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Later, Let’s Tear Up The Inner Sanctum

Avabug’s Netjournal—[friends-only] hospital update—5/17/29

Still in the hospital. Radiation burns suck. Mom came to see me, though, which was nice. She probably had to argue with that dick of a boss she works for to let her off early. You’d think since I nearly died because superheroes were fighting above my school that I’d get some sort of benefits or medical insurance, but noooo, it’s all on me and Mom to foot the hospital bills because fights are not a novelty anymore and we have minimal insurance that doesn’t cover superhuman engagement liability blah blah bullshit. Still, Mom refused to send me anywhere less than Guinevere Memorial and I think that’s pretty badass of her, don’t you?

(All my love to my awesome girlfriend fiddlebug, too, for sending me cookies when she couldn’t come visit.)

Oh! And check this out, I got an exclusive sneak peek of that new aerial stunt crew that tracks supers like some guys do tornados. Check out this sweet throwdown between Ice and Sin-Master over the stadium on Friday!!! I know you can get some crappy shakycam on the news, but the Excaliburs keep taking down the vids and their media dept is, like, insane. I know it’s a costume copyright thing, but jeez, lighten up. Anyway, they’ve got some marketing deal with HoverWatch so it’s all super (ha ha) HD and there’s going to be 3D conversion just before it hits on-demand next Monday. You’ve probably all seen the trailer they dropped, RIGHT? I know you’ll dig it. (No pirating or I’m never sharing again!)

[Uploaded: smackdown_ice_vs_SM.]

• • • •

Security Camera Archives – [8/26/26] – Excalibur HQ – RESTRICTED ACCESS – TIER ONE CLEARANCE REQUIRED

Observation hall, forty-fifth story, north wing.

The semi-circular room overlooks the city, one wall completely windowed with spy-proof glass. Plush chairs, a stylish bar, and a security console and monitor system mounted in the center of the room.

Tasha Ramirez, a.k.a. Ice Sickle, paces alongside the windows. Adrian Tsushami, a.k.a. Tiger Moth, stands at the bar and mixes a pair of drinks.

RAMIREZ: You’re wasting my time.

TSUSHAMI: I’d hardly call a disciplinary meeting a waste of time.

Ramirez slaps a hand against the glass. Ice forms in a palm-print where her skin touches the window.

RAMIREZ: I’m not sorry.

TSUSHAMI: You never are. But your actions were . . .

RAMIREZ: I saved everyone on that bus.

Tsushami picks up one of the drinks and drains it in a gulp. He offers the other to Ramirez. She shakes her head.

TSUSHAMI: That’s not the point. You let Venus escape.

RAMIREZ: She’s a minor league villain.

TSUSHAMI: And she’ll strike again. And next time she’ll aim for a bigger target than the metro station.

RAMIREZ: So I should let dozens of people die to prevent, what, a chance that next time—

The glass stem in Tsushami’s hand snaps, spilling the drink across the bar.

TSUSHAMI: We defeat our enemies first. No exceptions.

RAMIREZ: If you say so.

TSUSHAMI: Remember what you are.

RAMIREZ: Oh, I don’t think I’ll ever forget, Adrian.

• • • •

Virtual Entropy: BREAKING—Sin-Master Attacks Hospital!
Posted by Ulure Méndez—May 18th, 2029—1,367 comments

NEW CAMELOT—Notorious supervillain Sin-Master and his Deadly Sins have just attacked Guinevere Memorial Hospital. I’m on scene across the street in the Sir Gawain Hotel Plaza; the air is thick with smoke and sirens are blaring everywhere. My contacts inside the hospital tell me the Excaliburs responded within two minutes of the attack from their base of operations in the northeast suburbs of New Camelot. Not that any of us here at VE had any doubt they’d be on scene immediately.

The attack began when the henchman Sloth launched a ballistic missile into the cardiac ward. Sin-Master’s six other Deadly Sins infiltrated the hospital and overwhelmed the on-staff security and mechs. While the motive is unclear as of yet, we believe that Sin-Master was targeting Witchbane, a known rival who was hospitalized Sunday.

Guinevere Memorial Hospital is one of the few medical facilities in New Camelot equipped to deal with the aftermath of superpowered entity combat and civilian casualties. GMH is registered as neutral territory under the League of Unnatural Abilities and Powers Act of ’99. Until now, the hospital and surrounding care facilities have been respected by all parties as inviolate.

There he is! Sin-Master is escaping on his stealth glider—right overhead with Wrath. No one is in pursuit yet. I’ve just seen tech specialist Dragonfly zoom into the ruined hospital wing, presumably to deactivate whatever doomsday device Sin-Master planted. Impulse and Red Shift are clearing out the survivors and assisting the EMTs. Tiger Moth is routing Greed and Gluttony.

Over in the street—Tankboy and Commander Scorpio have taken down Lust! Lust’s power has always been overwhelming his victims with sexual attraction so they’re left distracted and vulnerable, but since Tankboy and Commander Scorpio are asexual partners, Lust’s aura has no effect on them. They’ve got Lust in restraint cuffs and a neural mask! This is the first time any of the Deadly Sins have been captured alive.

The spokesperson for the Excaliburs, Lillian Fey, formerly Lilith’s Wroth, is declining to comment on the attack or what the heroes intend to do with Lust.

• • • •

Avabug’s Netjournal—this is what happened at the hospital—5/20/29

I am so fucking in shock, guys, what the hell. Ice Sickle can’t be dead. Haven’t been able to update this until now, since mom took me to a relative’s after I got out of the hospital.

I saw this on buzzer_joint’s journal earlier:

Of the seventeen members of Excaliburs since the team’s foundation, five have died in combat.

Now it’s six. I heard on Virtual Entropy that there’s a memorial service on Saturday. I don’t know if I can bear watching the feed.

But I need to get this story out, so here’s what happened.

I was texting my girlfriend since I was about to be discharged, when suddenly all the alarms went off. I dropped my phone and then the whole wall of my room just EXPLODED.

It flung me off the bed. I was thinking ‘oh shit oh shit oh shit it’s happening again.’ There was dust and smoke and I couldn’t find my phone. My fingers were broken but part of my brain was all calm, like, okay, you need to get to safety.

