Hi guys, we have Cari Z. stopping by with her great new superhero/supervillain release Where There’s A Will, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway, so enjoy the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! <3 ~Pixie~
Where There’s A Will
Being a Hero in Panopolis means living the high life: parties, money, influence, even reality television. And I’m one of the most powerful Heroes in the city. I have plenty of fans, a manager who looks out for me (after himself), and a job that pays the bills. I should be enjoying myself.
Unfortunately, the downside of my superpower means I can’t touch anyone, which tends to put a damper on things. I probably don’t deserve all those perks anyway, since I’m working in secret with two of Panopolis’s biggest Villains to undermine GenCorp—my main sponsor and the company that controls what gets through my force field.
I obviously don’t trust my corporate overseers, but they’ve hired a new scientist who actually seems interested in helping me. Dr. Mansourian might have the answers to all my questions—not to mention a starring role in most of my dreams—but he’s hiding something big. If I let him have what he wants, I might not live to regret it.
Then again, the way things are going in Panopolis these days, I might not live either way.
People say I’m a Hero.
That’s pretty much all that people ever say about me, actually. It was all that ever needed to be said in Panopolis. Heroes were bigger than life, but little more than names on a television or shouted from a street corner for the majority of folks. Hell, most people probably didn’t even know my real name. Craig Haney wasn’t an exciting guy. I’d been a fairly average kid, raised by my grandmother after my parents were killed during a battle between Earthquake and Sky King. I’d grown into a fairly average man who wasn’t smart enough to make it through college, so I’d gone into the police academy instead. I’d been a decent cop, but that was all I’d been. Then came the accident, and shortly after that, Freight Train was born.
I missed being Craig sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I got into the police to protect and serve, and I was doing more of that than ever as a bona fide Hero. I liked taking care of people, and I liked being a power for good. I especially liked the fact that I could go toe-to-toe with some of the baddest Villains to set foot in Panopolis, and come out on top. That was what I did now—it was my reason for being. I had to be the best Hero the city had ever seen, because I couldn’t be anything else. Not with my force field keeping everyone and everything at a distance.
There were times when being completely untouchable was depressing. And then there were times like today, when I was so damn grateful for my power I could almost cry.
“Fucking hell,” Mr. Fabulous snapped as he tried to scrape the remnants of a bright-pink bubble off his costume. He wasn’t having much luck; it was incredibly sticky.
“At least it wasn’t an acid one,” I said as I scanned ahead for our quarry. The acid bubbles were bright green, and would have eaten through Mr. Fabulous’s suit and into his skin in seconds. There were steaming pockmarks in the brick sidewalk where those ones had touched down. The blue bubbles froze things, which was a little better but not much if they hit you. All in all, the pink ones were fairly tame.
“Oh yeah, wonderful,” Mr. Fabulous said as he swiped fruitlessly at his shoulder. I pulled him aside before he stepped into an acid crater, but he shrugged away my hand. “Unless you know a quick way to get this shit off, don’t bother me.”
Mr. Fabulous and I shared a manager and were both heavily sponsored by GenCorp, so we were often called in for the same jobs. He had super speed and super strength, and was one of the few Heroes I knew of who didn’t also have pretty unsuper side effects to go along with his powers. Mr. Fabulous wore what I guess I’d call a tactical tuxedo, good against bullets and knives, and close-fitting enough that there were whole blogs devoted to his ass in those pants. I might have bookmarked one of them. Or two.
Hey, I might not be able to touch anyone but myself, but I could appreciate a nice ass, okay? In fact, his ass was the nicest thing about Mr. Fabulous. His personality sure wasn’t anything to write home about.
Another bubble floated back toward us: blue, nasty. I popped it with the trash can lid I’d picked up a block back, and a sheen of ice spread across the front of the metal. I could see it, but I barely felt the temperature difference. Distantly, I heard the familiar strains of Bubbles the Clown’s theme song, sung at a shrill and desperate pitch. We were getting close.
Mr. Fabulous was still trying to scrape pink off his shoulder. “Zane, what the hell does it matter?” I muttered as I snagged another blue bubble out of the air before it could hit the door of an apartment building. This wasn’t the nicest corner of Panopolis—nothing really was nice so close to Spartan Park—but there were plenty of residences around, and plenty of people who could be hurt by these bubbles if we didn’t move fast. “Just leave it alone and focus!”
