Content warning: Attempted rape.
"The Vorlons ask only one question, over and over: who are you? You--for you, the question is, what do you want? I have never heard you answer that question. Who are you? What do you want?"
"You don't know, do you? You've been fighting each other so long you've forgotten. You've lost your way. So how can you guide us, how can we learn who we are and what we want if you don't even know it any more?"
"It doesn't matter which side wins this today. A thousand years from now it'll start all over again. You're as trapped in this cycle as much as we are. But we can't afford it any more. We don't need it--we don't need you. We've learned how to stand on our own. We'll make mistakes, but they'll be our mistakes, not yours."
"Your secret is out. All these other races know you for who you are. So what now?"
"You do not speak for the rest."
"They will not follow you if you are dead."
"The others have rejected you. How will you have a war, when no one will fight for either of you?"
"We refuse to take sides in this any more. And we refuse to let you turn us against one another. We know who we are now. We can find our own way between order and chaos."
"Kill us, one by one, and those who follow us, and those who follow them, on and on, every race, every planet, until there's no one left to kill. You will have failed as guardians. You will be alone."
"It's over because we've decided it's over. Now get the hell out of our galaxy, both of you!"
--Babylon 5, "Into the Fire"
"Never start a fight, but always finish it."
--Babylon 5, "Point of No Return"
"Damn that woman," I muttered as I hung up the phone.
It's not easy being a nerd girl. Even one like me. I'm not beautiful. Not ugly, either. Just plain. Nothing that might make someone avert their eyes but nothing that would make anyone take a second glance.
My face looks a bit weathered, a bit of a lived-in look, I guess you could say. I'm not exactly a beanpole but it's not like I have any curves to speak of. Besides, I wear pretty shapeless clothes--hoodies, loose pants, that sort of thing. I keep my hair short.
And it still doesn't stop the leering and creeping and ogling and inappropriate remarks, or even the very occasional grope.
It made me wish I was one of the superheroes I idolized. The women especially. Nobody dared creep on Amazing Woman when they all knew she could effortlessly send them sliding into a wall, or use a low-powered blast of her heat vision to leave a painful burn mark on the offender's arm. She'd done it, too, in full sight of everyone at quite a few conventions.
It was always a bit disappointing that she didn't seem to care much for all the other women about who weren't as lucky as her. The same was generally true of most superheroes. Oh, there were a few exceptions who would carefully pick and choose who got to talk with them or have a picture taken or what have you, but most of them were happy just to stand in the centre of a gaggle of admirers and take pictures with whoever could muscle their way to the front.
Which was never me, and on the few occasions that I'd tried it seemed like all the guys who flocked to those shows used "getting closer to the superhero than me" as an excuse to feel up my boobs or grab my ass. Not that there was much there, but still.
And I wasn't interesting enough to those few who didn't let that happen to get a chance to interact with them.
So instead I just looked on from afar, bought the occasional souvenir, saved countless articles about their endeavours, and developed a general resentment of the very people I idolized and all their self-absorbed groupies.
I still don't know how it happened. Which is a funny thing for me to say now, since I know just about everything else. Not that it really matters.
Just, one day I woke up and, bam. I knew. I was omnipotent. All you superheroes, eat your indestructible hearts out!
But I didn't really want to be a superhero. Honestly I just wanted to be me. I just wanted to take a picture with a superhero, both of us smiling for the camera and giving me what would probably have been the best memory of my life.
Which is honestly kinda pathetic, thinking about it.
But such is the nature of small-minded ambitions, I suppose. So I went out, looking for a few heroes.
Most superheroes, of course, have some way of evading detection. For most of them, it was flight or superspeed. A rare handful had teleportation. And there was one who was simply invisible when she wanted to be.
Of course, while all that might have helped them avoid being spotted by means available to most people, I wasn't most people now. Hell, I could even just shut off--or take away, or give--superpowers as I saw fit. I didn't really want to do that, though. After all, I didn't want to be a superhero, but the world had become pretty dependent on them to do things like fight crime. Get rid of a superhero and there's more work for the rest of them, which means that there's more chance of criminals getting away with it.
