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, Anger Management, Flawless Victory, and Are You Now or Have You Ever Been.
Almost Infamous: Nothing Fancy
By Matt Carter
Aline was drunk, but not as drunk as she looked. It was the best way to do business after all. Stumbling around, splashing her drinks, dancing and making out with tourists in the club, making a great fool of herself. In short, a perfect distraction.
With her the fool, it offered Claude and me the chance to sneak through the disorienting din of the club and separate the tourists from their wallets. The money and credit cards was much appreciated, but the ID’s and passports would net even more. We could never stay at the clubs too long this way, but we still had our fun.
It was not my favorite way to spend a Saturday evening (I’d much prefer the clubs without the work), but we hadn’t had a good job in a while and needed some spending money.. Normally, we specialized in more high-end robberies than picking a few pockets, jobs where someone with my unique skillset could really make a difference. We may not have been the best in the business, but we did well enough for ourselves.
“Ugh, I hate the commies, always so grabby,” Aline said, readjusting her top as we walked to the next club.
“And they never have enough money,” I said, frowning as I sorted through our spoils of the evening.
“You should try seducing American girls, Aline. They are never on their guard, and cannot take their liquor. Easy picking,” Claude said, smiling the smile that always made me look forward to getting him undressed later.
Aline frowned, “No thanks, I still have my pride. Besides, American girls are more Ange-”
I glared at her, and she quickly corrected herself, “-Nevermore’s style.”
I nodded, smiling and puffing on my cigarette. Nevermore may not have been the name I was born with, but it suited me much better. I liked the dark. Not only did it suit me, but it was a fine place to hide when I was not having fun. This was more often than I would tell Claude or Aline or their friends or any of my other lovers, and that was how I liked it. I would smile, and I would be their friend, and I would party with them, but I would only allow myself to be as happy as I wanted to be. It helped prevent life’s greater disappointments.
“Are they your style?” Claude asked, arching an eyebrow. He knew what was and wasn’t my style, and we’d shared enough men and women in our bed for him to know that, but he liked talking about it, and if it meant not scaring him away, I would indulge him.
“American girls are fun, but not enough challenge. They’re drunk and on holiday in the most romantic city in the world, if you believe the travel brochures, and their inhibitions disappear. It is too easy. I much prefer their boyfriends,” I said.
“And they are less of a challenge?” Claude said, looking me up and down.
“In their way. When they are on holiday and they are looking for an affair or a casual one night stand, they have a particular image in their mind of the perfect French girl. Tall and pretty and blonde with an accent that’ll fuck you long before her mouth even touches you, like Aline,” I said.
“Awww, thanks, Nevermore,” Aline said, pulling the cigarette from my mouth and kissing me swiftly on the lips. As usual, she used this as an excuse to keep my cigarette. I could have taken it back from her, but instead I just pulled another from my pack and lit it on hers.
“They don’t come looking for me, not unless they’ve particular tastes, or are willing to take a walk on what they’d call the wild side, which few are, at first. Hence, the challenge,” I said. It was true, I was likely more beautiful than Aline, on my better days I was almost sure of it, but the tattoos I had covering close to 70% of my body had a way of scaring most men off.
That’s what happens when you cover your body in tattoos representing each of Edgar Allen Poe’s greatest works. You didn’t fall for him because he was cheerful.
Though I did fall for Claude for that reason, so what did I know?
I’d had many lovers before I met Claude, but none of them stayed around like him. They would last barely more than a night, treating me as if I were a cheap whore because they could, and because I let them. Claude, though, he stayed. He had a dark sense of humor to him that appealed. It was a sense of humor that would often manifest as cruelty, but he rarely meant it beyond jest. He was kind more often than he was not, and he was fun when working and when off the clock. He was not the perfect man, but he was one I did not mind spending time with.
Besides, he was the one who usually got us the good jobs.
“I want to go home and sleep,” Aline grumbled.
“It’s barely 1 am! Are you serious?” I asked.
“Serious about getting out of these heels, yes,” she said.
“Two more clubs, and we’ll call it a night,” Claude said.
“One,” Aline pouted.
“Two,” Claude said.
“One and a half?”
“Two,” Claude said, his voice losing all humor.
Aline kept pouting, but she said no more. We’d both learned better than to get Claude’s temper up.
Claude stopped, gripping my hand tightly.
“Did you bring your costume, Nevermore?” he hissed.
“No. I didn’t think it was that kind of work night,” I said.
“It will be soon,” he said. I couldn’t see what he could, but that was nothing new. Claude’s X-ray vision made him an excellent thief and often let him see danger before it came.
This time was no different.
I could hear them before they rounded the corner. Hissing and laughing and boasting. Scalefaces. Lemurians.
Tall and muscular and thoroughly unattractive, they were also incredibly dangerous in groups if they had a mind to be. Since we were not from Atlantis, it was unlikely they would strike us on general principle. But the way Claude was trying to turn tail and run, I did not think these were ordinary Lemurians.
The first one barely rounded the corner before seeing us. He was dressed in human clothes, none of that gleaming armor the true scaleface warriors loved to wear to prove they still remember their home country. For a moment I thought Claude was overreacting. Then the scaleface cried out.
“CLAUDE! YOU SON OF A BITCH, GIVE US OUR MONEY!” it yelled in shitty, hissing French, charging down the alley toward us.
Claude shook himself out of my hand and took off running, Aline and her high heels not that far behind. I should have followed, but that was not what I did in situations like this. If I didn’t want to do it to impress Claude (which I always enjoyed doing), I did it because it was what I always did.
I was our group’s muscle after all.
Calmly, I stepped out of my heels and kicked them aside. I let my tattoos do the rest.
A large, black, bladed pendulum burst from the tattoo on my chest, swinging down between the Lemurians and scattering them. Not ones to fear any battle, they skirted past the pendulum.
A great black cat, as large and ferocious as a lion, burst from my arm, mauling and pinning the two scalefaces in front to the ground. The other two fought past it easily, running at me and shouting their hideous reptilian curses. This was not as clean a fight as I usually liked, I always liked to put on a bit of a show, but this time, keeping it simple would work.
Before the final two could reach me, a great flock of ravens, cawing and scratching, surrounded them. They cried out and tried to fight the spectral horde summoned from my tattoos, and they could do nothing. I could have left them be, bloodied and confused, as Claude and Aline had already made their escape, and I could just as easily.
But even though this fight was nothing fancy, I wanted to give it a grand finale that Claude would appreciate.
I wanted to make the Lemurians know fear.
Summoning an ax into my hands, I walked through the flock of ravens to the thrashing, fighting scalefaces. With all my tattoos animated, trying to burst through my skin as one, I must have looked a terrifying sight.
The bloodied leader of the Lemurians looked at me with pure spite and said, “Stand back, she-witch, and let us claim what is ours!”
With a dark smile, I said, “Nevermore.”
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).