Then fucking SIN-MASTER floated through the wall on those hoverboots. I swear to God, I don’t think any of the official merchandise posters or newsreels really capture how fucking scary he is. He had that skull mask and the spiky shoulder pieces and he’s like stick-thin but radiates this, I dunno, aura of power. He landed a foot away, towering over me, and he had his power gauntlet raised, the spike-gun leveled right at my head. I sure I was going to DIE.

He started talking at me (guys, I got monologued at by a SUPERVILLAIN): “Do you know the greatest calamity to befall the human race? Pride. Men have elucidated on this since history began. They’ve pondered it almost as much as they’ve fucked each other over. Do you know why? Because pride is devoid of empathy. It is the keystone of power, and for power to go unchecked, you must rid yourself of anything beyond the ego, the self. It is why we crush each other without feeling, without acknowledgment of sentience, or soul. Pride has been mankind’s ruin since God was too proud to let an angel share in glory.”

His gauntlet started glowing blue-green. I couldn’t make myself move.

“Sin-Master!” Ice shouted, and she came bursting through the door like a white leather-wearing Valkyrie. She wielded her dual sais and her hair was whipping about like she was in a blizzard. “Leave the girl alone.”

Sin-Master laughed. “Ice! As beautiful as you are relentless and blind to your own conscience! I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Step. Away. From. The. Girl.”

(Guys, ICE TALKED ABOUT ME.)

“How many do you expect to save?” Sin-Master went on. “You can never save all of them. You couldn’t even save the one man you loved.”

Ice sent a burst of power streaking at Sin-Master, but he just absorbed it. Then he whipped his gauntlet up and fired the spikes at Ice, but she deflected them with her sais and lunged at him. Then the FLOOR fucking collapsed and they both went crashing down. I almost fell in the hole, but I grabbed the leg of the bed—you know how well those are bolted down?!—and held on for dear life and I saw Ice and Sin-Master punching the shit out of each other as they fell, then suddenly they landed way, way down in the basement and there was another gush of smoke and I couldn’t see anything. I heard this awful, wet, tearing sound and then there was a huge burst of fire and I heard Ice scream.

I heard her scream. Then Sin-Master went flying out on his hoverbike and I had this tiny glimpse of a body, all in white and bloody, lying burned and broken against the basement floor.

Suddenly Impulse was there, picking me up off the floor and handing me off to orderlies, and I must have blacked out or something, because next thing I knew I was outside.

Here’s the thing—I didn’t tell anyone what I saw. I dunno why. Shock? There I was, with almost the entire Excalibur team, and I’d just seen someone DIE, and what the fuck. I just kind of nodded and told the EMT my name when she splinted my fingers. Impulse gave me an autographed card, though. That’s pretty sweet.

But Ice. I just . . . what happens now?

• • • •

To: Tiger Moth [Adrian Tsushami, [email protected]]

From: Lillian Fey [Lillian Fey, [email protected]]

Subject: memorial service?

Adrian,

I just received the coroner’s report. It’s her DNA. Pretty convincing remains. Not 100% sure it’s her, but there’s no indication it’s not. I’m sorry. Do you want me to start a press release and contact José about the memorial service? And does she have any family off-record we need to brief?

—Lil

To: Lillian Fey [Lillian Fey, [email protected]]

From: Tiger Moth [Adrian Tsushami, [email protected]]

Subject: re: memorial service?

Lil,

No. If it leaks, have PR spin the usual bullshit about unconfirmed results. Ice is not officially dead yet. I don’t have time to deal with the shitstorm that will blow up if she is.

—TM

To: Tiger Moth [Adrian Tsushami, [email protected]]

From: Lillian Fey [Lillian Fey, [email protected]]

Subject: re: re: memorial service?

I know she was your protégé but this sounds like denial, not a PR spin.

To: Lillian Fey [Lillian Fey, [email protected]]

From: Tiger Moth [Adrian Tsushami, [email protected]]

Subject: stop

I am not discussing the matter further. If Ice is dead, then we still need to wait a year before we retire her uniform and officially mark a headstone.

—TM

To: Tiger Moth [Adrian Tsushami, [email protected]]

From: Lillian Fey [Lillian Fey, [email protected]]

Subject: re: stop

Adrian,

I know this is hard. And while I understand the year grace period in case she resurrects or we encounter another miracle revival like what happened with Lance, I think it’ll look better if we acknowledge what happened publically. Give the team a chance to express grief in case she really is dead. Don’t make them wait. At least put out a statement about her likely demise and the prospect of justice for her.

—Lil

To: Lillian Fey [Lillian Fey, [email protected]]

From: Tiger Moth [Adrian Tsushami, [email protected]]

Subject: stop

See subject line.

—TM

• • • •

Avabug’s Netjournal—[friends-only] draft of paper for class, comments plz?—5/15/29

Ugh. This is due in, like, four hours. Anyone have a minute to read/comment?

To date, the Excaliburs have been estimated to have saved over three billion lives collectively. Whether it’s from Baron Epsilon Omega, Witchbane, ShadowVeil, The Scepter of Venus, or Sin-Master—the latter being the only supervillain currently at large—the superhero team has rightly established its place in history. Held to rigorous public scrutiny and a moral code of justice and righteousness, the Excaliburs are the epitome of the term “hero” in our modern age.

Consider a little known event in 2020: A man-made island appeared in the middle of Lake Superior, displacing the lake water and flash-flooding homes and businesses along the shores. It was one of Sin-Master’s first diabolical plans—he had nuclear drones stationed to launch into Canada. Tankboy and Commander Scorpio, both new to the team themselves, discovered Sin-Master’s plan, raided the island to destroy the drones while Lilith’s Wroth and Impulse—the two fastest supers in history—worked their asses off to evacuate the people within targeted areas.

Analysts are unclear why the salvaged drone targeting systems were programmed for unpopulated areas—whether this was a fluke or meant to be a threat that would re-target major cities if demands were not met was never discovered. Sin-Master escaped and has remained at large ever since, despite near misses with justice, but the Excaliburs have kept the world safer since their arrival than any other force to date.