“It matters because pink isn’t a good color on me, and don’t call me ‘Zane’ in public.” His bow-shaped mouth tightened. “I don’t want to be filmed wearing pink!”
I shook my head. “This problem isn’t big enough for any of the news crews to be here yet.” And it won’t be if we do our damn jobs.
Mr. Fabulous stopped in his tracks. “Wait. Haven’t you talked to Ianthe?”
“Ianthe?” I only knew one Ianthe, and she was my lawyer. Well, our lawyer. The lawyer for most Heroes in Panopolis, actually. “Why would I need to talk to her? Are we being sued?” It wouldn’t be the first time.
“No, to sign the waiver!”
“What waiver are you talking about?”
Mr. Fabulous stared at me in utter horror, like I’d said, What do you mean, we can’t eat kittens for breakfast? He spluttered, but I didn’t have time to waste waiting for his mouth to work again. I moved on, and the strains of the song became clearer as I reached the edge of the park.
“Say hello to Bubbles the Clown! Bubbles is playful, Bubbles is great!” There was a muted splooshing noise, and a moment later a bright-green bubble wafted over the little hill ahead and up to the fountain next to me, bursting as soon as it touched the statue of Panopolis’s original Hero, the Spartan, which was set at the very top. I winced as the acid began to eat off his nose.
“Say good-bye to that nasty frown; Bubbles puts kids in a happy state!” This time the song was interrupted by an enormous sob.
I ran over the hill ahead of me, and there he was. Bubbles the Clown, one of Panopolis’s longtime minor celebrities, in his trademark polka-dot onesie. His head was covered with his usual perfectly coiffed, canary-yellow wig, sproingy locks spiraling out in all directions like a cluster of question marks. His white face paint was a mess though, and the red he used on his lips and cheeks was smeared across his face like open wounds. Bubbles was carrying three carefully contained buckets on a belt around his waist, and held in each hand several metal wands with circular hoops at their ends.
And the people in the park were just standing there, watching him release new bubbles into the air. Either they hadn’t realized what the bubbles did, or they were in shock. I yelled ahead to the picnickers, “Clear out! Get away from the clown!”
“It’s Freight Train!” a woman exclaimed.
“Grab your phone,” someone else called. I wanted to smack him, but I had a lot of experience at working crowds at this point. Repetition was key.
“Get away from the park!” As I got within a few dozen meters, Bubbles seemed to snap out of his funk and turned to me. It was hard to tell his expression behind the oversized red nose, but I thought he was angry. He certainly sounded angry.
“Bubbles will sing you the A-B-Cs,” he hissed, dunking one of his wands into the blue bucket. He made a big bubble this time, so big he could—and did—spin a full circle and connect the ends together again, like a bubble donut. It settled onto the ground around him and burst, turning the grass to solid ice.
He plunged the wand into the green bucket next, a furious, frothy dunking. When he withdrew it this time, he’d made a lattice of bubbles in the hoop, and blew them straight at me, tiny and impossible to dodge completely. “Bubbles will teach you the 1-2-3s!”
“Shit,” was all I had time to say before the bubbles reached me. I held my makeshift shield out, but the first few ate right through it, and the rest glommed onto me and burst over my force field like huge drops of acid rain. Someone screamed.
They did nothing except eat into my uniform, of course. The acid melted away, its residue pooling at my feet like my own personal toxic-waste dump. Bits of blue fabric drifted in the goo for a moment before they vanished. I stepped to the side to save my boots from completely disintegrating.
At least the bubbles had missed my crotch. I didn’t want to be photographed naked in the middle of a fight. Again.
“Ooh, thanks for taking the brunt of that,” Mr. Fabulous said as he sauntered up next to me, finally un-pinked. “I think it’s time to get rid of this clown, don’t you?” He smiled and waved at the growing crowd. “Shall I take this Villain down a peg or two?” he called out.
“You should be getting them away from here, not encouraging them to stay and watch,” I muttered, but Mr. Fabulous ignored me.
“Get him, Fabulous!”
“Oh my god, you look amazing!”
“Can I touch you? Please?”
He winked at the person who’d asked the last question. “Maybe later,” he said, before turning and zipping toward Bubbles the Clown at ten times the speed of a normal person.
