Justice Backers: Secret Shuffle (Part One)

(reading time: 49 minutes) (reading time for entire novella: 3 hours, 25 minutes)

Backer Update #51 (Game Over)

“With the inherent callousness of governments that try to care for more than seven billion people it is inevitable that some oil will need to slide between the pieces of the machine to keep us humane.  The Justice Backers are that oil.” – Ember Joseph, The Daily Pills

Do you like that beautiful quote backers?  That’s us they’re talking about.  In The Daily Pills!  The most read site among people who have a specific chair for reading.  This is actually the first positive quote we’ve gotten from anyone on their staff since we started.  That Donovan guy called us ‘vigilantes safeguarding only fetishized anonymity’.  Their head politics reporter Miriam said I was ‘a jumping-off point for campaign questions and nothing more’.  With how much the world talks about us it’s almost like I am something more.  It’s almost like the name Alpha Dog means something to people who happen to not be me.

You guys can guess what changed their mind about our little crowdfunded superhero team.  It figures it would be something big and flashy like this rather than all the small bits of good we’ve done over the past year and a half.  Just go ahead and ignore that the Eastern Justice Backers stopped Woman’s Touch before her rocket-powered hands could pulverize anyone in her way.  Disregard how Impala’s Backer team in the west stopped those quadruplet serial killers who were competing with each other.

Act-of-Goddess you can’t ignore.  You know, when she first got here I didn’t know if she was going to work out.  Sure she’s the most powerful of us by far, but at the time she wasn’t exactly a team player.  (Anticipating the comments: I know I wasn’t either, but I also wasn’t the one having trouble addressing friends by their names rather than calling them ‘mortal’ or ‘scurrying rodent’.)  She’s mostly past that now, just in time to become more famous than the rest of us for siphoning that tsunami away from Europe and dumping it back into the ocean.  That’s what it took to convince The Daily Pills we weren’t just hooligans blowing stuff up for views.

We don’t need to talk too much about that tsunami.  Goddess did a great job, but it was just some water behaving badly.  I want you guys to hear about the mission the rest of us were on while she was keeping the U.K.’s pale ankles dry.  We finally caught up with Game Master.

I’ll do some quick narrative time warping for you backers who weren’t here when we first started following his weird odorous trail.  (There are so many of you now that I bet most of you are new!)  It was just after we’d dropped Woman’s Touch in jail.  Impala had taken more than half of my team west, so we were in kind of a sorry state.  It was down to yours truly, my dogs (the puppies were still just itty bitty blueprints), Orb, Transplant, Act-of-Goddess, and Pawn.  Then Pawn left.  I still can’t get him to tell me why he took off.  He says he’s participating in some medical research but he’s never been the best liar.  I think he met a girl.

Some strange stories were hitting the news sites, the kind of thing that you see and assume it’s fake until you see it pop up on your Connectera sidebar.  Whole buildings in office parks were getting secretly raided in the middle of the day.  Discreet barriers would go up and block all the entrances and exits.  People trying to get in would be turned away by automated ‘security’ announcements.  Everyone working at the time was trapped inside.  People thought it had to be a group of terrorists, but it was just Game Master.

People say I waste my genius, but this guy is on another level.  He’s got an IQ the size of the large hadron collider, but he drops out of high school and uses his smarts to write computer programs that skim money off the top of online transactions.  He then takes his new fortune and uses it to set up a series of mostly automated factories to make robots.  It’s a damn shame somebody uploaded Hostage specks to the web; now any idiot with a couple hundred thousand dollars and some old PCs can cobble a robot henchman together.

Nobody knew why he did it.  When the barriers came down and all his robots snuck back into that semi-truck that delivered them, his victims were free to leave.  The ones that were still alive rarely supplied coherent accounts of what went down.  Apparently he gassed them with some mild psychotropic stuff, forced them to dress in renaissance fair costumes, and then made up stories for them to act out.  It was like a giant role-playing game for his amusement.  He’d make them swordfight robots or each other, drink mysterious potions, quest for magical jewels that he’d placed on a different floor, etc…

He did such a great job separating the buildings from the rest of the world that he was sometimes able to stay and enjoy himself for more than fourteen hours before anybody on the outside suspected anything.  He blocked all communications.  You might think this doesn’t sound that bad.  What’s wrong with missing a day of work to play dress-up and breathe some happy gas?  The problem was that Game Master took it very seriously.  The swords were real.  His robot dragon would actually take a bite out of you if you didn’t dodge roll the way he wanted.  An average of five people died every time he played his game.  He played it seven times.  The FBI could never predict where he was going to hit next, so it was up to us.

I wanted to get started sooner but we needed bodies.  Our funds were flagging because of our small size (not blaming you guys).  Impala took the majority of our benefactors when she moved out.  After covering all the merchandise we needed to ship there was barely enough to keep our twin choppers fueled.  (Another newbie memo: they’re codenamed Chomp and Bit.)  We had the pleasure of sifting through the thousands of applications and finding people willing to work for less than we were offering before.  They also had to actually have powers.  I know a lot of you out there want to be here with us, but it just wastes our time and money when you pretend.  What’s the endgame of adding fancy special effects to your videos if you’re just going to show up here as powerless as a crucifix against a komodo dragon?

A few good people answered the call.  Salt Shaker joined up first.  I was skeptical how useful the ability to control salt crystals was, but it turns out she’s like a Swiss army knife: salt micro-missiles that explode and blind enemies, salt shields, salt spears, and the occasional mineral salt chemical reaction if we needed an explosion or some smelling salts.  Plus she can top off your fries if they’re too mealy.  She can only use the salts she stores in her body and on the surface of her skin, so she’s usually walking around with crystals in her hair, on her arms, and even in her eyebrows.  When we first got her into that white and silver costume of hers she would’ve made a perfect Christmas tree topper.

