[ASH] Unbeatable (one-shot)
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Tue Apr 8 09:07:46 PDT 2008
Author: Andy Burton
The cover shows a woman in a blue and white bodysuit, smiling
confidently as she stands in the illumination cast by a street light.
However, one foot is standing in something nasty-looking, a newspaper has
wrapped itself around her leg, her mask is slipping, and figures in the
shadows around her are rolling their eyes and making dismissive gestures.
//|| //^^\\ || || .|. COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
// || \\ || || --X---------------------------------------------
//======================= '|` ASH UNIVERSE ONE-SHOT
// || \\ || || "Unbeatable"
// || \\__// || || Copyright 2008 by Andrew Burton
[March 12, 1998 - Chicago, IL]
Anne Abell watched as the man with dark purple-blue hair followed Nurse
Martin down the hallway of the after hours clinic, toward one of the exam
room. From the way he was holding his left arm, Anne guessed that it was
either a sprain or a dislocation, but that would really be up for doctor to
decide...that's why they got paid the big bucks and she was just a nurse.
When Nurse Martin squared her patient away in an exam room and returned
to the nurse's station, Anne quietly asked, "Florence, who's 'tall, dark and
injured' back there?" Anne thumbed in the general direction of the exam room
to better indicate who she meant. "He looks familiar, but I didn't get a
really good look at his face."
Florence raised an eyebrow. "You don't know?" she retorted.
Anne smiled disarmingly. "I'm the newfie, cut me some slack." She'd
only started at the clinic a few weeks prior, and was still getting a handle
on all the names of her fellow employees. Remembering regular patients was
going to come next.
"Do you want his name on the chart or the one he's famous for?"
"Famous for?" Anne asked. "Is he a celebrity?" That fact felt almost
right in the back of Anne's head. Famous name...blue hair...if only she'd
seen his face.
"That," Florence nodded toward the back, "is Doctor Developer." Anne's
eyes bugged out and her hand flew to cover her mouth. Before she could say
anything else, Florence pointed through the sliding window that separated the
registration area of their nurses station from the waiting room. "And that's
his wife, Lady Lawful. They don't ever come out and say it for 'non-
business' injuries like this...some DSHA protocol, but it's them."
By the time Florence finished speaking, Anne was sitting in a chair.
Her face was an ashen grey, and she was taking deep breaths through her nose.
"He found me," Anne whispered.
"Found you?" Florence asked. She waved a hand. "I don't know what you
mean by that, but those two come in here every few months. Her super-
strength and their enthusiasm get the better of him more than's probably
That statement seemed to calm Anne a bit. Her breathing slowed, and her
hand moved away from her mouth. "Thank Athena," Anne sighed.
"Now, just why did you think he was after you?" Florence asked.
Anne glanced through the window and watched the woman Florence told her
was Lady Lawful. As far as Anne knew, Lady Lawful really was one of the good
guys...the whole married-to-Doctor-Developer thing kind of threw her, but a
good guy was a good guy. If he was here to get her, Lady Lawful would have
to protect her. That's just how it worked, as far as she knew.
"You may find this hard to believe, Florence," Anne began, "but I wasn't
always a nurse...."
* * * *
[August 3, 1994 - Detroit, MI]
"Stop where you are, criminal!" a voice echoed across the ranks of
self-storage units, "you've just been beaten!"
Doctor Developer looked from the lock he was working on and his two
henchmen clutched their weapons a bit tighter. From above, a lithe body
dropped to the ground in a crouch. The body, obviously a woman's, stood up.
It was a hero, definitely a hero. Her white uniform covered her from
neck to toe, matching blue gloves and boots covered her feet and hands, and
her face was obscured by a white mask. The only ornament to her costume was
the golden "U" on her chest, which didn't seem as professionally made as the
rest of the costume...which, on closer examination, seemed to be a modified
"Halloween costume" version of the second Brightsword's outfit. Chestnut
brown hair cascaded around her face, clashing with the suit and mask.
"Beaten by Unbeatable!" she declared.
The two henchment looked at each other, then down at Doctor Developer.
He only looked away from the lock once the mechanism was sprung.
"Hey, hold on a second!" Unbeatable cried out, "I said you were beaten.
You've got to stop...or at least, I don't know, attack me."
"Why?" Doctor Developer asked. He pulled the lock out of place, and
rolled up the metal door of the U-Stor-More shed.
