There are a lot of reasons I love comics, but at the end of the day, it’s mostly because Superman once punched Dracula in the face.
How many settings have that level of elasticity? Would we buy superheroes showing up in a Twilight novel? No. What about Twilight characters showing up in a Deadpool comic? Absolutely. Hell, that thing I just described? That actually happened. Deadpool issue #30. Go look it up. I’ll wait.
Back? Cool. Moving on.
In most narratives, the rules are flexible, but solid. Your average urban fantasy setting has some basic protocols. Magic exists, yeah, there are werewolves and vampires, sure–but a robot dimension? Nazis on the moon? Amelia Earhart running a government agency that deals with invasions from alternate universes? Now you’re just being weird.
But in a superhero setting, anything is possible. Superman can punch Dracula. Batman can fight reptile people in the earth’s core. Zantanna can cast an invisibility spell by saying ‘Elbisivni’. The weird isn’t just possible; it’s probable. In a comic book universe, the weird is standard operating procedure.
And this is why I love superhero comics. Because rather than just recreate our world except with werewolves, they celebrate the bizarre. They blend science fiction and fantasy together into a frothy mixture and pour it down our throats. The best superhero comics aren’t about dark, gritty, washed out worlds where men in tights fight crime–they’re about the strange, the hideous, the beautiful, the intense. They’re worlds full of color–some of them darker than black, some of them brighter than the sun.
And this is why I love Legion of Nothing–because while its characters occupy a world where the danger is real and death lurks around every corner, it doesn’t forget that these are heroes. Flawed, sure. Just kids, absolutely. But they’re good guys, fighting the weird fight. Rather than parody or deconstruct it, Legion of Nothing celebrates superheroes and all their strangeness.
You can keep your violent re-imaginations and deconstructions of the superhero genre; I want stories that embrace the weird. To that end, I’ve hijacked this narrative with my own piece of Legion of Nothing fanfiction. I beg your pardon in advance if it’s a little stranger than what you’re accustom to–my settings probably tend to be a little more ‘unhinged’ than Jim’s. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it, and not hold the fact that Jim allowed me to post this here against him.
Thanks for reading.
“Anna is not a freak,” Sue said.
“I can’t believe you’re seriously arguing this,” Bonesaw replied. “I mean, I know freaks. Hell, I am one. And Anna? Qualifies.”
The two teenage girls made a peculiar pair as they walked up the wooded mountain road. Sue, with her broad shoulders and thick figure, resembled a brick wall with legs. She was pretty, but in a harsh and unforgiving sort of way–her dark, wavy hair was hacked to chin-length, highlighting a jaw that could crack a cinderblock. She wore a dark green sweater beneath her favorite brown leather jacket, with a long black skirt swishing past her knees.
‘Bonesaw’, in comparison, resembled a medical exhibit on the run. Her skin was chalk-white, with a dense tapestry of scar tissue marking almost every inch. Her eyes were blood red and when she smiled, it revealed a pair of fangs. She wore a black hoodie to hide her hairless skull from prying eyes.
“Look, the whole ‘freak’ thing works for you,” Sue said. “You’re more comfortable with your whole, uh, situation,” she added, gesturing to Bonesaw’s body. “Anna isn’t. Not yet. She’s been through a lot, what with the whole prosthetic thing.”
Bonesaw rolled her eyes. “If it means not having to get lectured by you, I won’t call her a freak unless she’s okay with it.”
The two stopped walking along the road and turned to the garage. Sue gave it a gentle kick.
The door rumbled to life and rolled back, exposing the interior.
It was a makeshift workshop assembled from whatever spare parts could be found. Some of the equipment had the polished gleam you’d expect from state-of-the-art laboratory gear–other pieces looked like they’d been welded together in shop class.
With Anna, the latter was a distinct possibility.
Anna Spencer stood at the workshop’s center. The young teenager was dressed in a white lab-coat, a Marvel Zombies t-shirt, and a pair of elbow-length rubber gloves. Behind her, she wore a small steel backpack that resembled a laptop. She was a Chinese girl with crooked teeth and a slender build. When she saw Sue and Bonesaw, she clapped her hands together.
