Superheroes have been a part of everyday life for more than a hundred years. They star in movies, grace advertisements, walk the red carpet, and occasionally save a life or two. Empires have risen and fallen because of them, and time after time they have saved Earth from certain annihilation.
And they have become irrelevant.
With supervillains effectively extinct, superheroes have become idle and are in danger of losing their funding and their livelihoods. Fearing this, a team of heroes have come up with a drastic plan: to create a team of supervillains who answer only to them, staging crimes so they will have someone to fight.
These are the stories of the men, women and monsters who take part in this dangerous program.
These are Almost Infamous: Origins.
Previously on Almost Infamous: Origins: Prospects and Unwanted
By Matt Carter
Just outside Bancroft, Ontario, USA
They were after me.
The night was dark and the trees made it even darker. The air was brisk and cold. I could smell them. Hear them. Them and their dogs. Their radios. The gun oil of their rifles and shotguns.
I was faster than them. I could have killed them, should have killed them. It would have been a good fight. Bloody and fast, their throats giving way to my fangs, their last screams disappearing in a gout of blood…
But there were too many of them.
Too many of them, and too well organized, for once.
Go ahead, blame the gene-job.
Every time in every small town when some pretty girl died a horrible death, they blamed the nearest gene-job. They could’ve had their genes spliced with a pony, or a kitten, or the cutest fucking animal you could imagine, and it wouldn’t have mattered. Because gene-jobs weren’t natural, we weren’t human. It didn’t matter if we were poor fucks who wanted to be super and went to some back alley gene-dealer who went all Frankenstein on our DNA, or if we were kids snatched out of our beds and toyed with by mad scientists who’d gone long past monkeys and those fancy white rats that taste oh so sweet if you’re in a pinch.
I was one of the ones from that last group.
Everyone said they were one of those poor fucks, of course. Ask a hundred gene-jobs and they’d all say they were poor victims of some mad scientist, that their ugly mugs weren’t their own damn fault and that they didn’t pay for their persecution. Me, though, I knew what I was. I was one of Dr. Tongue’s finest, a monster of the highest and most vicious order. Part boy, part hyena, part komodo dragon, part shark, part god only knows what.
Well suited for this kind of pursuit.
I kept low, the fur and scales of my back blending in with the forest. I’m large, but my footsteps were light, not like their blundering.
Who is it this time? Cops? Department of Superhuman Affairs? Angry mob?
I’d have liked an angry mob. Them I could take. Them I could escape from. Disorganized and easily scared. Poorly armed. All it’d take was a roar, some claw marks on a tree, and they’d be done for.
Anyone more organized… they'd be a problem.
I couldn’t have problems. Not with what I’d done.
Guys like me, who’d done what I’d done, they didn’t go easy on. They wouldn’t put me in a human prison, no, they’d love the opportunity to just lock me up in the Tower and throw away the key. Find the deepest, darkest cell they could, turn it into a freak show, and then just laugh at the gene-job they caught.
Keep your hands and feet away from the bars.
No flash photography.
Don’t throw any food at the animal.
All because I killed three whores and some livestock.
And why did I have the idea they were more mad about the livestock?
The girls, they had it coming. Honest. They wouldn’t give me the time of day, not even when I paid them, and who runs a business like that? Honestly? I could’ve taken them if I wanted to, I even might’ve, I was strong enough, but they got me angry enough, and angry enough for me meant less screwing and more ripping throats and eating whatever I wanted from there.
It’s not cannibalism if you’re not all human.
I preferred my meat cooked, there was enough human in me still left for that, but a bit of blood every now and then, some fresh meat, and the animal parts of me felt mighty satisfied. Satisfied enough to let me keep enough control over them to guide them toward productive, or fun, activities.
This time, though, the torch and pitchfork crowd out there had the wrong idea. Some girl turned up face down in the river, kinda eaten-looking but not quite eaten. I didn’t do this one, it was probably her boyfriend because, let’s face it, it’s always the boyfriend, but I couldn’t tell that to anyone and have them believe it.
After all, I’m a gene-job. Aren’t all gene-jobs liars and killers?
I took a deep whiff of air. The pack had broken apart. There was a man off to one edge, further than the rest. He had a dog with him. German shepherd. His outfit was clean, freshly pressed by the smell of it. He carried a shotgun, and a radio on his belt crackled with static.
I’d never tasted police before. Gotten close, usually when being hauled into the back of a squad car, but never quite made it. The opportunity thrilled me.
There’s a first time for everything.
I stalked on the ground on all fours, making sure the wind was on my side and wouldn’t alert the dog as I circled behind the man. Soon I was close enough that not even the wind could hide my scent from the dog. It whined and struggled on its leash, barking out angrily, then defensively.
It knew the superior predator.
The cop was too slow to pick up on what the dog wanted to tell it.
I wasn’t too slow.
I leapt from the darkness. My claws opened the man’s throat before he could scream. My jaws clamped around the neck of the dog, and with a single shake, broke it.
And then I had my very own dying cop and dead, twitching dog to do whatever I wanted with. The cop wore glasses, looking up at me confused as he tried to hold his life’s blood in with both hands.
His eyes said, Please don’t kill me.
I was tempted to disobey him.
But I was also in a hurry.
He would die soon, anyway.
Or he would be found, and he wouldn’t die. He’d have a cool scar and an evil gene-job story.
I didn’t care.
There was a flash of green light behind me. Crackling sound like the radio’s static, but so fierce I could feel it in my fur. The air tasted like fire.
I turned, ready to kill the light and noise.
And instead of a noise, it was a superhero.
White and gold and looking like some old statue. A well-groomed blonde man with muscles that looked out of a cartoon and teeth white enough to brighten the night.
“Who the fuck are you?”
The hero glowed gold, floating a few feet off the ground and coming right toward me, slowly.
“I’m Helios, villain,” the hero said. His voice said he was laughing at me deep down. Bright gold light shot from his hands, and the next thing I knew I was on my back, chest smoking.
“And if you want to live, you should know how to respect your betters,” he said.
I snarled at him, but I also wanted to live. I’d just go at him when he wasn’t paying attention.
“I thought they were crazy when they said they wanted to get some gene-jobs in on this, but one look at your file said you’d be perfect for what we’ve got in mind,” Helios said.
“Oh yeah, and what’ve you got in mind, hero?” I growled back.
He just smiled and said, “How would you like a job doing what you do best?”
My mouth still tasting blood, my claws still dripping with its sticky warmth, I said, “I’m listening.”
Eighteen-year-old Aidan Salt isn’t a superhero. With his powerful (and unpredictable) telekinetic abilities he could be one if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. He’s unambitious, selfish, and cowardly, and he doesn’t want to have to deal with all the paperwork required to become a professional superhero. But since the money, fame, and women that come with wearing the cape are appealing, he decides to become the first supervillain the world has seen in more than twenty years: Apex Strike.
However, he soon finds villainy in a world where the heroes have long since defeated all the supervillains. While half the world’s heroes seem to want him dead, the other half want to hire him as their own personal villain to keep them relevant. Choosing the latter course, Aidan enters a world of fame, fortune, and staged superhero fights that is seemingly everything he ever dreamed of . . . at least until he sees what truly hides behind the cape-and-mask lifestyle.
Almost Infamous will be released on April 19th, 2016, from Talos Press. Find it wherever books are sold (including the Amazon link so helpfully included here and in the cover above).