So instead I just decided that I knew where they all were. And since my will was now paramount, I did.
Invisible Girl was probably the most interesting one to me. For some reason, she never showed up at conventions. As far as anyone knew, invisibility was her only superpower, and nobody had ever bumped into her even at the most crowded shows.
Turns out there's a pretty good reason for that.
Invisible Girl's got a few more powers than just invisibility. As it turns out, she can only turn her living cells invisible.
Which means, among other things, that she needs to have an extremely efficient digestive system and, you'd think, a very high pain tolerance.
She has the first, but not the second. Instead, well...
When I appeared on the scene, I could "see" her moving around a crowd. Not "see" in the ordinary sense, of course, but explaining it to someone who isn't all-powerful would take too long, and anyone who is already knows what I mean. "Sense" might be better, I guess.
Have you ever been hit with a sudden, inexplicable pain? Maybe it's just something short and sharp, maybe it lingers a while. Well, that's Invisible Girl's other power. She can pass her pain to others. Which, considering what she needs to do to be able to remain invisible, involves passing on a lot of pain.
Of course, like many powers, it does have many uses. Thief robbing a bank? Hostage situation? She can sneak in undetected, debilitate the ne'er-do-wells, and get out.
But there just isn't enough crime around, what with all the superheroes quashing it regularly, for that to be enough for her. So all too often she just flits through crowds, passing on bits and pieces of physical agony, not caring who hurts as long as it isn't her.
I looked along her timeline. She'd saved plenty of people, to be sure, but the number of heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and other such things she'd induced in other people... it was too much.
So I took it away. Her powers, and along with them, her pain.
After all, there were more than enough other heroes to pick up the slack.
One of the most idolized heroes of all of them was Incredible Man. Sure, he was pretty much just your standard flying brick. But he was constantly in the news, doing everything from stopping crimes, to saving drowning kids, to getting cats out of trees.
He even made a point of helping at least one little old lady cross a busy street every day.
With cameras present, of course.
So naturally, he was someone I wanted to meet.
It had been a while since I'd taken away Invisible Girl's powers, and Incredible Man was one of the heroes who'd really done a lot to pick up the slack her absence left. It wasn't hard to find a nice bank robbery that he'd be sure to show up at, and teleport myself there surreptitiously to be a scared little hostage, cowering under the nasty-looking firearms the gangsters were holding.
And as much as I generally detested people who did nothing but be hot and flaunt it constantly, I knew that my best chance of getting to meet Incredible Man personally and be on camera with him and all of that was to be just that: hot and flaunting it. So there I was, lying on the floor in a low-cut top and short shorts, face radiant, hair long, blonde and shiny, huge breasts and ass threatening to burst my skimpy, toned-abs-revealing clothes. (In fact, if it weren't for my powers holding everything together, they would have.)
The perfect woman for Incredible Man to rescue.
And rescue us he did, sauntering into the bank, smiling as a hail of gunfire bounced ineffectively off his invulnerable body--even showing off, as security camera footage regularly showed him doing, by making sure that all the ricochets stayed well clear of anyone present, both the criminals and the hostages. He was, as his moniker indicated, pretty incredible at what he did.
Just as I had hoped, after he finished tying up the crooks' wrists with their own guns and using some small, low-powered bursts of his heat vision to make sure they couldn't run anywhere for a while, he let the cops take over and took a look at the hostages to figure out which one he wanted on his arm as he addressed the media after another crime successfully prevented.
Naturally there was only one choice.
I knew my place in this, of course: smile, look pretty for the cameras, simper a bit as Incredible Man preened and the media fawned over him. And then, of course, he flew up into the sky, holding me in his arms, presumably--so everyone had said--to go back to his mansion so that I could get all dolled up for our inevitable dinner date that night.
Instead, he alighted on a cloud, his powers--so long as he was still touching me, anyway--allowing him to make both of us weightless so we could rest comfortably on the billowy mass of water.
"Now," he said, his hands drifting over my body, moving up my arms and legs, "I think you owe me a little something for saving your life."
"What do you mean?" I asked, deliberately not using my telepathy to find out.
