Vim & Vigor 3
(A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)
Greg Veder’s Home, April 10th
I couldn’t help but yawn by the time I was done with my half of the report. Scion’s death wasn’t officially confirmed by Protectorate or anyone in the know, but everyone basically assumed that he was long gone. After all, he hadn’t been seen since 2008.
There were a couple of theories flying around, so I would have to use those, along with references to official sources while keeping my personal opinion out of it. I could just copy and paste, knowing Mr. G wouldn’t really care if I could spin it right, but that was being lazy and I had to make sure it was good enough to meet Taylor’s standards. I didn’t want to do it by halves and run the risk of her getting a bad grade when she trusted me to help her out.
It wasn’t like we could rely on Sparky—not when every other grouping we had with him left the two of us doing the majority of the work. He had his own thing and wasn’t into the cape scene like we were, so he’d just leave it for us to deal with and coast by. Not fair, but it wasn’t worth picking a fight I couldn’t win over. Plus, I’m thinking he might be stoned a good portion of the time anyway.
If I was allowed to use my personal theory, I’d say that Scion was the source of all powers to begin with. I mean, the moment he went pop was about the same time that some people had their own powers turned against them upon triggering, being too powerful for them to contain. You never knew how the next trigger event was going to turn out—either you were going to get a cool power, a crappy power, or end up in a state of constantly melting and reforming into what looked like new age art sculptures while feeling every bit of pain until the PRT took you off and put you in stasis. But no, I couldn’t use that since it counted as a personal opinion, as there were no solid or proven facts to back that up.
I sighed as I gave it another read-through and then sent the report to Taylor as an email attachment, to get her opinion on it. If she needed me to revise it to match her tone then I could do that later. That left me a few hours of free time to myself….
I guess I’d go out to the Market then. There was no point in poking around on PHO since TinMother accused me of starting a flame-war. I swear she’s biased against me. Besides, I could find some things to improve my costume with my allowance there.
My vision briefly blurred until I rubbed my eyes—too long on the computer and the bright backdrop again. Closing the laptop perched in the main niche of the computer desk, while game boxes were lined and stacked next to one another on the sides, I got out the swiveling chair. My bones cracked as I stretched and turned to the opposite wall, the shelf of which housed my books, and walked out the door to the Living Room.
Dad was at the table, looking at a bunch of papers dealing with his job. He only stirred when my shadow blocked the light for a moment. “What is it, Greg?”
“Can I get my allowance?”
He didn’t look up as he pulled out his wallet with one hand and wrestled out a fifty with two fingers. “Don’t spend it all in one place.”
“Not so fast.” Mom came out of the kitchen and plucked it out of his hand before I could get it. She had a look on her face that she got when she had something she wanted to say, which could be good or bad or downright awkward. Case in point being when she tried to ask me if Taylor and I were intimate a day after what happened to Taylor that night I caught her out during her cape thing.
Not the type of thing you wanted to talk to your mother about under any circumstance, but the cover story we had used involved saying we were going on a date to test the waters when one of the Merchants attacked Taylor while trying to get away from her cape alter-ego. It still sounded loads better than what may have been construed as me stalking her one day after class until I uncovered her secret. That’d come off as me being a creeper when I was just concerned about her.
I had been worried about her since she had been acting strangely for a while after the Locker Incident. It was hard to put into words, but she carried herself differently. Before it happened, Taylor would try to avoid the Mean Trio and always had this hurt look on her face after they messed with her.
After the locker, she honestly didn’t look like she gave a damn anymore. She just put up with it before hopping on the computer. Not that anyone else noticed. They were usually either laughing or trying to look away so they didn’t end up the next target. I… was no better.
I never laughed at her, that stuff wasn’t funny. But I was coward for not sticking up for her before, powerless. Maybe that was why she didn’t talk to me too often, despite us having a lot of the same interests. Who’d want to be friends with a coward?
Anyway, I went online and managed to piece together the sort of things that some parahumans went through to trigger, information that was a lot scarcer than you’d think for the record. Between the constant bullying and being shoved into a locker full of that filthy stuff, how could she not trigger? It was common sense.
After that, my first thought was to go tell her I figured it out and to be careful in hiding her secret identity. I didn’t plan on blackmailing her or anything with the information, which would have been stupid. I just wanted to be someone she could vent all her cape secrets to and be there for her when she needed to talk to someone in the know about both her identities.
So I followed her with a pair of binoculars and found her secret base. She went out in costume, I followed. Bad things happened, Taylor’s leg was broken because I distracted her before she could get away completely, and I was fairly sure a Merchant got his eyes pecked out by a bunch of crows.
Even with the cover story, Mister Hebert was not pleased when he picked Taylor up from the hospital. He probably blamed me his daughter got hurt. To be honest, I blamed me too.
Still, I think Taylor’s forgiven me as long as I help her out and we’re getting along now. I’m okay with being her replacement until she gets back on her feet. After that we could be a hero-duo.
I could see it now—Vim and Vigor, heroes of Brockton Bay.
“Greg!” Mom snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Did you hear me?”
“Sorry, got distracted.” I winced when she frowned. “I’ve just had a lot on my mind, Mom. Say it again.”
She put her hand on her hips in that ‘Mom’ way, eyes narrowed. “Did you call your grandmother?”