(I also have that bit about the Casanova Massacre, and how Impulse stopped Nukeyule from destroying even more cities, but I showed KiKi that in class.)

6 comments | fav! | share

Comment from sesameseedsareevil: sinmaster

do you ever wonder why the supervillains haven’t won yet? especially sin-master. he’s freaking powerful and he’s not stupid.

Comment from fiddlebug: re: sinmaster

*raises eyebrow* He does seem to be rather incompetent in carrying out his plans. Which is good, because oh my god, remember Nevada last year? If Impulse hadn’t show up in time to defuse the bombs . . .

Comment from sesameseedsareevil: re: sinmaster

that’s my point. are the excaliburs just so good, or is he letting them win?

Comment from fiddlebug: re: sinmaster

That literally makes no sense. He’s a supervillain! Why would he want to LOSE?

Comment from sesameseedsareevil: re: sinmaster

i think we’re missing something. it kind of freaks me out. what if this is a big game and he’s setting the excaliburs up to expect to win and one day they don’t?

Comment from fiddlebug: re: sinmaster

You’re just over-thinking this. Don’t you think that if Sin-Master could have killed the Excaliburs by now, he would have? We’re all safe as long as we have heroes.

• • • •

Virtual Entropy EXCLUSIVE:
New Member of the Excaliburs Is A Shocking Choice!
Posted by Ulure Méndez on July 1st, 2024—8,903 comments

Today marks the worldwide unveiling of the Excaliburs’ newest member: Ice Sickle, mundanely known as Tasha Ramirez, formerly Firesiren of the Banshee Babes, who steps into the unfillable shoes of super-retiree Lance of Truth. As noted in an earlier press conference, Lance of Truth has stepped down from the Excaliburs following his unexplained and miraculous resurrection after he was reported deceased for a year prior.

I’m here in Central Hall Park right in front of a hoverstage surrounded by security mechs and a massive crowd. There on stage are the elite of the Excaliburs: Tiger Moth, in gold and red, his cape snapping in the wind; Dragonfly, in a multifaceted helmet and a swarm of nanobots that forms like wings behind him; Impulse, in brilliant blue and gold with the iconic fist-to-jaw symbol emblazoned on his chest; and the newest hero, Ice Sickle, sheathed in skin-tight white leather with the mandatory low-cut top and bared midriff, a thin strip of a mask across her eyes.

Reporters shove microphones at Ice from a safe distance. “Is it true you’ve slept with every member of the Excaliburs?”

Ice’s face remains expressionless. “Maybe you should put that question to Red Shift. He’s better known for having a new paramour each week.”

“Rumor persists that the reason you were picked from a midlist troupe to top tier is because of your intimate relationship with Tiger Moth.”

Ice folds her arms. “He’s been a mentor to me from a distance for several years now and I look forward to working with him on a day-to-day basis. If you have questions about his personal life, he’s standing right behind me.”

The reporters do not have any personal questions for Tiger Moth.

Ice Sickle, who was recruited at an open Empowered Individual Symposium held annually by the Excaliburs, and is rated a Tier Two, has abilities that combine temperature manipulation and electricity control. We have heard rumors that she’s already in development with executives at Machiavelli Brothers Studios for a biopic about her early childhood, where she was the only survivor of the Casanova Massacre.

Reporter: “How does it feel to replace Lance of Truth?”

Ice shrugs minutely. “I’m qualified for the job.”

Reporter: “Isn’t this more like a PR stunt?”

Ice arches one eyebrow. “Why, because I’m a woman?”

Ice is only the fourth woman to make the Excaliburs and she’s currently the only active female on the team.

Reporter: “Who designs your brassiere and heels?”

“No comment.”

Reporter: “Tell us your plans for taking down Sin-Master.”

Ice’s jaw tenses and frost sketches around her high-heeled boots. “The Excaliburs are dedicated to justice, peace, and the upholding of the law. As a hero, it is my duty to prevent evil in whatever form it takes. I will uphold this oath to fight the corruption in our world and help usher in a better future for all.”

On either side of the stage, the male heroes nod with approval.

Sin-Master, a villain whose powers allow him to modify his physical makeup to make himself impervious to all know elements and forces, and as a consequence has evaded all attempts by the heroes to defeat him, has consistently been the Excaliburs’ arch-nemesis.

Reporter: “Did you pick your own costume?”

Reporter: “Why pants and not a skirt?”

• • • •

Security Camera Archives – 7/8/24 – Excalibur HQ – RESTRICTED ACCESS – TIER ONE CLEARANCE REQUIRED

Lillian Fey’s office, ground floor.

A spacious, windowless office lit with ambient gold lights, a glass desk in the center of the room and portraits of the Excaliburs hung on the walls.

Lillian Fey, a.k.a. Lilith’s Wroth, taps at a holo-keyboard on her desk. Monitors flicker with news feeds, memos, emails.

Tasha Ramirez, a.k.a. Ice Sickle, stands under the portrait of Impulse and stares at it, her arms folded behind her back.

FEY: How are you settling in?

RAMIREZ: It’s a lot fancier than the Banshee Babe flat, I’ll give you that.

Fey smiles and closes out her email.

FEY: So, what did you want to talk to me about?

Ramirez twists her fingers together, not looking at Fey.

RAMIREZ: I want a different apartment.

FEY: The one you have isn’t big enough?

RAMIREZ: Opposite. It’s too big.

FEY: [laughs] That’s a new one.

RAMIREZ: I feel . . . lost. I don’t like a lot of open space.

FEY: I want you to be comfortable, Tasha. Let me see what I can do—there are a few empty apartments.

Fey brings up a map of the Excaliburs HQ on her screen and taps a finger against her chin as she studies it.

FEY: Oh, we do have an old retrofitted studio in the basement levels—

RAMIREZ: Doesn’t Impulse live in the underground levels?

FEY: He does. Is that a problem?

RAMIREZ: Not at all. [she smiles] That sounds perfect. Thanks, Lillian.

