[AC] A2: Villains: "Group Therapy" - By Jason S. Kenney

Artifice Comics artificecomics at yahoo.co.uk
Sun Jun 6 13:18:25 PDT 2004

Artifice Comics - http://www.artificecomics.com

Anthology Two Presents... 
Villains: "Group Therapy" 
By Jason S. Kenney


"Simon, would you like to begin?" 


That's what he wanted to say. To this 'doctor', this psych student
testing her highly paid for, nightly crammed skills on him and this


He didn't want to be here. He didn't want to have to sit through this
nonsense. He didn't want to have to sit through this delay.

He had bigger fish to fry. 

The latter half of the saying more literal than the first. 

"Uh..." Simon Cooper started articulately, looking around to the rest
of the group as he tried to think of something to say. "How should I

"Start with why you're here," said doctor-in-training Holly Turner as
she smiled fakely and jotted down notes on her clipboard.

Simon fought back the urge to say he was only here because he was
forced to be here and simply nodded and began with the short version
of his story.

"I'm here because I have powers that I tried to use for bad." 

Soon-to-be Doctor Turner smiled and nodded, wrote some notes, looked
to Simon, kept her smile.

"And you went by the name 'Stacy' while doing this?" 

Simon couldn't help but visibly cringe. His grip on the armrests of
his chair tightened as the group around him made a poor attempt at
holding back their snickers at the name.

He wanted to kill this woman. 

Fry her until her pretty blue eyes melted in her head; her soft, pale
skin became dark and cracked; her blonde hair black and burned.

Destroy her. And everyone else in the room. 

He pictured the same scene with a different victim. The same victim he
pictured every night. The same results, all covered by the rubber of a
melted mask...

"Staticy," he corrected her through clenched teeth. He inhaled deeply,
held it for a count of five, exhaled over a count of five, loosened
up, smiled slightly. "I was able to produce electrical shocks, some as
slight as what you'd feel from static electricity, others much
greater. So I was 'Staticy'."

He hated having to do this. He hated having to excuse himself. His

They did not deserve to listen to him speak of his greatness. She was
one of the ones who drove him to this, one of the reasons he turned to
what he did. Not that he regretted becoming what he was, becoming
something more. No, he simply hated her, what she represented, her
social class, her position in life, those that shared it.

One day he'd show her. 

He'd show them all. 

But he kept himself under control. 

"And do you still think of yourself as 'Staticy'?" Holly Turner asked,
her fake smile continuing to stand on her face, continuing to mock

"Of course not, Miss Turner," said Simon Cooper with a fake grin of
his own. "I can't really think of myself in terms of powers I no
longer have."

He lied. And she swallowed it. They all swallowed it. 

And his fake smile became real, though one could hardly tell the


Simon Cooper stared into the whirlpool of his coffee as he stirred the
sugar into it. He was so intent on this study that he did not notice
the man step up beside him until he heard him speak.

"So you don't have your powers no more? Sucks ass." 

Simon turned to the other man who was grabbing a donut and shaking his
head, a smirk on his face.

"I make do," said Simon, not about to reveal his hand to a smalltime

"Must have been recent," said Frank Sign right before he stuffed the
donut in his mouth. He chewed large, open mouthed, quick bites, still
smiling, and swallowed hard. He reached for another donut and ate it
quickly as well.

Frank Sign was a man envied by those addicted to diets. A man who ate
any and everything and never gained a pound. He had to eat any and
everything or he'd lose what little weight he had left. A curse of his
powers. Byproduct of hypermetabolism combined with his body's
constant, fast movement. Zoom Zoom.

"You seemed to have your powers just fine when Mysteria showed up,"
Frank said with a concentrated effort to speak slowly as to be

Another curse of his powers. 

"Yes," said Simon, tensing, wanting to be rid of Frank, "it was
recent. I'll get over it."

"You seen Dean around?" asked Frank as he reached for another donut. 

"No," said Simon, taking a sip of his coffee. Stale and bitter. "Not
since Mysteria."

"Ah, too bad," said Frank. "Good guy. Guess they got to be heavy
handed with him, given his powers and all."

