The Prompt: The city's most effective hero doesn't have powers. He is just a simple therapist who joined the hero business after seeing one of his patients killed on the news.
In the dark recesses of the Mega City Bay Tri-State Area were a group of hooligans with green mohawks and wearing leather jackets, so that everyone would know how edgy and hardcore they were. They were engaged in their favorite pastime: spray painting penises on the wall of a public library.
"Dude, look how hairy I made mine," one of them said.
"Sick," said another.
Karl was drawing the most vigorous member of them all, with detail to rival even Bansky. He was the only hooligan whose parents had died at the Opera (they had indulged in some under-cooked salmon.) In other words, he was the only one with a compelling backstory.
He was also the only one who was so engrossed in his drawing that he didn't hear when a mysterious figure entered the scene. He didn't notice when all his friends ran away. In fact, he didn't notice the figure until he spoke.
"That's some mighty fine art work you've got yourself."
Karl turned around to see an elderly man biting into a thick cigar. His hair was neatly trimmed and silver gray. He looked healthy enough for his age, except of course that he was in a wheelchair. Everything about him shouted patriarch, even the chain hanging from one of his buttonholes and lead into his pocket.
"Whatever," Karl said.
"I prefer Brouilett, but to each his own. I'm sure the subject matter is dear to you."
Karl took out a knife and brandished it. "Is that supposed to be funny? Maybe you're looking to get hurt, old man?"
The man put up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "No, nothing of the sort. Just analyzing. It's kind of what I do."
Karl studied the man as he wheeled around, studying the graffiti and rubbing his chin. He felt as if he had seen him before. Must have been something about him. How else had scared away his friends?
"Say, what's your deal anyhow?" Karl said.
"You could say I'm something of a talent scout. You see, I run a school for psychotic youth."
"Might want to consider using some sort of euphemism in stead of calling your students psychotic there buddy."
The mystery man chuckled. "I suppose you're right."
It was then that Karl recognized the man's laugh from a news segment he had seen on TV. "You're that Professor guy."
"Professor F," he said while rubbing his chin.
"So what do you want with me?"
Professor F took a Moleskine notebook out of his pocket and wrote down a line or two. Karl would have charged him then and there, if only for bothering him, but it was rumored that Professor F had some sort of psychic abilities that could control people's actions. Finally, the professor looked up from his notebook.
"You remind me of someone I used to know. I was hoping you could take his place."
"Fat chance, I have a good life here in the slums of Mega City Bay Tri-State Area."
Professor F looked deep into Karl's eyes. "Did it ever occur to you that you're only graffitiing and doing crime because you're sexually attracted to your mother and want to kill your father?"
Karl dropped his knife. "Oh my God. You're so right. Why can't I direct my impulses into something positive?"
"It's alright." Professor F clapped Karl on the back. "You will be able to if you come with me."
"Are we going to your school?"
"Yes, my sweet Oedipus. Yes we are."
The Prompt:You finally got your affairs in order and are ready to retire, but the last thing stopping you is your old place. Turns out selling an evil lair inside a volcano is harder than it looks.
"And here you have the mind altering device, known to the general public as 'Social Media.' I've discontinued the function that sells information to third parties, but you can still use it to spread propaganda like mad." Bart Zuckerforg said to his potential buyer.
The man standing in front of Bart had both arms on his waists, carefully surveying the enormous lair. His eyes moved from the 'Social Media,' which was just a laptop on an old desk, to the Lava room, and the Human NewsCentralFeed, which was just a lot of people taking pictures of themselves eating food next to a Human Centipede with the hashtag #Blessed.
The man had a mustache that you could lose a finger in, and wore a loose wife beater so you could see his pecs from the side. "Why did you stop selling information to third parties?"
"Someone convinced me it was too Evil."*
"Well, I just need the propaganda function anyhow." He ran his finger across the surface of a stack of books filled with pictures of faces, and the finger got covered in dust.