Electric Eel came on next.  He’s our first special needs Backer, since we’ve never had to significantly modify living quarters before.  He was exposed to some unknown chemical runoff when he was stomping about in a swamp as a kid.  Skin irritation turned into a coma.  When he came out of it he nearly died before his parents figured out he needed to be submerged in fresh water every day.  His body has gone a bit fishy in a couple of ways, some of them pretty useful in a fight; he can produce a thick coating of slime that makes him impossible to hold onto; he can even toss it in these thick ropes and snag things.  Here’s the kicker: he then generates a strong electrical current that travels through the slime and shocks who or whatever it’s attached to.  It’s the exact opposite of a clean kill: it’s gross as hell and it only knocks people out.  We threw a rubberized green suit on him and put him to work.

He had it kind of rough growing up black in a mostly white neighborhood, but he turned out really solid.  It took both of our combined efforts to convince his parents that this was something worth devoting his life to.  I even had to make a house call.  I’m going to avoid that next time if I can.  Orb can get off his invisible round ass and do it.

The last hero we snagged was Opossum Player.  She tells me she’s going to go over her origin story with you guys in one of her diaries soon, so I’ll let her explain the noir comic that is her life.  Here’s what you need to know for the exam: she was murdered.  It didn’t really take though.  Somehow her body absorbed the details of death and incorporated them into her mind.  Any time she wants she can perfectly mimic a corpse that has been killed in any number of ways: stabbed, shot, drowned, burned, diseased…  Her body literally manufactures the associated injuries and stops her heart.  She also does a great shambling corpse routine to scare the misdemeanors out of common thieves who’ve seen too many zombie movies.

Another upside is that she can recover from most injuries in seconds.  She’s not quite as indestructible as Pawn, but she can at least keep herself in one piece.  Her costume was tough though.  If she’s going to mimic a dead body we can’t have her in colorful armor.  Our designer took care of that.  Her outfit has muted colors and pieces of it can be pulled away to resemble  whatever ripped clothing best matches the injuries she bakes into her flesh.  I added the little opossum mask.

Three new heroes wasn’t bad.  Salt Shaker is thirty-eight, Electric Eel is twenty-four, and Opossum Player is twenty-three, so we’re skewing kind of young again.  That gives some credence to the theory that young people are the best at throwing off expectations and blazing new trails.  Some people would call it ‘throwing your life away’, but those people can’t turn tsunamis away like they’re turning a page.

Game Master was the first big test for our new recruits.  Sure they’d stopped your standard array of cutpurses and heroin dealers, but you never really cut your teeth until you go up against a super villain.  We coordinated with the Unfridgable Girl and her stable of virtual gumshoes to try and pick up Game Master’s trail.  Eventually we found a suspicious freight truck that kept taking routes those vehicles are rarely seen on.  We started tracking its license plate through our police contacts.  Then a backer called and told us he was looking right at it as it pulled into the parking lot of the Winter Trees office building.  It’s some company that makes and distributes tinsel or something; it doesn’t really matter.

We were in the air shortly after the tip.  By the time we got there Game Master had been at it for several hours.  We’d advised our anonymous tipster to call the police as well, but it seemed they did not take the tip seriously; there was no police presence when we arrived.  As I said before, Act-of-Goddess was busy smacking a few waves back into the ocean.  Transplant and Orb had taken Chomp up to Canada to track down rumors of some kind of flesh-eating beast.  It was just me and the new recruits.

The building was perfectly boring on the outside.  The truck was parked lengthwise in front of it to block the main doors.  On closer inspection we could see thick strips of translucent plastic barring all the windows.  All the blinds and curtains were closed.

“Let’s smash something and get in there,” Opossum Player suggested.  “Which one of the dogs is the smashing one?”

“I don’t have a smashing one,” I answered.  She was supposed to have learned their functions and commands by that point.  “Lebron’s blowtorch can probably get us in.”  I pressed a button on my gauntlet and sent the dog up to the main door.  We followed right behind him and watched as he opened his mouth, ignited the flame, and pressed it against the bottom of the door’s frame.

“How are we going to stop all the robots without the others?  Orb would just crush them.  Goddess would bring in a few Olympic swimming pools and short them out,” Player said.

“I can probably short them out just as well,” Electric Eel offered.

“I’m altering my salts right now.  In twenty seconds I’ll be able to rapidly corrode their metal bodies,” Salt Shaker added.  I thought it was going to be a piece of cake.  Even if those plans didn’t work out, we had five robots of our own that I could simply sick on them.  It turns out having a Plan D might not have hurt.

Lebron was barely a third of the way up with the torch when the automatic doors opened on their own.  A group of strange colorful forms lunged out, grabbed us, and dragged us in.  They even got all the dogs before one of them could run and send a distress signal.  We were swiftly pulled deep inside the building.  All the lights were out… or maybe they put our lights out… it was impossible to tell.

When I woke up I was separated from the team, my dogs, and my gauntlet.  Somebody had dressed me up like Robin Hood or something.  They had taken my costume off.  That means for an indeterminate amount of time I was sitting naked in a rotating office chair.  I wasn’t in the best mood, but I also wasn’t in the worst mood.  The sterile office setting had been transformed not just by props, but by a thick fog of psychotropic gas rolling across the floor.  I giggled without knowing if I was happy.

