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, Unwanted, Torches and Pitchforks, The Redcape, Family Business, Villain Worship, and Anger Management.
Almost Infamous: Flawless Victory
By Matt Carter
I always told them they weren’t trying hard enough. Anything can be a game if you apply enough pressure, force of will and creativity.
Reality-bending superpowers certainly help too.
I hadn’t had the powers for long, and so far they weren’t that great. I couldn’t kill El Capitán yet, and I probably couldn’t outsmart the Gamemaster, but I could completely warp reality within a couple inches of my body. A lot of people would call that a pretty crappy power, but they wouldn’t be trying hard enough.
Within an inch of my body includes my body, so instead of a pudgy little fifteen-year-old, I could be whatever I wanted, and what I wanted to be was Circus. Circus was a two-dimensional clown, stylized enough that he was more cool than creepy but creepy enough that the normal people would fear me.
As they should.
Circus was a living cartoon, better than everyone in every way possible. He was cool, he was powerful, and he could impress girls. Lots of girls. Because he was cool and powerful.
Circus would be popular when I was done with him, then I would tell everyone who I was, and then I would be popular. Respected. Feared. And they would all regret how they treated me, and made fun of me, and they would want to be my friend and take me to clubs and then I could have as many girlfriends as I wanted.
Because I’d be Circus.
The street was busy when I, no, Circus stepped out onto it. Some people looked at me funny for a second, but then ignored me. I was hardly the strangest thing on the street after all, with gene-jobs and supers and super-wannabes doing their thing, everybody dressed up for a night out on the town. Why would they have to recognize a 2-D clown walking in their midst?
Because this 2-D clown was going to fuck up their night. Big time.
Circus smiled, bouncing on top of a nearby sports car before touching it, warping the roof’s reality so there was nothing but a gooey, brightly-colored hole. The driver protested, even tried to yell, but Circus kicked her to the street.
Achievement Unlocked: Jack 1 car.
Circus put the pedal to the metal, zooming through the busy street, scraping off cars, scared people jumping out of the way, screaming. There was a crowd ahead, extra points, but they were all quick and scared enough to jump out of the way. The building behind them, though, didn’t.
Achievement Unlocked: Crash 1 car.
Laughing maniacally, Circus flew through the windshield, smacking into the wall, rolled up like a poster. He rolled to the ground, then straightened out, then got on his wobbly, flat feet in time to see the car burst into flames. Cool.
There was a vending machine nearby. Circus ripped it open, pulled out a half-dozen cans of energy drink in each hand, flipped them all open, and with mouth stretched open to the floor like a snake, drank them all down.
Achievement Unlocked: PROPERTY DESTRUCTION!
Now this was really kicking into gear. The little people, the normal ones, the non-powered ones, they looked up at Circus and ran. Circus, and I, laughed down at them. Clown shoes expanding into large red slabs, Circus smashed the street beneath them. There should have been people beneath the shoes, people to squash like bugs and disappear like bad guys always did, but they were too fast, too scared.
They didn’t want to have fun.
Instead the clown shoes just smashed into, and through, the ground.
Achievement Unlocked: Pound the pavement.
Through the ground, into the subway. Circus could have climbed back outside. Circus could have done anything he wanted to. Instead, Circus heard the oncoming sound of a train and got himself an idea. As soon as the lights were on him, he jumped into the air, transformed into a giant, vertical buzzsaw blade with Circus’ smiling face on the side, and cut right through the front and center of the train. Car after car, Circus sliced through and shot to the back. There was the sound of squealing breaks. Crashing. Sparks. Everybody screaming.
Achievement Unlocked: Derail 1 train.
Circus was in one of the last cars of the train when everything stopped. Nearly everybody was on the floor, bleeding and broken and bruised, though there were a few girls in school uniforms sitting on a back bench, huddled and crying and scared, trying to call out on their cell phones. Back in his clown form, Circus smiled and slid in between the girls with outstretched arms around all of their shoulders.
“Hello, ladies. Who wants to visit the Circus?” Circus asked, licking his ruby red lips.
Achievement Still Locked: Impress the babes.
They screamed and ran. Circus shrugged. He’d reload a saved game next time and try the approach differently. Every achievement was possible, it had to be in the game, you just had to figure out how to approach them.
The train halves had come to a stop partly in a station. Emergency personnel and police had already started to show. Circus smiled, jumping and bouncing off the floors and ceiling and finding the police officers easier to disable than he’d expected. They were harder to bounce off of, just crumpling to the ground, unconscious and broken after one hit.
15 HIT COMBO!!!!
Achievement Unlocked: Disable 10 police officers.
Money and ammo didn’t pop out of their pockets like they were supposed to, but this was a minor inconvenience. Circus looted their wallets, pocketed the cash, and kept going.
After another power up stop at a vending machine, it was back up the escalators to the street. There had to be more fun. There was always more fun, you just had to-
There was a karaoke bar. They wouldn’t check my, no, Circus’ ID, because Circus wouldn’t let them. Circus just burst inside, kicking down doors like every badass ever should, then bounced over to the bar.
“Beer,” Circus demanded in his high, creepy, clown voice. The bartender, too scared, didn’t stop Circus, gave him a bottle of beer. It was too small, too weak for Circus, so he just made it better. In his hand the bottle grew massive, cartoonish, its contents foamy and at least three times as alcoholic before Circus chugged the massive brew, finishing off with a massive, floor-rattling burp.
Achievement Unlocked: Have a real funny burp.
Except nobody was laughing. They should have been laughing. Wasn’t Circus funny?
Fine, they didn’t think that was funny. I, no, no, Circus would show them what funny really was.
Circus jumped on stage, grabbed the microphone.
“Now I want to dedicate this song to a special lady out there,” Circus said.
“You’ll do no such thing, young man,” an elderly man from the back of the audience said.
“I’d like to see you try, old man, am I right, people? Wanna see Circus beat up an old man?” Circus asked, raising his arms to the crowd.
The old man calmly stepped forward, straightening his suit before touching a gem on the necklace he wore. He suddenly transformed into a massive, gleaming suit of polished black samurai armor. Circus grimaced, but looked cocky and strong, which was good because I don’t think I’d have been able to do that if I were there. The benefits of playing a game.
I wasn’t sure which hero he was, our country was rotten with heroes dressed like mystical samurai and ninjas (probably the Americans’ doing), but the way his sword started to fill the club with wind, and the way the wind cut through Circus’ bubble of distorted reality and hit me, I didn’t think it mattered too much.
First Circus was flying. Then Circus was falling. Then I hit a wall and everything exploded in pain.
I might have landed upside down, because that’s how the hero looked when he walked to me. I didn’t know why I couldn’t become Circus again, maybe the bastard had used a cheat code or a mod or a hack.
“Yield, boy,” the hero said, pointing his glowing, pale-blue katana at my neck.
Achievement Still Locked: Defeat 1 superhero.
Even though it really hurt, I smiled. Flawless victory wasn’t always possible the first time out, especially with a new game. All I’d have to do is load an old save and try this again, and then I could pull it off.
Then Circus would own them all.
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).