by Dan Swanson
Excerpt from The SuperYou Player’s Handbook:
The Ghast, the Ghostly Avenger
The Ghast’s parents were criminals who were dedicated to raising their son to follow in their footsteps. By the time he was eight years old, they had started bringing him along on simpler capers. One of these crooked exploits backfired, however, and his parents ended up getting into a shootout with the police. Before the youngster’s horrified eyes, both of his parents were shot and killed by a police officer. Then and there the young lad dedicated his life to crime. Using his parents’ fortune, he hired trainers and instructors to learn everything about the world of crime, and more. When he came of age, he traveled around the world, learning everything he could think of that would help him become a more successful criminal than his parents had been.
In Tibet, he found the headquarters of a secret society of mystical assassins, who allowed him to participate in their final ritual. They killed his body, but used a mystical device to capture his soul. A mystical rite then bound his soul to his body, allowing him to animate it, while also giving him special powers. They presented him with a weird costume, and he returned to the United States to begin his career. He soon fell in with the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly.
Although the Ghast appears to be the weakest member, his teammates respect and fear him as much as they do Adamant the Abhorrent Android. The Ghast has the best strategic and tactical mind in the group, as well as incredible deductive abilities, and is a highly trained and deadly combatant. Best of all, he knows all of their weaknesses and doesn’t hesitate to employ them when necessary.
Default Powers: Superior Agility (1 point); Superior Strength (1 point); Ultra-Durability (3 points); Healing (3 points); Combat Skills (3 points).
Additional Power Points: Pick any combination of powers from the restricted learned powers table that add up to five points. Note: No power can be raised above the Superior level (1 points).
Additional Powers This Game: Disguise (1 point); Non-Powered Weapons (1 point); Avoiding Detection (1 point); Gliding (1 point); Inventing (1 point).
The weaknesses of a normal human, except that he can’t be killed; no matter what happens to his body, it will heal, given enough time.
The Ghast the Ghostly Avenger watched with interest as each of his teammates tried to come to grips with the idea that they had never existed until a few hours ago, and that everything they thought they remembered was false. Some of them handled it better than others, as he knew they would.
“Maybe the magic spell that brought us here gave all of us amnesia?” suggested Aquon the Terror of the Seas. His rationalization was a theory the Ghast had considered — and then discarded as extremely improbable.
“What difference does it make?” Vanquish the Deadly Domina asked. “We’re here now!”
“Easy for you to say, witch!” F’ant O’mah the Lunarian Lawbreaker screamed at her. “You’re only an animated pile of mud, anyway. You were never real in the first place! He’s saying that my entire race never lived!”
“A race you can’t even remember!” Adamant the Abhorrent Android sneered. “What difference can it make? A warrior lives in the present! Memories of the past are nothing but useless baggage.”
“If none of our past is true, then you never captured Mainline!” Breakneck the Speed Freak spat at Adamant. “You’ve no hold over me any longer!” In his memories, he had been enslaved to Adamant, who had threatened to kill his lover, Mainline, if Breakneck didn’t do as he was told.
“But you’ve no need to hate him, either!” the Ghast reminded him. “None of the things you remember actually happened!” He was wondering how much of his identity was dictated by his phony memories. How much would his nonexistent past control his future?
Though Breakneck was faster than Adamant, he was neither as ruthless nor as cunning, and he was thus caught off-guard when the abhorrent android grabbed him by the neck. Breakneck vibrated at high speed and attempted to pass through the hands that were gripping him, but Adamant’s armored skin resisted him. Adamant laughed. “This is my hold over you! This is your new reason to hate me!” He threw the petrified speedster at the cliff wall. Only the fact that he was already vibrating allowed him to pass through the wall and avoid certain death.
“OK, big brain!” Aquon turned to the Ghast. “If some magic spell created us back at that party, why do we have any memories at all? Where do our powers come from? Why do we think we’re the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly?” The Ghast was really surprised; he hadn’t thought any of his teammates had the wit to ask that question. Obviously, he shouldn’t trust his memories of them any more than he trusted his own.
“Can any of you remember being someone else?” the Ghast asked. His teammates looked blank — obviously they could not. Yet somehow he did. He found the answer in the memories of his unwitting host. “We’re characters out of some sort of a game!” Before they could explode again, he added a dire warning.
“One more thing: the magic that created us imbued these costumes with our essence — our identities and powers. If you remove the costume, you will cease to exist — vanish back into the void whence we came!”
Lady Victory spent about half the flight to New York City in the passenger compartment with Elastique, before coming forward to the flight deck. Red Rocket could see that his wife was bemused. “Penny for your thoughts?” he greeted her as she strapped in.
“Actually, it will cost you a lot more than a penny. But you can pay me later,” she said, grinning at him. “You won’t believe what she does for a living!” He couldn’t tell if that was envy or disdain in her voice.
“If you tell me, I’ll have to believe it,” he replied. “So, tell me!”