"I suppose so," said Simon, looking for an escape, not wanting to
remain associated with a reminder of a past failure.

Dean Williams could blow up. 

Simon, Frank and Dean worked together briefly. Once to be exact. A
heist that went horribly wrong when the wrong hero showed up and
stopped them. Dean had been named ringleader by the press for one
reason or another, a further slight towards Simon, the true leader of
the group.

Another thing he swore to avenge. 

Boombastic made headlines. 

Staticy and Zoom Zoom were henchmen. Nameless. Forgotten. 

Simon tried to drink his coffee once more and gave up as the sludge
did not sit well with him. He dropped it in a garbage can by the

"You see the new chick?" asked Frank as he poured himself a cup of

The new chick. The newest addition to the group therapy sessions that
were mandatory if he were to remain out of prison. Simon had heard of
many new people attending the sessions in the past, at least five new
bodies a week. Now perhaps one a month thanks to the rapid decline in
the city's crime rate given the militant stance taken by its new mayor
and his chosen champions.

The new chick. Tracy Pine. 

The two of them looked at the new chick. Her shoulder length blonde
hair was pulled back into a ponytail as to accentuate her face; her
piercing crystal blue eyes; her red, full lips.

She was a goddess. 

Simon could not care less. 

"Heard her name was CandyAss," said Frank with a snicker and a leer as
he nudged Simon with an elbow.

"Huh," said Simon, turning back to the refreshments table and getting
himself a can of soda.

"Supposedly you spurt when she touches you," said Frank, still
looking, still leering, a wistful look in his eyes.

"Sounds lovely," said Simon as he closed his eyes and wished Frank
would leave him alone.

Simon had heard of her before, knew of her powers, her past team, "The
AssMasters," and their apprehension at the hands of a common nuisance.

"So what are you doing after this?" asked Frank, turning to Simon as
he reached for yet another donut.

"I have community service," Simon lied, reaching up with both hands
and rubbing his temples as he tried to focus on Frank leaving, hoping
that somewhere inside of him was the power to influence small minds.

"After that?" 

"I don't know, Frank," said Simon sharply, opening his eyes quickly
and looking to the other man who simply stood and chomped open mouthed
on his donut, a small smile on his face.

Frank was used to Simon's outbursts, the result of a completely
unwarranted superiority complex. Pushing Simon's buttons was a game
Frank knew well. It was the highlight of these sessions.

"Wanna go get a drink afterwards?" Frank asked, knowing full well
Simon would say no. Simon didn't drink. Or so he claimed every time he
tried to weasel out.

Or he used the handy, dandy Boy Scout excuse. 

"You know we aren't supposed to associate outside of these sessions,"
said Simon with a sigh.

"Blah, blah, blah," said Frank, giving Simon a short jab in his arm,
smiling as he got a glare in return. "No one's keeping track, dude, as
long as we don't start shit."

Simon breathed in deeply and exhaled as he looked from Frank to Tracy
Pine across the room.

And for some reason the gears in his mind started spinning. An idea
was forming.

"We'll see," said Simon as he found himself beginning to smile. 


Part two of group therapy began like always with the eventual-doctor
asking everyone to take deep breaths, recite some lines about being
unique and happy with themselves and other shit that Simon Cooper
usually hated and suffered through. But tonight Simon was happy with
the scripted nature of the session. It gave him time to think and
scheme and plot.

The session was over before Simon could complete his thoughts, but he
had enough.

He stood up well after everyone else had, after a few people had
already begun to leave, his eyes remaining fixed on one person the
whole time.

Tracy Pine stood, speaking with Holly Turner towards the front of the

"Hey," Simon heard as he felt a slight tug on his sleeve, "you up for
that drink?" Frank was still getting over the slight shock of Simon
even considering his drink offer. He had no idea what he'd do should
Simon actually take him up on the offer, but he didn't care. Any
company was better than drinking alone. Again.

"Give me a few seconds," said Simon as he shrugged off Frank's tug,
his eyes locked on Tracy Pine.