• • • •

Virtual Entropy: Tiger Moth, Impulse, and Dragonfly Awarded Heroes of the Year (Tenth Year In A Row)!
Posted by Ulure Méndez on August 31st, 2028—30,712 comments

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Here at the Sir Galahad Memorial Hall, President Maya Patel and her wife, First Lady Georgiana, will present the Hero of the Year Awards to members of the Excaliburs.

Multiple-year winners Tiger Moth, Impulse, and Dragonfly—the three most established members of the Excaliburs now that Lilith’s Wroth has retired—are being recognized for their heroic valor and selflessness in combatting Sin-Master and the Deadly Sins over New York before the supervillain could pull an asteroid from orbit and crash it into the city.

Although not one of the heroes specifically honored in the ceremony today, Ice Sickle deserves recognition for her part in stopping Sin-Master. It was her efforts in keeping Sin-Master busy that allowed Tiger Moth and Impulse to rout the Deadly Sins while Dragonfly dismantled the super-attractor.

The Mayor of New York is also here to express her gratitude to the Excaliburs for saving the city once again.

I’ve secured an exclusive chat with Ice herself here on the red carpet (watch the full feed on VElive!).

“So, Ice, do you feel snubbed for being overlooked yet again for this award? No one would deny you do twice as much work keeping peace in the world as any of your teammates.”

Ice smiles thinly. “Ulure, I didn’t become a hero to collect trophies. All I want is to bring justice to those who can’t fight for themselves.”

“In the last few years, there have been fewer indie and low-tier hero bands. Is the powered gene fading out, or are we just not seeing the little guys due to how much of the spotlight major leaguers like the Excaliburs take up?”

Ice shrugs. “I’ve noticed that. I don’t really know the cause—maybe our time is coming to a close. A short but noticeable age.”

“Well, if that’s the case . . . Do you have a plan to bring Sin-Master to justice? He’s been the longest-free supervillain in history, and one you have a personal beef with.”

Tendrils of frost creep up Ice’s hair. “All I can tell you, Ulure, is that I will not rest until justice is served—both for me and for all the innocent dead.”

• • • •

An Interview With . . . Amanda Sorovitz: Unknown Friend to a Fallen Hero

[transcript from The Raja Mason Show, airdate 5/25/29, 6pm EST]

Raja Mason: So you knew Ice Sickle years before she came into her powers and joined the Excaliburs.

Amanda Sorovitz: Yeah. We were best friends. We were having a sleepover in her basement when the Casanova Massacre happened.

RM: I thought she was the only survivor when Nukeyule leveled half the county.

AS: No. We both made it. She manifested her powers and shielded us. But she didn’t have enough strength to cover her house or save anyone else. I told her she needed to keep her powers hidden for a few years after. The tests don’t actually register until after puberty anyway.

RM: You’ve kept your identity secret for almost fifteen years. An impressive feat.

AS: It’s not that I didn’t think she couldn’t protect me. Everyone is out about their identities and who knows who. It’s not like the old days when no one could know who you were if you were powered.

RM: Then why hide?

AS: I didn’t want the publicity. Besides, doesn’t it make for a better story if there’s just one lone survivor?

RM: You’re hiding something.

AS: You’re an empath, that’s cheating.

RM: Sorry. But seriously, Amanda, this is a candid interview. Be honest with me, with all of us—what really happened in Casanova County when Nukeyule attacked?

AS: It wasn’t Nukeyule.

• • • •

[Feed from security 56 camera_Sin-Master’s Dungeon | 5.21.29 02:45:30]

Crisp digital footage with Verified Tape along the bottom right-hand third. Corner mounted, wide-angle. Underground vault. A white-padded cell with a field barrier door and an old-fashioned barred gate. Against one wall stands a woman in skintight white leather. Short hair. Cosmetic scarring along the right jaw. Her wrists are cuffed beside her head. No weapons visible. A power restraint belt locks her waist against the wall.

Just outside the door stands a man. Tall. Skeletal. Dressed in black and red leather. No cape. A stylized skull-mask over his face.

ICE: You bastard.

SIN-MASTER: Archaically, that would be a legitimate claim, but in this day and age most people really don’t care.

ICE: You know I hate banter.

SIN-MASTER: It’s because you’re so unimaginative, Mia.

Ice stiffens in the restraints, her fists clenched tighter.

ICE: That’s not my name. Identities are public record.

SIN-MASTER: True. Except you changed your name multiple times before your powers manifested and you played vigilante.

ICE: What do you want?

SIN-MASTER: I left a life-like replica at the hospital infused with your DNA gathered from previous fights, and while it won’t have your associates fooled for long, it did buy me time to bring you here. I’d like you to do something.

ICE: I’ll never join you.

Sin-Master laughs.

SIN-MASTER: Oh God, no. I don’t want you to join me, Ice. I want you to destroy me.

• • • •

To: Tiger Moth [Adrian Tsushami, [email protected]]

From: Lillian Fey [Lillian Fey, [email protected]]

Subject: Lust?

Adrian,

I’m concerned about the containment reports I’m getting about Lust. His escape attempts have become less frequent, and he keeps insisting that he’s going to die if he remains imprisoned. Xavier informed me that there are odd readings in the radiation scans, but nothing he can pinpoint. Is it wise to keep him here? Also the fact that that Sin-Master hasn’t launched an effort to re-secure his henchman is inconsistent with his behavior previously.

We’ve also heard nothing from Sin-Master since Ice Sickle’s demise. He’s never been this passive before. What is he planning?

—Lil

From: Tiger Moth [Adrian Tsushami, [email protected]]

To: Lillian Fey [Lillian Fey, [email protected]]

Subject: re: Lust?

Lil,

I’ve seen Xavier’s reports. Dragonfly says it’s an effect of the new restraint cages interacting with Lust’s power.

As for Sin-Master, Ice has almost bested him in prior fights, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s cowering somewhere. I have Impulse out scouting for any signs of activity from the other Sins.

Since we have a brief reprieve from Sin-Master, even with everything that’s happened . . .

Dinner tonight?

