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Chapter 1

I didn’t know much about my home world. I didn’t carry a culture or heritage like most. It was hard to know what I could become without a reference to draw from.

Were my people cold stoics? Were they scientists or brilliant minds? My people could have been dictators or peace keepers. There was no way to know for sure. If nothing else, I had the physiology of my people. I was skinny. I was thin. I was a twig. To make matters worse, people were less than original when they gave out nicknames, so my name became Twig.

As far as I could tell, I was the only of my kind living in Mock City. It seemed no one else from my home planet was worth taking. But I had a theory. Despite my stiff appearance, I possessed unique abilities. My body was like rubber. I could bounce like a ball and take the blow of a cannonball like no one else. That’s not to say things didn’t hurt. I felt everything, but for the most part, I was invulnerable. My abilities, my powers prompted me to make my life-changing decision.

I wanted to be a hero—a superhero.

Of course, I wouldn’t be the first. Mock City was home to megalomaniacs, psychopaths, and criminals of varying degrees. Unfortunately, we had a short list of heroes. People like “Scarlett, Woman of Mystery”, “Kid Ninja, The Deadly Teen”, and “Hatch, Genius Egghead” did their best to keep Mock City safe, but I thought it was time for someone new to step up.

After all, I had actual powers. Not even Scarlett had natural abilities; she relied on her magic hat to supply reinforcements. If she could beat super villains like “Splice,” then I had to be capable. At least that’s what I thought. It’s what I believed.

After years of living in that city, watching it destroy itself, I had to do something. I couldn’t sit around while things continued to get worse. My childhood was rough. Every day was a battle to keep my head above water. But I managed to avoid joining a gang. I managed to keep all my limbs. I may have lived in a shitty apartment, but at least I had my own place.

Most people weren’t that lucky.

That’s why I had to make a commitment. “Lucky” shouldn’t have been another word for surviving. But if I was lucky, it was only right that I put it to better use.

I was so sure of myself, and I shouldn’t have been. Thanks to my powers, I never lost a fight, but I never won either. I could take a punch, and I took plenty, but throwing my own never got me far.

At best, I was a shield. But even a shield was useful, right? With that in mind I took steps to ready myself.

I made a costume out of my best designer clothes. In Mock City, designer clothes were more than just flashy. If someone made something to look good, they made it to last. That meant expensive clothes were more durable. My outfit should have been just as resistant as the rest of me, after all it cost most of what I had. From there I started patrolling city streets late at night. I knew I wouldn’t catch the bad guys, but If nothing else, I could keep them from hurting anyone.

For a while, it worked. I was saving people by putting myself between the bad guys and the people they meant to terrorize. I made a difference. I took every kick, punch, and the occasional gunshot I could. And I did so without question. To me, every blow that I took was a life saved.

It felt good.

It felt great finally making a difference, even a small one. I was filled with the confidence to go back out night after night. Each time I grew bolder and less afraid.

I was an idiot.

I should have stuck to saving people from being mugged on the subway. Of course, I didn’t do that. It only took a few weeks of stopping petty criminals to hype myself up for a challenge.

And I really shot high.

“Put down your weapons and walk away,” I said, standing before a gang of hooded thugs attempting to rob a bank in broad daylight.

The main lobby was full of civilians tied up and cowering while I stood apposed by five gunmen. There must have been someone already in the vault grabbing cash, but I couldn’t worry about them yet. The red-coated degenerates didn’t flinch when I stepped into the building, they laughed. “We got ourselves a hero,” they joked. Their boss, standing behind his henchmen, gave a hand signal before the goons opened fire on me. Their guns were useless. Though the bullets from such heavy artillery hurt like hell, they bounced off my black skin like usual.

“Put down your weapons and walk away,” I repeated.

The air was knocked out of me, and I stumbled for a moment to keep from taking a knee. There was a significant difference between super strength and invulnerability. I imagined had I been super strong I could have taken punishment without getting tired. Regardless, I had to hold an appearance of unweathered bravery If not unbreakable strength.

“A killer strikes hardest when it smells weakness” I got that from my favorite movie “Straw man of Justice”.

Admittedly I hadn’t thought of all the danger those gunshots would pose. It was good to have the bad guys focus on me, but when their rounds bounced off, they could have easily hit a civilian. I had to command control as quickly as possible if I wanted to keep them from shooting again. The only problem was a twig like myself hardly carried enough muscle to command a schoolyard, much less a bunch of criminals.

I thought I’d step in and show off my powers, and like usual, the bad guys would leave once they saw I was invulnerable.

…I was wrong.

When their guns didn’t work, they charged at me. I had to fight. All together at once, they came after me knocking me around like a rag doll. There was never a clear opening to fight back, not when four people were on the offensive against one. I tried to throw a punch, and someone caught my arm to swing me around. I was reduced to a ball being kicked on the marble floor. All the while, their leader remained stationary. He didn’t move until whoever was in the vault finally ran out with a single duffel bag on their back.

Where were the cops? Where were Scarlett or Hatch? Hell, I would have taken Kid Ninja at that point. That’s what I got for showing up first. That’s what I got for leaping through a window and making a big heroic entrance.

They got what they came for.

The boss called for his goons, and they finally left me to lay lifeless on the ground. I thought it was over. I thought, even after a rough start, I did what I intended. I acted as a shield and kept everyone from getting hurt. I didn’t stop the bad guys from getting away, but at least none of the hostages were wounded. Even if I was beat up, I could have taken that as a win.

That’s when the leader of the robbers stepped over me. He had a black hood unlike his goons but the inside was red just the same.

He held his gun pointed square at my chest. It wasn’t going to work. I almost smiled with relief. It couldn’t work. He must have seen how his henchmen failed to make a dent with their weapons.

Was he stupid? No. I was.

His gun was different. It was oddly shaped and compact. There was nowhere for bullets to be inserted or shot out. It was a gun, but not the kind that shot rounds. The sound of the device powering up gave me pause before my realization. I reached up to try grabbing it, but he stepped on my wrist. Before I could take another breath, he shot lightning through my chest.

I cried out as he continued to blast away at my core. It obliterated my shirt in an instant. The feeling of my flesh not only melting but evaporating and turning to smoke was hell. When he finally stopped, I was in continual agony. There was a hole through my body where my lungs, heart, and stomach should have been. Somehow my organs weren’t pooling out. I was still breathing if I could call it that. There was no blood, but there was a hole through my center. If nothing else, that should have killed me. I coughed and cried out while the hooded man inspected his weapon.

While he fidgeted with his tool, his hood fell off, and I saw his head was the shape of a metallic chess piece. There was only one person in Mock City with a head like that. He pointed his gun at something to the wayside, and all I remember was the implosion and cloud of red that followed his swift pull of the trigger. He shot a civilian, and their head exploded much like my body should have. The other hostages panicked, but I was too weak to say or do more.

The villain stepped off of me, and before I could think to move, he kicked me in the head. Everything went dark shortly after.

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