Stone Flushed

“Gaia, I come in peace…,” Firebolt held his hands up when Gale Stone opened the door. She sighed, then stood aside to let him in.

“I know; call me Gale,” she replied. Gaia was the most powerful supervillain in the world, with hair and clothes made up of tangled roots. Gale was the brown-haired soccer-mom that opened the door. Firebolt relaxed his hands and walked into her house.

“Thank you,” he said. She closed the door behind him, then turned around.

“What do you want?” she asked. Firebolt tilted his head in confusion.

“You said you already knew?” he asked. Gale rolled her eyes.

“I said I knew you were here in peace. Just because I can know everything doesn’t mean I bother checking up on any of you idiots,” she said. “But, when you’re standing on my doorstep mumbling, ‘I hope she doesn’t kill me, I hope she doesn’t kill me,’ it’s kind of a different situation,” she smiled. Firebolt nodded.

“Spex said you might be able to help us with a problem the league is having.” Gaia’s smile disappeared as soon as she heard the name. Firebolt was surprised when he identified her new expression as concern.

“Is he okay?” she asked. “Why didn’t he come himself?” Firebolt shrugged.

“Just because he’s your son-in-law doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t kill him; that was his excuse anyway.” Gale’s concern disappeared and she giggled.

“I do have quite the reputation don’t I,” she asked. “Well, get on with it. Why are you here?”

“I, and several other league members, are being blackmailed with our secret identities,” Firebolt said. “This new villain, The Stalker, follows us around; he’s invisible, intangible, and can teleport. The only way we’ve been able to spot him is with the psychics in the league. But we can’t contain him.”

“Well the only way to capture someone like that…,” Gale began. She took a deliberate, slow look around her living room. “…is to catch them by SURPRISE!” When she said ‘surprise’ a thick green vine sprouted out of the hardwood floor. It speared forward and impaled itself in the drywall.

A lean, pale, frightened man appeared for just a moment before he flashed out of existence again.

“You missed?” Firebolt asked, and shook his head. “He was here in your living room and you missed?”

“Next time the league wants to ask me for a favor, don’t hold a meeting about it. I’m sure this idiot stalker thought he’d try and blackmail me for my secret identity too.”

“How’d you know about the meeting?” Firebolt asked. Gale rolled her eyes. “I told you, I can know everything; if I’m curious enough.”

“Then,… how’d you miss?” FIrebolt chuckled. He felt a bit braver knowing Gaia was a terrible shot. Gale smiled and opened the door for him again.

“You’re asking the wrong question. It’s now about how I missed, it’s about why,” she said. “I read his mind, he can only use one of his powers at a time. And he’s only a short-range teleporter.” Gale nodded out the door. The same lean man stood on her front lawn with golden vines pierced through his arms and legs, and one wrapped around his mouth. He wriggled in pain as blood leaked out of his wounds. “He can’t use his powers as long as those are in him; I just didn’t want a bloody mess in my house.”

Wedding. Arrangement.

“Your daughter?” Arc-Wielder asked. The serpentine vines that held him upside down turned him right side up and placed him gently on the ground in front of Gaia. The hero corp. warned Arc-Wielder that Gaia was out of everyone’s league. Her reputation diminished a bit over the past four years; but, as powerful as she was, she usually kept to her own town. The heroes learned if they didn’t try to mess with her, she wouldn’t bother with them too much. Arc-Wielder, however, wanted to make a name for himself.

He was in her clutches two minutes after his first heroic act. Arc-Wielder tried to defend himself, but his electricity had no effect on her. Green vines shot out of the ground to grab his ankles then pulled him down into the earth. He was dragged fast with no idea in which direction he was being pulled. After what felt like several minutes, he saw light again.

He found himself dangling in the air staring at an upside-down woman with a bodice formed from brown and green vines. Her hair resembled a bundle of roots tied back atop her head; he recognized her instantly.

