Monday 7 October 2013

Time for a Superheroine

Welcome to MathieXPensive, post #100! Here's a short story of fiction.


"Stop right there!" Lisa called out. She put her hands on her hips, in what she hoped was a dramatic pose. It was, after all, only her second week on the job.

"Father Time!" the thief responded as he turned to meet her gaze.

Lisa winced.
Lisa winced. Any delight she might have obtained from catching the black-clad man completely off guard was pretty much quashed by the use of that moniker. Why did they all insist on calling her that? The evil doers, the media, not to mention the people she saw every day who didn't even know this was her secret identity... all with the 'Father Time'! She'd picked out a perfectly good name for herself! She simply hadn't managed to use it her first time out, and now no matter how often she repeated her actual name, the 'Father Time' thing wouldn't come unstuck.

The dark haired woman sighed. It was the beard, she supposed. She'd gone a little overboard by supplementing the robes of her costume with the white wig and beard. She'd have to do something about that. In the meantime... "That's 'Tempus' to y-- aw, hell."

The thief - vaguely decked out like a ninja - wasn't even bothering to wait for her to correct him. He had thrown the sack of stolen items over his shoulder and was now running away, towards the opening at the far end of the alley. Not for the first time, Lisa wished she had the power to actually freeze people in place. Or turn down the pocket of time where they were standing, so that they were hardly moving. Something else she'd have to work on. As things were right now, she only had the ability to adjust her own internal clock.

Oh well. Lisa sped herself up, and began to walk down the alleyway after Ninja Boy, who now appeared to be moving very slowly, relative to her. Of course, she'd pay for this act later tonight - the time had to be recovered somehow, so she'd be losing sleep again - but she simply didn't feel like running. She'd done it a couple times already this evening, plus the binding on her chest felt like it was getting to her more than usual, so best to avoid activity that would lead to heavy breathing. Not to mention how bits of beard tended to end up in her mouth whenever she drew in a long breath.

Momentarily, and not for the first time, Lisa wondered if this whole charade was worth it. Perhaps she should have simply dressed up in sparkly spandex and become the 'Time Fairy'. After all, 'Merry Maid' had gained a huge cult following in less than a week, and they never got HER name wrong.

Lisa grit her teeth. No. She was going to be a legitimate superhero, damn it. They'd laughed at Lisa's science, the science which had ultimately given her these abilities... she'd be damned before they looked down on the abilities themselves, simply because she was female. Or worse, tried to appropriate her powers, thinking she couldn't handle them. Besides, 'Merry Maid' was no one to look up to... she did more modeling than crime fighting.

Lisa could design a looser robe. That was it. One that would do a better job of concealing her curves, at which point a sports bra would probably suffice. The beard should be enough to throw the public off, after all. The damn beard. On second thought, maybe she should junk that instead. Except it also hid the mechanism which allowed her to disguise her voice.


Lisa looked past the thief and found her eyes rolling heavenward. Oh, COME ON. Could she not catch a break tonight? Not even a little one? It was late, so the streets were mostly deserted. Except for this exclaiming idiot who had appeared at the end of the alleyway, and was now, of course, pulling out his phone. But not to call the police, that would be SENSIBLE. No, from the way he was holding it, he was about to take a picture, or start video recording them. This posed a problem. Lisa's power had certain incompatibilities with video.

The mind was a peculiar place.
The problem, she had realized during her early tests, was not unlike the optical illusion that resulted from watching the rims on moving car tires. When they went just fast enough, the human brain would interpret them as rotating backwards. Because for whatever reason, it made more logical sense to the mind that they would have moved backwards by (say) 5 degrees, rather than forwards by 355. The mind was a peculiar place.

Lisa obviously wouldn't seem to be moving backwards. But to continue the analogy, slowing down a video of her "sped up" moments would allow people to see what was actually happening "between 0 degrees and 355". Which could be, to put it nicely, slightly disturbing. It certainly had been for her, when she'd seen footage. For while she might appear normal the majority of the time, occasionally, her body would look distorted instead. This might manifest itself in the manner of a time-lapse photo, or worse, as a picture where pieces of her body or clothing would seem to be missing altogether.

As such, before beginning this superhero crusade, Lisa had decided to do her very best to avoid using her power when in the presence of bystander recording equipment - if at all possible. At best, there was the chance it would freak people out (not what a superhero was supposed to do) and at worst, there was the chance that some detail of her person would be exposed, leading to the revelation of her true identity. For instance, if her beard appeared to be a few milliseconds out of step.

Here, it was possible here to act without her power. So Lisa shut it down and broke into a sprint.

She supposed she caught a bit of a break in that Ninja Boy now had to dodge around Camera Idiot. This threw the thief out of step, on account of the sack he was carrying, allowing Lisa to catch up. So credit Idiot with the assist - except it wouldn't have been needed at all if he hadn't shown up in the first place!

