Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 12: Going Home After Groceries

I got two full-to-bursting paper bags in my arms and three blocks to go. If I didn’t have super strength, this would be tough. But instead, it’s just my weekly grocery trip, coming home from the local Piggly Wiggly.

Yeah, I’m sweating a ton, but that’s about normal in the middle of an August in Atlanta. the paper bags are barely an impediment to that, so long as I don’t think about it too much.

My cybernetically enhanced body is honestly a real mystery to me, and that goes beyond carrying bottles of orange juice and cans of diet coke and packs hamburger meat. I still get winded climbing up the stairs. I still act like a wimp when I stub my toe. I’m still unable to jump high enough to dunk a basketball goal under most circumstances.

But somehow I can make all that go away when I want to, like I’m activating some switch inside me or something. I can sprint for miles without stop. I can take a baseball bat to the back of the head. I can crouch down and leap two stories in the air.

Somehow, I’m not always like that. I’m able to activate some sort of limiter that prevents me from crushing hands when I shake them, or burning off my entire metabolism by trying to heal myself when I don’t even have an injury. As far as I’m aware, I’m not consciously controlling any of it. I would absolutely bound over street crossings so I don’t have to wait for all the vehicles if I had the ability to do so at any time. I just don’t want to break the concrete below me to make it happen.

And this new power I’ve been developing recently… I’ve always been able to absorb electrical shocks without much pain, as long as it’s not too overwhelmingly zappy. But ever since I invaded Blyth’s base in June, I’ve started to notice my ability to absorb the electricity from devices and objects just by touching them. I turned off a spinning fan in an air duct, and I turned off that robot at Lucy de Blasio’s house last week.

What does that have to do with any of my other powers? Why am I only starting to be able to use it now? Where does all this excess electricity even go? Do I eat it? Can I GIVE electricity somehow? So many questions without answers.

I actually haven’t told anyone about this new power, not even R8PR. I want to practice and hone it more; so far it’s mostly amounted to me frying an old VHS tape player in my apartment and deactivating a bidbay robot harrassing someone on the street.

But as far as powers go, super strength is the one that truly matters, because it means I can carry all my rum around without feeling too sore afterwards. Also I really want muscles but I’m starting to fear that my powers are directly interfering with that endeavor… also my lifestyle.

I start—

Wait.

A presence nearby. Some footsteps. I set down the bags on the street and put up both fists.

Out of an alleyway steps none other than that stupid Magitek-armored fool, the Crusader. He has a sword holstered behind his shoulder, and another attached to his Magitek-brand belt. His right hand rests on the hilt of this second blade.

The moment the Crusader spots me, he makes a wide turn and comes to approach. My fighting stance is probably giving away my threatened position. I don’t know if he’s a friend or foe in this situation, but finding him here is absolutely not something I want.

Luckily, when he finally reaches me, he does not seem ready to attack. Instead, he waves. “Good evening, young fellow!” he exclaims.

“Uh, good evening?”

“For what reason might you be out and about on such a fine evening, citizen?”

“I’m carrying groceries home.”

He gazes upon me with curiosity in his eyes. His eyes are the only part of his face that are showing, after all, so he’s got to emote with them very well. “Are you not the same one who helped me fell that heinous woman with the armor and rocket boots?” he asks.

“Yeah, that was me,” I say.

“So then, are you not on patrol tonight? What if evil strikes?”

Who the hell is this guy, and why is he criticizing my methods for fighting crime? “Listen, Mr. The Crusader, I’m on the trail to tracking down Mighty Slammer, and I have to put my focus on that case before I can go out, um, patroling.”

He tilts his head to the side. “Mighty Slammer?”

“The woman with the armor and rocket boots.”

“Oh, yes, right. I had forgotten her name. Thank you for that information. If I catch any car thieves or burglars tonight, I will surely interrogate them for information on this Mighty Slammer.”

I shouldn’t… I really should just pick my grocery bags back up and go home. I’m only two blocks away. But I can’t help it. “Sir, are you really pretending to be a vigilante?” I ask.

The Crusader laughs. “Oh, of course not! I am not a vigilante. You may be one, but I am a protector. A hero who helps Atlanta stay as sparkly fresh as it must be.”

“So this isn’t some act? You’re really out here on the streets, dressed like a medieval knight, delivering justice?”

“Of course. If no-one else will, I shall.”

“Huh, right then. But you do understand that what you’re doing is illegal, right? You’re assaulting strangers and not reporting them to the police.”

“I don’t find that quite as illegal as you may think,” he says. “The courts always rule in favor of the hero.”

“Let’s agree to disagree.”

Suddenly, he pulls out the blade from behind his shoulder and grips it with both hands. “I see where you are going with all of this,” he says. “You wish to duel me.”

I start to back up, but every step I take away, he takes one forward.

A duel with the Crusader… Not how I wanted this evening to play out.

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