PowerTrip X: Arms Race

What If Superheroes Acted Like Mythological Monsters?

Gladiator led PowerTrip in a war against Hell’s superheroes, the Infernals. She had begun the war fifteen years ago, in 2037, in New York City, just her and War God. The team had once been six, but there had been losses. Thara, Gladiator, the alien, was the only original PowerTrip member left. But she had put down all of the original Infernals but one.

Gladiator at my lunchroom.

PowerTrip replenished superheroes, each new one the beneficiary of the latest advances in science; and Hell refined its diabolic arts to fashion deadlier Infernals—the conflict would never end. Gladiator feared being a hero would never be more than fighting a stalemate with terrorists. Gladiator would never stand for anything but fighting the maniacs. The Infernals stood for a new world of abundance for all. In practice, they were often violent zealots out to amplify fear and horror worldwide. So Gladiator fought them. Instead of standing for something herself.

A new Infernal had emerged: Brute. YouTube videos showed her hurling streetcars and subway trains through the office towers of Fortune 500 Companies. Other videos showed her crushing the armies of violent or corrupt regimes across the globe. Their every destructive act, every massacre, only a carefully thought out publicity event to an Infernal. Not everyone saw it that way. People wore Infernals T-shirts.

Brute had picked a Friday night in October to attack the office tower of CitiBank at Avenue of The Americas and 20th Avenue. The rest of PowerTrip were fighting Infernals in Beijing. Brute had remained at the deserted scene. Waiting.

***

Gladiator followed a trail of overturned cars and bodies toward CitiBank. The office tower smoked and burned and a subway car protruded from the fifth and fourth storeys. In the centre of calm, quiet, and ruin stood a young, skinny twentysomething South Asian woman in a black tank, jeans and sneakers. She chewed gum, listened to headphones, and smirked at Gladiator.

Gladiator charged her, approaching 250 km/hr. Before she could land a kick, the young girl vanished and the Brute she had seen on video stood before her. Seven feet tall, monstrous build, black and blue costume, claws. Gladiator struck Brute in seven places in the blink of an eye, hard enough to wreck tanks. Brute scarcely flinched.

Brute.

Gladiator felt a rough tug at her core. The woman had caught her somehow. Four claws were right through her side and had stopped at her spine. Gladiator hadn’t been cut since she’d left her homeworld to be Plagus’s ambassador to Earth. The Incredible Alien, fans called her. There was a dizzy moment before the blood. Gladiator laughed.  

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