Unfortunately for him, it turned out that the ice Bubbles had laid down was extremely slippery, especially when he was going so fast. As soon as Mr. Fabulous hit the frozen grass, his graceful runner’s form turned into an awkward lunge as he tried to stay on his feet. He slid right past Bubbles the Clown, and tripped as soon as his feet hit regular ground again, rolling head over feet across the lawn.
That got some shaky laughs from the observers. More to the point, their laughter got Bubbles’s attention. He turned toward them, malice written in every line of his body. “Bubbles the Clown brings chuckles and joy,” he sang, refilling his left wand with acid green. I gave up on yelling at the crowd to disperse and started for the madman myself, slowly and carefully. Unfortunately, my cautious pace gave him the chance to lay down another wide layer of bubbles around himself with his right hand, this time in pink.
My force field kept things from touching me directly, but that didn’t mean they didn’t affect me at all. If the ground was sticky, then I was going to have to fight to get across it in my boots. And Bubbles seemed to realize that, because he ignored me and blew another round of acid death at the gawkers filming this. The crowd finally began to look up from their filming and back away as the bubbles wobbled in their direction.
“Fuck, just shoot the guy already,” someone yelled shakily.
I would’ve, except that Heroes didn’t use guns. Cops could carry them, but we couldn’t. We were supposed to be above that sort of thing, supposed to use Truth and Justice and whatever power we had at our disposal to apprehend Villains, not kill them. At times like this, that rule really sucked. I churned through the pink muck at my feet, struggling to reach Bubbles before one of his shots got someone in the crowd. Mr. Fabulous was on his feet again and fighting his own way in. Just a bit farther . . .
“Bubbles sings lessons to all girls and boys!” Bubbles the Clown shrieked. “You wanna pay attention to me now, you sorry little shits? After my show got the ax thanks to a lack of viewers? Screw you!” He raised the wand to his face, inhaled deeply, and then—
Something whipped toward Bubbles from out of the shadows, wrapping twice around his neck before I could do more than blink in surprise. Bubbles dropped both wands and clutched at the thin black cord and its glowing red ends—ends that glowed brighter and brighter . . .
“Everybody get down!” I shouted.
A second later, the ends exploded.
It was a pretty small explosion, all things considered. Just enough to turn Bubbles’s neck to red and white slurry, not enough to destroy his head completely. His body crumpled to the ground, buckets spilling out across the grass like the world’s worst Impressionist painting. His head hit a second later, facedown in a green pool. It started to hiss.
“Oh my god, really?” Mr. Fabulous exclaimed. I glanced over and saw him coated with a fine spray of gore, the same that had hit me. Of course, it had sloughed off of me. “Really? This is my day today?” He glared angrily out at the crowd. “Stop filming!”
“Uhm . . .” One of the guys with a camera phone lowered it and looked at us uncertainly. “Which of you guys did that?”
“They didn’t!” The girl who’d wanted to touch Mr. Fabulous was staring raptly at the nearby alley. “It must have been the Mad Bombardier!” There was no one there now, but she was likely right. Bombs of any kind usually meant Raul.
“Bubbles the Clown may have had a point,” Mr. Fabulous grumbled to me as he rubbed a hand over his dripping face. “People have no concept of loyalty.”
I shrugged. “Hey, nobody got hurt.” Except for Bubbles. I’d have to thank Raul, if I ever got out of this pink shit. Sirens were closing in on us now. Hopefully the police had a hazmat team on standby, ’cause we were gonna need one.
“I’m glad you didn’t sign the waiver now, actually; that’s probably the reason the camera crew isn’t working today. It wouldn’t do to have professionals getting this on record.”
“What are you talking about?” I demanded before turning to a bystander, who was creeping awfully close to the rainbow ruin on the ground. “Sir, please step away from the goo.”
“Talk to Ianthe,” was all Mr. Fabulous said as he freed himself from the sticky ground. “She’ll explain it. And you look like you’ve got things well in hand here!” He stretched out cautiously and clapped me on the shoulder. I was decidedly pleased to not be able to feel it. “See you tonight, Freight Train.”
And with that, Mr. Fabulous, that jerk face, walked back the way we’d come, leaving me to handle the crowd and fill in the cops.
At least I had a nice view of his best feature as he abandoned me to the hard part of Heroing.