—TM

To: Tiger Moth [Adrian Tsushami, [email protected]]

From: Lillian Fey [Lillian Fey, [email protected]]

Subject: re: dinner

Adrian,

I’ve not been feeling well. Must be the flu bug going around again. Sorry. Maybe next time?

—Lil

• • • •

Ice_Interview_draft_Virtual_Entropy_(Méndez).doc
[audio transcript, 8/21/28]

MÉNDEZ: Ulure Méndez here in a private interview with the Excaliburs’ most exciting player, Ice Sickle. So tell me, Ice, what—

ICE: Do we have to do this?

MÉNDEZ: Honey, we’re not on camera. I can edit out anything you don’t want published.

ICE: Considering you’re not even in your underwear any more, I should hope so.

MÉNDEZ: [laughs] You’re one to talk. Seriously, Tasha, I need a feature for the anniversary tomorrow.

ICE: Fuck.

MÉNDEZ: We already did.

ICE: I just—it’s been fourteen years. You’d think I could get over it.

MÉNDEZ: You don’t need to “get over” your PTSD about seeing everyone you knew killed.

ICE: You’re a reporter, not a psychologist. Besides, I get enough of that bullshit from Lil at work. It’s just that . . . after Casanova, I thought . . . goddammit, Ulure. I’m trying to make things right and no one knows anything but the fantasy your publication spun.

MÉNDEZ: You’ve lost me.

ICE: [crying] I’m so fucking scared he’ll find out.

MÉNDEZ: Wait, who will find out?

ICE: I’m strong, power-wise, I know that. I know. You’d think I could—you’d think that would make me feel safe. It doesn’t. I can’t forget what I saw. And it takes everything I’ve got not to want to run away when I see him at work.

MÉNDEZ: Honey, what are you talking about?

ICE: This can’t go on VE or anywhere else, do you understand? Promise me, Ulure.

MÉNDEZ: I promise. This is all off-record.

ICE: Barton Gray. Impulse, I mean. He doesn’t know I saw him at Casanova. [shaky breath] I’m trying to play the long game, like Mandy told me to. She knows what she’s doing. She’s my fucking best friend. But I don’t know how much longer I can last. There’s this—this knot in me that is devouring everything inside. I want Tiger Moth and Lillian and—I want all the Excaliburs dead. For protecting Impulse. For letting him get away. But mostly, I want to kill Impulse for what he did.

[end of transcript]

• • • •

[transcript from The Raja Mason Show, continued]

Raja Mason: What do you mean, Amanda?

Amanda Sorovitz: I mean Nukeyule was there, yes, and he did irradiate miles of land that’ll be uninhabitable for the next five hundred years. But he didn’t kill everyone.

RM: You’re saying someone else was there?

AS: I’m saying someone else was responsible for the Casanova Massacre.

RM: Who?

AS: Impulse.

RM: [laughs] But he’s the one who stopped Nukeyule before the villain found Ice Sickle hiding in the remains of her basement.

AS: [shakes her head] That’s what he told the press. And haven’t you always wondered why he didn’t rescue Ice if he knew she was there?

RM: The combat took its toll on him. He barely survived to return to base.

AS: So he says. He murdered everyone in my entire city, Raja. Nukeyule was a lucky accident; he showed up hunting Impulse and that’s when they fought and Impulse killed Nukeyule, too.

RM: That’s . . . quite the claim. Besides, Ice and Impulse have both been part of Excaliburs for years. They’ve worked on multiple missions together. They were the ones who saved the West Coast from the irradiated sharks hatched by Doctor Unstoppable.

AS: I know, and yes, Ice worked with Impulse. She has the best poker face I’ve ever seen. That doesn’t change what happened.

RM: Do you have any proof?

AS: I do. Ice and I were making a video of our volcano model for school. You know how no one likes actual experiments in the classroom science fairs anymore. We had verified tape—no edits. As soon as I heard the screaming . . . I recorded Impulse from the basement window when he ripped apart my neighbors.

RM: What happened to the tape?

AS: I gave it to Sin-Master when he found us.

• • • •

Security Camera Archives – 1/29/27 – Excalibur HQ – RESTRICTED ACCESS – TIER ONE CLEARANCE REQUIRED

Fifth-floor recreation and dining hall, hero access only.

A spacious room outfitted with tables, chairs, sparring rings, video consoles, exercise equipment, a private kitchen and bar, and holo-windows tuned to the city park.

Barton Gray, a.k.a. Impulse, flickers on the feed as he paces, moving too fast for the cameras to track. Kim Moore, a.k.a. Tankboy, and D’Ominique Barbados, a.k.a. Commander Scorpio, sit on a couch playing video games on a wall-screen TV.

Tasha Ramirez, a.k.a. Ice Sickle, jogs on an elliptical machine, wireless ear-buds in place.

Gray zips to one of the video consoles broadcasting the Chanel 9.5 NEWS.

GRAY: Goddamn upstarts. Another little “team” popping up, wanting to fight crime. Going to get their asses handed to them.

BARBADOS: Dude, chill. Not everyone starts in the majors. As long as they don’t go after the big bads, what’s the deal?

GRAY: They shouldn’t be on the fucking news. What are they here for? Saving a neighborhood grocery store?

MOORE: I did that. It’s cool. Owner always gave me free ice cream after that.

RAMIREZ: If new blood bothers you so much, Impulse, what’s your solution?

GRAY: Kill ’em off. Thin the herd, as it were.

Barbados turns his head sharply. Moore hunches his shoulders and fiddles with the controller. Ramirez never loses her stride on the elliptical.

RAMIREZ: Just imagine if Virtual Entropy got hold of that quote.

A long pause before Gray laughs.

GRAY: It’s a joke, kiddies.

Barbados tosses his controller on the couch and walks to the kitchen. He pulls two beers from the fridge.

BARBADOS: Not cool, man.

Ramirez watches Gray and smiles back.

• • • •

Avabug’s Netjournal—wow—5/21/29

Virtual Entropy picked up my story and now my followers list has just EXPLODED. 303 friends to over twenty-five thousand followers in 24 hrs?!

I thought the social media celebrity thing only happened to other people. It’s kind of like having a super power, you know?

