by Dan Swanson
Excerpt from The SuperYou Player’s Handbook:
Aquon, Terror of the Seas
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, Atlantean scientists seeking a way to save their doomed civilization developed a treatment that allowed humans to breathe water and thus live under the ocean. These humans formed a subsea civilization that endured in the centuries that followed. However, by the early 1940s, human wastes had begun polluting the oceans, and many mutant babies were born to Atlantean women as a result of this pollution. Aquon was one such mutant.
When the surface world went to war with the Moon, Atlantis sided with their long-lost relatives. Shortly before the destruction of the Moon, a bio-weapon was released into the oceans that killed all Atlanteans, except for the mutant Aquon. His hatred for the species that wiped out his people led him to the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly.
Default Powers: Super-Strength (2 points); Super-Speed (1 point); Super-Durability While Underwater Only (2 points); Water-Breathing (2 points).
Additional Power Points: Pick any combination of powers from the restricted undersea powers table that add up to 4 points.
Additional Powers This Game: Gliding/Launching From the Water (2 points); Water-Control: creating solid water constructs that can explode (2 points).
Must be immersed in water about every two hours. Can only create and control about a ton of solid water at any time.
Several minutes earlier:
Master Man dived through the eerily lit water at high speed, directly toward Aquon the Terror of the Seas. Aquon quickly sketched out a rough oval with both hands, and the water inside quickly solidified and turned gray. Aquon moved backward slightly and thrust the shield into Master Man’s path, deflecting the speeding wonder of the world enough that he smashed into the ground, quickly crashing out of sight. Aquon was flung violently backward and tumbled wildly for about a hundred yards before he came to a halt and floated limply.
Master Man was made of sterner stuff. He started spinning at high speed as he moved forward, and drilled a small tunnel, curving down and then back upward, and about a minute later, he burst from the sea floor a quarter-mile away. As he looked for Aquon, he realized that the torpedo-shaped spikes Aquon had been creating just moments before had all vanished.
Tom Atomic had told him that the solid substance Aquon created was really an allotropic form of ice called ice-fourteen, and if Aquon slept or lost consciousness, his creations quickly melted. That tumble had shaken him up pretty good. This was a big relief to the Paladin from the Pinnacle; he had been worried that Aquon could explode his atomic-strength bombs at any time.
Before he could reach the drifting form of Aquon, the terror of the seas regained his senses and started swimming away at tremendous speed. Faster than a dolphin, faster than a torpedo, faster than any boat Master Man had ever seen. Still, the Himalayan hero was even faster. He expected to catch up in only a few seconds.
Aquon was leaving an unusual wake, and Master Man flashed into it before he realized what it was. As he swam through the water, Aquon was turning it into small spheres of ice-fourteen, ranging in size from marbles to softballs. These spheres clung to Master Man, and started to impede his movements. This was pretty annoying. He tried to brush them away, but they just clung to his hands instead. This angered him, and he started smashing his hands together, which smashed the spheres into dust. But the dust clung to him, and then started to meld with yet more and more globules of ice-fourteen, which were flowing rapidly toward him. This was more than annoying, and he was starting to worry a little bit. He managed to wipe his face clean, but it was as if his body was coated in a kind of thick gel, restricting his movements, and then it hardened. Now he couldn’t move at all. He felt incredibly hot, and he wanted to pant, things he hadn’t felt since before he’d taken the secret pills called the vitacap that had given him his powers.
He strained harder, and managed to flex his muscles, which cracked the coating of ice-fourteen, but more and more globules kept swarming around him, merging with his cocoon, and now his face was being covered again — and this time he couldn’t bring his hands up to clear his face. He had never been afraid of the dark before, but he had never been engulfed in anything like this, either. He thought it must be trying to squeeze him to death; he could feel painful pressure everywhere, especially his chest, then realized that it he wasn’t really being squeezed, he was imagining it. The pressure diminished somewhat, but Master Man was stunned to realize that he was on the edge of terror.
This was no longer an annoyance, and he redoubled his efforts to bend his arms or legs, twist his head, bend at the waist — anything to crack this diamond-hard cocoon that kept building around him. He heaved mightily and was able to create a crack in the cocoon, but it healed before he could take advantage of it. Once again, he couldn’t move. He could feel more and more of the ice-fourteen spheres bumping into the cocoon, making it thicker. He was trapped. His past experiences suggested he might survive an atomic explosion if Aquon blew up this trap, but if he were injured, who would ever find him under five miles of water?
Master Man exerted all his awesome strength. In his current position, he didn’t have the leverage he needed, and nothing happened, yet again — not the slightest give. He redoubled his efforts, and still nothing. He hadn’t realized until now just how angry he was getting. He was Master Man, stronger than untamed horses, the wonder of the world, the paladin from the pinnacle, and no power on Earth could best him. He concentrated on bending his knees, trying to shatter this deadly cocoon with his legs — legs being many times stronger than arms, but with no results.
