Immorality

This #microfiction may be the closest I come to fanfic. Prompt was “You misspell “immortality” on your Superpower Application Form and end up with the power of immorality”

The phone rang. It didn’t, usually.

It had been a few years since the incident with the Wishing Form. Lance maintained it was a setup, that he’d spelt it right on the form, but that whatever reads these things couldn’t decipher his handwriting.

“Immortality” he had clearly – he thought – written. The power to live forever, to be the rock the universe bent around, to stand in the centre and outlive every enemy, survive every blow.

“Immorality” he had, in fact, got.

It wasn’t, at least, a part of himself – he thought, held to, clung to – but a thing he could get others to do. A mode of his voice, a deep resonance, to convince others to abandon their moral code and do something… other.

The problem was, of course, that if you are convincing other people to do immoral things, that does kind of reflect badly on your own moral code. When you exploit others, you stain yourself. So the odd occasional free drink – “doesn’t the owner make enough money?” – and free pass from a speeding fine – “It’s not as if the law means anything, not really” – produced something to demagnetise his own moral compass. Not through his own power, but purely by being human. Depending, these days, on how you defined them.

On his darkest night, the introspection grew into a fire of self-hatred that threw the shadows of his actions into sharp focus against the remains of his conscious. After a few final freelance jobs convincing illegal boxers to take dives and betting heavily on the outcome, he retreated into a lonely existence where he couldn’t do anybody harm, even himself. He signed up for a superhero group roster, an F-string “hero” to rehabilitate his broken soul.

But F is a long way down, and his badly-spelled power was of little advantage. So he sat in the darkness, and tried not to talk to himself.

Until the phone rang. It didn’t, usually.

“This is the A.X.E dispatch. Can I talk to… Temptation? Mr Lance Beauregard?”

“Speaking”

“We have a role for you. Extra rate, but you’ll need to get downtown quickly. Do you have transport?”

“Nothing impressive enough”

“We’ll send a jet. Be outside in ten minutes, we’ll brief on the way”

The costume was tight in different places than when he’d had it made. A few years with minimal human contact and nothing to do but watch netflix and lift weights, it bagged up in the front a bit and was gratifyingly tight around the arms. The preposterous belt hit the former, but the latter was at serious risk of ripping if he made the wrong move.

He considered making the wrong move quite hard.

The cordon around ground zero was several hundred feet out, and his journey to the epicentre was made alone, the helpful bureaucrat from A.X.E having stayed far before the final line of tape. As he passed discarded cars, upright buses and many, many broken windows he wished – once again – that his handwriting had been better. Many of the buildings had horizontal ricochet wounds that would be street-art when this area recovered.

The middle was a stalemate. Two costumed heroes locked in combat, mechanics against muscle.

Lance cleared his throat. Without lifting from their combatative embrace, they both looked out of the crater at him.

“I know you’re both men of principle, but Cap, Tony, hear me out…”

February 9, 2017

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