April 23, 1997
                           Alliance Headquarters
                      Shaft 991 Outcropping, Lounge 17
                   Somewhere near the center of the Earth

     Memorex fell back against the couch, eyes closed. "We did it. Flawless
     Hellfire giggled, sitting next to him. Her uniform was designed to let
her sit in seats without setting them on fire. It was an important
consideration for the young superheroine on the go who couldn't extinguish
the burning hellblaze that had replaced her flesh and bone. "It was a
birthday party, Mem. I think we could manage that much."
     "Down here in the Underdark, with th' war and all? Don't underestimate
just how much we needed this and needed it to go right. *And* we managed to
have Moxie."
     "Which everyone but you found repellant."
     "Not my business to tell them they're wrong." He smiled, opening his
eyes and looking at Hellfire. "Plus... well, makin' Transit smile was
important, Ticks."
     Hellfire opened her mouth to answer, then cocked her head slightly.
     Memorex smirked a little. "Ticks."
     "Why are you calling me Ticks?" Hellfire tried to look offended, but
she was trapped between baffled and a silly grin.
     "Short for Matchstick, but calling you Tick makes it sound like
y'should be shouting 'Spoon' and running on rooftops. Doesn't seem right
for a pretty girl like you."
     "But naming me after a colony of horrible insects does? This to you is
endearing, Bubbe?" Hellfire's grin had only grown.
     Memorex chuckled. "Hey, I wasn't about to call you Matches. Batman's
nickname is Matches. You don't steal nicknames from Batman. You'll get
messed up if you try."
     "Why not call me Hellfire? Or a nickname based on 'Hellfire?' Or, you
know, my name?" Unconsciously, Hellfire had leaned a little closer to her
     Memorex had moved a little closer, still teasing, but his eyes not
leaving Hellfire's. It took some doing to see her irises and pupils through
the glow and flame, but when her fires were banked like this it was
possible, and Memorex's senses were far more acute than most. "Everybody
calls you Hellfire. A nickname shouldn't be just bandied about. And your
name's pretty famous. Seems like I'd be outing you if I called you that."
     "I don't exactly maintain a secret identity, Mem. And of course
nicknames should be bandied about. I mean, *everybody* calls you 'Mem.'"
     Memorex shrugged. "I like callin' you something that everybody
*doesn't* call you, Ticks. Though if you want, I guess I could start
callin' you Sparky...."
     Hellfire giggled again, leaning back away from whatever was happening
-- which she hadn't even noticed she was doing so it was hardly a thing,
now was it? -- and smiling coyly. "Nuh-uh, Mem. That's a Chicks With
Attitude name. You are not a Chick With Attitude, so you don't get to call
me that."
     "Summer calls you that."
     "Summer's an honorary Chick With Attitude."
     Memorex chuckled, leaning back as well. "I thought you didn't take
     "We don't. But... Summer was a special case. Summer and Phobos being
what Summer and Phobos are... we wanted to bridge the gap between Maria and
Phobos a little, and Summer wanted that too. Especially after all the years
Maria pined for Phobos...."
     "Glad to hear it," Memorex said. His body language suggested he was
indeed glad, which surprised Hellfire.
     "I'm surprised," Hellfire said, confirming the body language. "I
thought the schism was complete, except for me. And Maria and I shared a
hideous transformation moment, so I was going to get over it."
     "You're in no way hideous, Ticks. You're amazing. And... c'mon. You
know Phobos way better'n I do. You tellin' me he wouldn't take any opening
