Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Arcana, for CAFSC

Written for the Create A Female Superhero Challenge by Phil Johnson.

1348 words (Flash fiction alone: 583 words)

anthology yes

for Spark Summit

Dedicated to my godchildren Lauren, Hope and Jake, whose father owns more comic books than anybody else I know.

Image credits: CCP games, Forcefield Adventure Armor. Click for larger version.

Name of female superhero: Arcana

Name of alter ego: Dr. Lauren Hope Jacobs

Appearance: Dark blonde hair worn short and straight reaching to her jawline, without bangs. brown eyes, fit strong and athletic body type (She does triathlons and parkour, and practices Aikido). Five feet four inches tall (162cm)

Costume: Lauren built her costume out of the kind of impact armor worn by snowboarders and other extreme sports enthusiasts, meaning that she’s quite well padded and protected while wearing it, but not slowed down, nor bulletproof. The practicality of the costume extends to good boots, and an assortment of useful tools. While practical and easy to don or remove, her costume is not exactly showy, so she cloaks herself in a manifestation of her powers while on the job, effecting a billowing night-sky hooded cloak filled with constellations and nebulae. The effect is that she is able to look appropriately dramatic and intimidating when necessary.

Personality: Lauren is extremely intelligent, as well as being hard-working and imaginative. She has a cheerful sense of humor and a strong sense of empathy. When in costume she’s bold, cavalier and comedic. Out of costume, she’s much more reserved and quiet, almost to the point of being shy. She’s a staunch pacifist who is slightly scared of abusing her new powers and is adamant that Superheroes must never kill unless it's that or allow many more people to die, and where possible she tries to contain the damage done by superpowered battles.

She knows she's more intelligent than most people, however, and sometimes lets it get the better of her, being impatient with people who lack any sense of curiosity and with anti-intellectuals. She is also claustrophobic.

Lauren lives alone in a nice apartment. She doesn’t date, keep a pet or have kids, because between her scientific career, her physical training regime and her crime-fighting there just isn’t enough time. For relaxation, Lauren likes to read, and most enjoys fantasy stories. Her best friend, partner, and the only person to know her secret identity, is Lady Lightning, another superhero.

How she got her powers: Lauren is a doctor of physics in astronomy, and was working on a research paper at an observatory when she witnessed something through the telescope that awoke her power. She has since described the experience as being like “getting the joke” - a moment of revelation where something confusing sorted itself out in her head, but she has since utterly failed to communicate that revelation to anybody else, despite her best efforts.

Powers: Arcana’s powers are themed around astronomy and deep space. Primarily, she summons the constellations to aid her (her favorite is Orion, and she freely admits that the sole reason for this is because he’s hot), But she can also raise a shield of moonlight to ward off harm, cloak herself in midnight darkness for stealth, and tie people up with a coil of wispy colored gas that resembles a nebula. She is constantly researching her powers and learning new things she can do, but her experimental powers may not quite perform as intended. Her experiment in flight especially nearly ended in disaster. She thinks she might be able to create black holes as well, but the idea terrifies her.

She is an otherwise ordinary human, however - she has no super strength or toughness, and while she’s fit, strong and agile, her limits are still human. Fortunately, if she needs to lift a heavy object, Orion can do it for her. If she needs to fly she can summon Pegasus to carry her. Between the various constellations she has a versatile arsenal of stellar servants at her bidding, and she commands them in inventive and dazzling ways.

Anything else important: As a scientist, Lauren insists that there is no such thing as magic - just science that isn’t yet fully understood. But in the absence of any better word to describe what she does, she settles on allowing people to call it magic. Her approach to unlocking and expanding her powers has been very methodical and scientifically rigorous. She conducts experiments, writes down her findings, comes up with hypotheses and puts them to the test. She is writing a paper on the science of what she does, and intends to eventually reveal her identity to the world and explain her powers so clearly that when she finally releases the paper, anybody who reads it will “get the joke” and gain similar abilities. Her attitude is “If I can do it, so can anybody”. So far, the research is still in its infancy.

Lauren and many other Supers struggle with a shadowy organisation called H-Plus, or "H+", who are apparently motivated by jealousy and fear of Supers and seek to capture or destroy them.

Flash Fiction:

“So... what is it?” Lady Lightning asked her.
“Well, it emits some kind of energy pulse. I’ve got that far...” Lauren said, scrawling a few equations on the notepad she kept in a pocket for just these occasions.
“I got that part, Arcana.” LL said, with a sarcastic twang. “I mean what kind of energy?”
“I’m not too keen on turning it on and finding out just yet...”

They had investigated an old fish market after getting reports that H-Plus, the organisation responsible for attacking the growing population of Supers across the world, had moved a shipment of crates in. Arcana and Lady Lightning had investigated, and found it guarded by a handful of local gangsters, easily handled and now all tied up ready for the police. One of them had been a bit too enthusiastic with the contents of one crate and had carved a neat, perfect sphere out of the ground, walls and ceiling around where he had been standing. That same pulse had nearly enveloped Lady Lightning, and only her unique power to transform into electricity and arc from spot to spot had saved her.

“I don’t get it.” Lauren sighed after a few more minutes. “You can’t just make that much matter vanish like that, you have to conserve energy!”
“Why's that?” Lightning asked.
“TL;DR? Giant explosion.” Arcana told her.
“How giant?”
Arcana doodled some quick calculations. “From here? Goodbye Chicago.”
LL considered this. “We’re in New York.”

LL nervously tucked a few stray hairs back into place under her mask. “Okay. Wow. So, if they’re not making it vanish that means they’re doing something with it?”
“They must be. But you don’t need that much energy. For anything. Seriously, that’s more energy than the whole world has ever used a few times over. There’s certainly no way to store that much power...”

Arcana sighed suddenly. “Oh... It’s a teleporter. It has to be, if it’s not destroying stuff or vanishing it, then it must just be moving it somewhere else.”
“A teleporter?” Lady Lightning frowned at her friend “Come on, that’s pure science fiction.”
“You turn into lightning, I ride a winged horse made out of stars and we both know somebody who can bench-press a diesel locomotive.” Arcana pointed out, with a wry smile. “Maybe there’s a Super on their side whose thing is making really advanced technology or something. It’d explain the rayguns and robots.”

She stood, and summoned her powers. a hundred thousand tiny motes of light condensed out of the night air around her like fireflies, and when they swarmed together they left Pegasus standing there, made from those dancing points but still physical enough to kick up dust as he scraped a hoof through the dirt and whinnied. Arcana hopped up onto his back.

“I need to get this back to my lab and have a better look at it with the right tools.” she said. “You okay to stay here and hand these guys over the police?”
“As long as they don’t try and arrest me again.” Lightning told her.
“Thanks, Double-L. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Arcana promised, and then Pegasus’ sort-of-muscles bunched and they thundered aloft in a clap and flutter of twilight wings.

Lauren gripped a handful of her summoned steed’s mane, and smiled as the city spread out below her in all its glittering glory. Some bits of being a Super were starting to wear thin, but she doubted she would ever, ever get sick of flying.