A robot that looked a little like a knight helped me to my feet and corralled me into a line with three other drug-addled players.  None of them were from my team so I assumed they were employees.  A bunch of little plastic conifers blocked the area in front of me.  It occurred to me that I should probably get out of the line and find my team, but my feet did not agree.

When my turn came the robot handed me a sword that I could barely hold up and pushed me through some curtains into a women’s bathroom decorated with big, fake, striped mushrooms.  All the sinks were running so I guess they were supposed to be the waterfalls of the five-stall enchanted forest.  I stumbled forward, the blade of my sword scratching the tiles as it dragged.  I held my breath.  I heard nothing but the faucets and a scream from another floor.  Then the stall at the end of the row burst open, door quaking loudly as it hit the wall.  A robotic satyr emerged with glowing purple eyes and a fake brown beard that looked like it was from the cheapest costume shop you’d ever been to.  A voice over the intercom called to me.  It was the first time I’d heard Game Master speak.

“You’ve been a bandit all your life,” he told me.  “Now it is time to redeem yourself.  Drive off the satyr.  Protect the village you once victimized.  You have two more strength and intelligence than the last one to attempt this.  You can succeed.  I know you can.”

The metal goat man pulled a pitchfork out of its stall, bleated, and charged towards me.  I lifted the sword just enough to block its first swing.  The force of it knocked me into one of the stalls and onto the toilet. I had a feeling this particular game did not have respawns, so I was about to say my prayers when something smashed into the side of the satyr’s head like a chunk of ice.

The metal around one of its eyes turned lumpy and greenish.  Six more missiles struck the creature all over its body.  While it was distracted I pushed myself off the back of the stall and lunged forward with the sword, piercing its chest all the way through thanks to the corrosion.  I let the weapon fall with the robot.  When I turned and saw Salt Shaker I giggled.  I actually had a reason this time; they’d put her in some frilly ball gown.  I guess Game Master needed a damsel rather than a protagonist.  She told me to shove my giggles where the sun doesn’t shine (not very dignified for a noblewoman) and then helped my drugged wobbling body out of the bathroom.

I’ll let the videos tell most of the rest of the story when they go up.  I’ve got to leave something for the backers who have gone above and beyond with their giving.  The broad strokes are that she sobered me up with a whiff of some salty concoction, we fought our way through a few floors rounding up the team and helping them shed their silly costumes, picked up my bound and gagged dogs from a janitor’s closet, and then fought some more until we reached the top floor.  We just sort of knew he’d put himself there.  Every game master hovers over the game.

The office he was running things from was guarded not by a robot, but by a middle-aged Hispanic woman who was kind of heavyset.  She didn’t look so tough at first, but Game Master had taken her brainwashing to the next level.  When she saw us she grabbed a broadsword and charged at us without caring she was outnumbered.  To be fair she held us off for an embarrassingly long time.  After she nearly took Opossum Player’s head off with the sword (no idea if she could survive that), Electric Eel shot out a rope of slime that snagged the weapon.  He pulled it out of her hands and it went sailing through the top of a cubicle and into the cap of a big fake mushroom.

I thought she’d give up, but she just pulled a double-headed battle axe out from a printer tray and started swinging it instead.  The strangest thing was that her fighting style with the axe was radically different from the sword.  She didn’t brandish either of them like a fool, but like two different professional fighters.  It was like Game Master had shoved the fighting skills of both a medieval knight and a pillaging Viking into her skull.  As it happens, he’d actually found room for four different warriors.  When we got the axe off of her she grabbed a katana and started screaming at us in Japanese!  After that we had to fight her spear-wielding Roman gladiator form.

Electric Eel finally knocked her out and Lebron put plenty of restraining wire on her.  With his last line of defense gone we were able to just push our way through his screens and unplug the little freak.  I know you’re expecting some fat, white, bespectacled nerd, but you’re only a third right.  He was white but he was also as thin as a broom; he looked like he hadn’t eaten since the Bush administration.  He had an absurdly long and scraggly beard that had various curled extension cords and board game pieces tied into it.  He also wore some kind of computer crown covered in USB ports that was fed into a bunch of wall jacks.  I didn’t want to touch him, so I had the dogs drag him out.  He protested vociferously.

“Don’t interrupt the game!  This is their only chance to live a life of adventure.  You’re sending them back to the emotional darkness of the twenty-first century!  How can you be so cruel?”

I had my IT dog Dialup connect to the building’s computer systems and order shutdowns of all the robots.  The only remaining problems were a few of the more intensely brainwashed individuals, but none of them put up as much of a fight as the woman Game Master set to guard him.  A quick dose of Salt Shaker’s smelling salts broke the spell on most of them.  Except for her.  We couldn’t get her to snap out of it.  I asked Game Master what he did to her once the runt calmed down a little.

“I was just trying some new techniques,” he snickered.  “They worked quite well.  When she’s holding the right weapon she has all the skills of the warriors of old.”

“Why did you do this to these people?” I asked him.

“Was it too many mommy hugs or not enough?” Opossum Player gibed.

“I didn’t do anything to them,” the maniac explained.  “I did it for them.  My game gives them purpose.  The one they were in was so boring.  Nobody realizes it.  Their job.  Their education.  They’re just terrible games.  Someone made the rules and tossed them in without a care as to how they would feel about it.  They play by the rules because they don’t have a choice.  I give them a better game, a game that lets them fight for honor, fame, thrills, and survival.  I let them give up and bleed out when they want to because that’s what a good Game Master does.  The ones who choose to fight get a real chance to win.  They get to slay dragons.”