"I'm sorry about the mess. I haven't been here in a while, and it turns out evil lairs are hard to sell these days."
"Just needs a good old fashioned Soviet cleaning." He knocked on a beam to check the sturdiness. "I'll take it."
"Wonderful. Let's get you in the system." Bart walked over to a lap top that rested on a podium on which was written, in sans serif text, the personal phone numbers of some of the world's foremost leaders, such as: Old Guy, Pladimir Stinkin', A Man Named Macaronni, and others.
Bart was tapping away at the keyboard, when a noise interrupted him. It was made by Generic Superhuman Person, as he punched a hole in the wall and let himself in. He wore a thick layer of spandex, which had the signature 'G' on his chest, surrounded by the logos of the various brands that sponsored him.
"Stop your evil doing right this second," he said.
Bart addressed the potential buyer. "I'm really sorry, this tends to happen around here." He turned to Generic Superhuman Person. "I already told you guys, I've retired."
Generic Superhuman Person pulled up his phone and recorded himself while saying. "Evil doers don't get to retire." He pointed at Bart Zuckerforg, and adjusted his phone to make sure everything was framed properly. "As long as you have free reign the people of Mega City Bay Tri-State Area will never rest easy."
Bart Zuckerforg pressed a button on his laptop and a beam disintegrated Generic Superhuman Person instantly.
"Don't worry about killing those guys by the way, they're all clones."
"I do not worry about killing."
"All right." Bart started tapping away again. "What business did you say you were in?"
"Spreading Marxist propaganda and overtaking the western world."
"Aren't we all?"
The man chuckled.
"just one more thing before I can get you in the system." Bart Zuckerforg turned to the man, "I need your villain name?"
The Prompt:After some investigation, you find out things about your father who died when you were a baby. Much more that you were in for, things that make you question who you are, and what you're made of.
"What do you mean my father was a toaster?"
"Haven't you ever wondered," the decrepit old man started, "why bread gets toasted whenever you walk into the kitchen, or why your skin is made of stainless steel?"
The ancient temple we stood in came crumbling down, just like my notion of who I was. I looked upon my metallic hands that had proven so effective at knocking around evil doers. Something I had been doing the last few months while searching for answers. It led me through government research facilities, undersea communes, and finally to this ancient temple in the middle of the rainforest. But instead of finding the ancient stainless steel chalice, I found this old man.
"So, I'm not a Mutated Human-Person," I said.
"No," said the decrepit man. The slightest bit of steam rose from his head and his forehead was perspiring. Must have been a difficult thing for him to come tell me this.
"And the accident in the toaster factory when I was just a little boy? The genetically modified beetle that bit me?"
"It never happened. Your mother made it up. Just like she sent you on this wild goose chase."
Muffled voices chanted around us. Something about having disturbed the dead. The temple had fallen apart enough that you could see the sky through the holes in the ceiling. Vines crept along the floor, getting nearer to us with every passing moment. The animated skeletons I had knocked apart were piecing each other back together.
"I was never 'Big Colossal Stainless-Steel Man.'"
He put his hand on my shoulder in a paternal way. "But you can be something even greater."
"Yes, my boy." He wiped the sweat from his brow and proceeded to prop open the top of his head, to reveal that his head was, in fact, a steaming pot of coffee. "You can be one of us. A 'Minor Appliance Man.'"
I sighed heavily. In a sense it was relief to know who I was. But I was also deeply frustrated. And all this time my mother had been hiding the truth.
"I know what you're thinking," Coffee Pot Man said. "But she was doing what she thought was best for you."
I pushed his hand off my shoulder. "Best for herself you mean."
"Well, she did get knocked up by a toaster."
The vines were moving in closer. Let them get me, I thought. What was the point if I was going to be a freak like this old man, when Coffee Pot Man opened up his head again, and seething hot coffee spattered over the vines, which retracted as if in pain.
"You're not half bad," I said.
He pointed at me with the sort of bravado that only old men can pull off. "And you too can be not half bad. But first we have to get out of here."