"Ahhh," said Frank as he followed Simon's gaze. "You gonna bring

"Not for what you think, Frank," said Simon. 

"What about your community service?" asked Frank. 

"I lied." 

Tracy broke away from Doctor-In-Development Turner and started walking
towards the door. Simon nodded to himself, breathed deep, and started
towards Tracy.

"Miss Pine," he said as he caught her on the sidewalk just outside the
Vilar Community Center. Traffic was light on the street at this time
of night, and the only people on the sidewalk seemed to be those
leaving the session, wandering towards their apartments or jobs or
drinking holes for the night.

Tracy Pine stopped and looked over her shoulder, an arched eyebrow
greeting Simon as he stood far enough back as to not be imposing but
close enough to show his intent for a conversation.

"Yes?" she said, turning around slowly, her hands coming up and
pulling her hair back, snapping a rubber band around it and leaving a

"You don't know me, but my name is Simon Cooper." 

"And I'm Frank Sign!" said Frank, pushing up beside Simon and holding
out a hand for Tracy to shake.

Simon rolled his eyes as Tracy looked to Frank's hand and then back to
his face with a smirk.

"Charmed," she said, leaving Frank hanging and looking back to Simon. 

"I was wondering if you may be free this evening," said Simon, "to
discuss a possible opportunity."

Tracy arched an eyebrow once more, looking curious with a hint of

"An opportunity?" 

"Here is not the best place to discuss it," said Simon, looking back
at the doorway of the Community Center and seeing Student Holly Turner
leaving. "Perhaps we can discuss it over drinks?"

Tracy Pine looked Simon Cooper over and wondered about the man. She
had never heard of him before today and was not very interested in his
supposed powers and, quite frankly, thought his chosen alias to be
trite. Though she realized she was not one to judge. He wasn't much to
look at: lanky; dark unkempt hair; a patchy day's growth on his chin.
He was a dork.

"And what about us 'former' villains not associating outside of
sessions?" asked Tracy, Simon picking up on her aloof emphasis on

"They can't arrest us for talking," said Frank, eager to spend any
amount of time with a woman that looked as good as Tracy Pine.

"Actually," said Simon, "they can. But I think it is worth the risk." 

Tracy saw something in Simon's eyes that caught her interest. A
certain intensity. A flicker of intelligence.

She didn't see something in his eyes. No leer. No glare. He was not
undressing her with his eyes or mind.

Strictly business. 

"Yes," she said, smiling, "buy me a drink, and we'll talk." 


Frank Sign liked Step Down Bar because it was right out of a movie.
One of those dark, smoke-filled places where people of questionable
reputations came to talk shop and trade stories of their ill ways.
Sure the drinks were expensive and watered down, and perhaps your shoe
stuck to the floor and your ass to the seat, but the atmosphere was
key. Frank also liked being on a first name basis with the guy at the

Simon Cooper had never been into Step Down, and his first thought was
to turn around and leave. The place was too loud for thought and
conversation, had too many ears for effective plotting, was overall a
bad cliché with all of the detriments and none of the benefits.

Tracy Pine smiled as she entered and knew right away she could own the
room in a second, so thought nothing of the atmosphere or the looks
she got as the three of them walked across the place. Frank called out
a name now and then and waived, generally getting nothing more than a
nod in return.

Frank plopped down in a stool at an empty table on the far wall of the
building, and Simon and Tracy sat in the other empty seats, Simon
grimacing as he felt his pants begin what he hoped was not a permanent
stick to the chair.

Frank waived to a waitress who completely ignored him. He shrugged and
turned to Tracy and Simon and almost laughed at the look on Simon's

"So, Tracy," said Frank, trying to get some conversation going, trying
to make the moves on this attractive woman. Even if he wasn't
successful, he hoped for just a touch. "You've got a different accent.
You're not from 'round here, are ya?"

"No, I'm not," she said, looking at Frank briefly and then to Simon.
"So what's this opportunity?"

Straight to business. 

Simon glanced around uneasily and then turned back to the table and
leaned forward.