“PLEASE DON’T KILL ME, GAIA!” he pleaded. His blue mask, and cape, were lost somewhere in the Earth. His face was flush with the worry of his impending demise and the strain of all the blood rushing down. Gaia sighed and rolled her eyes. Four thick earthen spikes shot upward faster than Arc-Wielder could react. In an instant, he felt his head supported by four thick columns as the points missed his head by centimeters.

“I wouldn’t have brought you to my forest if I was going to kill you,” she said. “I brought you here to talk…,” Gaia added. “…to my daughter.”

“Why me?” Arc-Wielder asked once he was on his feet again.

“Because she needs your help, Greg,” Gaia said. Arc-Wielder’s eyes shot wide.

“How’d you know my name?” he asked. It took all his heroism to stay in place and not start taking steps backward. Not only was she out of his league entirely, she apparently knew his secret identity. Trying to run wouldn’t get him very far, but he hoped he could at least earn a sliver of respect by pretending to keep his cool.

“Mr. Gregory Quaid, you’re 28 years old, single, and own a moderately successful business. I wasn’t the entire reason for your move here, you’re expecting to grow your business even more here,” she said. Gaia’s smile grew wider as Greg’s face lost color. “The hero corp. hasn’t quite figured it out yet; but, I’m the actual, literal spirit of the Earth. I know everything.”

The brown roots atop Gaia’s head suddenly fell off her head and the vines that were wrapped around her torso loosened. Greg watched a  mid-40s soccer mom appear from underneath the roots and vines. He never would have guessed she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt under all the greens and browns.

“Keep my secret and stay alive,” Gaia said. She smiled and offered Greg her hand. “My name is Gale Stone, and my daughter’s name is Cadence.” Greg accepted her hand; but, instead of a handshake, he could only tremble slightly at the contact before pulling away.

“How.. uh..,” Greg swallowed his nerves. “How can I help your daughter?”  Gale sighed again, but with less annoyance this time.

“My little girl’s all grown up. She’s gotten men in her head and she’s decided she wants to get married.” Gale locked her jade eyes with his dark brown set. “That’s where you come in.”

If Greg had not been terrified out of his wits, he might have had a different, more helpful reaction. But, this all-powerful woman forced her trust on him and now she seemed intent on bringing him into the family.

“You’re kidding!” Greg laughed as soon as the words came out. It was a nervous, high-pitched laugh as he broke eye contact. He quickly looked around the forest clearing to find an escape path. That was the first time he noticed there wasn’t one; they were surrounded by a thick wall of trees. “I can’t marry your daughter!” he said. With no way out, he locked eyes with her again; they were colder this time.

“What do you mean, exactly?” she asked. Her voice was flat and her smile was gone.

“I’m honored! I really am!” Greg said while shaking his head. “I can’t marry a supervillain’s daughter! What if the hero corp. finds out?” Greg’s question was answered by a sharp lash across his cheek; one of Gale’s vines swayed like a snake in front of Greg as if expecting the need to give him another one.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Gale asked. This time she had an edge of frustration in her voice.

“Your daughter? You brought me here to talk to me about her…,” he said. “I’m successful and single. She wants to get married…,” Greg made several gestures with his hands as he explained his thought process. Gale immediately burst into a fit of giggles. Greg thought he was safe for a moment until he was suddenly upside down again. He felt vines roaming all over him; constricting and exploring his clothing as if trying to find a way in.

“As if a Zero like you is good enough for my daughter,” Gale continued to laugh. Greg knew he was going to die. He closed his eyes to wait for the inevitable. It started with another slap against his cheek.

“Hey, open your eyes idiot,” Gale said. He did.

“OOOOoooooooh. Shit.” Greg sighed as he felt his cheeks growing flush again; from the blood rush and embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” he said. The vines placed him on the ground again. He reached out and grabbed his business card from one of the vines; it was the site he saw the moment he opened his eyes and felt like a moron. Then, he knelt to grab his open wallet from the ground. “Your reputation, you know…,” he said.

“Are you going to help, or not?” Gale asked. Greg eagerly nodded, with a mock tip of the hat. 