“You know that new supermodel — the really trashy one who only uses one name — Slinky? That’s Elastique’s other identity!”
Red Rocket did; she was all over the social news recently. “But… she doesn’t look anything like Slinky. She’s so much more…” he stopped as he searched for a word.
“Buxom?” she supplied with a laugh, and he continued.
“And her hair and face, and even her height are different!”
“Her body is elastic, dear one,” she sniffed at him. “Buxom is bad for models.” She sniffed again. “Well, that’s their loss! Anyway, not only can she change shapes, she can change the length of her hair, and her hair, eye, and body colors just by thinking about it. It’s pretty wild!” In fact, Lady Victory would love to be able to do that. Why, Elastique could look like anyone she wanted to.
“You know what’s weirdest? She talks about Slinky like she’s another person entirely.”
An urgent radio call from Shiva interrupted them. “Change of plans! Minutes ago, a naval task force in the North Atlantic was overflown by Adamant and Aquon, and now there is a major seismic disturbance on the ocean floor. Tom Atomic and Master Man are headed that way already.”
Red Rocket winked at Lady Victory. “Tomas will love that, eh?” After the Marvel Family had vanished, and before they had met Master Man, Tomas Thomas had figured that he must be the strongest person in the world, and for a while it had gone to his head. Ever since, he had been involved in a mostly one-sided rivalry with the wonder of the world. He had recently added new capabilities to his costume, just so he had some powers that Master Man didn’t.
Shiva wasn’t finished. “Vanquish and F’ant O’mah are tearing up the White House. Luckily the president is out of town, but the Secret Service is getting trashed. Kali and I are on the way. I want you two and Elastique to stand by in headquarters — there’s still three super-villains unaccounted for!”
“Good thing we got in on the action earlier, I guess.” Lady Victory was disappointed with their assignment. “I hate being the backup team.” She hit the intercom switch. “Elastique, I hope you know how to play rummy!”
Tom Atomic was pleased to be paired with Master Man. He had recently made some improvements to his systems, and now he’d get to show off a little.
Master Man was wearing a Super Squad communicator, so he and Tom Atomic could talk as they flew. They were in a hurry, and quickly reached Tom’s prior top speed of mach four, but he continued accelerating. Master Man kept up with him easily, and didn’t comment until they reached mach six.
“So you can control the shape of your force-field now? Fantastic!” Before his recent features upgrade, Tom Atomic’s force-field had always been the same general shape as his body.
“Yeah, and shaping it like a bullet lets me fly a lot faster. How’d you know I didn’t just crank up the power again?”
“By the air streamlines flowing around you.”
“Holy moley! You can see airflow?!” Tom Atomic exclaimed. “What other powers do you have that nobody knows about?”
“It’s not really a power, per se,” said Master Man. “I can see further into the ultraviolet than humans can, down to about two-hundred nanometers.” Tom knew that human vision could see light with wavelengths between about four-hundred and eight-hundred nanometers. “Usually my ultra-vision is only good over short distances or in space, since oxygen strongly absorbs UV light. The air flowing around your force-field is compressed and denser than the air farther away, so it absorbs even more strongly, and it looks sort of like a translucent shell.”
“So you can see differences in air pressure?” Tomas was astounded.
“If I concentrate, and if the differences are large enough, yes. You could probably adjust your visor to do the same thing.” Master Man changed the subject. “So, what’s your new top speed?”
“More than mach seven,” Tomas said, which was their current speed, “but it looks like we need to slow down. Check that out!”
He didn’t need to point. Coming into view ahead, they saw an incredibly gigantic geyser of steam blasting out of the ocean. They slowed immediately, and now they were buffeted by noise, a tremendous roar like ten thousand Niagara Falls, as super-heated steam rose from under the surface and exploded into the air. The air turbulence and heat were so great that even Master Man was cautious about moving closer. Behind the roiling curtain of steam, they could occasionally glimpse the flanks of a volcano, sheathed in clouds and dust with lava flowing down its sides, already thrusting a half-mile above the surface of the Atlantic and still growing.
Rushing away from the new volcano was a giant tsunami, a four-hundred-foot-high ripple from the splash of a boulder the size of a mountain, roaring toward the vulnerable populated coastlines that circled the North Atlantic.
“It’s too big for me to stop, Tom! We’ll have to split up and rescue as many as we can. You head for Europe!” There was pain in his voice for the people he knew he wouldn’t be able to save. Master Man might plug up smaller volcanoes and knock down lesser waves, but these monsters seemed to be beyond even his awesome powers.
“Think teamwork, M.M.! We need to stop that wave, or millions will die, no matter how many we evacuate!” Tom Atomic countered. “I’ve got an idea. It may not work, but it will only take a few seconds to try.” Tom spoke quickly. “If we could set up a gravity vortex behind the wave…”
“The vortex would knock the wave down!” Master Man was excited. “It’s worth trying — if you can turn the gravity up high enough.”
