This is an alternate world, divided by power. Not the power of politics or wealth, but literally by power. There are Normals, like you and me. Regular people with regular problems. And there are Supers, people who have developed superhuman abilities. Heroes and Villains who play narcissistic games for the cameras backed by corporate sponsors. In the usual comic book world, they would be fighting the noble cause, with human flaws.
But our alternate world is a bit more honest. They fight for money. Sponsorship, corporate backing, endorsements. And the Normals eat it up, they bet on the outcomes, they buy the merchandising, the root for their heroes AND their villains even though they run the risk of being ground underfoot in these showcase battles.
For the Normals, It's like living your life in the center of a World Wrestling ring or the middle of a NASCAR track.
It's a multi trillion dollar industry. Society is based on it. It's perfect for the powers that be, they have a major stake in the status quo. It's an industry where the very people most at risk, the Normals, are caught up in the thrill and adventure of the battles. Who would want to change that?
A strange, new, unknown hero is taking down the Supers. No one knows who he is, or where he came from. He doesn't seem to have sponsors, he's acting outside the Super Rules of engagement.
He is a threat to everything the world has become. So who is he?
He is a she. She is a college student. She has no powers at all. But she has a focused rage that will bring them all down, once she discovers their secret.
To quote VilleAnne:
"It's a fucked up world with fucked up rules and fucked up people doing fucked up things. If it weren't for the fucking companies that fuck people up, we'd be more fucked than we are. But the fuckers they pay are the fuckers we love, which is fucked.
I could walk away from it. After all, there is no way to change it, no way to fix the system, right? Everybody knows one rule is absolute... Normals can't stand up to Supers.
But fuck it. I'm in."
It was showtime.
Incinero strode into the bank, confidence dripping from every swaggering step. He idly rubbed his fingers together, satisfied by the smell of sulfur and carbon as small sparks flicked from his nails. He paused and inhaled deeply. The room was large and traditionally ornate, stock paintings of idyllic landscapes and long dead men hung on the walls. The few people working and the customers paid no attention to him. He noted where the security guards were stationed. Then, with his trademarked sneer (it was, in fact, trademarked), he dramatically raised his arms and loudly snapped the fingers of both hands.
Gouts of flames erupted, covering the entryway. Drapes caught fire. Trash cans caught fire. For a moment it seemed like the marble façade on the inside of the entryway would catch fire, too. People turned in shock, that instant of timeless decision where shock overcomes survival instincts. Some of them looked up at the fire sprinklers in the ceiling, waiting in vain for them to activate. No, they had been taken care of earlier. This was not Incinero's first rodeo.
With a flash of billowing smoke, Incinero, master of flame and fire, stepped through the shimmering wave of heat into the lobby of the bank. "Everybody freeze!" he commanded loudly, "This is a robbery! Anyone moves and I'll kill every single one of you!"
The bank's patrons and staff all froze in place as commanded. The guards, with their hands already hovering near their holsters, exchanged looks as if waiting for each other to make the first move. "No, no" Incinero wagged a lightly flaming finger at them. "Put them down." The guards slowly complied. Incinero grinned. "Good. Now that that's out of the way, down to business. I'm here for the money." His eyes scanned the terrified people in the bank. Incinero had a reputation. Bystanders weren't safe around him. It didn't matter if you were an innocent person or an inanimate object; if he wasn't happy with where you were or what you were doing, he would torch you. He'd spent a lot of time developing that reputation and it served him well.
One young man stepped forward, abundant unkempt hair, ragged shorts with a college sweatshirt and a large knapsack over his shoulder. He had a silly grin on his face as he stared in abject admiration. "Awesome!" He exclaimed. "I am so much a fan, dude. Mr. Dude. Incinero, Dude!" Incinero rolled his eyes. There were always one or two groupies at every caper.
"Mister Incinero will do." He corrected the young man.
"Awesome. Mister Incinero." The boy was in rapture. "I am so your biggest fan! I'd love to be your..."
"Your sidekick" Incinero completed the sentence. It was expected, he'd heard this request before. "You'd do anything I say? Undertake any task? Go to any lengths to be my minion?"
The young man practically wet himself with excitement as he nodded his head vigorously. "Anything, man, anything!"
Incinero feigned consideration. "Tempting..." he said, allowing the boy's hopes to soar. "But, no." And with a flick of his finger, the young man's rich mane erupted in flames. He screamed and fell to the ground, pounding at his hair to extinguish the flames. That should get the point across, Incinero thought to himself. Truth is, most Supers don't have sidekicks nor a need for one. There are too many willing citizens to help out, even if they didn't want to.
"You!" Incinero pointed at one of the tellers closest to the door that blocked the area between the lobby and the teller booths, "You're going to be my hands." The terrified girl in her late twenties with long dirty blonde hair and wearing a nice business casual blouse broke out into an immediate sweat. The silk of her shirt began to stain. She nodded her head and slowly stood up from the chair behind the teller window. "Y-y-yes, Mister Incinero... b-but what do you want me to do?"