Maria gave him to make peace?" He shrugged. "I don't have to tell you how
terrible Maria's betrayal was. You were kinda at ground zero for it."
     "Don't remind me," Hellfire said. "Seriously. I don't want to be
reminded of what happened there."
     "Gotcha. I get why Tim an' Samantha haven't been able to get over it
yet, and why Alice is so mad, and why Charlie growls when he sees her an'
all the rest. But Phobos... he's a leader, at the end of the day. And
leaders think about tomorrow, and do their best to tie up loose ends and
heal wounds. 'Least, good ones do, and Phobos--"
     "Is a great one. I know. I work for him, remember?" She grinned. "What
about the Brats? You guys seemed pretty pissed at Maria too."
     "We were. Buncha us still are. Porty's try figurin' out how to
skeletonize a meal that reflects all damage off her skin. Fridge and Kid-E
can barely stand to look at her. And I admit, I was pretty mad too."
     "Were?" She looked back, head cocked.
     Memorex shrugged. "My Mom'n'Dad taught me that holdin' a grudge was
like holdin'..." he paused, and smiled a bit more. "...a lit matchstick.
Sooner or later, you'll get burned, 'less you do somethin' about it."
     Hellfire giggled, then paused, her smile slipping. "So... in other
words, blow it out or drop it before you can get hurt?"
     "Nah. That's linear thinkin'. Unorthodox Lass--"
     "--whatever'd hit you with a water balloon filled with halon for that.
Sometimes you want to hold onto the matchstick, so you need to take
precautions. Gloves, say. Or dip your hand in wax like stage magicians
used'ta do."
     Hellfire got a bit of a smile back, but still looked a bit sad. "So
that's the trick? Always wear gloves, or put a layer between you and the
     "Sure. If you're normal."
     And then Memorex was kissing her.
     Hellfire was startled, eyes going wide, then closing as she molded
against him. Her flame burned hotter and higher, almost forming a corona
between their heads, so that one couldn't tell if Memorex was on fire or
     The kiss finally broke, though they stayed close within the halo of
fire. "Your face should be burned off," she murmured.
     "Yeah -- turns out Nobody an' Porty decided to be... y'know...
matchmakers." His voice was just as soft. "So they researched a spell
together. They literally had to brand me with a ward an' it hurt like no
one's business, but the fires'a Hell can't burn me now."
     "Really, Ticks. 'Cause I've wanted to do that since--"
     "The first day of class? Or 'Addams Family Values?'" Hellfire looked
     "The first day you guys came to visit an' there was dancing. Y'know,
when I ended up decking Kid-E an' almost got thrown out."
     "I can accept that." She paused. "You have *seen* 'Addams Family
Values,' right?"
     "Are you kiddin'? Do you have any idea how many skills I've sampled
from those movies? And I have a shockingly good Raul Julia impression."
     "Do you? That's great." Her smile grew a bit, though her eyes
narrowed. "Never, ever do your Raul Julia impression in front of me. Never,
ever. Not once. I will dump you the picosecond you do a Raul Julia
impression in front of me. Are we absolutely crystal clear on this fact?"
     "I... yes. Yes we are." He paused. "Is Christopher Lloyd off limits
     "What? No. Everyone does Christopher Lloyd. *I* do Christopher Lloyd."
     "Then we have detente." Memorex kissed her again, and Hellfire kissed
him back.
     A short eternity later. "Ticks? Really?"
     "That's how you know it's love. Any infatuated idiot can call a girl a
flattering nickname. If a relationship survives calling your significant
other a bug, it's in for the long haul."