His heart was beating so hard he could hear it, and he could feel adrenaline rushing through his body, and every muscle in his body was tensed. No longer able to stand it any longer, he screamed — or at least tried to, but nothing happened, with no air around him. This made it worse, and he almost blacked out as panic overwhelmed him. A distant part of his mind struggled to drag him back to sanity, amazed that such primitive fear could control him like this. This little part reasoned that, at the worst, he would either be trapped here until Aquon needed to take a nap, or someone knocked him out, or he decided to explode his ice-fourteen trap, and he could survive for that long, couldn’t he?
Master Man used logic to bludgeon the primitive part of his mind back under control. It seemed to take ages, and his control was precarious, but finally he could think again. He would eventually be released, but how much harm might the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly do to his world in the meantime? He would get out of this on his own.
He thought furiously. Ice-fourteen was an allotrope of water/ice, not something that occurred naturally; but just suppose science or magic produced conditions not normally found on Earth? He visualized water molecules in his mind, rearranged them, squished them together, and stretched or compressed the molecular bonds, creating new potential crystalline molecular structures. Yes, there were a number of other possible allotropes of ice; yes, that ice-nine would be nasty stuff. And yes, there really was an ice allotrope that resembled what he knew of ice-fourteen — harder than diamond, extremely high-tensile strength, a lot of bond energy that would make a nice explosion if it could be released suddenly. And it melted naturally at extremely high temperatures.
There were high temperatures nearby. Aquon and Adamant had been working quite a distance from the new volcano to stay away from the heat, and the in-flowing current was carrying cold water. If he could get close enough to the lava fields, maybe this cocoon would just melt.
Similar to Tom Atomic, Master Man didn’t need to be able to move in order to fly. He didn’t know how he was able to fly (unlike Tom Atomic, who manipulated gravity and magnetism), but unless this cocoon was incredibly heavy, he should still be able to move. He continued trying to calm himself, which was easier now that he had a plan, and after he stopped straining, he could detect the direction the current was carrying him. He added speed to his movement in that direction, and was soon rewarded as the current around him became more violent and then started trending upward.
Now over the edge of a lava pool, he forced himself down, against the current, and was rewarded again when the cocoon around him simply vanished, turning back to normal water instantly when he plunged into the super-heated magma pool, which didn’t affect him at all.
Although he knew intellectually that his enhanced intelligence and wisdom were as powerful, in their own way, as any of his other super-powers, Master Man rarely had to think his way out of situations. It was an exhilarating feeling. Determined not to get trapped again, he rocketed back toward Aquon. Psychic feedback had already alerted the fleeing Aquon that his mentally controlled ice-fourteen construct had melted, and he was desperately setting his next trap.
Master Man wasn’t about to be caught by the same trick twice, so this time he avoided the deadly wake left by Aquon. Still, he needed to close with the villain to capture him, so he attempted evasive action as the ice-fourteen bubbles swarmed in his direction like a cloud of mosquitoes. There were too many bubbles to avoid them all, though, and one of them exploded as it touched him. It was only a small explosion, but it set off others, and suddenly Master Man was in the center of a cloud of thousands of small explosions, flashing in his eyes, knocking him this way and that, and roiling the water so that he barely knew up from down. And the barrage continued as new bubbles rushed in to replace the ones that had just exploded.
For a few moments, Master Man was disoriented. Then he realized that none of these minor explosions could hurt him; the only thing that Aquon was accomplishing was to confuse him and slow him down. Well, that wouldn’t work. Flashing upward, out of the cloud, he quickly spotted the terror of the seas, now fleeing like some slimy sea snake. Using all the speed he could command, Master Man circled up and above Aquon, then descended as an avenging thunderbolt in front of the speeding villain, where the water was clear. Satisfied that it was now his turn to do some damage, he closed in quickly.
Aquon gestured again, and suddenly his own body was surrounded by a shell of ice-fourteen. Unlike the earlier cocoon around Master Man, this one moved easily as Aquon moved, and Master Man realized that the terror of the seas was now wearing a suit of diamond-hard armor. It didn’t slow him down, either, and he rocked Master Man with a quick one, two, which actually hurt somewhat. The paladin from the pinnacle struck back, a powerful right, and though Aquon rocked back a short distance, he wasn’t hurt and quickly delivered more blows of his own. Master Man realized that the liquid water inside the armor shell was cushioning Aquon from most of the force of his blows. He laughed, silently, for his foe had just made a major error.
Normally, Master Man held back in a fight, to avoid hurting weaker opponents. But with his foe protected by this armor, he could really let it rip. He slipped inside Aquon’s range, ignoring Aquon’s increasingly desperate punches, and then really let loose, putting extra power into a single blow. Aquon jerked backward and then floated until until he drifted to a halt. His armor dissolved. The victorious Himalayan hero picked up his unconscious foe, and headed to the surface.