“You could’ve at least given them a chance to sign up,” Electric Eel said.  That kid needs to work on his banter.  He always sounds like he’s dampening his opinions to keep everybody mellow.  It’s like he’s trying to get elected to the least flashy position… class treasurer or something.

“Everyone needs a game!” he shouted in response.  He bared his crazy smile like he was flashing some glowing plutonium and cackled towards the fluorescent lights that were just coming back up.  “And every game needs a master!   Hahahahahehehehehehehe!”  That was when I threw a gag on him.

We helped everyone get out of the building.  We were able to stay long enough to absorb some thanks before the ambulances started to show.  That was when I made an executive decision.  I knew the paramedics and doctors would have no clue what to do with that brainwashed woman from the top floor.  I had the perfect cure in mind for her.  While she was still unconscious I loaded her into Bit with the rest of the team.  They weren’t super comfortable with my decision but they got on board when I explained the situation.

Do you guys remember Dreamweaver?  She’s the powerful telepath without a body who used to be on my team before she got pulled away in our mitosis.  If anybody could help somebody parse the junk out of their own brain, it was her.  I immediately called Impala and had her send Dreamweaver over.  Of course what she actually did was send Golden Boy over and Dreamweaver hitched a ride in his brain.  Once he was here all he had to do was stand near our patient until Dreamweaver could transfer to her.  Then we let her sleep.

When she awoke she was back to her old self… for the most part.  She smiled more than was necessary.  She thanked us profusely.  She started telling us about her kids and her husband and her daily routine of delivering coffees and putting sticky note memos on every surface that would hold one.  The brainwashing didn’t go away though.  Dreamweaver just helped her store her four warriors into neat little mental boxes.

“It must sound pathetic,” she told me when we were alone.  “Game Master really did help me a little.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alive as when I was mercilessly trying to run you through.  I’m a little sad to be going back.  Tinsel is not as exciting as you might think.”  So I offered her a job.

Hear me out!  When she grabs those weapons she has strength like you wouldn’t believe.  I think it’s adrenaline.  It’s like the whole women lifting cars to save their babies thing.  She can activate it any time she wants and become a skilled knight, Viking, samurai, or Roman legionnaire.  I can’t let a four-in-one hero walk out that door without saying anything.  It turns out I was right to ask because she said yes!  She didn’t even have to think about it that long.

That’s one more hero in the bag.  We’ve got her an armored costume and some new weapons coming in this week.  It’s a nice look that has touches of the armor of each of her warrior personas.  She let me pick her hero name, so from now on you guys can call her Paladina!  She’ll be starting her diaries soon.

Game Master is the third major super villain we’ve brought down.  (I know some people don’t count Wing King because he was so loony, but when a mad scientist attaches bird wings, bat wings, and dragonfly wings to his back, I’ll count him as super just for being so devoted to such a dumb idea.)  Now that we’ve captured him we’re going to be busy turning him into trophies.  Be on the lookout for plenty of ‘We beat Game Master’ T-shirts and bumper stickers.  As usual we’ll get a nice resin statuette of him made up, complete with a base themed after a ten-sided die.

It won’t be long now before The Daily Pills has to have a whole section for us.  Especially since I’ve got something else coming in.  It’s super exciting, but I can’t tell you guys what it is just yet.  (One hint: It’s not the puppies; they’re not ready yet.)  Once it gets here I’ll make an unboxing video and show it off for you.  For now feel free to pass the time until the Game Master videos go up by perusing the diaries of our new members and checking out the backer rewards and the shop.  There’s a licensed Justice Backers version of the Beach Detective board game on sale now for fifty percent off.  (If you order during the sale it includes two extra game pieces: Doc Donor and Dreamweaver!)

Opossum Player Diary #24

(transcribed from video log)

What’s up my backers?  How many people are going to watch this in the next twenty-four hours?  Last time was a new record for me: four millions views in one day!  One!  We’re going to go ahead and smash that record today though because I’m going to tell you what you have been dying to hear.  That’s right.  Uhuh.  It’s origin story time!  Rah! Hiss! Siss boom bam!  Fireworks!  Pshew!  I promised you it was coming and Opossum Player always delivers.  I’m like a pizza guy that way.

It all started when I was murdered.  There was this boy named redacted in my redacted class at redacted school.  He was kind of cute with his redacted eyes, his redacted hair, and his little redacted that always redacted.  He’s in jail now.  Anyway, I had a crush on him for like three months.  The first time he made me blush was when he saved my life in a game of dodgeball.  Well, he resurrected me; it was that version of the game where when you catch a ball you get to bring a player who is out back in.  Pretty ironic huh?  He brings me back just to go and stab me seven times.  At least the guy who hit me in dodgeball only did it once.  Without him though I guess I never would have learned that I could go ahead and resurrect myself professionally.

I even asked redacted to prom.  That’s how little I actually knew about him.  He was just the guy who let me play dodgeball for another three minutes until I got hit in the face again.  That’s enough to base a relationship on right?  Ha.  He said yes.  We never even got inside the redacted though.

I met him outside it and he didn’t like my dress.  I don’t know how he couldn’t because I made it myself.  Even then I had a thing for gray and the whole phoenix-from-the-ashes thing.  The dress was supposed to look like a pile of ashes that I was rising out of.  I thought it turned out awesome, but after I couldn’t drag him into the redacted he eventually admitted he would be embarrassed to be seen with me while I was wearing it.  Dick.  It’s a couple of dances and some bad pizza and he can’t suck it up for the night and just smile?  Our school had like three proms a year anyway; I think they used them to milk a little extra money out of us.  Budget cuts… what are you going to do?

