Hive > Work Division > New York Anchor > Worker 4 / 5 : 1 month, 5 days, 3 hour, 03 minutes
A tense silence hung over the table as Cam and I locked eyes, a staredown to see who would fold first. We were even thus far, but the weak will of either could mean another vicious cycle. A bead of sweat dripped down my temple and a pain cut into my stomach. Then, hesitantly, Cam’s hand began to rise.
“Waitress, we’ll take another round of pancakes!”
I let out a pained sigh and slumped further in the sticky booth. What had been a covert diner meeting, tradition of all good escapes, had devolved into a competition in sheer gluttony. I was considering swapping bodies to clear the way when I noticed Cam’s side of the table. Seasoning shakers stood askew, upside down, but unspilled. Syrup sat tilted on their handles and she was in the process of building a house of cards from napkins. Somehow, they stood study as cardstock in her hands.
“You know something.” She finally said, breaking the silence only otherwise interrupted by demands for more breakfast.
“Define something.” I reflect. I knew where this conversation was inevitably going but it didn’t mean I would enjoy the journey. Rather than answer, she gestured emphatically at her standing tableau, then dusted a small pile of concrete powder from her jacket onto the table and gave that another emphatic gesture. I quickly covered my orange juice with one hand and slid it away from the grey snow.
“Fair enough.” I mumble into the glass, then dejectedly put it down as I spot some grey gunk forming at the bottom. I stare at the gunk for a few long moments as I think about how to begin.
“Just say it!” She blurted out, “I can handle it! I want the truth, I’m tired of just… guesses in my head, y’know?”
I nodded slowly, then quicker as I collected my thoughts.
“Okay,” I began, “Let’s start here.”
I quickly glance around, checking for any prying eyes and glad for the lack of cameras or security measures in general in this diner. Cam also craned her neck to check through the windows and in that moment, I split off the male counterpart to the body I was in, now both of the fit runner models occupying the pleather booth.
Cam turned as she noticeed the flurry of movement in the corner of her eye, then kicked out in surprise, knocking the table and cursing in a steady stream under her breath. The balanced bits come crashing down and both of me hurry to keep everything from falling to the floor. The few other occupants of the diner glance over, then return to their meals as though it were an everyday occurance here.
“Fucker, you do NOT surprise me like that when I am this full!” Cam hissed, swatting across the table at my arm.
“Sorry!” I both say through barely suppressed laughter and the hero slumped back in the booth with a huff. The waitress returned with a tired smile and another round of pancakes that I pass down to my new body. As he and Cam dig in, I start.
“So, basically, I am a few hundred people - including the guy you thanked for picking us up - you have some kind of balancing superpower, I briefly met a girl with fire powers, and there’s a space-texan on our ass with a laser that can rip me apart at the mental level.”
“Is that all?”
I nod grimly, then explain, “Yes, unfortunately.”
A heavy silence falls over the table, made heavier still by a liberal application of syrup.
“Basically, I can make clones of myself and I’ve got a sort of…”
“... me see…”
“Enough!” Cam interjected, a slight smile undercutting her serious tone. “So, what, we’re actually superheroes?”
“I don’t know.” I respond cagily, swirling the gunk in the glass to avoid her eyes, “I don’t feel heroic. My bodies pretty much spend our time doing labor, research, or consuming media to keep the rest from revolting.”
“Revolting? But they’re you?”
“Yeah, kinda, but they’re also them. We all have our own experiences and we choose what we…” I gesture vaguely in the air with my glass.
“Upload and download?” I interject.
“Yeah, something like that” I responded to myself, drawing an eye roll from my table mate.
“Okay, but you haven’t… I don’t know, sent off a few of you to... fight crime or rescue puppies or something?”
“I’ve been lasered four times now and it feels worse every time.”
“And it sucks! It only happens when I stick my neck out for other quote unquote supers.”
“Oh, excuse me for being a burden!” She jabs, both verbally and with her fork to her plate, though her tone is more teasing than hurt. My face burns as I realize my gaff and I quickly lean forward to explain, then stop to look at myself.
“That’s so weird,” I say as I touch my face, “I normally, in my old body, I don't blush. This is new for me!”
Cam gives me a deeply confused and concerned look and I barrel on as I feel my cheeks grow even hotter.
“Anyway! It goes against rule number one, don’t get noticed.”
“Rule one?” Cam asked, “There are rules?”
“Well, no, these are rules I set myself.” I chewed my lip, my eyes firmly locked on the gunky OJ. “I’m not entirely sure but… I think… I think I could cover the world in me if I wanted. I don’t think there’s a limit if I’m being honest. I can probably do quite a lot of damage before the Hunter puts me down once and for all, but I don’t want that. I want to just… be.”
“I’m sorry, roll back, you can cover the entire world? I balance things, how do I- Whatever, actually, I don’t want to think about that.” The way she looked at both me had subtly changed in those few seconds, a wariness creeping into her eye and voice. “So what are the other rules?”
