Prompt: A guy with ultimate power tries to live an ordinary life.
The parade simply got in the way. Gene thought there was no way anyone would attack him there, in the midst of countless innocent people. The villains that arrived at the front of the parade weren’t worried about civilian casualties though; their weapon was the most precise on the planet if they wanted it to be: a new infusium laser.
Everyone else simply thought it was just another float, the one lucky enough to be at the head of the procession. Everything ground to a halt when they flipped their ‘float’ around, powered it up, and honed in on Gene’s uniquely muted heat signature. Green light arced through its coils and it made a sound like a thousand toasters popping their contents out at once.
There wasn’t even a beam to see. The cannon fired only a single string of particles. What they could view was the destruction, the massive holes it tore in every float down the line. It blasted the head off a giant pinata, demolished paper replicas of the local football team, and turned the float with the most flowers into a black smoking cinder.
Gene stood near the end of the parade, holding one of the lines for a giant balloon of a cartoon ocelot. It was his daughter’s favorite character, and all she wanted was to see Gene on TV, marching under it. The particles tore through too many of the lines, sending the ocelot off into the sky. They struck Gene in the chest, obliterating his shirt and setting his belt on fire. He casually reached down and removed the object before his pants caught as well.
Everyone backed away from him once they realized who he was. Damn. It had burned the cap off his head as well. Now they all saw how bald he was. Everything but the hair. The villains got to his hair years ago, because it just wasn’t as tough as the rest of him. It couldn’t deflect infusium particles fired at the highest speeds man had ever generated.
He stared up at the escaping ocelot. He just knew his daughter was three states away, with her mother, crying. She was always such a worried and sad little girl. She would think the ocelot would starve to death up there before deflating. He would have a hard time explaining that during their weekly call. Gene couldn’t dwell on it though. He was expected. There wore more tests to run.
The villains turned tail and ran, damaging their laser on their mad dash out of the city, with police behind them. They didn’t even have the energy to fire it again. There were only three or more motivations they could possibly have: religion, politics, or a general desire to prove themselves stronger than anything else. They had failed. Nobody was stronger than Gene.
He arrived at the lab half an hour later with a new shirt gifted by a fan. It was one and a half sizes too small and he was very aware of how his nipples were visible through it. The whole world had seen his shirt blasted off a hundred times, but the new researcher might not have.
He sat on the examination table, on that crinkly paper, and let her check his ears and eyes. She looked for irregularities, tiny holes in his armor, but there were none to find. That close, he was able to see all of her irregularities: a missing eyelash here, a freckle there, and one white hair on her chin longer than all the others. Each and every one of them was beautiful, compared to the sandblasted smoothness of his own face. Every inch of him was a crater from various attempts at destruction/murder. He was like the glass born from lightning striking sand.
“We’ll start you off at the regular pressure today and slowly increase it. There’s a different coating this time,” she told him, referring to the diamond-tipped piston pressed between his shoulders. She hit a few buttons on the wall and it began to press into his back. So far it was barely the tickle of a feather.
“It won’t work,” he said with a sigh. He had a contract with a government organization to allow them these experiments once a week. They paid him handsomely for it, for the chance to figure out what had made his hide, his entire surface, impenetrable. “It’s been six years and nobody’s gotten through. No paper cuts. No splinters.”
“Well, I’ve never been on the case,” she said resolutely. Her determination made him look up, see her face for its broader features. There was a spark in her eye, but not the general one of inspiration. It suggested her mind was always moving: a waterwheel covered in sparklers. A thousand ideas, too many to keep track of. “Would you mind telling me a little bit about how it happened?” She pulled on his arm, twisted it, and dabbed several different acids on his wrist.
“It was the worst night of my life,” Gene answered, dryly reciting what he’d said in over a hundred TV interviews. Something sizzled; he glanced down and saw one of the acids bubbling on his arm. It almost tickled. When his eyes came back up he saw her impatiently awaiting the rest of his explanation. More sparks in her eyes. How was she so interested? She wasn’t looking at a puzzle or a movie poster. She saw a man. Gene let a little more emotion seep into his voice.
“What was so terrible?”
“You haven’t seen all the… never mind. I’ll give you the real answers, since you bothered to talk to me without any cameras.” The pressure on his back increased. He could feel that it was a point now, but it still had no chance. Soon he would hear its diamond tip crack. Maybe he could ask to take the dust this time, have it pressed into a gift for his daughter. “It was the night my first wife told me we were getting divorced, that she was taking our baby and moving.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, but the sparks didn’t die down. Normally people frowned when he said that. She noticed his quizzical expression. “Oh, I don’t mean to be unsympahetic, but I’m divorced too. Everyone acts like it’s a wound that’s always open, that I can’t be truly happy anymore. And that’s totally bullshit. Pardon my French.” She grabbed a wet blue cloth and wiped the acids away. A chill ran down Gene’s back.
“I’m happy to hear something like that.” His back itched. What was her name? She wasn’t wearing a tag like all the others. She wasn’t another piece of equipment trying to get inside him, even though she wanted in there. He could see it. Sparks like hers needed a kiln. “I’ve just been numb since then. Hey… what’s your name?”
“Burke.” She breezed past it, clearly thinking it trivial. “Have you considered an emotional cause? That the trauma of your broken relationship forced an armoring response? Obviously we’d need a mechanism… but the timing certainly seems relevant.”
“I’ve thought about it, but this can’t be undone. My family’s so far away. Maybe if one of them fired an arrow, actually gave me a call for once…”
“Hey, what are you doing this Saturday?” Burke asked. She adjusted her glasses, unabashed.
“What do you mean? Probably getting shot at…”
“Dinner. We should go. We can talk about how we’re totally over everybody else.” Gene opened his mouth, but no words came out. There were plenty of women who wanted to sleep with the famous living shield of humanity, but not too many who offered to talk about things like that. About being hardened or softened, about being healed.
“Yes! Let’s have dinner. We can…” the piston broke through. There was a small spray of blood and he slumped forward. Burke jumped to the controls and retracted the piston, catching him before he fell off the table. “Let’s talk about… how we’re over it,” he whispered. “Let’s talk about how open I am.”
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by mbto61 during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!