We never even went inside and he stormed off quacking like an angry little duckling.  I thought that was the end of our epic romance.  Less than a single date… that might be some kind of a record too.  That wasn’t the end though.  He started badmouthing me to everybody, calling me a freak and stuff.  He spread a rumor that we skipped the prom because we were trying to have sex out behind the building.  He said we didn’t actually do it because it turned out I had crabs.  Not true.

I called him out on it in front of a bunch of his friends and then he got really creepy.  I started getting hang-up calls and threats online.  He busted into my locker at school and poured some kind of red-dyed bouillon over all my stuff.  I guess it was supposed to look like blood, but I honestly didn’t mind my textbooks smelling like chicken soup.

He thought he could at least get me to unplug by hacking my social media household and knocking over all the furniture.  He failed at that too.  Even when I’m playing dead I’ve usually got one had in my pocket texting.  There’s no way I’d give up my all my E-friends because some litterbox-head posted a few fake statuses.

That’s about when he stopped trying to do the whole cinematic psychological horror thing and just snuck up on me one day with a kitchen knife.  I was walking home from redacted practice.  I was all sweaty and hot and huffing and puffing so I didn’t hear him coming.  It was just starting to get dark as he pulled me into a gravelly pit next to the street that was part of some construction project.  I hit my head on a concrete pipe thing and couldn’t really move to stop him.  He stuck his mom’s infomercial-bought stainless steel turkey knife right into my guts.

My powers don’t hurt, but that’s only because I’ve used them so much that I’m numb to them.  Getting stabbed hurt.  That was the only time I ever really felt like I was dying.  He stuck me again and again and all I could do was leak everywhere.  I think I heard him say something about shutting me up for good.  Then he left me in the pit.

All my blood must’ve gotten cold on those rocks, because it crawled back inside.  My heart was like, ‘Oh what the hell?  Guess we’re back up and running!’ and started going again.  I really didn’t know what to do, so I just picked myself up, brushed myself off, and walked the rest of the way home.  I was dazed, so I didn’t notice I still had all the stab wounds squishing together when I walked like the middle of an accordion.  Have fun picturing that.  My pops certainly didn’t have fun looking at it.

Now I have to cut to a while later.  Redacted’s brain completely crapped itself when he saw me in school the next day.  He started screaming like a maniac and knocked over a bunch of desks trying to get out of the room.  I just shrugged and played it like I had no idea what was wrong with him.  I heard he dropped out of school.  When I looked him up a little later I saw he’d gotten arrested for redacted and been sentenced as an adult.  That seemed a little harsh just for some redacted, but it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

A couple years after that I got the idea to start being a vigilante.  I was out of high school at that point, but one of my redacted’s friends was hanging around one day and talking about school.  They were still sophomores.  I was just listening in when I heard about the creepy new redacted coach who got a little too much pleasure out of watching young girls jump around.  There were even some rumors he’d raped a girl.  I decided to pay him a visit.

I broke into his cruddy little house while I knew he’d be at a practice.  I didn’t have to be careful since I knew he wouldn’t call the cops on me, so I just smashed a window with a rock and crawled in.  I didn’t know where the most dramatic place to seat myself was.  The kitchen smelled kind of bad thanks to a few rotting tomatoes on the counter, so I went into his TV room, sat in the least scuzzy chair, and grabbed a porn magazine from his coffee table.  I pretended to read it and waited for him to come in.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked when he strode in carrying a greasy bag of Chinese.

“Just like every other dead girl you see on the news, my name is not important,” I said.  I practiced that speech a lot in the mirror.  I actually had one of my poet friends write it because she’s way better with words.  “What people will want to know is your name.  Who’s the monster who killed that poor girl whose name escapes me?”

“What are you talking about?  I’m calling the police,” he said and pulled out his cell.

“Have fun explaining the corpse of a nubile young woman reclined in your chair,” I said.  He was about to say something when I lifted my shirt and made a wave of bruises appear on my stomach and ribs.  I cocked my arm back and broke it in two places so it looked like a mangled chicken wing.  My eyes went bloodshot and finger-shaped bruises appeared on my neck.  Then I leaned forward and fell out of the chair, slamming my head against the floor as hard as I could.

He started screaming like he was falling down a well.  I got a little worried somebody else would hear him and call the cops, so I quickly picked myself up and put every bone and skin cell back in order.

“What… what are you?” he blubbered.  He was clutching at a little crucifix necklace.  I was so tempted to just say I was the devil.  You guys have no idea.  I’d love nothing more than to spin my head around and just gleefully yell, ‘Iiiiiiiii’m Satan!’, but that wasn’t part of the plan.

“What I am doesn’t matter either.  What matters is that I have the power to perfectly mimic the body of a young dead white girl, which is the last thing you as a creepy old single guy want in your house.  Can we agree on that?”  He nodded.  “Good.  You’re a very bad man redacted.  I know what you do to the girls you’re supposed to be coaching.  No more.  You’re going to quit your job and move into a new field.  Food prep maybe.  Something that suits you.  If you don’t, I will kill myself again and lay on your floor.  I’ll be covered in marks that indicate that you did it.”

“I’ll just put you outside,” he countered.

“Then I’ll come back.  Do you really want to dispose of a dead body every day for the rest of your life?  You’re going to have a time limit too, kind of like you have right now.  You see I called the cops just before you came in and told them I was at this address and I was afraid for my life.  I can still call them off if you agree to my terms.”  That was a bluff by the way.  I had no idea how long it might take cops to get there, so I didn’t call them.

“I’m not a bad guy,” was all he said in response.  “I just can’t control myself.”