                               October, 2007
                          Kenmore District, Boston

     Cairi blinked, turning towards her coworker. Blake had been crushing
on her pretty hard for a while, and she didn't have a good way of letting
him down easy. He'd taken to asking her random questions -- as flirting
went, she'd endured worse.
     But she'd also endured so much better.
     "Yeah, Blake? What is it?" She smiled, a bit wanly.
     "I asked if you had any weird nicknames when you were, y'know, a kid?
I was called Wallsy, 'cause I used to draw wallabys, like, all the time."
     "Yeah... I got caught in a memory. I had a few, yeah...." Sparky, but
Blake wasn't CWA so he didn't get to use that. 'Squant' was something her
brothers had called her, because she'd gone through a period being obsessed
with the Native American Squanto -- but that was someone else now, so she
didn't want to be reminded.
     *"...I like callin' you something everybody doesn't call you,
     Nobody called her Ticks any more. No one even remembered calling her
     "I guess not," she said. "Wallsy's cute, though. Customers."
     She walked over to the center island and stepped up behind the
counter. The Store24 was busy most nights of the week, given its central
location on the city streets Boston University laughably called a campus.
"Hi there," she said, smiling a bit to the old lady at the front of the
line. She was a regular. "Marlboros?"
     "And this coke and this gum, yes. And you need to eat something,
Carrie. You're so *thin.*"
     "You're sweet." She smiled again, ringing her up. "Next?" she asked,
looking at the counter--
     A pack of Teaberry gum, and a 20 ounce of Moxie.
     Cairi's heart leapt, and she looked up--
     Not Rip. So not Rip. The opposite of Rip, really. Pushing forty, but
looked older than fifty easily -- strain and multiple near-death injuries
over the course of his career having aged him somewhat prematurely and put
a lot of grey in his unruly hair and beard, then coming out of the war
having been a weapon, a pawn, a crucial element and a POW for several
harrowing weeks. And *then* he found himself a parent to three children,
one pair of twins and an older sister. A four months older sister. Awk-ward.
     "These," Scholarman said, smiling a slightly wan smile on his lined,
bearded face. "And hopefully a chance to steal your next break,
Cairistiona. It's been a while, after all, and what professor doesn't want
a chance to reminisce with his students?"

                                 THE LEAGUE
                            featuring characters
                  Frank Orzechowicz and *THE* Mason Kramer

                                 Episode #8
                              Eric Burns-White
               who is dumb enough to be surprised when these
               things grow in length, like he learned nothing
                      over the past twenty-nine years

                          INTERNAL CONTINUITY NOTE

     Readers will notice we don't bother putting Continuity Notes on these
posts any more. Why bother? They're period pieces and inevitably they're
timestamped. They happened when they happened. And Continuity? Doesn't
matter. This happened after stuff and before other stuff and during other
stuff. Heck, most other stories won't ever even mention the war, and why
should they?
     But things are a bit weird with today's episode -- not because of
continuity with the rest of Superguy, but because of internal continuity.
     You see, at the end of last episode, we had Transit going off to find
a detective. We had Alice getting ready for a family dinner with herself,
her sister, Elizabeth Tirkoff and Kirby Rogers, which had all the potential
for hijinks ensuing. And we had Maria and Darrin -- who loathe each other
-- having a late night assignation that both seemed to resent. And now we
seem to have Scholarman -- and who thought he'd do more than cameo? -- and
     Proper pacing suggests we should interweave between these subplots.
The slightest logic suggests *hours* would take place between them. So we
put this note here to say "eh, deal with it." Because seriously, who cares?
Mice? Do mice care?
     Damn mice.

                           INTERNAL CONTENT NOTE

     This post includes a conversation between Darrin and Maria after a
night of hate-fueled sex and no one to cut them off. They're sweary. Also,
there's some nudity, but this is text so eh.

