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, Are You Now or Have You Ever Been, Nothing Fancy, and On the Town.
Almost Infamous: Aidan Begins
By Matt Carter
Hacklin's Hall, Indiana, USA
My little brother, Andy, had gotten another award for some reason. It might have been athletic, or academic, or possibly one of those “everybody gets an award” days that always tended to run out of awards just before I would’ve gotten one; it didn’t matter. Andy got an award, and that was reason to celebrate.
Andy waking up in the morning seemed to be enough reason for my parents to celebrate. Meanwhile, should I ever do anything worth celebrating, all I’d get was a pat on the back. If I was lucky.
Then again, occasions where I’d done anything worth celebrating were pretty few and far between.
And so, because we had to celebrate, Mom and Dad let Andy choose any place he wanted for dinner, and as always he chose the Super Pizza Adventure in South Bend.
I didn’t see why we had to drive an hour to a stupid kiddie pizza place just because my brother got another stupid award that wouldn’t mean anything by the time he graduated high school. I didn’t see why everything had to be so easy for everyone and why everything had to be so hard for me and why the universe just didn’t work out for me like it did for everyone else and why, why, why this all had to happen when I had such a bad headache.
I texted Vic from the car. I guess you could say he was my best friend.
Aidan: This bites.
Vic: Super Pizza Adventure? Their pizza sux, but I can tell you how to cheat at skeeball if you wants.
Aidan: No thanks.
Vic: Or that if you look up the skirt of Super Sally you can see her thong.
Aidan: That’s a robot you know. Of a large fluffy bear.
Vic: Don’t mean she doesn’t have a thong. I read it online.
Aidan: You really gotta stop doing that.
Vic: Thong watching?
Aidan: Going online.
“Aidan, honey, put that away. This is your brother’s night, and I don’t want you taking away from it by being on your phone all evening,” Mom said.
“But, Mom!” I protested.
“Listen to your mother, son,” Dad said. I felt like a political prisoner. I just got this new Edgetech phone, top of the line, loaded with games and apps and finally got more people’s numbers on it than just my family, and they wouldn’t let me use it? I was pretty sure villains in the Tower at least had access to phones.
Andy looked at me, smug, “It’s all right, Mom and Dad, I say that if Aidan wants to use his phone, he can.”
I could have both punched him in the head and hugged him right then, but since both of them would have made him scream and punch me in the head, I didn’t.
“Sorry, kiddo, but we’re almost to Super Pizza Adventure, and after that it’s all phones away,” Dad said.
“But what if I get a text?” Andy asked.
“Well, sure, it is your night,” Mom said.
Injustice. Plain and simple. But would I get up and say anything about it? Would I fight for what was right?
Of course I wouldn’t. Because I was Aidan Salt, the inconsequential. Even if I said anything, nothing would have happened, so what would the point be?
At least Super Pizza Adventure was a lot of fun, even with my headache and all the injustice I had heaped upon me. I couldn’t let anyone see that, because I wanted them to know that I was still angry, but I couldn’t help the childlike glee that always came with coming here. It was a kiddie place through and through, made up to look like what a five-year-old would think a superhero’s base would look like and populated with wandering and occasionally singing cartoon-like animals dressed as heroes (some of them people in costumes, some of them really convincing robots). They must’ve thought Andy was here for a birthday, because three of the robots (a bear, a bunny and an alligator made to look like a villain) crowded around him and sang him a non-copyrighted birthday song. For his part, Andy didn’t do anything to make them think otherwise.
With all the attention on him, it was easy to sneak off and play some games. I didn’t text Vic for his foolproof method of cheating at skeeball (though I kinda wished I had), but I did a pretty good job I think, getting a fair few tickets.
At least until the machine jammed. I just got a ball clean in the 1,000 points hole, hardest in the whole game. That should’ve come with a whole stack of tickets, enough to actually get something resembling a respectable prize. But I could see the corner of a ticket lodged diagonally in the machine, hear the tickets grinding to a halt behind it.
The way this day was going, I should’ve seen it coming, especially with my headache making things worse. I had to go find someone, had to get the tickets that were rightly mine, had to make this goddamn machine play nice.
At once, the headache seemed to spread to my whole body, an annoying, tingly ache that spread from the tip of my nose to the ends of my toes. And then at once, almost like a tickle, it seemed to pop, disappearing and leaving me completely clear.
With that, the housing of the skeeball ticket machine popped open, dented outward, hundreds of tickets pouring out. I yelped in surprise, but then made to grab as many tickets as I could that unspooled, cramming them in my pocket before anyone could see, and get the hell out of here.
Now headache free and carrying a stack of tickets that I’d add to my bin at home (I’d been saving up for a video game for some time), I was thinking that this day was about to make a turnaround. Screw Andy’s accomplishment, I was on a roll.
And then the thought hit me. It was a small thought, a passing notion that I tried to ignore but couldn’t entirely.
What if I did that?
It was stupid thinking. I wasn’t super. I couldn’t be. I hadn’t been exposed to anything toxic or alien or been experimented on by a scientist, and I sure as hell couldn’t be a super from birth, because powers like that pretty much always manifested at puberty, and here I was about to graduate high school.
There was no way I could be special.
I just wasn’t that lucky. I couldn’t be.
I was Aidan Salt and I was always destined to be Aidan Salt, pointlessness personified. I could dream of being a superhero, sure, just like I could dream about hooking up with Kelly Shingle (Hacklin’s Hall High School’s finest) or dream of winning the lottery, but none of these things were going to happen, because I just wasn’t the kind of guy that it happened to. These things happened to more interesting people than me.
People who had a destiny.
So, yeah, the machine popped open right when I got pissed at it, and my headache went away at the same time. Coincidence, it had to be. Some mechanical failure, or maybe some passing super saw how frustrated I was and decided to take pity on me, or perhaps did it just to give me false hope, a dream that I had a superpower I clearly could not have.
That made much more sense.
Even so, all through the car ride home, I couldn’t help but think that this might be that one time, that one infinitesimally rare time, that something good might have happened to me. Better than getting a new car or finally losing my virginity (though both of those would’ve been pretty sweet), this was the sort of thing that could change my life. If I had superpowers, I could be someone special, the kind of person that people finally would take notice of.
A better person than Aidan Salt.
It wasn’t possible, but it might be. Right? Didn’t the universe owe me that chance?
I had to find out. I had to be sure.
We’d just arrived home, pulled in our driveway, everyone getting out and ready to come down after such a great evening celebrating Andy. I was trying to draw together that feeling I had when I was pissed at the skeeball machine, and I thought I might have it. An intense tingling that went all throughout my body, a sensation that I could suddenly feel everything around me, not just me. The knowledge that I was about to become something so much greater than I currently was, that my life was about to change.
I had to send that focus somewhere, and the focus just happened to find our mailbox.
It exploded, peeling itself outward like a banana while shards of metal and bits of torn mail flew every which way. Mom screamed and ran, and Dad looked stunned. Andy ran in the house, crying and whining that his celebration had been ruined.
His celebration may have ended, but mine was just beginning. Hands shaking with giddiness and figuring the phone ban was long over, I texted Vic.
Aidan: You won’t believe what I just did…
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).