“I’ll control you then,” I said.  “Do we have a deal?”  I thought about sticking out my hand for him to shake, but he wasn’t good enough to lay a finger on my waxy dead skin.

“Yes,” he said.  “Just get out of my house.”

That is how Opossum Player was born.  I didn’t just get him to quit coaching.  I started shopping around online for pervs who needed to be scared straight.  A sex offender here, a wife beater there.  None of them had the guts to challenge me after I dropped dead in their beds or showers.  It’s a shame I can only cause them problems as a corpse, but that’s the world we live in.

When I heard the Justice Backers split up and were doing some recruiting I immediately applied.  Life’s been fan-freaking-tastic ever since.  Not perfect though.

I’m still having a little trouble making friends.  Alpha Dog’s always busy and Orb’s always doing yoga or something.  Transplant’s cool but he’s a dude and I need some lady friends to hang with.  I got excited when Paladina joined but she buddied up with Act-of-Goddess right away.  I think it’s because they’ve got this sort of bond over old things.  When Goddess is talking like she should be sitting in a throne, Paladina can grab her broadsword and talk the same way.  They’re always palling around pretending it’s the glamorous dark ages together.  You’d think I’d be able to fit in there somewhere because of all the dead bodies they had back then, but no.  Apparently it doesn’t matter that I can even look like I have the black plague.

Salt Shaker doesn’t like me that much either.  I told her we could hang out since the other two girls already had their own little club, but she brushed me off.  It’s not like I smell like a dead body.  I guess it’s just because we’re so different.  She’s like twenty years older than me and Native American and stuff.  Plus she barely ever comes out of her room.  I wonder what she’s got in there; every time her door opens it smells like the ocean for a second.

Oh oh oh oh!  I almost forgot to tell you guys.  There’s a storm a brewin’.  I think we might be going after some really shady guys soon.  I actually heard about it from Monkey Girl.

I’d never met her before the other day, but she showed up at the Barn with Golden Boy to pick up Dreamweaver now that she’d finished working on Paladina’s baked noodle.  I did my best not to gush and I totally completely failed.  She was my biggest furriest hero while I was out floating my bloated gray body in pedophiles’ swimming pools.  She was super nice too; it’s a shame she can’t stay.  It kind of makes me wish I’d joined Impala’s team, but Alpha Dog’s had more slots available.

Monkey Girl didn’t have a lot of time to talk to me because she needed to talk to Alpha Dog about something.  While Golden Boy went to get Dreamweaver, I kind of tagged along with her to Alpha Dog’s workshop.  He was monitoring two of his dogs on treadmills and testing them at different speeds and inclines.  He didn’t seem to be in the mood to talk.  I don’t even know if he knew I was there since I just leaned up against the wall and listened in.

“Hello Eben,” Monkey Girl said.  Alpha Dog didn’t look up from his tablet.  “It has been too long.”

“Happy to see me?” he droned.

“Yes.  Are you not happy to see us?”

“Catching up would be great, if that was what you were here for.”

“You are still upset?”

“Upset, no.  I don’t get to be upset.  I’m the a-hole who forced everybody to move to the other side of the country.”

“You know it wasn’t like that.”

“I didn’t think it was until basically all of you went with her.  It wasn’t exactly a fifty fifty split.  I knew it was me, but I didn’t think it was… that much me.”

“You have a new team already.  You did great work beating Game Master.”

“New team, more money.  Still a smaller team than yours and still less money than yours.  I’m doing all the major promotions and getting fewer contributions.”

“You are the best at making backers excited.  Impala doesn’t know how,” Monkey Girl offered.  That seemed to sand him down a little.

“So did you want to catch up?” he asked.

“Actually I have something to say about,” Monkey Girl admitted.  “We have news of a villain.  We think he is closer to you and maybe your team should investigate.”

“Really now?  What are we talking here?  Serial killer?  Bomber?  Power mad wackadoo?

“Blackmailer,” Monkey Girl answered.  Alpha Dog scoffed.  He whistled.  The two dogs on the treadmill switched out for two of the others.  The orange one stopped and let me pat his head before he hopped on the machine.

“Why do you need to come out here to give me a lead on a blackmailer?” he asked.  “That’s not even good enough for an E-mail attachment.”

“He is ruthless,” Monkey Girl said.  She sounded serious.  “He does not do the blackmail the normal way.”

“What does that even mean?  Does he do it by snail mail?” Alpha Dog asked.  Monkey Girl reached into her pocket and took out a small stack of black bordered cards.  I couldn’t see what was on them, but they definitely weren’t normal playing cards.  He took them from her and flipped through them.  He whistled again and one of his dogs came over to scan the cards with its eyes.  It growled a little and walked away.

“What am I looking at here?” he asked her.  “They appear to be trading cards.  Other than the iridescent ink they’re chemically normally for this kind of thing.”  I leaned forward and caught a glimpse of one of the cards.  It had a normal person’s face on it and there was some text and some symbols below it.

“Every person on the cards is real,” Monkey Girl explained.  “This is what he does.  He steals people’s secrets and puts them on the cards.  Then he sells the cards in packs to criminals and internet bad guys.”

“Internet bad guys?  Sounds like your English still needs some work.”

“Well what do you call them?” she asked, frustrated.  “Sometimes they are harmless.  Sometimes they harass.  Sometimes they steal.  They do it all without leaving the computer.  You tell me what to call them.”

“Jackasses.  The word is jackasses.  Some people might say troll but I think jackass covers it better.”  He flipped through the cards again.  “You’re telling me he’s running a collectible trading card game where the main mechanic is blackmail material?  He makes his money selling the cards?”