(And to everyone who suddenly, selflessly just donated to fund my medical bills fund, oh my god, thank you. I can’t tell you how much it means to me and my mom not to be in debt right now!)

• • • •

[Feed from security 56 camera_Sin-Master’s Dungeon | 5.23.29 22:57:09]

Ice paces back and forth, shaking her hands at her sides. She spins and kicks the wall, then throws a flurry of punches at the door. Neither wall nor door is affected.

Sin-Master stands outside the door again, rocking slowly back and forth on his heels.

ICE: You goddamn motherfucking bastard!

SIN-MASTER: Your powers aren’t permanently gone. I injected you with biological nanite suppressants when you were captured. They’re tailored to your specific abilities. I’d rather you don’t escape and engage me in combat just yet.

ICE: When I get out—

SIN-MASTER: You will. Be patient. I’m working on a more universal variation that will be permanent, but I’ll spare you the details. The formula is in the lab, though, in the event you escape prematurely.

Ice pauses and puts her hands on her hips.

ICE: What is this? Did you suddenly grow a conscience? Find religion?

SIN-MASTER: Nothing so pathetic. I’ve always had a conscience.

ICE: Right.

SIN-MASTER: We’ve both lived our lives wearing masks. Hiding what we are capable of. For me, empathy. For you, destruction.

Ice stalks to the door and slams her fists against the barrier. Sparks ripple through the energy field.

ICE: If you’re so eager to die, open this goddamn cell. I don’t need powers to kill you.

SIN-MASTER: Technically, no. If I lowered my defenses, anyone with moderate skill could deal significant or fatal damage.

Sin-Master unsnaps his mask and tosses it over one shoulder. His face is lean, scarred, but unremarkable. Ice flinches and takes a step back.

SIN-MASTER: It’s been a long time, Mia.

• • •

Virtual Entropy: Death Toll Estimated at Five Hundred in Explosion
Posted by Ulure Méndez on October 7th, 2026—2,580 comments

BREAKING—The press release from Mordred’s Falls, ND, has stated that over five hundred civilians were killed this morning in the explosion in downtown during the October Heydays Festival. Over a thousand other people were injured. Sin-Master’s henchmen Greed and Sloth were seen fleeing the city limits just after the detonation.

During the press release, an information drone hijacked Police Chief Maybell Dunlope’s address and broadcast an ultimatum from Sin-Master that was picked up by all the major news outlets:

“Attention, mortals. This is but a taste of the true horror and chaos I will unleash on you across the country, across the world, if you ignore my ultimatum. The Excaliburs must be dismantled and surrender themselves to me. Continued refusal will see destruction a thousand times greater than what you have witnessed here, and duplicated in every major metropolis. If these so-called heroes will not surrender, then your world will burn. The Apocalypse may have only four horsemen, but I have seven.”

The Excaliburs issued a statement that condemned the attack and vowed to prevent any further violence.

We are confident that the Excaliburs will track down and exact justice on Sin-Master for this tragedy. We at Virtual Entropy extend our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims in Mordred’s Falls, ND.

• • • •

[transcript from The Raja Mason Show, continued]

Raja Mason: I’m sorry. What did you just say?

Amanda Sorovitz: He wasn’t wholly Sin-Master yet, but he did have his powers and the mask. His name was Shane then. Only ten years older than us, and struggling to figure out what he wanted in life. I knew he, like Ice, would change the world one day.

You know I’m not lying. It’s why I accepted this invitation from you, Raja. Everyone loves your interviews because you don’t censor or spin your stories.

Sin-Master is the one who found Ice and me. I was in shock. She tried to attack him, but she’d expended her powers just protecting us from Impulse. He took us to his inner sanctum, gave us food and made sure we weren’t physically hurt, then let us go. That’s when Ice showed up on national television. You should run that historical photo of the little girl with the ragged white hair and ash-matted clothes who’s standing on the steps of the Liberty News building. I know it was viral when Karen Yen took it and the Times ran her story.

RM: But no one knew about you.

AS: No. See, one survivor is believable. Two are witnesses. I gave Sin-Master the tape and he got me embedded seamlessly in a foster home on the East Coast. I grew up under a new name, with a new family. Every day, I’d see heroes on the news, and sometimes I’d see Impulse, smiling at the camera and posing with school children for charity events. All I could do was scream.

• • • •

[Feed from security 56 camera_Sin-Master’s Dungeon | 5.24.29 00:54:17]

Ice sits in the corner of the cell, her arms wrapped around her knees. Sin-Master leans against the gate outside the barrier.

ICE: Shane—you—I thought you were dead. All this time.

SIN-MASTER: A necessary deceit.

ICE: Should’ve figured. This is classic. You pretend to be killed by the very nemesis you are.

SIN-MASTER: In a way, Shane did die a long time ago. I killed that piece of myself so Sin-Master could fully come into being. And it gave you a reason to hate me, didn’t it? To watch him die in flames, screaming, while a mech dressed as Sin-Master oversaw it? It was then you called yourself Ice instead of Firesiren, wasn’t it?

ICE: Fuck you.

SIN-MASTER: Will you listen to what I have to say now, Mia?

ICE: It’s Ice. Mia died that day Shane did.

Sin-Master nods. He snaps his fingers and his mask springs to his hand. He puts it on and then sits so he’s at eye-level with Ice across the cell.

SIN-MASTER: Do you remember the discussion we had under the oak trees the September after we first met as enemies?

ICE: You stabbed me through the lung. I don’t recall much after that.

SIN-MASTER: Touché.

Ice shakes hair from her face and leans forward.

ICE: I’ll cut you some slack. Tell me.

Sin-Master offers a slight bow.

SIN-MASTER: None of us are heroes or villains. We’re all just monsters. Ultimately, power corrupts and the only difference we make is how far we let that corruption grow. You “heroes,” the noble façade on display to the world, you can’t exist in a vacuum. That’s why there are other powers. Those of us who offer ourselves as distraction. As an enemy.