"Because, I caught you breaking into someone's property!" Unbeatable
explained, "and because you're a villain...Doctor Developer, right?" The
henchmen nodded. "And because I'm a good guy."
Doctor Developer reached into the storage shed as he began to speak, "I
am a villain, and if you're to be believed, you are a hero...not that I have
any reason to believe, as we just met..."
"I'm kind of famous around town," Unbeatable interrupted him. "Super
agility, enhanced speed, super jumps," Unbeatable explained, "I rescued five
people from a fire last week. Unbeatable." She pointed the fingers of both
hands at the "U" on her chest. Doctor Developer shrugged. "Well, I *am* a
"Oh, yeah!" one of henchmen said. "The factory fire last week. I think
that was one of Mekanique's jobs."
"That's the one!" Unbeatable beamed, "So you have heard of me."
"Well," the henchmen said, "I heard Mekanique's guys talking about some
rookie showing up, bustin' one of Mekanique's drones, and starting a fire..."
"The Fire Marshal concluded the fire was a result of villainous
actions," Unbeatable replied a bit too quickly. "It probably would have
started with or without me there!"
The henchmen raised his arms in a mock surrender, "I'm just telling you
what I heard, lady." Unbeatable glowered. "Don't shoot the messenger,
"Fine! Whatever!" Unbeatable said, punctuating her second word with a
stamp of her boot. "The point is, I caught breaking and entering, and I'm
going to stop you!"
"Breaking and entering into my own storage shed," Doctor Developer
explained. He held up a key on a plastic key ring. "I was clearing my stuff
out, and locked the keys in," he explained. "You have to turn these in, or
you don't get your security deposit back."
Unbeatable's face fell when she saw the keys. After a moment, her face
shifted to a more resolute, determined look. "No matter! You're still a
wanted villain, and I'm here to take you in, Doctor Develop...!"
Mid-word, Unbeatable felt three points of tightness wrap around her
body: one around her chest, one around her knees, and another around her
ankles. Moments after being struck, the sudden lack of balance, combined
with the force of the impacts, sent Unbeatable falling backwards onto the
pavement, momentarily stunning her. She struggled feebly as the henchmen
dragged her into the storage shed.
"It'll probably take a bit of work," Doctor Developer said to Unbeatable
as the henchmen laid her out in the center of the now empty unit, "but even
like this, you should be able to build up enough momentum to break through
the door." Doctor Developer dusted his hands off as he leaned back on the
balls of his feet.
Unbeatable squirmed as much as the binding cables would let her, which
she figured was probably about as much as an inchworm could manage. "But...
if I break through the door, won't I have to pay for it?" she asked meekly,
looking up at Doctor Developer.
"Mmm," Doctor Developer thought, "doesn't the DSHA have an insurance
fund for those kind of damages?"
"What's the Deesha?" Unbeatable asked.
"Rooooookie," one of the henchmen chuckled to the other.
"The Department of Super-Human Affairs," Doctor Developer answered,
ignoring the henchman.
"Oh...the NSSA," Unbeatable realized, using the organization's
unofficial nickname. National Super Security Agency.
"Aren't you registered?" Doctor Developer asked.
Unbeatable shook her head. "I'd heard it was optional, and my dad
always told me never to give the government any information you didn't have
"Oh," Doctor Developer mused. He rubbed his chin, thoughtful for a
minute. "Yes, you look about the age to have parents like that."
"Are doors expensive?" Unbeatable asked, sounding much younger than she
"About five hundred dollars, I think," Doctor Developer answered. "But
if you're not registered, that also counts as private property damage, since
you're not protected under the emergency responder laws, just the good
samaritan ones. That's a bit more serious."
"What?" Unbeatable gasped.
"Yeah, it's a crime, maybe not jailable offense, but if the owner
decides to sue...."
"Sue? I can't afford a lawyer," Unbeatable choked, "I don't even know
if I can afford a door!" Tears began to well up in Unbeatable's eyes.
"Look, Mister Developer...."
"I actually *am* a doctor, you know," Doctor Developer said, sounding a
"Please, Doctor Developer, can't you just let me go this once? I won't
arrest you if you'll let me go."
"I can't just let you go," Doctor Developer replied, "and I don't know
why I should; I was minding my own business, you started all this, and now
you want me to let you go. No, no, no...no. You're the hero in all this.