“Quaid’s Wedding Plan and Design at your service.”

Secret Soldier

“Don’t move, Gaia. I don’t know what you’re doing in my city, but you still have crimes to answer for,” Spex yelled at the dark-haired woman. Gale Stone walked across the college campus searching for her daughter. She wore blue jeans and a black blouse, not her root-woven costume; she stopped walking and wondered how he recognized her. While in costume, long green vines replaced her shoulder-length black hair. Even her daughter was surprised when Gale revealed her identity.

“What’s your deal?” Gale asked vaguely. The hero didn’t quite look like one. He wore a well-tailored black suit with a bright blue tie, and a pair of thick, blue-rimmed glasses. She felt her node vibrate while she considered how to deal with him, then sighed. She knew it was from her daughter.

Sorry, sorry,” Gale thought. It was her way of knocking on Cadence’s mind. Gale had always respected Cadence’s mental boundaries. She could communicate telepathically with anyone on Earth, but she still raised Cadence the normal way; with lots of crying. On both their parts. “Did you just text me? I don’t want to dig through my purse right now.” While she thought, Spex continued talking.

“My deal? I don’t like villains roaming freely in my city. Are you going to turn yourself in quietly?” the suited hero asked.

“YES!” Cadence screamed in Gale’s mind. “Don’t hurt Spencer! I’m running to you!”

“Spencer?” Gale asked. “This stuffy Soldado is your boyfriend?”

Well?” Spex took a step forward. “Have anything to say for yourself, Gaia?”

He’s a Soldado?!” Cadence asked. Then, she ran out from behind a building towards Gale and Spex.

“I’m looking for someone,” Gale pointed at Cadence dashing in their direction. “There she is.”

“What!?” Spex’s eyes went wide the moment he recognized his girlfriend.

“She’s my mom!” Cadence said. “Please don’t hurt her, Spex.”

What are you doing?” Gale asked her daughter mentally.

Play along. I’ll explain later,” Cadence replied.

“Gaia is your mom!?” Spex asked. “You couldn’t have prepared me for that a little bit?” Cadence looked around at the bystanders, then tilted her head at Spex.

“What.. do you mean.. Spex,” she asked.

“My girlfriend’s mom is the most powerful, most evil villain in the world! That’s what I mean!” he said. He huffed angrily and pulled his glasses off. The suit and tie shimmered, the disappeared once the spectacles left his face. His blue jeans made Gale wonder how comfortable the suit was with them on under it.

“Spencer! What’s your deal!?” Cadence asked her boyfriend. She gestured around at the crowd who all picked that exact moment to look away at something else.

“She’s definitely your mom,” Spencer said. “What’s the problem now?”

“Your secret identity!” She said.

“Secret?” He asked. “Since when?” Cadence tilted her head at him.

“Since always?” she asked. “Even before I met you, everyone told me you liked to keep your identity secret.”

“It’s just a pair of glasses,” Spencer said. “I’m not trying to hide my identity; it’s the source of my powers.” To make his point, Spencer took a step back and put the glasses back on. His black suit appeared immediately, then it disappeared when he took them off again.

“Your strength, healing, and fighting abilities?” Gaia asked. “Those powers?”

“Oh yeah…,Cadence mumbled to herself.

“Yeah,” Spencer nodded.

“Well, Spencer, it seems we have a lot to talk about. Let’s get started,” Spencer was immediately swallowed into the ground. Gaia began sinking at a slower pace as if she were riding an elevator. “See you in a while, dear,” Gale blew a kiss to Cadence. She gave her mother one final warning.


Drunk Luck

“Stop right there, Gaia,” BlackJack said. He stood in the center of the street, both hands on his hips, while pedestrians fled the scene along both sidewalks. His black and red harlequin costume billowed in the wind; the bells on the ends of his jester hat jingled.

Moments ago Gaia erupted from beneath the police station; it was demolished in an instant. She then began violently strolling down the street. The Earth Goddess lashed out at innocent bystanders using whip-like vines.