“Don’t get noticed, rule 1, like you know” Cam nodded in response and I continued, “Rule two is experience everything. Since most, like, injury, death, sickness and the like don’t affect me… physically… and I can sort of… become anyone I want… I plan to try every experience a human possibly can. I want to be everyone, y’know?”
“Sure! Probably the most reasonable thing to be said tonight.” She ribbed, then added before trailing off with a pregnant pause “When you say that you can become anyone…?”
“Yes. Quite literally, it seems.” I glance about, then absorb myself and replace me with a copy of Cam. The original recoiled as though slapped and I quickly return the copy.
“WHAT THE FUCK.” She hissed.
“Sorry!” I say, checking around once more, then adding, “When I make a clone there’s a chance of them being slightly different, just random variations. If I do it fast enough and pick things to keep or get rid of selectively, I can sort of mimic anyone’s appearance. Probably even voice, though I haven’t tried with much success yet. It’s how I got the space-texan to leave.”
“Yeah,” she says, jumping catlike on my words before I can pull them away, “Explain that shit please?”
“Well, I just…" I rubbed the back of my neck, then glanced at her with a tense smile on my face, "I faked your death?”
“I… Y’know what, no, I refuse to be surprised by that at this point.” She crossed her arms obstinately and I chuckle darkly then finish with “I livestreamed the space cowboy killing us in the basement.”
Cam nodded slowly, eyes locked on the table, then finally pierced the newly fallen silence.
“How were the views?”
“Insane, easily triple your next highest.”
She closed her eyes and tightened a fist in victory and I raised my glass, then downed the OJ and cement as a toast. She raised an eyebrow as my face contorted in disgust and I split off an identical copy and absorbed the previous before the flavor could linger too long.
“Rule two.” I explained and she nodded, then prodded me to continue. With a sigh, I quickly fire through the third rule to keep my original as a point of reference and to keep my crime to an absolute minimum... until rule one gets fully broken.
“Rule five is ‘Stay Human',” I list.
“Awful subjective, that.”
I shrug, adding “Everything is subjective at this point. I literally can’t be human, or maybe, I can’t be anything but humanity, but either way, it’s a lot to handle. Easier to… to aspire to staying normal, I guess.”
“To me,” Cam said, eyebrows raised meaningfully despite her eyes staying on her near-empty plate, “staying human means helping people.”
“I’m not saying I’m not! Like I said, I helped you, I helped this dinky little farm town that now thinks I’m their god, I helped Mia-”
“The fire superhero?”
A wave of heat washes over my body as I think back to crawling out of the melted fleshpile of my clones, the first super I’d met held headless in my arms. I didn’t help Mia. I did everything I could - yet... A few more seconds and she and I could have escaped. I didn’t know her, but-
“Hey!” Cam said, snapping her fingers in my direction.
“Yeah, the fire hero.” I said with a start, then added “it’s lonely being alone.”
Cam regarded me, trying to decode what I had said, and I explained, “Rule six. It’d be lonely to be the only being on the planet, even if there’s billions of me. Equally, it’s lonely to cut myself off from everyone. I have to get involved with people, even if it risks breaking rule 1.”
We lock eyes and after a few moments we both smirk and I relent “Yes, on occasion, I’ll be pushed to super so I don’t have to be alone.”
Cam smiled, seemingly satisfied, and began to stack our empty plates on the edge of the table.
“Last rule's just to stay organized. With so many of me, it’s hard to keep track sometimes.”
Of course, there was the true last rule, rule eight, but implicit in rule eight was not to mention rule eight, as that alone would be more information about the base than I was willing to give out, even to someone I’d just shared a brush with death with.
Cam didn’t respond, her brow furrowed in deep thought as she carefully reset the table. After the syrups had been returned to their caddy and stray crumbs swept into a napkin, she finally said, “I like it. I think we’ll use that.”
I tilted my head, giving her a confused look and she glanced down at the table, “I used to wait tables, I like to make thei-”
“No, not that - what do you mean ‘use that’? Use it for what?”
Her smile grew slowly, creeping across her face as she pulled a pen from the depths of her jacket and began to sketch a pair of scales overlaying a thunderbolt on a relatively clean napkin. “The Stay Human Supers of… New… York!” She said, writing the same under the logo, “Or SHSNY.”
She turned the napkin towards me with a satisfied smile and slapped the pen down on it like a gavel. “Short notice on the name but it’s already on the napkin so it’s permanent, sorry babes, I don’t make the rules.”
“No, I do apparently.” I muttered and she gestured in agreement.
“Exactly!” she crowed, digging through her coat to withdraw a wallet from an inside pocket. Quickly, I pulled out the cash my clone had brought me with the car and together we formed a pile on a check that had appeared at some point in the conversation. “I’ve got the hustle, you’ve got the bodies. Same rules as you have, we do everything on the down low, try and connect with other people like us, try and get the jump on ol’ spurs and be heroooooes!”
I waved my hands, hissing “rule 1!” all the while, but the other occupants had come to expect noise from our corner and didn’t so much as glance up from their coffee.