“I’ll do it later.” Honestly, I was relieved it was a safe question that I had tuned out by accident. “It’s like two in the afternoon so she’s probably sleeping. I don’t want to wake her.”
“Hmm, is that right?” She crossed her arms. “And when are you going to actually introduce us to this girl you were seeing? It’s been some time and you won’t even give us more than her first name.”
And there’s the not safe question. I sighed. “We’re not like together-together. The hospital trip and leg thing kind of put a damper on that. Plus her dad scares me.”
“That’s what fathers do,” Dad decided to chime in. “Your mother’s actually threatened me with a baseball bat and a warning if I didn’t have her one minute after nine he’d ‘aim for a homerun’. Joke was on him, we left the movies an hour early and—”
“—we’re just friends for now.” I finished, cutting off wherever that was going. Could have been innocent, probably not. I was not prepared to listen to it either way.
“I’m sure both of them will come around eventually. You’re a sweet boy, just like your father was at that age in some aspects.” She eyed Dad for a bit and nodded to herself. “And when she does, you will….”
“Introduce you, got it.” I’d better end this conversation before she gets to the point of wanting grandkids next or keep making those lovey-dovey eyes at Dad. I’d rather deal with the Merchants than sit through either of those. “Can I get my allowance now? The bus will be at the stop in a couple of minutes and I want to go to the Market.”
She leaned down to give me a kiss on the forehead and then gave me the money. “Be back by dinner time.”
The Market was busy like always on the weekend. It made getting through it a pain, but it was worth it just for the hot dogs sold at one particular cart here, between the pretzel guy and the ice cream lady. The guy running it, who struck me as a Bob, knew just the right way to mix chili, coleslaw, ketchup, and honey-mustard into a work of art I couldn’t copy at home.
I’d love to just sit and enjoy a few of them all day, but I came out here for a reason. People often rented the stalls here to sell their stuff, like some classic action figures, neat handmade jewelry, and things like that. It was basically a super thrift-garage sale, cash exchanged and no receipts.
That meant I could find the next piece of what I was looking for to make my costume without someone tracing me through online purchases.
I dressed down in jogging pants and an old jacket with a few tears, keeping my hood up and my head down. I normally did it because I didn’t want to look like someone who you’d get anything out of if you mugged them. But as long as no one got a real good look at my face I could pass as just another blond-haired, blue-eyed white male in a city where the E88 have a pretty solid footing. No one would be able to easily identify me from wearing a dyed version of something I bought from them.
I still had no real solid plan with how the costume would look. I was putting it together piece-by-piece, based on what I needed and what I could afford, rather that the appearance. After all, I could spread an Invisibility field over myself and whatever was in my empowered hand when I activated the power now. If they see me then either I’m blasting them with lightning or I’ve done something very wrong.
All the same, I did need something to block bullets and knives in the event that someone got the drop on me and I couldn’t get the protective field that blocks metal up in time. Or they actually use something not-metal, like a baseball bat. It’d be embarrassing to get taken out by some mook with a baseball bat. But going to someone like that Rogue who did costumes was expensive and so was tinker-tech.
Tinker-tech would be best, but I saw the price on getting an undersuit made of the stuff and nearly spat out my drink. A bullet-proof vest was reasonable and more economical, but I wasn’t likely to find one of those here. That being said, I did see one guy who had a chainmail shirt for sale that could probably stop a knife the last time I came by.
Actually, I should probably get that now, to be safe. I finished off the last bite of my hot dog, wiped my mouth with the napkin, and tossed it into the trash bin that was overflowing with disposed papers and wrappings. Then I went over to where I last saw the chainmail guy.
He knocked five bucks off of it from the last time, so it was only half of my allowance. That left another twenty for me to burn, which I considered using on a pair of brass-knuckles next but ultimately decided against it. Going mano-a-mano was liable to get me beaten up without years of martial arts training to back it. Plus, it was kind of redundant when I could fling lightning at bad guys.
Bag of chainmail in hand, I went to the bus stop to wait for the next one to get back home. I was in the middle of checking the time over the phone when a slim and dark hand held my wallet over my shoulder. I looked up to see that it belonged to a girl who looked a few years older than me.
She had dark olive-skin with similarly dark hair, which had two streaks of red going down the front. She also smelled a bit like a distillery, but I tried to ignore that. “You dropped this.” She lowered it into my lap. “Be more careful, your ID and everything is in there.”
“Thank—” She walked away before I could finish, pulling up a hood over her head and crossing the street. She came to a stop at the mouth of an alley and just sat there, back against the wall.
I opened my wallet to check and see that everything was still in there. She didn’t take anything. When I looked up I saw that she had turned her head away from me in a hurry. Crap, I hope I didn’t insult her by doing that in front of her.
She looked my way a final time and then disappeared further into alley. So that would probably be a ‘Yes’ on the insulting bit. As if I didn’t have enough to feel guilty about.
I sighed. She seemed a little older than me, yet she was on the streets and smelled like booze. My brain couldn’t help but go to the logical conclusion that she was either homeless or a runaway. That was a shame, especially given how nice she was to return my wallet to me, but there was nothing I could really do about that.
Just having powers isn’t enough to fix everything.
I pushed the depressing thoughts back and focused on what I would do my next night out. By then Taylor would have a new power waiting for me. I couldn’t wait.
End Notes: Shorter than I like, but that’s all I got for the moment.