                                * * * * * *

     When Maria woke up, the sun was pouring into the room like a knife
stabbing her optic nerve. Naturally, that left all kinds of interesting
patterns on the walls because she was nude, and because she'd let her
control slip in her sleep, activating her mirror force and making her look
like she was sculpted out of silver metal.
     On a table just off the bed -- which looked like a whirlwind had hit
it, which Maria supposed was true enough -- she saw a white tee shirt
neatly folded. Clearly left for her. Whatever else she could say about
Kid-E, he took care of his houseguests the morning after.
     Of course, given his proclivities and lifestyle, that was probably a
survival skill.
     Maria tried to push up, but her hand slid and she flumped back down,
the pillow skittering away from her head, reflected by the force. Rolling
her eyes, she concentrated for a moment, and her reflective skin faded to
the goldish-undertoned light brown she'd grown up with until the incident.
She pushed up and slid off the bed, walking over to the shirt and skinning
into it. It was big on her, of course -- Darrin was built like a pro
wrestler who was toned like a boxer. She couldn't deny that. He was
damnably good looking and damnably good at all this. It's why she kept
coming back.
     And she figured she must be okay at it, because he didn't slam the
door in her face. But then, she was female.
     Maria padded barefoot out of the bedroom into Darrin's living room. It
was actually a pretty bright and airy room, decent furniture, well kept up.
It was sometimes easy to assume the worst of Kid-E because of circumstances
-- but the tragedy of 'Kid Electron' had been he was good at everything.
Good at fighting, good at school -- apparently good at decorating and
keeping things tidy. He was good at absolutely everything.
     Except being a hero and a human being.
     But then, Maria was hardly the best of those.
     "Morning," Darrin said, a bit of a grin on his face. He was wearing a
white button down, red tie and grey slacks. And gold rimmed glasses. He
looked for all the world like an up and coming middle manager, not an
engineer. He lifted a pan off his stove and deftly slid a pair of fried
eggs -- yolks still a bit fluid Maria could tell, with a slightly griddled
tomato between the yolks and grated cheese sprinkled over the top onto the
top of what looked like a fresh waffle. He then scooped up the plate and
stepped around to the living room, where a table had been set up, with
orange juice, coffee, a bowl with sliced melon and the folded Boston Globe
     Maria rolled her eyes. Good. At. Fucking. Everything. "Looks great,"
she said, a bit muted. "Thanks."
     "Your gratitude is thanks enough," he said, a bit of sarcasm in his
voice in response to her response to his breakfast making skills.
     "Be still my heart. Why do you look like a Young Republican today?"
     "Because in fifty-seven minutes I have to walk into my office and
begin engineering electricals. Some of us aren't rich, y'know."
     "Says the man with the condo in the Back Bay."
     "That just means I invest well and jump on opportunity."
     "Why do you end up with the nice condo while Dani and Roger have a
hole in the wall and Cairi's place constitutes a closet?"
     "Because, my dear reflective Rita Riches, some of us didn't have a gig
after the Acadely, so had to do something mundane like go to college for a
career that nets him six figures."
     "So you get the nice condo, and the girl who once blasted Satan into
dust works bookbuying for under thirty K. That seems fair."
     "Exactly as fair as the girl who once betrayed and very nearly
murdered her best friends over an orgasm being rich as sin because one of
the people she betrayed died and left her a buttload of cash. And I can't
help but notice said best friend doesn't have any of that money now that
she's back."
     "I offered, fuckface. She refused. I offered to move her in and have
her be a roommate. She refused. She has pride, unlike some people--"
     "I thought I was the arrogant one. Low self esteem was always more a
Mem thing. Well, until he grew up and became a Heinlein main character as
