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like the pancake
Dec 7, 2019
((Summary: Big Tech and Bombshell enter the public spotlight as a feedist crimefighting power couple, but authorities and the public alike are reluctant to accept their methods and their unconventional love. Enter Bombshell's old college bestie, now a radio talk show host, mutual gainer and vigilante crime fighter herself...but she has a hidden agenda. Will Bombshell and co fall prey to her schemes? A/n: Content warning for fight scenes that will get pretty bloody. The first eight chapters of this are done and available elsewhere, but I'm in the slow process of a rewrite to make things more consistent with Spark.))

Big Tech and Bombshell in: the Commune of Crucifix

by stevita


"Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate."

-Sun Tzu


Part One: The Reckless Wonder


It was another overcast day in Blackwater City, rain drizzling gently onto the windshields of cars parked outside and against the windows of a run-down inner-city Stop-n-In.

It had been a boring afternoon so far. Noah had dealt with a few customers, but most of them just paid at the pump and left without setting foot in the store. One lady had come inside to buy a pack of smokes and a newspaper, but that was about as much action as he had seen. So, he counted the minutes at his post as that new, overplayed Bailey Sharp song made its rounds on the radio, wishing cashiers were allowed chairs for the slower hours, or even the quicker ones--seriously, he could ring up a purchase sitting down just fine--and thanking his luck that this was his last week at this job before he returned to school at Blackwater Community.

Suddenly, the bell above the door dinged as a man let himself in. He was tall, thin, brown-haired, perhaps in his mid-twenties, but carried himself with both a sense of purpose and irreverence that made him appear older, more world-weathered. Approaching the counter, he asked, "Hey, man, can you make change for a twenty?"

"Sorry dude," said Noah, "but I need a transaction to open the register. Now, if you want to wait a minute for me to get my manager, or if you want to buy a lighter or some--"

He stopped in his tracks and screamed in horror as in an instant he found himself surrounded by flames. The fire scorched his skin and he collapsed in agony, wailing.

Then, as soon as the hallucination had begun, it was over, and he was left breathing hard on his side on the floor behind the register.

"Let's start over, buddy," said the stranger, leaning over the counter to smirk down at him.


Jared Fleming had always been different.

While other boys burned anthills with magnifying glasses and poked at animals with pocket knives and sharpened sticks, he grew up possessed of the unique ability to bring people to screams of hysterics using only his mind. After one particular incident on the playground in third grade that had left his teacher thoroughly disturbed, his parents had taken him to a physician who identified him as a weak probe and a strong compulse: that is, to an extent, he could read minds, and to a greater extent, he could force others to experience their worst fears, in real time and gruesome sensory detail.

For a while, he had been going places. A star pupil at the Rivington Hero School, he had been on a fast track, at his professors' insistence, toward a military career. He would have made nations cower.

That is, until a sparring accident in the middle of Combat Theory class wrecked his mobility.

Years of physical therapy and multiple surgeries later, he was back on his feet. Things had started to look up. He was able to successfully register the persona of Human Hallucinogen with the US Heroics Division and was assigned a small town on the Northwest coast to patrol. It wasn't much, but it was something. He thought it was only a matter of time before he had it made.

He should have read the contract.

He found out too late that the salary was shit.

If he didn't pick up a side hustle, he'd spend his life sinking deeper and deeper into medical debt.

So he went AWOL and began making his way across the state, hitting licks to pay the bills.

"Hey, what's going on up there?" A heavyset man in his middle ages, likely the store manager, made his way to the front of the store.

"Oh, hey, man. You want to go ahead and open that drawer for me?"

"Now, I don't know who you think you--!"

"Well, alright. Have it your way.”

The man was terribly afraid of spiders.

He didn't take well to being made to believe he was caught in a giant web, a black widow the size of a moving truck bearing down on him.

He fell flat on his back, struggled in place, and screamed.

The cashier tried to make a break for it then, but Jared just hit him with another psychic attack.

The bell dinged. He turned around sharply.

In walked a woman, mid-twenties if he had to guess by her build and carriage alone, in a garish orange racing suit and matching motorcycle helmet, BS emblazoned over her left breast.

She was nobody he recognized from the Heroics Division. He didn't even know if she was a local superhero or just someone who took her aesthetic on the road way too seriously, but even if she was a hero, he wasn't afraid. Just yesterday Scarlet Flame had tried to apprehend him up in Cason du Wandeaux, but despite her ability to bind anyone within earshot to her command, he'd had her down for the count before she could so much as utter a word.

"I don't want to have to smack you," said the stranger, "but I can't let you go around attacking people. You've got one chance, HH. You ain't technically physically harmed anybody. There's time to turn back. Either cease and desist…"

So she was here to stop him.

Perhaps if he'd bothered to familiarize himself with the Blackwater hero scene--or if he even just probed deep enough into the interloper's mind to realize he'd fought her before, out of costume--he'd have stood down. But all he gleaned upon a quick rake through the surface of her thoughts were her vulnerabilities.

She had a man in the picture, after years of loneliness. Oh, she cherished him...he was her everything. What more appropriate torment for her, then, than to bear witness as her sweetheart stood where she stood, being tortured in her stead?

The effect was immediate. "No...nonononono! It ain't real...make it stop!" she blurted, backing away until she hit the wall, hands clutched against the sides of her helmet as if trying to squeeze what she was experiencing out of her head.

"You could claw your eyes out, honey," Jared gloated. "It wouldn't help you unsee this."

The afflicted heroine started to cry. Jared couldn't see her face through her visor, but he knew a sobbing wreck when he saw one. He'd broken enough hearts in college.

Before the accident.

Then, as her panic reached a peak, he began to feel a pressure at his belt…

The last thing he thought before her attack took hold was, 'Oh shit. Not this again.'

In a split second, he was on his back, the seams of his clothing splitting violently as his limbs and torso swelled rapidly and impossibly with fat. He flailed and tried to right himself, but it was no use.

He recognized her by the power set alone. It was Oriana Taylor-Moore, the offensive biomanipulator from his Combat Theory class who had put him in the bariatric ward all those years ago.

"Dammit, Jared!" she swore. "You just had to make me panic. And when I was tryna bring in your ass peacefully!"
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