“Did you bring me science?”
Sue and Bonesaw traded looks. Sue tossed Anna the small handbag she’d been carrying. Anna caught it, peered inside, and squee’d.
“You did!” she said, and then she ran to one of her instruments and pulled out the device.
It was a softball-sized sphere engraved with a network of geometrical grooves. A small digital display on one side revealed red symbols that didn’t match any earth-bound alphabet.
Anna peered at it as she weighed it. Sue stopped to admire some of Anna’s posters–among them were several images of Batman, Superman, and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
“Any idea what it is?” Bonesaw asked.
“If I had to guess,” Anna said, “I’d say either it’s an incredibly powerful bomb–”
Both Sue and Bonesaw took a step back.
“–or, much more likely, an omnisphere.”
“Omnisphere?” Sue asked.
“A machine that allows travel between alternate dimensions,” Anna explained. She placed the sphere on a metal plate, then pressed a switch. An arc of electricity crackled across it. “Yep, definitely not a bomb.”
“Good,” Bonesaw said, and then she scowled. “Wait, how do you know that?”
“If it was, it would have exploded,” Anna said.
“It–what?!” Bonesaw said. “Are you insane?!”
Sue put a hand on Bonesaw’s shoulder. “You said this is for dimensional travel. How does it work?”
“Well, the point of the omnisphere is to solve the whole targeting problem,” Anna said.
“Targeting problem?” Sue asked.
Anna snatched a marker from the table and stabbed a dot onto a nearby whiteboard. “Here’s us,” she said. “A tiny blue mote suspended in an endless, trackless void of space, hurtling at incredible speed. The chances of an alternate universe earth sharing our exact coordinates and velocity are so small that you can’t even properly express them without scientific notation.”
“Okay,” Sue said. “So you need to target a location on the other earth.”
“Right,” Anna said. “But that’s like shooting a flea off the back of a bullet with a smaller bullet. Also, you’re on a train traveling in the opposite direction. Also, the bullets and train are all moving at nearly the speed of light. Also, you and the flea are blind-folded.”
“Why is the flea blind-folded?” Bonesaw asked.
Anna paused, blinked, and shrugged. “Dunno,” she said. “I was on a roll.”
“So, okay. The omnisphere solves this problem how?” Sue asked.
“Easy!” Anna said. “When you activate one and target a universe, it targets an omnisphere, and trades places with it. Taking a sphere-shaped chunk of the universe you’re in with it.”
“So the other universe has to have built an omnisphere,” Sue said.
“And hopefully not left it floating in space,” Anna said. “Or in the center of the earth.”
“Did you check up on the bad guys I emailed you about?” Sue asked.
“‘Legion’? Those new supervillains you fought?” Anna said. “Are they the ones you got this sphere from? And yeah–there’s nothing about any of them anywhere. It’s like none of them existed up until a week ago.”
“Well, they didn’t show up until a week ago, so I’d expect that,” Bonesaw said.
“No, no,” Anna said. “I mean, no one’s even heard of the individual members before a week ago, either.” She moved to her laptop, pulling up the images Sue had sent her. They were blurry security camera shots, but the targets were visible. “The costumes, ages, genders, powers–no known capes or masks have these combinations. All of them are new.”
Bonesaw wrinkled her nose. “How would you even know?”
Anna rolled her eyes. “We keep track of this stuff on the Capes and Masks forums, duh.”
“Wait, there’s a forum where they talk about us? Like, superheroes and stuff?” Bonesaw asked, peering over Anna’s shoulder.
“There’s like a bajillion,” Anna said. “Capes and Masks is the only really good one, though.” She nudged her shoulder into Bonesaw’s way, but Bonesaw just leaned closer.
“Any dirt on Sue?” Bonesaw asked.
“There’s a whole wiki dedicated to the Skull and her enemies,” Anna said.
Sue snorted. “What about Bonesaw, here?”
“Oh, uh, most people actually think she’s a supervillain,” Anna said.