I chuckled and pressed down the levers on the side of my legs. I then picked up Coffee Pot Man and said, "You ready?"
No sooner had it said than we were launched in the air. The old man's eyes widened as we flew out of the crumbling ruins and landed safely in a nearby clearing in the rainforest.
"That was fantastic," he said.
I smiled at him and clasped my sides. Finally, I knew who I was going to be. "And you can expect much more in the future from 'Toaster Man.'"
The Prompt: Nobody knows you're a superhero. Not because you have a secret identity, but because your powers only work when nobody is looking.
In a rest stop just off the coast of the Mega City Bay Tri-State Area, a young man wearing an oversized trench coat sat by the counter and slurped a cup of stale coffee. His hair was a bright yellow that stood up in a magnificent display of the powers of hair gel. His name was Doe Johnson. While he sat there, a tube television in the upper corner played a news broadcast.
"I don't know if you're seeing this back at the studio John, but the tech billionaire turned supervillain, Bart Zuckerforg, is being overcome by some sort of yellowish liquid," the on-scene reporter said.
"Indeed it seems as if there is a water manipulator in the area. Can you get a good view of the superhuman in question Janet?" The newscaster said.
"No John, it seems that no matter where we turn the camera, the source of the liquid is always coming from behind an obstruction."
The cameraman turned the camera to a building, behind which a torrent of yellow liquid came spouting at Bart Zuckerforg, who commanded his drones to fly him away.
"The day is saved. Our secret superhuman defender has driven away the menacing billionaire," Janet said.
The woman behind the counter filled Doe Johnson's cup. "If I had those kinds of powers I wouldn't hide behind walls while I was using it."
Doe Johnson said, "Maybe he's doing it for a good reason."
An old decrepit man that looked as if he was about to warn you not to go into a dark forest turned to Doe Johnson and croaked, "What are you his boyfriend or something?"
Doe Johnson stood up abruptly and excused himself. As he walked there came a strange sound from underneath his trench coat, as if spandex was being rubbed against spandex. He walked to the bathroom, where a man wearing a cowboy hat stood and pissed at the urinal. Dow Johnson went past him into the stall, which was literally covered in shit. So, he stood behind the cowboy and waited.
Before long the cowboy turned around and said, "There are plenty of free urinals. Aren't you going to go?"
Doe Johnson chuckled awkwardly and said, "No, I can't go if anyone is watching."
The Prompt: The advent of superheroes happened 10 years ago. Now that society has adapted, hero agencies have sprung up left and right to stop supervillains. Being the most powerful being on the planet, the agencies all want to recruit you to fight crime. You, however, are content with your 9-5 office job.
"I am all-seeing, all-knowing, all-nine-to-five, and I am telling you you're not going to get a better deal from our competitors." Mr. Madison leaned back in his chair, and waited for his customer to agree. He knew he would agree because Mr. Madison did, in fact, possess clairvoyance. This was a great help during phone sales, although he had less luck in person, due to his grey, luminescent skin. The light he gave off was oddly similar to the fluorescent lights in the office.
"Alright, we'll keep you as our paper supplier. But please no deadpan humor satirizing the social milieu around the 2010's."
Mr. Madison flicked his fingers, materializing a contract out of thin air. "Don't worry, we fired that guy."
"Great, fax me the details." He hung up.
"Will do." Mr. Madison teleported the contract to the customer's fax machine on the other side of the tri state area. He took a sip of coffee and observed his workplace.
The office was a symphony of copy machines beeping, staplers clamping, and people living their lives in a single time plane. Mr. Madison enjoyed watching them. To him their lives were like a zoetrope, which, while producing the illusion of motion, were in fact stagnant images fixed in one sliver of the space time continuum.
Bryan, Mr. Madison's boss, stepped into his cubicle. "Hey, Mr. Grey, I'm gonna need you to come in to work this weekend."