“Yes,” she confirmed.  “The cards can be used in a game called Secret Shuffle.  They play this game and the winner takes some of the loser’s secret cards.  Impala say they have a form of honor where if anyone cheats or takes the secrets off the cards they get targeted too.”

“I think I see how it works.  I used to play the TCG Thunder Agate a few… god is it decades?  Decades ago.  This symbol here, the femur… it looks like a rarity symbol.  Most of these have femurs, so they’re probably common.”

“Archive did say this too,” Monkey Girl added.  “The femur is common, the ribcage is uncommon, the hand bones are rare, and the skull is legendary.”

“The rarity is determined by the value of that person’s secrets right?  A troll who hides his real name is common, but a senator hiding an affair is legendary.”

“That is right.  The game is spreading online like fire.  He needs to be stopped.”

“This still doesn’t sound earthshaking to me,” Alpha Dog said.  “Secrets get around online all the time.  What does it matter if he made them into a game?”

“These are real people!” Monkey Girl exclaimed.  Sounded like she was getting tired of his thick skull.  “Three people have committed suicide already.  They were in the game and someone who had their cards used them.  You know what happens after?  If the secret is not valuable anymore the cards are taken out of the game.  They get throwed away or burned.”

“Three dead?” Alpha Dog pondered.

“That is not all,” she said.  She pulled one more card out of her pocket that she’d kept separate from the rest and handed it over gently.  Alpha Dog’s eyes bulged and he put his hand over his mouth.  I couldn’t resist.  I stepped forward and looked over his shoulder at the card.  He did a double take when he noticed me but didn’t really protest.  I asked who it was.

“It is the Unfridgable Girl,” Monkey Girl said.  I gasped a little.  Every Backer and every lower case backer knows her from online.  She runs like ten million JB fan sites, even the official one.

“How did this guy get her information?” Alpha Dog asked.

“She does not know,” Monkey Girl said.  “The jackasses are after her.  Now that they know her address and what she looks like she has had to move.  She cut her hair and changed the color.  The jackasses left dead animals outside her door.”

“You don’t have to call them jackasses every time,” Alpha Dog said.  I told him to not be a jackass about it.

“Will you at least look into this for her?  We owe her so much,” Monkey Girl asked.  Alpha Dog stared at the card.

“What’s this blackmailer’s name?” he asked.


“Hmm, clever,” Alpha Dog mumbled.  I’m calling it right now.  That Deckard guy is going to be next on our list.  I think I’m really going to come in handy this time.  I can’t do much against guys with wings or robot suits, but I can manipulate the manipulators.  If you try to use my secrets against me I’ll just slit my wrists to get all the negativity out of my system and then come gunning for you.

Time for questions.  Eeny meeny miney this one…

Ikeadeluxefamilypet: I don’t have enough money for your videos.  I can only afford Orb’s because he’s my favorite (no offense).  Would you mind telling me what Game Master made you do in his game?

Pssssh.  I’ll be your favorite soon; don’t you worry.  Game Master’s robots didn’t even know I was alive so they kind of just left me on the floor.  I snuck around on my hands and knees and ended up meeting the rest of the team in a stairwell I was tossing myself down.  I bet it’s a better video than Orb’s.  His camera is always rolling too fast for you to even see much.

BestinternetnameTM: Who cooks now that Golden Boy is gone?

Salt Shaker’s pretty good at it.  At least I think she is.  The stuff she makes smells amazing but she only ever makes enough for herself.  I eat a lot of microwave pizza pockets and candy.  I’d be worried about dying from it if I wasn’t so good at dying already.  Truck makes gumbo on Sunday sometimes… but that’s it.  We don’t really hang around in the kitchen and play games like Alpha Dog’s first team did.  It’s a bummer.  I wanted us to be the super friends, not the super colleagues.  Alright I’m done.  Night my sweet little backies.  More hero jazz tomorrow hopefully.

Salt Shaker’s Hair-Raising Fan Fiction Corner

  This series will act as a supplement to my normal diaries; I’m doing it as a favor to Alpha Dog, who tells me that Archive used to do an extra series and he thinks we need one.  I shared this idea with him jokingly but he apparently thinks it’s actually a good idea.

You all know there is plenty of terrible fan fiction out there.  I must confess that I often search it out to satiate my predatory need to deride.  I used to have to sniff it out like a bloodhound and settle for scraps from a slew of different sites.  Not anymore.  I’ve discovered a goldmine.  An endlessly renewable vein of monstrous grammar and strange childish obsessions.  I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Her name is Kharmie Buttercup and her natural habitat is fansethigh.com.  Her specialty, for which she receives many earnest requests and commissions, is Justice Backers fan fiction.  She originally specialized in spy stories starring anyone’s favorite cartoon or television characters, but has found the skills she developed in that “genre” translate well into romanticizing and fetishizing the everyday life of the superhero.  I’ve been lucky enough to mostly avoid her gaze as she seems more, let’s call it inspired, by male characters.

In this series I will share some fan fiction gems I have discovered about the Justice Backers, starting with this commission written by Kharmie Buttercup.  It utilizes the obnoxious “X reader” format which allows the reader to pretend they are actually the one doing the romancing.  The stage is the Amazon rainforest shortly after the Justice Backers have defeated a demonic river dolphin previously thought to have been folklore.  A fatigued Transplant is carried to a nearby village, complete with straw huts, to recuperate.  A new Backer is by his side as the sun sets.  We begin.

