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So you must be wondering what all the other fucking idiots were doing while I was reinventing myself for a second time, driving to Los Angeles with a serial killer, and breaking my own heart.

The Super Six became the Super Seven, once they convinced the flier with the fear of heights to join their team. His supername was Comet, and I couldn’t even.

Seriously, those guys.

They had a team of therapists working on his fear of heights, but every time they forced him to do a flight demonstration his knees locked together in this funny way while he flew which was not at all superheroic. At first I thought it was just nerves, but later I realized it was both nerves and a subconscious fear of pissing himself in public.

But he was a big, muscled farmhand with a metallic bronze tan, a “Howdy, ma’am” kind of accent, and the vocabulary of a seventh-grade monosyllabist. Housewives everywhere were lubricating their panties at the thought of this headless beefcake from a romance novel cover, strutting around in his superhero costume that didn’t include a shirt.

Yeah, he was topless. Like a wrestler. Sexual exploitation disgusts all of us sometimes.

I started to get a sadistic idea, of really fucking with these people. Even if I went down for it, it would be so satisfying to watch them totally blow it in front of the world to the point where no one would even admit they ever liked them in the first place. You know, like Coldplay. Or Hootie and the Blowfish.

The Stupid Seven finally caught wind of the he.ro site, and each of them got a featured slot as soon as they joined. Their Initiation Challenges were pathetic, they might as well have been, “Get an Instagram page and post a pic of your ass in spandex!”

The userbase exploded, and all of Shit Seven’s braindead fans started to flood the site.

I held it against Spider for quite awhile for that. I mean, I know she wanted more attention for her site, but that got the world’s attention.

Russia came out with their Colossal Eight. (I hear it translates better in Russian)

China came out with their Extreme Eleven.

There were suddenly supers everywhere. Most of them heroes, and a few surly and under-appreciated villains, and myself.

The media frenzy was increasing, and the he.ro site was regularly cited on TV. My list of achievements was held up by a few defenders of mine that I was clearly a good guy, and that he.ro encouraged “miscreant” behavior, but that it was all harmless fun.

Others pointed out that I’d been controlling Bloodstorm, and hence was a bad dude of the first order.

I ended up at #1 on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

Everyone else was quick to point out that I could read minds. I mean, he could take over the entire government!

I heard that one a lot. A lot of people seemed to think that I was planning to take over the government. It was their greatest fear. Conspiracy sites sprung up, convinced that I already had taken over the government. That it was a cover-up. That Mindbender, in fact, was part of the government’s mind-control initiative and I was a double false-flag echo section 7 Charlie or some shit.

I’m here to tell you, from personal experience: Sometimes conspiracy theories really are nothing but complete crackpot lunacy.

But the Right really took to this idea, and like they did with everything they took it to the most crazy extreme, and something like forty rabid percent of the population just sort of assumed it as fact. The government was under mind control. It explained everything that they’d ever suspected about the government. They’d been doing it for years! Mindbender wasn’t a new thing at all, and the alien arrival was done in collusion with the government, who were mutating us to prepare us for colonization.

Capitalizing on this theme, a punk band called Phlegm wrote a song called “The United States of Mindbender” that ended up on repeat for me.

In a way, I did take over the country. Just by existing. Like, if Russia announced that they had mobile space lasers that could put the entire world in its crosshairs, every other country with a space program would be beating ass, freaking out about space lasers. Even if Russia was just fucking with everyone, and had just dumped a bunch of empty borscht containers over American airspace, we’d still freak out about it. We’d expend so much energy defending against space lasers that it would almost be fair to say that space lasers took over the country for awhile.

How did they get those containers into space so easily? Why was no one aware of this? What if they do one day make space lasers? What is the status of the space laser program? Are we aware of anyone else who has made space lasers? Here to speak with us tonight is Ralph Monday, of the Hypothetical Bullshit Society, who has an opinion just like everyone else on the matter.

Republicans wonder why the president did not foresee the advent of space lasers, hold multi-million dollar taxpayer funded investigation to find out why.

You get the idea. They were doing the same thing, talking about mind control, and using it as a wedge issue to discuss the issue of powers too dangerous to exist. Should the government intervene to contain these people? What about those with really dangerous powers, like those of Mindbender?

It was on the radio while we were driving across Americana and eating rest stop food. It was on the TV while we were crashing in some crummy hotel room.

Then it passed, with a very vocal but angry minority decrying it, and the President signing it into law: The Homeland Enhanced Registration Ordinance or, of course, HERO for short.

It set up initiatives for testing facilities, and the mass production of "enhanced" tests. According to the scientists who had studied the Super Six, there was a common thread between all enhanced individuals, and it was easily testable.

Like most great ideas, they weren’t going to actually implement it for a year. That meant the rest of us had one year, a stay of execution before every trip to the doctor involved a swab to check for ‘enhanced genetic markers’, whatever that meant.

Interestingly, they fast-tracked the program for the military, and every service member was required within a month to have a physical to test for enhanced genetic markers.

They ended up finding two more enhanced individuals, one in the Army, the other a Marine. The Army guy was named Flint Mickles, and I swear that was his name, and I am not making it up. His power was the ability to melt himself into a sentient puddle of goo. It was pretty disgusting to witness, as the puddle of goo looked like liquified rubbery muscles, blood, and skin. Relating to that power, he could reorganize his body if he got injured, and even knit his vital organs back together.

Unlike Sanderman, he was not invulnerable, but he still had little to fear from gunfire in the long-term, unless it got him in the heart or the head before he could initiate a change. His ability to collapse down into a flat pool that could move across the ground, and slip under doors, well…it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the Army would quickly find applications for his abilities in the field.

The other guy, the Marine, was named George Wilson. A boring name, maybe, but George was your typical gung ho jarhead, and TV loved him and his gruff, but “tell it like it is” God and Country demeanor. Turns out he was a honeypot for insects. He could charm bees from the hive, collect a horde of wasps on his skin that would not sting him, and parade a bunch of ants from their nest like the Pied Piper. It was limited to insects, it seemed, because spiders ignored him. Scientists said it wasn’t so much “insect mind control”, because insects don’t have much of a mind to work with. Instead it had something to do with pheremones.

During all of this fun, I sank into a deep, bleak, and rather angsty depression. I drank a lot, and complained a lot, and basically took up space in a bed and breakfast somewhere in southeast Oregon for a few weeks.

Spider told me I’d made Master Villain. I didn’t care.

She told me that she wondered when I was coming to Portland, and I told her to go die in a fire.

Even Mitch at one point asked me if I was okay, and I told fuckface to go stand in the corner until I got tired. Three days later I felt his pain vibe and realized that he’d pissed himself while standing there, was starving and dehydrated, and his legs were about to give out. It was a good lesson in how literally a mindslave will take an order, and how a mindbender shouldn’t give orders to someone when he’s in a shitty mood.

He was thankful for the opportunity to go out and buy some McDonald’s, and after bringing it back to the room we shared our gluttonous banquet, and then he collapsed into bed and didn’t stir for two days.

Eventually I just let the phone power itself off. I stopped watching TV, going on the internet, any of it.

I took up smoking and would just stare out the window, smoking cigarettes, and whenever the B&B lady would come by to collect her money, she’d end up leaving thinking she’d collected it, even though she hadn’t.

It was like this for well over a month, until Spider got tired of waiting for me to come to her, and came to me instead.

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