"I perceive, and indeed, exist in time differently than you. I am, at the present moment, also working this weekend. As well as yesterday, and in a time where you are not here."
"Wonderful," Bryan said, already busying himself with something on his Blackberry. "Did you get to those spreadsheets already?"
Mr. Madison placed his hand firmly on a stack of spreadsheets and said, "It is my number one priority."
Pamela, the receptionist, leaped out of her chair and pointed to the window behind them. "Look out."
The wall came crashing down as a tentacle the width and height of a Canon IR6000 photocopier reached into the building, squashing Bryan in the process. Mr. Madison's cubicle was unharmed as he put a forcefield around it. The tentacle belonged to an otherworldly octopus monster as large as the building in which they stood. And outside, combating it, was Generic Superhuman Person. He puffed his chest, which sported his signature 'G.' Then he flew at the monster and punched it square in the mouth, which caused it to fall back and let out a roar in the ancient tongue of it's species.
"Is everyone alright?" Generic Superhuman Person called as he flew closer to the office workers.
"Bryan! Bryan isn't alright!" Pamela cried out.
He ignored her and addressed Mr. Madison. "Fancy seeing you here. Do you want to help me out at all, or?"
Generic Superhuman Person pinched the bridge of his nose. "Dude, you're the strongest superhuman out there and you haven't fought any villains since you started working here. Why is that?"
"I have something more important to do."
"What then, is so important, if not preventing Bart Zuckerforg from subjugating the tri state area with his Lovecraftian monsters?"
Mr. Madison still had his hand on the stack of papers. "Digitalizing these spreadsheets."
Generic Superhuman Person burst out laughing. "Spreadsheets! Do they serve some intergalactic function or something?"
"No, I simply find them pleasant. There's something about the triviality of the whole thing that amuses me."
"I am incapable of humor."
Generic Superhuman Person looked intently at Mr. Madison. Then he fixed his gaze on the spreadsheets and emitted a laser beam from his eyes. But just before reaching the spreadsheets, the beam stopped. And seeing that it was futile to try to fight Mr. Madison, he stopped.
Mr. Madison laid his hand Generic Superhuman Person's shoulder and explained through telepathy what was going to happen now. The Superhuman screamed in horror before he instantly disintegrated. The octopus monster from before charged at the building and was likewise disintegrated. Mr. Madison fixed the wall and reanimated Bryan before turning to the stunned Pamela and saying, "So, are you excited about casual Friday?"
The Prompt:Your superpower is Winning. No matter how contrived, absurd, or unrealistic, you never lose. You're beginning to think this is like some incredibly lazy comic book writing...
Thunder roared outside of the Beta headquarters, as Bart Zuckerforg commanded his minion (Disposable Employee Nr.420) to pull the lever and activate his greatest creation yet. It was a simple algorithm, but it's effects would be drastic. A project that would change modern life as we know it, and it's name was written on a border that ran across the room. The words were in bold, blue, sans serif text that read 'Late Stage Capitalism.'
Just as Disposable Employee Nr.420 lifted his crooked body to pull the enormous lever, thus exposing the text on the back of his work t-shirt that said, 'I'm a product,' the front door was thrown open. And through it came Deux Ex Machina, the world renowned superhero.
"What are you doing here," Bart Zuckerforg cried as he pulled on his large leather gloves and adjusted his goggles. You know, like a mad scientist.
Deus Ex Machina was a slender young man with an ethnically ambiguous background, for diversity reasons. He wore all the spandex and was surrounded by onomatopoeia. He leaned against the wall and picked his nose. "I'm here to stand around until something happens to foil your plan."
"Nonsense. There is nothing that can stop my plan. Worthless employee, pull the lever."
The healthcare-less employee went to pull on the lever when the aforementioned t-shirt caught on a modem, and he fell and hit his head on a photo album with nothing but pictures of faces in it.
"What are you doing this time anyhow?" Deus said.