played by Colin Ferrell during his good period." He stepped back into the
kitchen area, picking up a coffee cup and sipping. "On the other hand,
there's this hot chick who treats me like complete shit, and I still let
her in whenever she needs another fucking allergy shot, so there's a case
to be made."
     "Do you have to call it that? Oh wait, it's you. Of course you do."
     "What else do you call it? You loathe me, Maria. You hate everything
about me. So why are you here again?"
     Maria looked away, sipping orange juice.
     "No please. You're going remind all the people I actually care about
in this world about what an asshole I am for the rest of the day, so please
remind first -- why exactly are you here?"
     Maria looked back, eyes narrowed. "I'm here because when you can cut
loose with your abilities, you don't just have sex, you're a fucking roller
coaster of sensation. I practically have a body migraine for three days and
endorphins for nine." Her glare grew more intense. "So if I can fuck myself
blind with you, I'm not a danger to everyone else."
     "You mean you can't be seduced into revealing everyone's secrets and
nearly killing the sweetest woman on Earth. Again."
     "Oh Jesus. You had a crush on Samantha."
     "I'm human. We *all* had a crush on Samantha. You're high enough on
the Kinsey scale -- tell me *you* didn't have--"
     "Don't be vulgar."
     "Too late."
     Maria rolled her eyes. "Don't you need to go to that job."
     "Yes I do." He grabbed a well tailored sportcoat that matched the
slacks. "Feel free to enjoy the shower and whatever else, and have yourself
a wonderful day, Miss Mendez. Be sure to beg forgiveness of Jesus for
sullying yourself with me."
     "I will."
     "And then back on the fifteenth." Darrin rolled his eyes, and began
walking for the door.
     "You let me in."
     Darrin paused.
     "I don't exactly show up with sweet words and apologies and doe eyes.
Well, not counting--"
     "We don't talk about that night. That's not for us to talk about."
Darrin had turned back around.
     "I know. You let me in, Darrin. Every time. Even last night. And take
my shit both here and outside. So don't get high and mighty with me. You
don't have enough *pride* to say *no,* now do you?"
     Darrin's chin went up. "Maybe next time I will."
     "No you won't." Maria slid out of her seat, and peeled off the
borrowed tee shirt. "Hi. I'm nude. If I said the word, would you go to
     Maria slowly put her arms behind her head, arching an eyebrow and
shifting her weight ever so slightly onto one heel. "Well? Figuring out
what excuse to give your boss yet?"
     Darrin had flushed. "Maria--"
     Maria's reflective force snapped on, her body gleaming silver again.
She could *feel* the sensation of air, of the coolness of the A/C, the
fibers of the carpet be pushed away from herself, isolating herself in
complete numbness. "Well don't worry -- I won't drop the field until you
leave, so you couldn't do anything if you wanted to. Drive safely, Mister
     Darrin stared. He was becoming an interesting shade of purple. "You
utter bitch," he muttered.
     "I totally am. And I'm being cruel right now too, knowing you're just
as chained to your problems as I am to mine. A total bitch. But I'll drop
by the Church on the way home, and I'll talk to the Priest, and God will
forgive me. Who's going to forgive you, Darrin?"
     Darrin breathed hard, and Maria could hear a crackling sound. Behind
him, the Microwave's clock reset. Without another word, he turned around
and stormed out.
     Maria watched him go. After the door slammed, the silver field
dropped, and she folded her arms in front of herself, sitting down. She'd
gone too far -- way too far. Bitch wasn't a strong enough word -- she was
just *evil* to Darrin, and regardless of what he got out of this, he let
her desensitize with him, strings-free, and never told anyone else. He
deserved better than that. Especially with how much pain he'd be in soon
     "S'why I come here, right?" she murmured. "I betrayed my closest
friends before. Now I just betray a guy I can't stand. That's progress,
right?" She sighed. She had to talk this over with Cairi.
     Well, after the Priest, of course.