I’ve never wanted to destroy the world, or even conquer it. But I learned very early that “heroes” lauded by the media need to be kept in check. If I and my Deadly Sins and all others who’ve been cast in the roles of evil didn’t give you an outlet to vent your hate and frustration and lust on, who do you think would suffer? The people without the power. The ones who always suffer. Heroes will never be content in any other role. I could see what they would become if they had no one their equal to oppose. Tyrants, demi-gods. Villains.

So I set myself on a different pedestal. I give heroes a target. Have you noticed how I let slip details of my plans to give you time to intercept? How so often my diabolical inventions are being constructed in scarcely populated areas? Or how often I turn and run when the fight scales towards mass destruction or civilian casualties?

Ice works her jaw and remains silent.

SIN-MASTER: You understand your darker self, the corruption lurking inside. But unlike your fellow Excaliburs, you understand where it will take you if you let it. You lived through Casanova. You saw.

Ice holds up a hand. Her fingers tremble.

ICE: You gave that whole spiel to me when I was choking on blood from a collapsed lung?

SIN-MASTER: I’ve had time to refine it since then.

ICE: You said you wanted me to destroy you. Why?

SIN-MASTER: The world would never accept our partnership. It will never accept you the way you desire if I’m always here. I am your shadow, and you are mine. I know you won’t forgive me, and I can’t let you—I’m quite aware of how many bodies are in the ground because of me. But you could stop me.

ICE: You’re almost making up for stabbing me.

SIN-MASTER: It’s my silver-tongued way with words, isn’t it? You know, I wanted to be a playwright before I became a supervillain.

Ice and Sin-Master stare at each other in silence for several minutes.

SIN-MASTER: I’ll let you think about it. Would you care to spend the rest of the night somewhere more comfortable?

ICE: Let me guess, you’re not going to lower your defenses. Or restore my powers.

SIN-MASTER: Well . . . no.

Ice rakes her fingers through her hair, then stands up.

ICE: What the hell. But I have one condition.

SIN-MASTER: And that would be?

ICE: You break open that bottle of ’65 Duve chardonnay you once promised me.

SIN-MASTER: You’re lucky I keep the majority of my promises. I’ll have it chilled and ready for us.

• • • •

Security Camera Archives – 11/08/28 – Excalibur HQ – RESTRICTED ACCESS – TIER ONE CLEARANCE REQUIRED

Tasha Ramirez’s bedroom.

A small, plain room with cement walls and bare floor. A cot in one corner; a small wooden desk. No decorations, photos, personal items, or any luxuries.

She sits cross-legged in a yoga pose in one corner, dressed in a loose bathrobe. She has two candles lit in front of her, the only light in the room.

The door chimes.

RAMIREZ: It’s open.

Lillian Fey strides in. She’s dressed in a slim black evening gown.

FEY: You aren’t coming to the ceremony?

RAMIREZ: I’m not in the mood.

FEY: [sighs] It’s for the victims, Tasha. It’ll be bad for PR if you’re missing.

RAMIREZ: Bullshit. Three hundred people died last night, Lillian. But all we’re doing is giving speeches and promising that next time, next time, we’ll defeat Sin-Master.

The candle flames gutter.

RAMIREZ: This whole fucking world would be better off if there were no supers.

FEY: You can’t believe that.

RAMIREZ: Don’t you think the world was fucked up enough before we added super powers?

FEY: We help the world, Tasha. We’re a force for good.

RAMIREZ: And with heroes come the villains.

FEY: True no matter what. Blame Sin-Master for the massacre in Salt Lake City, not yourself. You did all you could. And do me a favor—get dressed and come to the memorial. The public needs to see you there.

Ramirez rubs her face.

RAMIREZ: Okay. But one day, I’m going to catch Sin-Master and I’m going do to him what he did to me.

Ramirez clenches a fist and the candles go out.

• • • •

Avabug’s Netjournal—you need to watch this—5/25/29

This morning, I got a Verified Tape recording and a message asking me to post it. Virtual Entropy has been mirroring my entries when I talk about Ice. I don’t know if I should post this. I asked Mom and fiddlebug. Mom started crying. But she said, “Do it, Ava. The world should know.” fiddlebug agrees.

Right now, Raja Mason is broadcasting his interview with Amanda Sorovitz. Yeah, I’m watching. Horrified. Can hardly breathe. It’s Raja, how couldn’t it be true? This is too.

What I’m about to show you . . . I’m numb. But I’m also angry—not at Ice. Not at Sin-Master, even. He could have killed me in the hospital. That posturing wasn’t because he could, but because he was waiting for someone to stop him. It was an act.

So I think we all need to see this. I’ve got a voice now, a platform, and I’ve survived two superhero fights in less than a month. I’ll be okay.

Watch the video. The file was labeled “feed from security 56 camera_Sin-Master’s Dungeon” and don’t turn away when Raja’s broadcast ends.

• • • •

[Feed from security camera 107_Sin-Master’s Inner Sanctum | 5.24.29 04:06:10]

A spare, elegant room with floor-length curtains lining each wall. At a table in the center of the raised dais, Sin-Master and Ice sit across from each other, each with a wine glass in hand.

ICE: I feel alive today. I think it’s the first time in years.

Sin-Master raises his glass. Ice returns the toast.

SIN-MASTER: To life.

Ice stands and steps around the table. She slowly reaches for Sin-Master’s face. He raises a hand, sets down his glass, and then unsnaps the mask.

SIN-MASTER: You know we’re no longer the same two people who fell in love.

ICE: We never can be. That’s not what I want.

Sin-Master sets the mask on the table. Ice leans closer; their eyes are inches away.

ICE: Can I touch you?

SIN-MASTER: Yes.

[CAMERA FEED 107 DISABLED]

• • • •

To: Tiger Moth [Adrian Tsushami, [email protected]]

From: Lillian Fey [Lillian Fey, [email protected]]

Subject: you bastard

I’m coughing up blood. I blame Sin-Master because he planted something in Lust and we didn’t find it in time. But I’m more angry at you.

I found the files. I don’t know who sent them to me. It’s only signed AS. But it’s an audio clip from the old HQ base before we deactivated the security systems and replaced them with our own. It’s your voice, and Impulse’s voice, and it’s the two of you talking about how to cover up murder.