Bart, who could not resist an excuse to monologue, turned on the record feature on his 'We're Spying on You Glasses.' This, of course, was not strictly necessary because they were actually always recording.
He said, "My latest algorithm will take all the personal data we have collected from people over the years and find out what sort of advertisements will work on them. Then I will sell that information to third parties. Imagine, we will live in a world where everyone gets told exactly what they want. And it's all perfectly legal because they agreed to give me this information."
"That sounds morally ambiguous."
"I know, right."
Bart Zuckerforg, who is by the way a completely fictional character, walked mechanically over to the lever.
"Why a lever though?" Deus said.
"It's to turn on the power, the algorithm requires a lot of electricity."
"That doesn't sound right, but ok. I guess I'll just do some random stuff and then whatever happens will determine whether what you're doing is ethical." He walked over to a table and had a sip of stale coffee and continued the game of solitaire that someone had started.
Bart Zuckerforg cackled maniacally as he pulled the lever. At the same moment, Deus Ex Machina spilled his coffee on an open wire that ran across the floor. This sent a shockwave through the complex that could have been prevented if safety inspector hadn't been an intern. Bart was zapped to death, but you couldn't see it because the word 'Zap,' flashed across the page in flashy onomatopoeia.
Deus turned towards the fourth wall and said, "I guess that says all that needs to be said about selling personal information to third parties. Also, like me on Facebook."
The Prompt: After partaking in a top secret experiment you have discovered you have developed amazing superpowers. One small issue, turns out you were in the placebo group.
John Guy skipped down the busy city street. Unbeknownst to all those people, he was special. But they would soon know his name. They would know what he was capable of. Not even his mother knew, even though he had secretly used his powers on her this morning. John Guy looked at the fruit vendor on his left, meticulously stacking melons on top of one another. John used his powers on him. It left no mark, but John knew what he had done. He itched to put his powers to better use, and had his wish answered when he heard a scream at the bank across the street.
On the other side of the glass doors, three masked men held the bank at gun point. Whereas the police would have had to bide their time and strategize, John simply threw the doors open and strolled onto the scene.
"Innocent bystanders," he said, "do not be afraid."
"What the hell?" The nearest robber said. A few bits of stubble on his neck were visible under the mask. And while he was not as burly as the others, he gave off a sinister aura. An aura that was further emphasized by the SG 553 he held in his hands.
John looked past the robber and addressed the crowd. "I possess a power that will swiftly dispose of these thugs."
One of the robbers at the back stopped showing money into bags and turned to address the robber next to John, "should I snuff him boss?"
"No, you keep doing bagging. I'll deal with this." He sauntered over to John. The robber towered over John, despite being the shortest of the robbers. "So you possess a power, you say? And you're gonna get rid of us."
"A superhuman power actually," John said.
The robber laid the barrel of his rifle against John's chest. "I hope for your sake it's bullet immunity."
"Even better," John said," I am an Empath."
"So you can control my mind or something?"
"No, I am really empathetic."
There was a long silence that was finally broken when the robber chuckled. The chuckle turned into a cackle and finally all the robbers were laughing in John's face. This did not dissuade him however. In fact, he was more determined than ever as he stared resolutely at the robber pointing a rifle at him.
"Laugh all you want, but I have been using my powers on you this whole time and I have deduced something important."
"Oh yeah, what's that?"
"You act all scary and tough, but deep down you're scared and wounded, just like the rest of us."
"Is that so?"
"Yes. And if you surrender I'm sure there are people that can help you."
The robber looked into John's eyes as he lowered his rifle. John extended his arms in preparation for a hug, when he was promptly clocked in the head by the butt of the robber's rifle.
A television in the corner of the room featured a news report outside of a barbed off facility. The newscaster read, "In a controversial experiment here at area 42, a number of people have died from radiation poisoning after being led to believe that they would gain superhuman powers. Fortunately, the people in the placebo group should be fine, as they were not exposed to any radiation. That's all from us here at 'Generic News-station.' Have a wonderful day."