“Huh,” Bonesaw said, thinking it over. “I’m actually okay with that.”
“Anyway, it’s bizarre. ‘Shock Jock’, ‘Paradigm’, ‘Beast Girl’, ‘Commando’, ‘Blur’–all of them are completely fresh. New powers, new faces, new costumes. Like they came out of no where all at once,” Anna said.
“Weird,” Sue said.
“Oh, come on,” Bonesaw said, and now it was her turn to roll her eyes. “They’re from another dimension.”
“Huh?” Anna asked.
“A bunch of weird supervillains show up that no one’s heard of with some sort of universe-hopping artifact. Obviously, they’re from another dimension,” Bonesaw said.
“Huh. That would make sense,” Anna agreed.
“But what do they want?” Sue said.
Anna had moved back to the omnisphere and started manipulating the small array of pressure-sensitive buttons on its surface. It clicked and hissed, then emitted a series of beeps.
“Please be careful with that thing,” Bonesaw said. “Really don’t want to end up in, like, the Robot Dimension or something.”
“It’s got coordinates loaded into it,” Anna said. “According to this, it’s found a compatible omnisphere.”
“Maybe it’s the dimension they came from,” Sue said.
“Or the one they want to go to,” Anna said.
“When we hit their lair, it looked like they were getting ready to move out,” Sue said. “So maybe.”
“Both of you. Quiet,” Bonesaw said.
Anna and Sue turned to her. Bonesaw had grown stiff, her head tilted up–her eyes were narrowed and her nostrils were flaring.
Sue shifted her stance low and clenched her fists. “How many?” she asked, after a period of silence.
“Two,” Bonesaw said. “Shock Jock and Beast Girl.” Serrated claws emerged from her knuckles, slicing through flesh and muscle as they extended.
“Anna, hide,” Sue said.
“I want to–”
“You ain’t got powers. Take the omnisphere and hide,” Bonesaw hissed.
Anna did as she was told. She snatched the omnisphere and ducked out through the doorway, into her house.
Several moments later, a bolt of lightning erupted from the garage door and crashed into the ground, swelling up and reforming into a figure.
The teenager was a few inches short of six feet. His costume was a bright pink PVC trench-coat with a ridiculously high collar and mirror-shades–his long hair had been teased upward into a ridiculously shaggy mane. Sue’s first thought was that he looked like a very young Howard Stern impersonator.
“Am I late to the party?” he asked.
Above them, the garage ceiling erupted in an explosion of cement and timber. A girl with short-chopped hair descended–she was wearing a black leather jacket covered in studs, with chains hanging from every available pocket. Long gray claws extended from her fingertips.
“So,” Shock Jock said. “Which one do you want, Haley?”
Beast Girl cracked her neck to the side and straightened. “I know how much you’re into freakshows. So you can have the one with the scars, Vaughn.”
The sounds of crashing didn’t subside until a good two minutes had passed.
Anna huddled down in her room, trying to unlock the omnisphere’s higher functions. If she could access the onboard computer, she could pull up a log–and if she could figure out how to read the damn thing, she could figure out where these ‘Legion’ members came from–maybe find out why they were here, or where they wanted to go.
But when the sounds of combat started to die down, Anna’s goals changed. If Sue and Bonesaw had won, there was no need to rush; if Shock Jock and Beast Girl had won, her main priority was getting the hell out of here. She stood up, looked to her window, and–
Her bedroom door was kicked down. The hinges tore their way out of timber and plaster.
Beast Girl stood at the entrance, her claws dripping with blood.
“Your friend was hard as hell to kill,” she said.
Anna took a step back, holding the omnisphere tight. “You didn’t kill her,” she said.
Beast Girl grinned. “What, is this the six stages of grief or something? ‘Denial’ is the first one, right?”
There was a crash downstairs. Beast Girl looked over her shoulder, bewildered.
Anna rolled her eyes. “No, I mean you didn’t kill her,” she said. “She’s pretty close to unkillable.”
Beast Girl growled, turned toward Anna, and started moving forward. “Doesn’t mean I can’t carve you up, though.”