Transplant X Reader:

The Jungle is Ours – Part 1


Kharmie Buttercup

(mild sexiness)

You wipe the swet from you’re brow and sit down on the next to the tiny hut and Transplant is right next to you there.  You’re holding 2 glasses of water that 1 of your team’s leader Alpha’s dogs filtered 4 you.  (you had giggled some a lot because the dog looked like throwing up when the water came from out of its mouth)  You hand 1 glass to Transplant and he takes it, you’re fingers brush against each other and you pull your hand back quickly hoping he didn’t notice that.

“Are all the abttles that tough?” you ask him.  He drinks his water and you watch his throat move as he gulps it down.  His skin is very tan and beaded with swet.  His hair is just wet enough stick cutely to his forehead.  You wonder if this is what normal girls feel like when they look at cute boys that just finished football practices.  You are a hero now so you would never get that for real because it is one of so many things you have choosen to give up to fight for justice.

“That was a pretty bad one,” Transplant says to you as he looks at you and smiles.  “You did super good for your first time in battle.  Most new heroes quit on their very first mission but you are a natural.”  You are lucky that it is so hot because the Amzonian heat hides you’re blushing.  You’re not sure if you should tell him that he is the main reason you joined the Justice Backers, not to get famous since you kind of already were because of your blog where you wrote about crime and broke big stories.  “There’s something special about your powers,” he says and suddenly looks like he’s thinking about something scary and far away.

“What do you mean?” you ask, not sure what he means.  Sometimes you get embarrased about you’re pwoers because you can’t always control them and they go off without warning.  (you have the abilities to fly and take away other people’s gravity against their will so you can make them float around and not do anything about it.  one time you woke up the whole house because you took away the dog’s gravity and its barking woke up your parents who were super mad at you)

“I’ve never seen anything like them,” he says and you breathe a reliefed sigh.  “All the plants I use are stuck in the ground.  I would give anything to be able to fly around like you.”

“I’ll take you flying sometime,” you say confidently and finally remember that you should be smiling back.  “Most of the time I need someone to help keep me rooted though.”  You look to see if he would get the hint since he can control roots.  He is frustratingly oblivious.  You are about to drop more hints like A-bombs when some of the other Backers show up and totally ruin the moment.

Alpha’s doggies come up barking and licking at both of you with their rubbery tongues.  Your best friend in the whole world Opossum Player sits down next to you and gives you a hug and sticks out her tongue and pretends to be dead for a second because she knows it creeps you out.

“Bleeeeeaaahhhh!” she says and laughs.  Alpha, Salt Shaker, and Wallflower who is visiting from the Western Backers all sit down around you and high-five each other and start talking about the epic battle.

“That dolphin didn’t stand a chance,” Wallflower gloats to everybody silently with her brain waves because she never opens her mouth.

“Some of the legends about that demon say it can turn into people and seduce people into the river where it kills them,” Salt Shaker says.  She is always showing off like that.  You don’t say anything even though you already know everything about the dolphin you just fought.

“I guess it’s time I admit I’m actually a dolphin,” Transplant jokes.  You laugh a little bit too hard and everyone looks at you funny.

“Uhhm excuse me,” you say and walk away from everybody awkwardly.  You wonder why you’re always screwing things up.  All you want is to be a superhero but you can’t even get that right without looking stupid.  You walk over to the super clear river and look into it at your reflection staring back at you.  1 single tear drops off your nose and screws up the refecltion. 

You look at the giant dead body of the dolphin demon on the other shore.  You were the one who killed it when you used a gravity wall to smash it against the ground.  You can’t help but think that maybe the dolphin wasn’t evil and it was just looking for a friend in all the legends.  Suddenly the water gets a lot stronger and pulls the dead creature back into the river.  The river takes care of its own.

Something touches the back of your arm and you whirl around ready to throw a big pile of gravity in your enemy’s faces.  It’s Transplant!  He backs up and holds up his hands to calm you down.

“You ran off,” he says.  “I just wanted to see if you were ok.”  Suddenly you feel like crying some more but you hold it in so he won’t see.  You turn back to the river but you can’t help it so a teeny whimper escapes from the little open aprt of your mouth.  Transplant reaches his arms around you from behind and grabs you.  “Let me show you sometihng,” he whispers softly.

A tree starts to grow under the two of you because of his powers.  It wraps around your legs and starts lifting you higher and higher into the air.  The sun is setting but ther eis enough light for you to see everything.  You look down and see millions of flowers in the treetips.  They spell something out that can be read.  It’s your name!  The tree branches slowly spin you in a circle to be looking at him.

“I thought it would be better than a bouquet,” he says.  “I didn’t know how else to express my feelings but for with my plant powers.  Do you like it?”  You hug him and snivel like a person whit a bad gooey cold.

“You’re my hero,” you say weakly.

“And you’re mine,” he says.  You’re mouths get closer and closer and then you start to kiss pasionately.  Your first mission is done and now you have a boyfriend!  What are you going to do now!?

To be continued!

Thus concludes our first piece of fan fiction.  I hope you’re as titillated as I am.  I’ll give you poor backers a while to vent some of the erotic heat that’s bound to be building up in your bedrooms after that.  The next bit of fan fiction will be chosen in a few days.  If you need some more genius fiction to tide you over until then, you can try the links below.  Goodnight everyone.

Archive X Wallflower: I Can Read you Like Manga by Slumberian

Alpha Dog X Woman’s Touch: Pat the Dog by Pinkpuddledrinker

Monkey Girl X Electric Eel: Pregnancy Shocker (or Barrel of Monkeys) by Kiss’em

3 thoughts on “Justice Backers: Secret Shuffle (Part One)

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