"I don't know about you guys, but I'm sick as fuck of these shrink

Frank nodded quickly in agreement, but Tracy remained still, waiting
for Simon to get to the point.

"Not only that, I'm fucking sick of the way this town is run. These
heroes going all over the place and doing what they will. There's no
counterbalance to them, ya know?"

"They got that Mayor in office," said Frank, and Simon just waived him

"Another hero Mayor, great, had one before, and he did dick. But this
one's better."

Simon paused as a waitress finally stopped by the table. Frank said
hey to her, used her first name, and she ignored him and asked Simon
and Tracy what they wanted to drink. Then the waitress turned to
Frank, coldly asked for his order and left them.

"Didn't think you're into politics," said Frank as the three leaned
back into the conversation.

"Better how?" asked Tracy, hoping Simon would just get to the point

"The Mayor's drastically cut the police force down. Skeleton crew that
does nothing but parking tickets and a little bit of footwork in
handling muggings and shit. The only law in town is the Mayor."

"And that team of his," said Frank. 

Simon laughed short and hard. "Yes, 'that team'. That's what I'm
talking about. I want a team. I want to get a few folks together, I
want to get them to work together, and I want them to beat 'that

"Wait a minute," said Frank, holding up his hands and then sitting
back. "We tried this before, Sim, and we failed miserably."

"We lost focus," said Simon with a shake of his head. "And we just got
together on a whim. This will be more serious. We'll take our time,
work out the rough patches, get something going."

"And then take on the New Mages? You'll have your ass handed to you." 

"I don't plan on taking on the New Mages. Not at once." 

"One at a time," said Tracy with a slight smirk, and Simon looked to
her and nodded.

"Piece by piece. We pick them apart." 

"Once one goes then the others will be on their toes," said Frank who
looked over and smiled and said hey as the waitress returned, set
their drinks down, and left without a word.

"Not necessarily," said Simon. "Not if we work under the radar. Think
about it: most of these guys do this patrol shit, right? So if one
happens to not come back after patrol one night, it could have been
anything. Hazards of the job. So we get one. And then we wait for

"Or we use that one," said Tracy, "to get to the others." 

"Smart," said Frank, flashing Tracy a big smile which she ignored. 

"It's still risky," said Tracy. "The Mayor's all over villains left
and right."

"The Mayor or those Silver Shadow kids," said Frank. 

"Bring 'em on," said Simon. "Look, we get a team together, get them to
work together; nothing can stop us because we're the bad guys here, we
don't have any limitations. Heroes can only do so much, or they're no
different than us. So we got them on that, we show no restraint and
there's nothing we can't do."

Frank rubbed his chin in thought as Simon leaned back with his drink. 

"Who do you have lined up?" asked Frank. 

Simon grimaced a bit and knew this would be the tough part. "No one,"
said Simon. Frank opened his mouth to say something, but Simon
interrupted. "Yet. I just thought up the idea. But here's what I'm
thinking. If you both are game, we'd only need a few more folks. We
dig up Dean and get him involved; his powers would be handy. We find
us some muscle and maybe someone sneaky, and we got ourselves a team."

"What about you?" asked Frank. 

"What about me?" 

"You said your powers were gone," said Tracy. 

Simon smiled. 

"I lied." 

"Bullshit," said Frank, a wicked grin on his face. "Prove it." 

"No, not now." 

"C'mon, man," said Frank. "And really prove it. None of this static
shock shit; I want to see if you have any real power left."

"Frank," said Simon, leaning forward and lowering his voice, "we are
meeting illegally. If I do anything out of the ordinary, I will bring
attention to us, and everything will be fucked before we even get
started. You want that?"

Frank's grin faded, and he looked into his drink. 

"I'm not convinced," said Tracy, trying to get the conversation back
on track.

"I know you're not," said Simon. "I'm not. But I wanted to lay out the
groundwork, get the ball rolling, see what you all thought."

Tracy and Frank sat silent, Tracy staring at Simon as if waiting for
something, Frank still staring into his beer.

"I'm with ya, Simon," said Frank finally, looking up. "Whatever you
decide, I'm in."

Simon looked at Tracy. 