BlackJack had never dealt with Gaia, his normal hero job was across the country. Everyone talked about how unstoppable Gaia was, but he hoped his unique approach could make a difference. He took a trip to Gaia’s city hoping for an encounter, and she appeared on his first day in town.

“Hola, Borracho,” Gaia smiled at BlackJack. Her greeting made BlackJack tilt his head curiously, but she kept speaking. “I hope you’re just passing through,” she said. BlackJack knew enough Spanish to know that ‘borracho’ translated to ‘drunk’; but, he had no idea why she called him that.

“Are you drunk?” BlackJack asked. He was hopeful because that would make his job a lot easier. “Why did you say that?” Gaia laughed and shook her head.

“You’re Unique Soul #25, El Borracho,” she said. “You’re like me. I’m-,” her explanation was interrupted by BlackJack.

“We’re nothing alike!” he shouted. Gaia rolled her eyes. Three vines twisted themselves together and whacked BlackJack across the face like an open-handed slap. BlackJack was genuinely caught by surprise; though he tried to stay calm and ignore the sting. He wanted Gaia to think he let her get a shot in. But, unlike being able to see the probability of things in a normal fight; he never saw it coming. A kernel of doubt took hold in the back of his mind.

“Oh shut up. I’m not comparing us, you dolt. It’s the same as if I said we were both mammals,” Gaia said. She glared at BlackJack as if daring him to interrupt again, but he did not say a word. She continued.

“I’m #37, El Mundo.” BlackJack’s high school Spanish kicked in again and he recognized her as ‘The World’. Her powers made a lot of sense all of a sudden; and, it made him wonder. If he was like her, what were his powers? Being drunk? At 28, he’d never come close to being drunk.

“So, what does that mean?” BlackJack asked. He noticed that the last of the pedestrians were almost out of the way; it was time to start his plan. He decided on using the street lamp behind her to bring her down. She seemed talkative and he was sure he could keep her attention long enough. It just needed a little help.

As the final bystander ran away, BlackJack changed the odds around  his escape. The portly man tripped over his own shoes and stumbled forward into a parked motorcycle. He brought the cycle down, then scrambled back up to keep moving. He did not notice that the gas cap hit the edge of a concrete curb in the just the right way to pop it off.

“It means,” Gaia said. “I know everything about this Earth. And you

can manipulate probabilities.” 

“What?” BlackJack asked. At that same moment, they both heard the sound of breaking glass. One of the cracked windows that Gaia lashed out at finally collapsed. The electric sign that was on the window fell forward and rolled toward the street; it was stopped by the fallen motorcycle. Then, after a bright crackle, it started to spark.

BlackJack never told anyone how his powers work; most of the time he explained it as “luck manipulation”. He could change the probability of anything happening to 100% most of the time. As long as there was a chance of it happening at all. The fleeing man only had a 5% chance of tripping, but BlackJack tipped the scale, and aimed his fall.

“Why are you surprised?” Gaia asked. Then, she grinned. “I told you, Preston,” BlackJack flinched when she used his real name. “I know everything about this Earth.”

A single stray spark from the sign landed in the motorcycle’s gas tank. It exploded with a boom and the motorcycle was sent straight into the base of the light pole. Then, the damaged pole fell forward towards Gaia’s head. She took a single step back just in time avoid certain death. The light pole crashed into the asphalt.

“I know all about your abilities, Preston. And, I’ve made a decision to help you learn about them too,” she said. When she spoke, BlackJack felt a sudden, intense chill run down his spine; but, he couldn’t place the cause.

“For your first lesson, take a look around and see if you can guess what my decision was,” she smiled. BlackJack looked around at the cars first; his eyes went wide.

When Preston used his ability it produced a list of numerical probabilities sorted from most to least likely. The man he tripped earlier could have gotten away without tripping, or he could have been lashed to death by Gaia.

Preston looked from car to car, then up at lamp posts, building signs, anything he could see. The only possibility on every object read: “Lashed to death.”