You lying asshole. You told me you were done. You promised me you and Impulse were through with your private little killing sprees, your “blowing off steam.” Wasn’t that why we brought Excaliburs public? So we could attract supervillains and you two wouldn’t need to take out this . . . this . . . fuck, Adrian, I can’t think straight. Everything hurts.

You told me you were done. That you’d controlled yourself and that you had Impulse tempered and held to heel like the fucking dog he is. It’s why I agreed to stay on staff after our divorce. That recording is a year after you promised me you were done.

I told you what I’d do to you if you ever lied to me again. So I’ve sent you a little present. That audio file is hitting the nets now. Along with all your personal correspondence. Good luck with what’s left of your world of lies, Adrian.

We can meet up for drinks in hell.

—Lil

• • • •

[transcript from The Raja Mason Show, continued]

Raja Mason: What became of the tape, Amanda?

Amanda Sorovitz: I believe you’re going to see in a minute, Raja. There’s one other thing I want to tell you before Impulse arrives.

RM: Excuse me?

AS: He knows I’m alive and giving this interview and he’ll be here shortly to kill us both. It’s too late, though. I’ve made a lot of contacts over the years. Some are supers. Some aren’t. Amber is invisible right now, undetectable, but she’s got camera implants and she’s been livestreaming our entire conversation to every major news network. Zen and Chloe are bypassing the security locks on broadcasts and making it jump every channel. All over the net, all over every screen—the only thing people will be seeing right now is our talk. And in a moment they will also be seeing the Verified Tape of what happened at Casanova.

RM: This is—

AS: It’s okay. You could run, but I’ve sealed the doors. I’m sorry, Raja. And I’m sorry, Amber, for making you watch this. I learned one thing about Impulse early on. He doesn’t actually watch news or broadcast programs live. He considers it too slow. So he won’t see this until it’s too late. He is going to murder us, and everyone in the world will witness it.

• • • •

[Feed from security 56 camera_Sin-Master’s Dungeon | 5.25.29 17:51:50]

Ice stands motionless before the cell door. Sin-Master waits on the other side. The barrier is deactivated.

SIN-MASTER: The door has been unlocked since last night.

ICE: I know.

They stare at each other. Ice pushes the cell gate open. Sin-Master doesn’t move.

ICE: My powers have regenerated and are at their peak. Since last night.

SIN-MASTER: I know.

Ice’s hand drifts up and slides along Sin-Master’s jaw. Sin-Master remains motionless.

ICE: In the end, it’s all a sliding scale of how far we’re willing to go to protect what we care about.

SIN-MASTER: And what is it you think I care for?

ICE: Me. You always have.

Sin-Master smiles and spreads his arms, palms up.

ICE: But it’s not because of who I am, but what I can do. It’s my power you’ve always been in love with.

SIN-MASTER: You know the company you keep. But how many other Casanova Massacres would occur before you broke free from the lies and saw what we’ve all become?

Ice’s hand closes around Sin-Master’s throat. Her other palm presses against his chest over his heart. He does not pull away.

ICE: Thank you. For the hate, for the love.

SIN-MASTER: We have become legend, you and I.

ICE: So we have.

She kisses him on the mouth, lingering, then slams her palm through his chest. Sin-Master’s body spasms. She withdraws her hand and lets his body fall, his heart between her fingers. Sin-Master continues to smile, blood pooling beneath his spine.

ICE: Deadly Sins, come to me.

Greed, Pride, Sloth, Envy, Gluttony, and Wrath emerge from the various corridors leading to the cellblock. They pause at sight of the body.

Ice drops Sin-Master’s heart and lifts her hand. Red speckles her cheek below her eye.

ICE: I am Sin-Master, and the heroes of this world will fear me.

All six Deadly Sins kneel in a semi-circle around her.

ICE: Show me the lab. I have a suppressant to finish so a new age can come.

[Feed dissolves into static. END RECORDING.]

• • • •

[transcript from The Raja Mason Show, continued]

Raja Mason: Amanda, please. We can get out of here if—

Amanda Sorovitz: There are more supers out there than just the villains and the Excaliburs. We’re all convinced heroes can do no wrong.

RM: What will this change?

AS: The other Excaliburs will have no choice but to hunt down and destroy Impulse. And that alone will weaken them, make them fear each other. Once people begin to doubt their idols, they have the potential to turn from them.

But there’s one more thing I want to tell you. I never lost touch with Ice. Or with Sin-Master. I worked hard to orchestrate their meeting, and their roles as each other’s nemeses; he knows what she’s capable of, and all she needs is an opportunity. Lust’s capture was not a fluke. His blood cells have been infused with a very specific type of radiation that breaks down his organic tissue from the inside and releases near-undetectable levels of poison as air-borne particles. By now, the Excaliburs’ base of operations should be entirely infected, giving them nowhere to turn. If the team wasn’t out searching for Sin-Master, they’d be dead now. Ice Sickle knows all the weaknesses of the Excaliburs, and how to defeat them. And she will.

RM: I feel Impulse coming.

AS: [nods] Peace is just an absence of war, and we have been in a war for so long. Ice can change that. She remembers the two girls trapped in a ruined basement, watching their universe burn. Ice is one of the most powerful supers I’ve ever seen; she’s not just a Tier Two, not even a Tier One. She’s off the charts, but she’s always been good at hiding. Now she won’t have to.

RM: Oh God.

AS: We should wrap. Thank you for having me on your show, Raja. I can guarantee your ratings tonight will be the highest in history.

RM: [shaky breath] Guess I can’t complain too much in that case. [to camera] From your host, Raja Mason, this has been An Interview With. Thanks for watching, and I wish you all a better tomorrow.

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A. Merc Rustad

A. Merc Rustad

A. Merc Rustad is a queer non-binary writer who lives in Minnesota and is a 2016 Nebula Awards finalist. Their stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Fireside, Apex, Uncanny, Shimmer, Cicada, and other fine venues. You can find Merc on Twitter @Merc_Rustad, Patreon, or their website. Their debut short story collection, So You Want To Be A Robot, came out from Lethe Press in May 2017.