Chapter 1 - Just a normal guy

Over the past several years, the world has been turned upside down.

It all started, like most terrible things, with good intentions. A man of science with the dream curing all disease started to experiment on a human test subject. Perhaps he shouldn't have, he certainly wasn't allowed to in any legal sense. But he found someone willing to subject themselves to testing in the hopes that together they could save the world.

The experiments were volatile, and highly dangerous, and ultimately disastrous. An explosion in the lab killed the scientist, and he died never knowing what kind of chain reaction he'd started. The human test subject survived, and the experiments had worked more or less. He was now immune to all disease, but he was also immune to any injury, and incapable of being hurt. He was a truly invincible man, a one-of-a-kind miracle. What would anyone do with such power? Well, become a hero of course.

From behind a mask and a costume to hide his true identity, this man nicknamed himself 'Zeus', and did his part to protect the innocent from the criminal elements of his city. Criminals robbing a bank found it very difficult to get away when a bulletproof man was blocking the door. Muggers got more than they bargained for when their knives snapped against a body as uncuttable as iron. Organised crime became a lot less organised when Zeus kicked in the door and started knocking heads together. For the first time in a long time, the city was starting to become a better place. A safer place.

But the sad truth of reality is that when a hero arises, the criminal element is forced to get creative to work around it. Now that the cat was out of the bag, and the world knew that attaining superpowers was possible, research of all kinds, shapes and sizes took place in a mad race to be the next superhero, or in some cases, villain.

Most of this researched went nowhere, but some of it led to something more. The results varied, but nobody could argue that it was a success. New heroes emerged, alongside villains rising to oppose them. Some of them augmented with some kind of biological enhancements, or supplemented with technology in some way. Sometimes a little bit of both. And as the years rolled by, with fights and conflict breaking out more and more often between more and more enhanced beings, still more heroes and villains were making themselves known, coming out of the woodwork, and joining in on both sides of the epic conflict between good and evil.

Kevin looked at his watch as the bus remained stuck in traffic. He was definitely going to be late for work now. Outside the bus, a hero flew past just above head height at sonic speed, making a sound like a fighter jet soaring through the sky, and collided with the Nothic standing farther down the road. The Nothic was a very large, four-legged, black haired beast with one massive eye. They were getting more and more common now, and were showing up more often each month. The kids on the bus cheered when the hero punched the creature in mid-flight, and soared back up into the air, presumably to try again. Another hero was fighting the Nothic from the ground, mostly just keeping it busy so his companion could do more hit-and-runs. The adults on the bus were less enthusiastic. They'd all been excited once, but now fights like this happened almost every day. They just got in the way.

"See that?" said one of the children, pointing up at the flying hero. "That's the Flying Hammer. He can squash a car with one punch!"

"Flying Hammer?" said someone nearby. "I thought that was Viper."

"No dear, the Viper wears green and red. Plus, I think he's retired. Not that I blame him, he's been a hero for almost twelve years now. He was one of the first ones, you know? The Flying Hammer's new."

"Well I guess one flying hero's pretty much the same as another, aren't they?"

Kevin listened to the conversations absently. It was hard to block out, especially since he'd forgotten to bring his earphones this morning. He turned his attention to one woman talking to her pregnant friend while the sounds of violent fighting continued a short distance away.

"I'm telling you; Doctor Genome's beta wave therapy is proven to induce superpowers in a developing child. If you want your child to be a hero one day, you need to book in soon."

"I'm not sure. I've heard that a lot of women died during childbirth after beta wave therapy."

"That's just an urban myth! I did the research. Only one woman died, and she was the very first one to try it. They stopped the tests for months before trying it again so they could figure out what went wrong the first time. Nobody's died since then."

"I still don't know if I should. I know having a hero for a child sounds amazing and romantic, but you know what teenagers are like. I'm just worried that they would use their powers for evil, and become a villain, you know what I mean?"

"But lots of people are doing it, and there are other techniques and therapies for pregnant women that do similar things. Just promise me that you won't rule it out, ok?"

Irritated, Kevin turned away and looked out the window and settled in his seat to watch the fight. He hadn't heard of the Flying Hammer, and he wasn't sure who the other guy was either. He didn't bother to keep track of the local heroes, not like the fanatics who categorised them and ranked them against each other.

Fortunately, the fight only lasted a few more minutes. The first hero slapped his hands together, creating a shockwave the stunned the Nothic and knocked it off balance, while the Flying Hammer flew in with a strike that landed so hard that the creature's neck broke, and it crumpled to the ground. An enthusiastic cheer went up from the children running from window to window for the best view, and the adults joined in with less interest. Kevin did too, although for him, and most likely the other adults on the bus, he was just glad that they could get under way again.

"Sorry folks," said the bus driver as he stood up and put down his radio mouthpiece. "I've just gotten word that the fight up ahead has torn up the road really badly, and that means that all traffic in the area has to be diverted. So, it's the end of the line here, everyone. Sorry."

Groans and muffled swearing accompanied the news, and everyone reluctantly got up to file out of the bus. Kevin got out with a sigh, and resigned to a long walk to work. He passed the place where the fight had broken out, and he could see the large hole in the road where the Nothic had crawled out from underground. The Flying Hammer was making a start at dragging the body out of the way, while the other hero was talking with the nearby police about the possibility of a Nothic nest nearby. By the time he got to work, he was over an hour late.

"Kevin, where the fuck have you been?" his boss said when he spotted him coming into the Restaurant. Already the place was full, and people had obviously been waiting a while for their food.

Kevin shrugged. "There was a Nothic in the road. They got it, but it just meant the bus was late."

His boss rolled his eyes, and didn't bother trying to contest his story, and just waved him past. Kevin proceeded to the staff room to get changed. Being late to work because of superheroes fighting in the street was a popular, and mostly valid, reason for being late nowadays.