Anna squeaked and jumped back. One of Beast Girl’s claws descended for her face–she lifted her arm to deflect the blow.
The claw cut through rubber, then bounced back off Anna’s forearm with a metallic ‘clang’.
Beast Girl blinked. “‘Clang’? Meat doesn’t cl–”
“So I’ve heard,” Anna said, cutting her off with a punch. Gears hummed beneath the glove as her metal fist caught Beast Girl straight into the face–and propelled her back out of the room. She hit the hallway wall with a sharp thwack, denting the wood.
Down below, the sound of battle grew more pitched. Beast Girl got up, readjusted her jaw with an obnoxious crunch, and glared.
Shock Jock appeared in a flash of energy besides her. “Jaclyn’s here, holding them off,” he said. “Daniel’s on his way. We find the omnisphere yet?”
Beast Girl pointed to Anna. Shock Jock turned, then grinned.
“She’s got metal arms or something,” Beast Girl said.
“Cool,” Shock Jock said. “I’ll just–”
Anna’s fingers crawled over the omnisphere, activating what few functions she understood. The device hummed, then produced several indignant beeps.
Both Shock Jock and Beast Girl froze. “Does… does she know how to use that thing?” Shock Jock whispered.
“I do,” Anna answered him. “And unless you back off, I’m taking it with me.”
It was a bluff, of course. When she left, the omnisphere would be switched with another one from an alternate universe. But Anna was guessing these two weren’t the tech-savvy members of the group, and might not know that–or maybe no one had bothered to write down the coordinates in the omnisphere. Either way, her threat seemed to give them pause.
Shock Jock lifted his fingertips to the side of his temple. “Daniel says she’s bluffing. But he wants her alive. Her head, at least.”
Beast Girl grinned. “Means she won’t need any other appendages, right?” Her claws grew several inches.
Anna swallowed, then pressed her thumbs against two more plates. “Stay back,” she said. “Or I’ll–”
“Get her,” Shock Jock said. “Jaclyn’s coming upstairs, she’ll snatch the sph–”
Anna pressed the plates down. The sphere’s hum turned into a shrill screech as the world around her was swallowed in a brilliant, swirling maelstrom of color. Somewhere besides her, she heard a gentle swoosh and caught sight of an incoming blur–Shock Jock and Beast Girl both sprang forward simultaneously, extending their hands out for her. And then–
Then, they all disappeared.
“You’re claiming that the moon-landing was faked.”
“I’m just saying that–”
“You’re claiming,” Nick repeated, “that the moon-landing was faked.”
Vaughn grumbled on the other end of the transceiver. “It was a really convincing website, okay?”
“Let’s just finish up the patrol. I’ve got repairs to finish,” Nick said.
The roar of the suit’s engine blocked out the sounds of the city below; all that was left was the view. Headlights flowed up and through the illuminated streets beneath a tapestry of glowing steel and glass. So far, nothing had made so much as a peep.
Which was a good thing. For Nick, boring nights were becoming a valued luxury.
The tranquility was dismissed by a hit on the police scanner.
“Got a 10-56 outside the Werner Institute,” a female said. “Some sort of strange light. Requesting assistance.”
“What’s a 10-56?” Vaughn asked.
“Not sure. I think it means somebody’s causing a disturbance?” Nick said. “Werner Institute–isn’t that the new museum–”
“The one with that exhibit on superheroes and stuff,” Vaughn said. “Yeah, I wanted to check it out. See if they got some dirt on anyone I know.”
“Anyway, doubt it’s anything to worry ab–”
“Request immediate assistance! Request immediate assistance!” The woman’s voice was now frantic. “10-97!”
Nick kicked the suit’s engines on full and steered himself toward the source of the signal. “That one I know. Means ‘Metahuman involvement.”
Vaughn soon caught up to Nick, but kept his distance. They both descended toward the Werner Institute–a large three-story building with towering columns and a marble-brick facade. Two police cars were stationed outfront. Several windows inside of the museum had been recently blown out.
Nick touched down first. The officer on duty took one look at his armor, then turned back to the museum and pointed.