"Why me?" asked Tracy. "You don't even know me. Hell, how do I even
know to trust you?"

"You had that look," said Simon, leaning forward and pointing at
Tracy, "that same look I've had through all these goddamn session. You
didn't want to be there, it was beneath you, because you're better
than them, better than that, better than all of this." Simon gestured
around slightly. "Because you're looking for an opportunity like this,
an opportunity to show these people who's boss and make sure they
remember. You're as hungry for it as I am."

"And me," said Frank, not wanting to be left out. 

"Why should I trust you?" said Tracy. 

"Give me two days to prove it," said Simon. "Two days to work out a
plan. What we'll need, how we'll work it out, where we'll go, all of
that. We'll meet back here in two days, I'll give you everything you
need to know and then you can make a call. If you want to walk away,
go, no hard feelings."

Tracy sat for a moment, staring into Simon's eyes, taking in the
intensity of his returned stare.

"Great," said Simon, and he knocked back his drink. 


Simon Cooper sighed as he closed his apartment door behind him. He
tossed his keys on the coffee table as he walked by and pressed the
play button on the answering machine as he walked into the kitchen.

Three messages. 

The first was his mother, asking how he was doing, asking him to call,
inevitably breaking down into tears but not saying exactly why. Simon
knew why and cursed her as he opened the fridge to find a drink.

She felt responsible for what he had become and felt it was a bad

But she was not responsible. Simon did this to himself, something he
was proud of, and something he did not feel was entirely bad.

The second message was his probation officer calling to check in,
leaving a number, asking for a call back.

The third message started with an awkward pause. 

"Er... uh... Hi, I'm looking for Simon Cooper. This is, uh... well,

Simon's head shot above the top of the refrigerator door as he glared
at the machine.

"I was just, uh, calling to, you know, check up and make sure you were
being good and stuff..."

Simon quickly walked towards the answering machine, as if the message
was going somewhere and he had to catch it.

"Christ, I hate answering machines... Anyways, I guess I'll call back
and stuff, you know, to make sure that, uh... well, that you are being
good and stuff. Yeah."

The message ended. 

Simon stared at the machine, clenching his fists, gritting his teeth,
feeling the urge rise in him to release, let out his frustration in a
burst of power that would fry the machine, fry the building, fry its
inhabitants, fry the whole fucking city.

"Damn, I sound like shit in recordings." 

Simon spun around and glared across the room at the man that stood
there, the man who's face was hidden behind the latex caricature of
the American president.

"I mean, is my voice that nasally in real life?" asked Bush43. He

"What do you want?" asked Simon through clenched teeth, resisting the
urge to attack this... man.

"Look, dude," said Bush43 as he started to walk towards Simon, "I
don't wanna be here as much as you don't want me to be here. I'm here
cause the Mayor sent me and stuff."

Simon cocked an eyebrow but still stood ready for anything. 

"He just wanted me to stop in and say 'you're a naughty boy for
hanging out with other naughty people' and stuff like that. I don't
know." Bush43 shrugged again and stopped a couple meters in front of
Simon. "Just, ya know, be good and stuff."

"Is it a crime to talk to people?" asked Simon, knowing the answer,
having stated it earlier in the evening.

"For some folks to talk to particular other folks, yeah, I think it
is," said Bush43. "As I said, man, I don't wanna be here. This isn't
my bag, ya know? So, just tell me, are you being good? Haven't fried
any banks lately or anything, right?"

"Right," said Simon. 

"Good deal," said Bush43. "Then that's that." 

Bush43 turned and walked to the front door, opening it up and starting
out into the hall.

"Oh, by the way," he said, sticking his head back in. "Sorry to hear
about your powers being all kaput and stuff, man. Tough break."

And he was gone. 

Simon stood, fists clenched, his entire body tense, energy inside
screaming to get out, screaming for an outlet.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and exhaled, imagining happy

Thoughts of revenge as heroes died at his hands. 

Every last one of them. 

He would show them. 

Simon Cooper opened his eyes as his body loosened. 

And he smiled. 

He would show them all.

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