For a moment he hoped that it meant the cars would be lashed to death, but every new possibility made it clear that that was the only outcome. BlackJack hung his head; his bells jingled one last time.

Stone Cold

“Cadence,…” Gale called her daughter as the girl exited the car. The bony girl adjusted her backpack as she turned around. She swept loose strands of her coffee-brown hair out of her eyes.

“Yeah?” she asked.

“If you ever feel cornered…,” Gale began. Cadence sighed at the subject matter but stayed long enough to listen. “…look, honey, don’t worry about school. Whatever happens, I’m on your side. Don’t be afraid to fight back. Sometimes people need to learn lessons the hard way. Teach them not to mess with you.” Cadence rolled her eyes. Ever since she opened up to her mom the night before about being bullied, she’s been encouraging the girl to fight back.

“I’m not beating anyone up, mom. They’re just annoying assholes. School’s over in a month, I can make it until then.” She shut the door on the conversation and walked off. Gale fumed in her seat.

“Those little shits,” she mumbled to herself and left the school grounds. The previous evening, her rage grew hotter and hotter as her daughter explained the situation.

“They hide my things,” she said. “They call me names and push me around in the halls between classes.” Her daughter listed more than a dozen instances of things that individually, wouldn’t be worth noticing. Adding them all up, however, painted a very clear picture. Her daughter was being bullied. Gale fought hard to contain her anger; she did not want Cadence knowing about her villainy just yet. She knew she would have to be honest eventually, but she felt the girl wasn’t ready yet. Gale pulled into her driveway and left the car.

“Pushing her down?” Gale growled. She did a quick spin in her front yard to take a look around. Her neighbors were all gone to work, the street was quiet with no passing cars. The ground opened beneath Gale and swallowed her whole. Seconds later, she grew out of the ground head first. Her white blouse and black slacks were replaced by a green and brown outfit woven entirely out of roots and vines. Her short dark hair was covered by long green, flowering vines that almost reached her waist. “I’ll just have to go push them down.”

At school, Cadence was in the middle of P.E.. She jogged along, alone, around the large track that circled the school. She rounded the furthest spot from the school ready to head back when she heard familiar laughter. The path ran near the edge of a forest. The school grounds were once enclosed by a fence, but over time kids picked at the fence until it was no longer a solid border. Cadence turned toward the laughter and found a trio of girls. They stood at the edge of the forest on the other side of a hole in the fence.

“Hey, Cadie,” the tall one in the middle said; she flashed a sinister grin. “We’ve been waiting for you.” She took a menacing step toward Cadence, but she tripped. The tall girl fell face-first into the tall grass; Cadence did not hesitate. She saw her chance and bolted back to the school as soon as the girl fell forward. The two shorter girls tried to run after her, but they tripped also. Once they were on the ground, they had trouble getting back up.

The tall girl tried pushing herself up but vines sprouted out of the ground and slithered up her arms.

“Oh shit,” the tall one said when she realized what was happening. “It’s Gaia!” she told her two friends; they were being held down by vines also.

“That’s right!” Gale laughed as she walked out of the forest behind them. “On your feet girls, we need to talk,” she said. At her words, the vines moved like tentacles. Thin green vines turned the girls around on their backs. Then, they rose into the air and lifted them to a standing position while keeping them bound and gagged. “I’ve heard that you’re giving Cadence Stone a hard time,” she said. Gale took a step toward them and pulled a stone dagger out from under her vine-clothes. She stood in front of the tall girl and held the dagger up for her to see clearly. “Is that right?” she asked. All three girls eagerly confessed with silent, energetic nods. Gale growled in frustration and slapped the leader with the back of her hand; then, the vines loosened enough to let her speak.

“What the hell, Gaia?” she shouted at the villain. “You told us to!” Again, Gale slapped the teenager, then she lifted the knife to the girl’s face; inches from her eye.”I didn’t tell you to bully her you idiots,” she growled but the vines loosened around all three girls. “I said, ‘make her life HELL!'” Gale grabbed the girl’s hand and gave her the knife. “Now go and STEP IT UP!”