“In there,” she said. “Bunch of people fighting. We started inside, but someone threw a bolt of lightning at us.”
Nick turned to the museum’s front doors and blasted straight in. Vaughn was somewhere behind him, sweeping in high.
The interior was dark. Most of the exhibits were locked up for the night. The helmet’s infrared hummed, feeding Nick an illuminated image of the room.
The viewport was briefly blinded by a flood of light as a spear of lightning struck Nick dead-center in the chest.
Several monitors on Nick’s viewport measured the output as the electricity flowed harmlessly through the suit’s circuitry and down out of the boots. The blinding light subsided, revealing a figure in front of him. Nick raised an eyebrow beneath the helmet.
“Crap,” his attacker said. “Didn’t even make a dent, huh?”
The costume was far more ridiculous–a bright pink trench coat with raised collars, absurd shades, and a poofy mane of hair–but otherwise, the guy was a dead-ringer for Vaughn.
As if on cue, the real Vaughn landed besides Nick. “What the hell?” Vaughn said. “Is that–”
“Oh, wow,” the Vaughn-clone said. “Your costume sucks.”
“Dude, you really have no room to talk,” Vaughn said.
“Yeah, what he said,” Nick said. “Also, what the hell is going on?”
“Bizarro clones? Alternate universe?” the real Vaughn asked. “Don’t know, don’t care.” He floated up into the air and extended his fingertips–energy tore out from them, sweeping forward in long, burning arcs that whipped up across the Vaughn-clone’s coat.
Vaughn-clone raised his own hands and drew the lightning up into his palms. The two struggled over the flow of energy, each trying to overcome the other.
Nick raised his sonics to fire just before a fist slammed down from the ceiling and grabbed him by the shoulder. Claws raked across his armor as it pulled; the suit was yanked straight up into the second floor.
Nick tumbled to the ground a moment before he was shoulder-checked into the far wall. An exhibit on Chinese superheroes shattered behind him as he rolled to his knees; his attacker had grabbed a fire extinguisher and was charging at him.
Nick did a double-take. His attacker was Haley, except with shorter hair and in a black leather jacket.
She brought the base of the fire extinguisher down into his helmet with a resounding CLANG. His armor groaned. His head was snapped back. The Haley-clone pulled the fire extinguisher back for another swing. Nick clapped his hands together and caught it–metal creaked under his powered gauntlets.
“Question,” he said. “You can regenerate, right?”
“Damn right I–”
“Cool.” Nick head-butted her in the chest with as much force as he could stomach.
He grimaced as he heard her rib-cage crack. She released the extinguisher and stumbled away, wheezing. Nick stood up and threw the weapon aside, then took aim with the sonics.
“Bastard,” she said, and then she leapt.
Nick fired a short series of bursts. The sound was enough to send her sprawling on her back, groaning with pain. From below, he could hear a crash–and then a bolt of lightning tore out from the hole in the floor and struck the ground, swelling up and reforming into the Vaughn-clone.
He took one look at the unconscious Haley-clone, one look at Nick, and sighed. “Shit,” he said.
Nick fired another blast of sonics. Vaughn-clone transformed into a bolt of energy and speared his way straight for Nick. Nick braced himself for impact; his monitors measured the output of energy as the suit’s circuitry safely redirected the lightning. One monitor displayed an error.
Vaughn-clone had apparently disappeared.
“Nick? You okay up there?” Vaughn shouted from below. “That guy can do some weird thing where he turns into lightning–”
“Yeah,” Nick shouted back. “He’s gone. I think he used my suit to redirect himself through the floor.” He moved toward the hole. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Vaughn said. “Who attacked you up there?”
“Some weird biker version of Night Cat,” Nick said. “Hit her with sonics, though. She’s right over–”
He turned, then realized that Haley-clone was gone. “Crap,” he said. “She’s gone. Going to search for her–”
“Actually, uh, Rocket,” Vaughn said. “There’s more people down here–I think… This is seriously messed up. You might want to take a look at it.”
“Crap,” Nick muttered, and then he lowered himself down into the hole.