Master Man got there in time to watch the last few minutes of Tom Atomic’s fight, just before Adamant collapsed, followed shortly afterward by Tom Atomic himself. Master Man wrapped the bad guys tightly in Adamant’s cape, then called one of the Super Squad radio dispatchers. He requested that one of the on-call pilots fire up one of the armored cargo planes and head out to meet him, so he wouldn’t have to lug these three all the way home with him. He rather hoped Adamant would wake up before they got him safely restrained.
The expected rummy game never materialized. Something about the goblets had been nagging Red Rocket, and he wanted to do some research. Lady Victory wanted to call Justine’s Police Chief McCarthy, and Elastique slipped out unnoticed, leaving a note that she would be back in no more than forty-five minutes. With no reason to trust her other than Lady Victory’s intuition, this made Rocket even more nervous about her, but it was too late — she was gone.
It took Rocket about a half-hour to find what he’d been looking for, and Lady Victory was already off the phone. They were debating what to do next when Elastique ran breathlessly into the meeting room and tossed three boxes on the table. “SuperYou — one for each of us!”
The cover of the box showed a gaudy battle scene; in the foreground, the seven members of the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly were battling with a group of unidentifiable super-heroes, some of whom strongly resembled members of the Super Squad, while others more closely resembled some of the heroes missing since 1953. Farther away there were more heroes and villains, but they were deliberately unrecognizable. The backdrop was a city, devastated by the super-battle, containing crumbling buildings with broken windows, streets with shattered pavement, and blasted streetlamps, with smashed vehicles scattered about. The sky was filled with dark, ugly clouds.
She continued, “Maybe we can find out more about the powers and weaknesses of these new super-villains.”
Red Rocket was impressed. He hadn’t even known SuperYou had reached New York distributors yet. Before he could join in, Lady Victory spoke up. “Let’s get all the tangible facts together before we start digging into some fantasy game.” When no one objected, she continued.
“Maxie the Gnome dropped a good one on us today! Chief Murphy says that the golden goblets were reportedly found in a pirate’s treasure chest many years ago, on one of the small islands off the Maine coast. They were illegally sold by the treasure hunter to a private collector, and remained in his collection until he died earlier this year. He must have had a guilty conscience, for he left everything to the Justine Museum. Bill Bannister, the president of the Justine Literary Association, was also the chairman of the board of the museum, and he had somehow arranged for the use of these goblets at the JLA Halloween bash. He was the man in the Adamant costume, by the way. There was some kind of social dominance thing with some other Justine group involved.” She paused and thought about that for a second.
“Probably irrelevant. Anyway, Murphy says that there are legends about the ruins on the island where the chest was found. The local Indians say that the ruins are haunted, and they were originally discovered, already in ruins, when their remote ancestors first arrived in the area. The island became forbidden territory. About two-hundred years ago, a band of pirates tried to use that island as their hideout, but they didn’t stay long. So there is a good chance that the goblets are thousands of years old.”
Red Rocket interrupted excitedly, “That matches up with what I’ve found.” He gently opened a very old book to a bookmark and displayed a page of hand-drawn symbols. Both Lady Victory and Elastique realized that the book was written in Latin. In addition, Rocket spread out a handful of photographs of similar symbols on the conference table.
“These symbols also appeared on the goblets.” He pointed out a half-dozen symbols. The others nodded, having recognized them as well. “This book was written by Leonardo da Vinci, translated from the original Greek scrolls, written by the Greek poet Solon, who had visited Egypt around 700 B.C. The Egyptians showed Solon some strange metal tablets, allegedly over eight-thousand years old, yet totally untouched by any corrosion or rust. They helped him decipher the writing on the tablets, which told the story of Atlantis. He transcribed the whole story to the Grecian scrolls, which da Vinci studied and eventually translated.”
“The photos are of Atlantean magical artifacts recently recovered from around the world by the wizard Volthoom. The recurrence of many of the symbols is suggestive, but this one is the kicker!” He pointed at a symbol. “The Great Seal of the Royal House of Atlantis.” The symbol depicted a magnificent three-headed dragon poised on its rear legs, giant wings flared behind it. Each head looked in a different direction, guarding against threats from any quarter. Its front legs were extended before it, paws turned up, and claws half-extended, and a glorious star surrounded by rays floated just above them.
“There must have been some kind of Atlantean magic spell on the goblets, and something triggered it last night,” Lady Victory hypothesized. Elastique looked doubtful, but Red Rocket had learned to trust his wife’s intuition. And, given the possible connection to Volthoom, no matter how tenuous it might appear, he was just as certain as she that Atlantean magic was involved.
Being new to the hero business, Elastique didn’t want to voice her doubts, but she was tired of remaining quiet. “So, let’s do some reading and find out more about the bad guys!” She was very enthusiastic, but Lady Victory slowed her down a little bit.
“We really shouldn’t assume the villains are really the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly just because of the costumes they wear. Why would Atlantean magic transform ordinary people into fictional super-villains?”
“It seems at least as likely as anything else in this weird case!” Elastique was becoming annoyed.
But further study would have to wait. At that moment, an intruder alarm started blaring.