beatdown two or three times a year for the next twenty years, and he’d live like a king. Like an eighteen year old king.
He grinned as he thought again about that sexy little mage. Maybe he’d wear out these redheads a couple more times, while he was at it…