Tom’s gravity controller was designed to allow him to fly, not to imitate a black hole. This would push his systems well into the overload range, but they wouldn’t have to stand it for very long. “You’ll have to drive. Ready?” Master Man just nodded. “OK, go!”
Tom Atomic was suddenly a source of gravity as strong as that of a small star. Master Man had to propel this gravity source in “orbits” around the volcano, flying just behind the crest of the tsunami. The tremendous gravity pulled backward on the crest of the giant wave, sucking away its energy.
The gravitational tidal forces tearing at his body would have torn anyone but Master Man to shreds, and even he was in agony. He felt as if a giant being had grabbed his head in one hand and his feet in another, and was trying to tear him in two. He had never felt such agony. He was supposed to be invulnerable. And then he realized he really must be invulnerable, since he wasn’t actually being shredded — he just felt as if that were true. He could stand this for a while, especially since he had to.
Inside his costume, Tomas was supposedly shielded against the horrific forces he was controlling, but there was some leakage. It was only a few hundredths of a percent, and still he could feel the tides pulling at him as well. Only his own superhuman physique saved him.
But with each revolution the wave grew smaller, and the next revolution became easier, and it only took a few complete orbits before the deadly giant tsunami had been tamed into nothing more than an extra-large swell. It might rattle some boats at crowded docks a thousand miles away, but it would no longer be deadly.
“OK, let’s find the bad guys!” Master Man shouted in exuberance. This was the greatest super-feat he’d ever been involved in.
Tom Atomic wasn’t as enthusiastic. “I’m not going to be much help against Aquon while he’s near the ocean bottom. My costume and force-field will protect me at that depth, but the pressure is so great that I won’t be able to move my arms or legs, and I sure won’t be able to fight.” He hated to admit weakness, but he couldn’t let Master Man be surprised in the upcoming fight.
“Your gravity controller will still allow you to ‘fly’ through the water, right? And you can shape your force-field like a torpedo?” Master Man asked him. Tomas nodded. “OK, I’ve got a plan. Could you lure Adamant to the surface and fight him there, and I’ll take Aquon in the depths?”
“Huh? I thought you’d take on Adamant, and I’d take Aquon!” Tomas was almost stunned. He assumed he would automatically get the less-powerful foe as his opponent.
Master Man laughed at him. “Well, if you think Adamant is too tough for you…”
“Hey! He’s tough, but I know more about him than he does. No sweat!” Privately he was pleased that the most powerful man in the world had this much faith in him. “All right, let’s get them!”
The two flashed downward into the deeps, then hovered just above the bottom. Normally at these depths everything was pitch black, but the molten, glowing lava flowing down the outside of the volcano and forming puddles on the ocean bottom changed that. Everything for miles around was lit by an eerie red glow. And they encountered a dangerous current that dragged them, and everything around them, toward these lava puddles.
The surface temperature of molten lava was approximately two-thousand degrees, and on the surface, the heat radiated by these lava puddles would be enough heat to boil water a quarter mile away. At this depth, the pressure prevented even super-heated water from turning to steam, so water that touched the lava was instantly super-heated, and gushed upward toward the surface, where it had formed the previously seen incredible geyser. Water from farther away was drawn toward the hellish lava pools, forming a powerful current that dragged everything nearby that could move.
The two heroes carefully circled the base of the volcano, keeping well away from the super-heated geyser, and finally they spotted their foes. Aquon the Terror of the Seas was turning water into giant spikes the size of the fuselage of a private two-seat airplane, and Adamant the Abhorrent Android was driving these spikes into the seabed.
“Aquon can make those spikes explode like the equivalent of atomic bombs!” Tom was whispering to Master Man, even though it was unlikely that the villains could overhear their communicator. “We’d better get going!” They put their hasty plan into action.
Everything within a certain range was being dragged toward the lava fields by the powerful, deadly current, so Tom Atomic and Master Man allowed the current to pull them toward their foes, shielded from detection while drifting by the debris around them.
The current became even faster as they approached, and they were swept very close to the villains before Aquon’s underwater senses alerted him to something out of the ordinary. He abruptly straightened and turned, and the heroes sprang to the attack.
Tom Atomic flicked on his mega-candle searchlight, narrowed to its smallest spread and highest intensity and aimed directly into Adamant’s face, and then applied emergency maximum acceleration. Master Man dived toward Aquon while Tom Atomic curved slightly upward and smashed into the blinded Adamant like a runaway planet, sending him tumbling backward until he crashed to a stop in a pool of lava, surrounded by super-heated water at incredible pressure. Anything ever built by man would have been instantly destroyed. Tom Atomic had angled his path so he was deflected toward the surface, and he continued his high-speed dash.
Now that their presence was no longer secret, he flipped on sonar and radar. “Great! Adamant is following me!” He headed for the surface, hoping their plan would work out, or those words would be his last.