That’s the honest truth, right there. Fighting? It wasn’t so hard. I mean, I got that it can be for some people, but it wasn’t for me. I was untouchable, literally. Nobody could physically hurt me. Keeping other people from being hurt, though? That was tough work. People were curious: they wanted to watch; they wanted to see what was going on. Wrangling them could be a full-time job, and it was one I hadn’t taken seriously enough for a long time. A lot of Heroes still didn’t give much of a damn, but with public opinion the way it was now, that was slowly changing. You had to attempt to shield the crowd these days, or your sponsors would pitch a fit.
The cops pulled up, sirens blaring and lights flashing, and the gawkers gradually started to disperse. I finally shook myself free of the goop and waited at the edge of the mess, staring at what remained of Bubbles the Clown. At the rate the acid was eating him away, he’d be gone before they could figure out how to contain his chemicals.
“Aw no, Bubbles,” one of the cops said sadly as she walked over. “Poor guy! What happened to him?”
Well, no point in beating around the bush. “He went crazy and started trying to kill a whole bunch of people with acid and―” What was that other stuff? “Maybe some sort of liquid nitrogen compound? Freeze goo, whatever.”
“Freeze. Goo.” The cop looked at me like I was talking a different language. “Bubbles the Clown tried to kill people?”
“I always knew that clown was bad business,” another cop—Pete Grier, I think we used to work together—said as he came up beside us. “All that singing and cheer and shit? That’s not normal.”
“It was an act; it was part of his show,” the first officer retorted. Her name tag read R. Flanders. “Oh wow, I can hardly believe it. I watched him all the time when I was a kid.” She hummed the melody of his song, and I couldn’t quite keep down my shudder. I’d never hear that song the same way again. “You’re saying he went crazy?”
“I don’t know what happened to him”—although he’d mentioned his show being canceled—“but he was definitely trying to hurt people out here.”
“And he . . . what, tripped and fell in his own goop?”
“The Mad Bombardier blew his head off!” one of the more enthusiastic observers added. “He saved us all!”
Pete’s eyebrows crawled so high they almost disappeared into his hat. “The Bombardier? You serious?”
“Yes! Who else lurks in the shadows dispensing justice against the worst of his own kind?” The girl goggled at us. “Jeez, don’t any of you read SuperTruther? That’s, like, the Mad Bombardier’s calling card.”
“That and the fact that Bubbles’s neck exploded,” I said, not wanting to admit right then that I did follow SuperTruther’s blog. It was a controversial subject. “Someone blew it up, and it wasn’t me.”
“Damn,” Pete said. Both cops had disappointed expressions on their faces. “You let the Bombardier get the drop on you?” Pete shook his head. “What are you Heroes doing, getting beaten to the punch by Villains these days?”
“Was Mastermind with him?” R. Flanders seemed sympathetic. “Did he mind-control you?”
God fucking damn it. That rumor was one of the stupidest things I’d ever told a reporter. “I didn’t see Mastermind,” I said flatly. “And I didn’t see the Mad Bombardier either, but whoever it was killed Bubbles the Clown, and probably saved lives in the process. You guys got a handle on this?”
“Oh, sure.” A hazmat van was pulling up now, spilling people in full-body suits across the pavement as soon as it stopped.
“Great. Then I’m going to head out.”
I shook my head. “I’ve got an appointment.”
– Read more at: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/where-theres-a-will (Just click an excerpt tab)
Cari Z was a bookworm as a child and remains one to this day. In an effort to combat her antisocial reading behavior, she did all sorts of crazy things, from competitive gymnastics to alligator wresting (who even knew that was legal!) to finally joining the Peace Corps, which promptly sent her and her husband to the wilds of West Africa, stuck them in a hut, and said, “See ya!” She also started writing, because some things she just thought she could do better. She’s still climbing that ladder, but can’t stop herself from writing, or from sharing what she creates.
Cari enjoys a wide range of literary genres, from the classics (get ‘im, Ahab) to science fiction and fantasy of all types, to historical fiction and reference materials (no, seriously, there are so many great encyclopedias out there). She writes in a wide range of genres as well, but somehow 90% of what she produces ends up falling into the broad and exciting category of m/m erotica. There’s a sprinkling of f/m and f/f and even m/f/m in her repertoire, but her true love is man love. And there’s a lot of love to go around.
Cari has published short stories, novellas, and novels with numerous print and e-presses, and she also offers up a tremendous amount of free content on Literotica.com, under the name Carizabeth.
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