Lisa tackled Ninja Boy to the sidewalk. The sack went flying, and she quickly tried to crawl up to pin the thief to the ground, even as he turned his body to face her. Firing a quick glance over her shoulder revealed to Lisa that Idiot was still filming. "Call for help!" she snapped at him.

Idiot blinked. "Why? Can't you handle him, Father?"

For a moment, Lisa felt like tackling Idiot to the ground as well. Just because she COULD didn't mean she WANTED to. After all, just because you CAN make dinner for yourself doesn't mean you're not allowed to eat out on occasion! There was also the fact that she could disable the Ninja a lot easier by speeding up her own time again, to deliver a quick succession of targeted punches - except NOT while Idiot was still filming!

Though she supposed that what really pushed her buttons was that, in shortening her incorrect superhero name, it now sounded like she was his parent, or a priest or something. Why was she helping this city again?

"Erf!" was all Lisa managed to say in response, as the Ninja was struggling in earnest, and had just kneed at her thigh, in what she supposed was a failed attempt at nailing her groin. Which meant Lisa really didn't relish the prospects of a prolonged struggle. Ninja HAD dropped the items, maybe she could let him go with a stern warning? Except, again, Camera Idiot. So what were her options now??

"Got your back, Tempus," came a new voice.

Doctor Exacto.
Lisa looked over to see the figure running across the street, and felt a measure of relief. Doctor Exacto. Supposedly he could throw a scalpel with pinpoint precision, and with enough force to embed the blade into a solid wall. Not that such a power would be needed here, but at least a fellow superhero would have more of a clue as to the sort of help she required.

"Can we lose the bystander for five seconds?" she implored of Exacto, briefly throwing her weight back on Ninja Boy's legs, to prevent more kicks.

Exacto's eyes seemed to twinkle for a moment. Perhaps he grinned too, it was impossible to tell because most of his face was obscured by a surgical mask. With a flourish, as he completed his last few steps, Exacto pulled off his lab coat and tossed it over the head of Camera Idiot.

"Hey!" Idiot called out in annoyance, quickly moving to try to pull the garment off of him.

But this meant the camera was no longer pointed at Tempus. So Lisa sped herself up. A few swift jabs later, and it was all over. She stood, leaving the unconscious thief on the ground.

"Wow! Awesome!" Camera Idiot said, throwing the lab coat back towards Exacto as he looked at the man sprawled on the sidewalk, sidestepping to get a clear shot.

"Call. The. Police," Lisa repeated, barely containing her anger. As there was nothing much left to film, Idiot finally listened, starting to mess with the apps on his phone. The dark haired woman then turned her attention to Exacto. "Thanks for the assist here," she sighed. "You don't have to hang around though, I can handle the cleanup once the authorities arrive."

Exacto shrugged. "It's been a quiet night. I don't mind sticking around, unless that's a problem."

Lisa shook her head. "No problem." She fired off a smile of gratitude. Which was probably obscured by her beard. "Thanks," she added verbally. "It's nice to know that the more well known superheroes have my back."


Pat looked up as Ray walked into the room. "Any action tonight?" 

"Some," Ray responded as he pulled off his mask and rubbed his eyes. "Not on my part though. Our Mr. X got the night off."

"Oh? Who then?"

"Tempus caught a thief. With an assist from Exacto when some nosy onlooker seemed more interested in a scoop than actually being helpful."

Pat sat up, devoting full attention to Ray. "Whoa, Tempus? The newest one? How close were you? Did you get a chance to do the ol' X-Ray scan??"

Ray paused. "I was on the roof of a building across the street." Another pause. "Yeah, I was able to scan."


Ray rubbed his eyes again. "I owe you twenty bucks."


"I just... look, I doubt Tempus or Exacto THEMSELVES realized that they were both women! It's getting ridiculous. You would think the majority of the superheroes who resembled men would actually BE men. Right?"

Pat gave him a look. "Can you blame them after 'Merry Maid'?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know." Ray said, dropping into a chair. "Though in truth, it was bad even before her. 'ElectroShock Girl' was ripped to shreds by the press for being too 'unconventional'. Our society has a real image problem when it comes to women. Someone needs to do something about that."

"'Someone'? How about you?" Pat suggested.

Ray stared back. "What can I do?" He spread his arms out in a gesture of helplessness. "I'm just a superhero."

Points you can comment on below:
-Is Ray as helpless as he thinks?
-How predictable was any of that?
-Thoughts on my writing style?

If you DO like the style, consider checking out my math web serial, "Taylor's Polynomials", over at Shorter posts, longer plot. "Series 6" will begin in less than ten days.

Personally, I don't think I'm that good at short stories. They tend to want to turn into epics. Regular posts on this blog will resume with #101 later this week!

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