                                * * * * * *

     "So, you're freaking out. What's that like?"
     Elizabeth Tirkoff looked at her son. "It's like having a sarcastic
nine year old who's too perceptive for his own good."
     He shrugged. "I blame you. You're extra perceptive."
     "That's Extra *Sensory* Perception, and I don't actually have that,
thank you very much."
     Kirby cocked his head. "You don't?"
     "No. E.S.P. was codified in the CSGP-4 as the nonphysical reception,
perception and interpretation of contemporaneous stimuli through psionic,
mystic, or unspecified metanormal talented means, exclusive of invasive or
noninvasive technological methodology. Telepathy and Empathy are not
considered contemporaneous stimuli under that definition. Neither is
precognition or postcognition. Breaking the CSGP-3 definition into separate
classifications and talents caused quite a scandal among paranormal
researchers and therapists who had been grouping together mental perception
and communication and temporal perception in the definition for years. It
was largely decided the person who forced all this through was a horrible
shrew who should be shot out of a cannon into the Sun.
     Kirby nodded. "So it was you?"
     "Of course it was me. Grouping what I do in the same category as
Kent's Mighty Vision is ridiculous. We know better. We've made it better.
And I'm very, very powerful. Do not test my wrath." She smirked a bit,
brushing her hair out. "Mm. How're my roots."
     "Mostly strawberry blonde instead of whatever you were born with."
     "That! Is what I like to hear." She turned and kissed Kirby on the
forehead. "You look very gentlemanly yourself, Mister Rogers."
     Kirby flushed, shifting. "Yeah, well... Aunt Susan's coming over so--"
     "Aunt Susan's adorable and fun and knows how to make chocolate milk
last forever. Trust me, I get it." She grinned. }{Hey Alice -- what's our
     {{Susan's just out of the shower, she says. Call it eight minutes?}}
     }{I will *call* it *eight minutes.*}{ Elizabeth's smile grew a bit.
"And she's on her way -- so, let's go make sure things are ready."
     "Okay -- is she and Momma Alice gonna fight?"
     "*Are* she and Momma Alice gonna fight."
     "What're you asking me for?"
     "Did you set me up for that?"
     Kirby looked innocent, dashing out ahead of his mother, heading into
the living room of the extended suite. "Hi Buddy!" she heard him yell to
their cricket roommate.
     Elizabeth looked back at the mirror, and took a deep breath. "I dunno,
Kirby," she murmured to herself. "*Are* Susan and Alice going to fight?
Let's find out, shall we?" She checked her hair again -- Kirby was right.
The strawberry blonde was holding steady and her hair otherwise looked
good. She had showered and changed into 'casual' clothing -- jeans and a
sweater -- but upscale casual. The idea was Susan was family so they didn't
need to go all out, but at the same time she was a guest so they *should*
go all out. Her presence was special, but she could come by any time. Psych
204 stuff.
     }{Alice, why didn't social norms get written up in the DSM-IV?}{
Elizabeth sent as she stepped out herself. "How can I help?" she asked out
     "You can't set the table," Kirby said. "Because *I'm* setting the
table." And it seemed to be true, as plates and dishes seemed to mist into
view in their proper place.
     "And for this you need to be stealthed?" Elizabeth asked with a grin.
     "Always be prepared!"
     "My son the Boy Scout."
     "That's fine!" Alice called from the kitchen. "Come help me get things
ready in here!" {{They didn't get written up in the DSM-IV because you
didn't push hard enough, clearly,}} Alice sent telepathically. Elizabeth
could feel Alice's tension.
     }{I was only on the mailing list for that one. I had my hands full
with the CSGP-4. Remember?}{ Elizabeth walked into the kitchen. "What do
you need me to do?" she asked verbally. "Remembering that I am the single
most dangerous person you know when it comes to food preparation."
     {{Like I could forget. It was like watching every terrible trolling
comment thread collapsing together into a singularity of suck, but with
academic formality to make it all worse.}} Alice smirked. "Over there are a
series of vegetables," she said. "They have already been prepped. They need
to be placed into that bowl. Then, they need to be tossed with those tongs.
     }{Plus there was the knife fight at the Johns Hopkins Symposium.
Doctor Orletti should really have remembered I went to medical school there
-- I had the home court advantage.}{ Elizabeth smiled in echo. "So you're
saying you set up a safe environment for me to help while accounting for
the Lil-Factor."
     {{The horror... the horror... the catering at that thing was
*horrible.* Why do you go to those if they won't properly feed you?}} Alice
shifted entrees onto serving platters, carefully. "Consider it part of mise
en place." She giggled.
     }{It's like attending a Mortal Kombat tournament, only fatalities
equate to denial of tenure.}{ Elizabeth began putting vegetables carefully
into the bowl. "Man, Heather would *wince* to hear your accent."
     }{...oh God I want to film that so badly....}{ Alice laughed again.
"How *is* the redoubtable Ms. Thompson? Still poised to marry that tool?"
     There was a dinging sound as the elevator arrived. "I'll get it!"
Kirby shouted.
     }{...that was never eight minutes,}{ Elizabeth sent to Alice. }{I'll
go and greet her--}{
     {{Toss salad, Lil. I'll go greet her. I'm closer to ready than you
     Elizabeth smiled slightly. Alice smiled back, then blurred out towards
the door.

[[This is the end of Part 1 -- I hope you enjoy its delicious creaminess]]

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