His eyes bored into mine, and I could suddenly tell that he was no ordinary flying brick. I let his mental probe slip in, let him think he was altering my mind a bit, making me more subservient, more compliant.
"I think you know what," he said, his smile much more lascivious now that he thought I was firmly within his mental control. Still holding one wrist firm, he reached for my skimpy clothing, ripping it off with one pull. I yelped in pain, as I knew he wanted me to do--as soon as I realized what he was up to I'd burrowed my way deeper into his mind than he could ever get into anyone else's--and trembled in fear as he demonstrated another power he never showed off, as he proved that his costume was just a part of his body.
A body of which all parts were just as incredible as his feats--or his arrogance.
"Now," he said, moving his body up mine, clearly expecting me to get to work with my mouth, "how about you get me nice and ready."
That was when he discovered that there was in fact something more invulnerable than his flesh: my teeth.
A few days later Incredible Man's body, mangled, twisted and charred almost--but, very deliberately, not quite--beyond recognition, washed up on a beach. And not long after that, all the stories started coming out, each conveniently supported by a little evidence dug up by yours truly.
One by one I met every other superhero. And one by one they all disappointed me. Whether it was Speedster being a pickpocket or Lightning not caring what places got droughts or floods just so long as her garden got the right amount of sun and rain, all of them, for all the heroic deeds they were seen to do, also used their powers for petty, selfish, and sometimes cruel ends.
And so one by one the world was left with one less superhero.
But some foolish part of me still held out hope that one of them would prove to be worthy of their powers. And I knew which one I hoped it would be, but even that hope dimmed as time went on.
Until finally she was the only one I had left to meet.
Amazing Woman, these days, was run absolutely ragged. Oh, sure, she had already been the cream of the superhero crop, blessed with powers well beyond those any other had. She had an unenviable task facing her, trying to do on her own what previously had been done by hundreds. Of course, it helped that not only could she move literally faster than light, as well as simply outright teleport, she could also exist in multiple bodies at once. So where before she had only shown up at the most dire scenes--another of her powers was a general sort of omniscient sense for everything going on on the planet--now she was doing everything herself. The mental strain, I could tell from a peek into her head, was terrific.
I spied her trudging away from the scene of a hostage situation. She'd rescued the hostages and disabled the malefactors, of course, though in a manner more inelegant than she normally preferred. But she was in no mood for more heroics. For once there was nothing going on in the world that required the attention of its only remaining superhero, so she took advantage of the opportunity to have a nice, peaceful walk.
But when there's an omnipotent being running around who wants nothing more than to meet Amazing Woman, Amazing Woman isn't about to get a "nice, peaceful walk".
As she passed by an alley I created a scene, a group of young women, myself among them, surrounded by a gang of men, some pointing guns, some getting ready to make use of us. As she walked by the alley, a choir of scared, feminine voices screamed, as one, "HELP!"
Amazing Woman turned in "our" direction.
I knew she hadn't seen through my ruse. To her, as to everyone else, it looked as real as I intended it to be.
"Rescue your own fucking idiot selves," she muttered, and turned on her heel.
And not long after that, the world was left with no superheroes at all.
Of course, I'm not perfect myself, a fact which quickly became apparent once I had to start doing all the superhero work I never wanted to do.
It was far easier for me, naturally. Omniscience and mild prescience help a lot when it comes to fighting and, more importantly, preventing crime. But I won't deny that I have a few of the, shall we say, peccadilloes of the superheroes I replaced.
And soon I began to seek wrongdoing in other places also, not just the average, everyday criminals the superheroes had fought, but other crimes, more sinister, more hidden.
And once I turned my attention to those, it was only a matter of time before the world became what it is now.
And do you know what that means? It means I rescued you from them.
And that means you owe me.
"The war is never completely won. There are always new battles to be fought against the darkness. Only the names change. But we, we achieved everything we set out to achieve. We created something that will endure for a thousand years. But the price, John, the terrible, terrible price."
--Babylon 5, "War Without End, Part 2"
"You cannot harm me. You cannot stop someone who's been touched by Vorlons."
"You're not the only one that's been touched by the Vorlons."
--Babylon 5, "The Wheel of Fire"