“First,” I start, “We need more than just us two to start anything like that. Second, this is sticking our necks out way far when we don’t even know if there’s more of us - when we DO know there’s a danger of major lasering to the faceparts. Third, I’ve always wanted to join a super group this is rad, but fourth - what do we even super?! I’m not a fan of bright tights or working with the police and we don’t have any mustache twirling villains to face. Well, tex might, I haven’t seen his face yet.”
Cam groaned and rolled her eyes as she slid out of the booth. Wallet, pen, and logo-bearing napkin each vanished quickly into her coat and she gestured for me to follow. “Who cares about all that? Rule two, just experience it, dude!... Dudes?”
“Singular is fine for all of me I guess? I’m still working out how to refer to myself.”
“Lean in.” Camzilla suggested, the doorbell ringing above our heads as we stepped out into the cold early morning air. “Use the royal ‘we’.”
I shivered and blinked up at the clear sky. The east coast mornings were a different kind of cold to the west, I noted.
“Come on!” Camilla insisted and I shook myself from my thoughts.
“What’s your boner for heroing anyway?” I asked, gravel crunching loudly underfoot as I jogged to catch up.
“It’s cool?” She scoffed, then added, “I don’t know, I watch movies, read comics, I’m on the internet, superheroes are just… a thing. If you have a power, you super! I’ve always dreamed- especially when I noticed my talent- you know how you sort of daydream, what ifs about-”
I raised my hand, nodding wisely, and opened the door to the rental car. She got in and I leaned over the door, a supercilious smile tugging at my lips.
"Wanna hear an embarassing story?"
"Of course!" She said, tucking her chin into her palms expectantly.
“When I first discovered these powers I got myself into some trouble and had to rescue myself. I ran from my house to these dark woods nearby with a garbage mall katana. I was ready to kick ass and save damsels, even if they’re myself.”
Cam smirked and I added “The worst part is, I was so hyped up on my own superness, I full ass ran past some kids, shouted what I thought was a pretty cool catch phrase at the time, then repeated it while running away from the guys I was rescuing me from.”
A cringe-induced smile crept across my passenger’s face and she asked “What did you say?”
“I believe it was ahh… ‘School is an illusion, buy a katana.’”
I closed the door to cut off the peels of laughter and went around to take my seat.
Hive > Home Anchor : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 42 minutes
<Stay Human Supers of New York.>
Hive > OG : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 42 minutes
<Yeah, not the catchiest.> I thought while pouring a cup of tea for myself and my mother, <We can do better.>
Hive > Home Anchor :1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 43 minutes
<That wasn’t the question!> I respond with a smirk and leaned back in my desk chair, <Are we doing this?>
Hive > OG : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 43 minutes
<Let’s put it to an anchor vote.> I impose, carefully walking both cups out of the kitchen, <Aye, we join her, nay, we support her but stay out of it.>
Hive > Work Division > New York Anchor > Worker 4 / 5 : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 44 minutes
<I should get a vote too.>
Hive > OG : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 44 minutes
<That sounds fair. I’ll start, Aye.>
Hive > Home Anchor : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 44 minutes
Hive > Mountain Anchor : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 44 minutes
Hive > Base Anchor : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 45 minutes
<Speaking for everyone at base, I vote Aye.>
Hive > Town Anchor : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 45 minutes
<Aye, but I have some concerns.>
Hive > Research Anchor : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 45 minutes
Hive > Airport Anchor : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 46 minutes
<Nay, too risky.>
Hive > Work Division Leader : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 46 minutes
<Speaking for Seattle, New York, and D.C. anchors, resounding aye.>
Hive > Ops Division Leader : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 46 minutes
<Same. Sorry, uhh.. Speaking for mapsy, notesboy, and squareeyes, Oui.>
Hive > OG : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 47 minutes
<I’m assuming you mean Maps, Scribe, and Entertainment Anchor?>
Hive > Ops Division Leader : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 47 minutes
Hive > OG : 1 month, 5 days, 5 hour, 48 minutes
<Rule number seven, please, Ops Leader.> I sat down, counting votes in my head while I sipped the hot tea, then added, <Oh, New York Worker Four of Five, your vote please.>
<New York Worker Four of Five?>
Hive > Work Division > New York Anchor > Worker 4 / 5 : 1 month, 5 days, 6 hour, 00 minutes
- Seattle, Washington, USA
Busy with life and a broken brain, so chapter releases are a tad slow. I'm aiming for releasing a chapter every other Friday between my two active fictions (Ironically, my only isekai fiction is on hiatus until I figure out where the hell I'm going with it). Critique welcome, as I'm aware my style is a bit stilted and overly-wordy and my ideas half-baked.
Additionally, I am looking for any editing work. I focus primarily on flow and subtext analysis and only ask for exposure at this point in my career.
Please join my subreddit for release announcements and the occasional meme or billion.
- La Fusilada: 20 chapter film-script-cum-novella following an alternative history where El Fusilada was a woman and kicked ass. Revenge western ala Kill Bill meets Hateful Eight.
- I Will Be Everyone: Fully pants-ed episodic superhero story following a hive mind of infinite-clones who are too polite for world domination.
- T.R.E.E.S.E.K.A.I.: Reborn as a dryad in a weird new world (will continue... eventually)