Incinero glanced around the bank. "Everyone, if you have a bag, backpack, purse, briefcase, doesn't matter, empty it now, into the center of the room. You, " he glanced at the teller again, "are going to go around and collect them and then fill them with cash. What's your name, girl?"
"R-robin, " she replied. She was so shaken it almost sounded like a question. Incinero barked a laugh. "Excellent! You're going to help me with my robbin', Robin!"
She walked out into the lobby and started collecting bags. Incinero watched her carefully, also trying to keep an eye on the guards. "Now, Robin, as you fill those I want to make sure that you don't fill it with the bad cash. I don't want ones or fives or tens, I want twenties and hundreds. Give me the good stuff, Robin and everyone here will be OK."
One of the guards made a slight movement, Incinero jerked his head to the right, squinting his eyes and keeping a close watch on the man. He waggled a finger back and forth. "Unh unh unh," he warned. The thought that was predominately going through his head was ‘Sheep.' He glanced up at the clock on the wall. Three and a half minutes had passed so far. Good, he thought to himself, plenty of time for the police to show up, barricade the street, and for me to kick the crap out of Amazing when he arrives. He was loving this day.
The people had now emptied their belongings in the center of the room and were cowered in the bank lobby trying to stay out of his sight and not attract his notice. He wasn't interested in their paltry possessions, only a true rube like Johnny Snow or Meltdown would be interested in minor baubles. Cold hard cash was his interest in this caper.
The young man was still on the floor, his hair now gone, whimpering slightly. Incinero ignored him. A couple times every minute Incinero would snap his fingers, sparking up more flame and tossing it behind him, keeping the curtain of fire blocking the entryway. This served a double purpose; not only did it stop anyone from getting in or out, but the fire also made it near impossible for snipers to be able to get a line of sight into the bank. While he had a role to play, and knew it, there was still no accounting for the fact that sometimes these pesky Normals would do things like have SWAT sharpshooters try and take down a Super. Incinero, as was common among Supers, was careful to safeguard against this. Even Tank, with his armor, still didn't appreciate the sting of a well placed round. And Incinero was lacking Tank's two inch thick hide.
Robin was hurrying, almost complete with her circuit of the lobby. As she collected the last backpack and headed back to the teller area, Incinero spoke again. "Take your time, Robin, I don't want you to rush through things and miss some money. But don't take all day. I have things to do." He let a slight menacing edge of anger into his voice, even though he wasn't feeling it, just to keep the people intimidated.
Haltingly nodding assent, Robin hurried back. Popping the drawers at each teller window, she started scooping out twenties, fifties, and hundreds, shoving them into the bags that she had collected from the bank's patrons. Incinero smiled as he watched. This was going quickly, perhaps too quickly. He still had be outside at the appointed time for the big battle. "And don't forget the small safe where the drawer refills are kept." he spoke loudly. He wasn't sure what the correct bank parlance was, but she got the idea. "Make sure all of that money makes it into the bags also."
Robin stammered, "Yes, sir." and hurried to comply. While Robin was collecting money, Incinero glanced around the room to make sure everyone was obeying his orders. His eyes drifted to the main vault door. It was closed and locked, which he expected. He fantasized about the day that he'd be able to hit the main bank vault. It wasn't within his mandate, of course, as the bank had to have some working capital remaining directly after a job. Villains were specifically forbidden to completely drain financial institutions, but he'd been working on the idea as a sideline, his ‘master plan' to do an unscripted job. He could see the inside of the bank vault in his mind; shiny, dark, the most beautiful thing he could imagine. Void of human trash. Just him and best friend... money. Other people's money. Bags and bags of it, safely sitting stacked and ready for him. A smile slipped across his lips.
His eye caught the time. As he thought, he was ahead of schedule. He had plenty of time before Amazing showed up. "Alright. Next step, people, " he spoke loudly, "You. Yes, you." He pointed to a scared man cowering at the slip counter near the entrance. The man wore a suit that tried to look expensive, topped with an overcoat. He was probably an accountant or some other low level executive. Stress from a job that was too hard to do, though it shouldn't have been, had put worry lines around the man's eyes and left him prematurely balding. The man looked like he was about to cry but managed to nod yes.
"Good. You come here, " Incinero said. The accountant or whatever he was stood up and shakily walked over to Incinero. As he neared, Incinero pulled a steel thread off of his belt. The looped thread had been clipped there earlier. Unspooled, it would have been a dozen feet long. He handed the thread to the man. "Now, you take this to Robin and you clip all those bags together by the handles."
Trying not to sweat or let fear overcome him, the man accepted the spool of steel thread from the Villain's outstretched hand. Hurriedly, he crossed the bank lobby, careful not to get to close to anyone else and stepped back into the teller's cage. Robin and the accountant began tying the bags together.
"Good, good." Incinero said, "Just a few more minutes, people, and I'll be out of here with my money and you can go about your day." He punctuated the words with another snap of his fingers, sending more fire into the wall behind him, keeping that entrance covered. This was the most exciting thing to happen to these Normals today. Maybe in their lives. But this was just act one in Incinero's day. He mentally prepared for the battle ahead.