You get loose on your own."
Unbeatable shook her head. "How? I can't untie myself. I'm not strong
enough to break these cables, or I would have by now. If I break the door
down, they'll sue me!" She let out a sob. "Oh, please. I won't tell anyone
if you just let me go."
Doctor Developer stared at Unbeatable for a full minute before speaking.
"You're not very good at this, you know." Unbeatable looked shocked, then
her face fell, and in no time she was sobbing. "What are you doing?"
Unbeatable sniffled, then snapped, "I'm crying you jackass! You don't
think I know how bad I am? I started a fire last week. I'm tied up, crying
my eyes out to a super-villain. And I'm going to get sued for breaking down
a door if I try to escape...yeah, I know that I'm no good at this."
Doctor Developer seemed to be taken aback by Unbeatable's retort. "Then
why do you want to be a hero?" Unbeatable twisted slightly, doing the best
shrug she could while lying on her side on the ground. "Isn't there
something you *are* good at that you could do? Are you in school or
Unbeatable nodded. "Kind of," she answered, "I'm trying to get into
nursing school." She let out a sad laugh. "Not that I'll be able to go if
they sue me for breaking down a door." Doctor Developer stood up and walked
around to Unbeatable's front. Once there, he knelt back down. "What...what
are you doing?"
"You're going to get killed if you keep this hero thing up," Doctor
Developer said, "so you're going to stop." He reached into his jacket pocket
and pulled out the storage key. "I'll leave a note saying I left the key in
here, which is the truth. Someone will be around during business hours to
collect them, and you. Go be a nurse, or whatever." He dropped the key on
the floor. "But don't ever let me see you again...or else."
* * * *
[March 12, 1998 - Chicago, IL]
"And then he left," Anne said. "The next morning, some kid who was sent
to get the keys found me and let me go. After that, I hung up my tights and
I became a nurse."
Florence was laughing.
"It's not funny," Anne insisted.
"Yes, it is!" Florence replied. She brought her laughter under control,
with only a few bursts slipping out along the way. "You should come meet
him," Florence said, "I want to see the look on his face."
"You are," Florence insisted. She grabbed Anne's hand and dragged her
out of the nurse's station. "No, you know you need to meet?" Florence
changed directions, pulling Anne into the waiting room.
As they stepped into the waiting room, Lady Lawful looked up from the
magazine she was trying to read, although she'd probably read it when she was
last there...it hadn't been particularly new then either. She smiled
politely at the nurses as they stepped toward her.
"Mrs. McKay," Florence smiled, I would like you to meet Anne Beatrice
"It's nice to meet you, Anne," Lady Lawful said, extending her hand for
Anne to shake.
"Uh, the pleasure...honor...it is...is mine," Anne stuttered, finally
taking the hand. If she squeezed a little too hard out of nerves, the other
woman didn't let on...after all, she was at least as strong as Anne, if not
"Anne, why don't you tell Mrs. McKay what you told me," Florence
suggested, "I'm going to go check on Mr. McKay."
Anne raised a hand, correcting Florence, "Actually, he's a doctor." As
Florence walked away laughing, Anne turned back to Lady Lawful and did her
best to explain her story.
When she was done, Jennifer McKay was smiling, but it was a kind smile,
not a cruel or condescending one. "It's not often I meet one of Cam's old
'girlfriends.' I'd say I'm sorry your date went so horribly, but if it
hadn't...well, you might be Mrs. McKay instead of me, and I can't say I'm
at all sorry about that," she winked.
I credit this idea to Dave, who prompted me to consider why there were
so few real heroes in Detroit during Doctor Developer's stint as the kingpin
of crime. His answer: heroes tend to go where the action is. However, in
thinking of that, the idea for a wannabe hero, Unbeatable, popped in my head,
and thus this was born.
The framing sequence is the same hospital visit as seen in the second
vignette of LL&DD #7.
Had Unbeatable stayed active much longer, the DSHA would have sent
someone to have a chat with her. But with Detroit not being a supernormal
hotspot in 1994, it probably didn't have more than a single desk worker
responsible for keeping track of the lower-level paranormals who stayed in
town. The basic "enhanced everything" package like Unbeatable had wasn't
considered enough of a threat to have sent someone after her right away. But
they'd eventually have gotten ahold of her to point out the sorts of
advantages they offer (which Deedee largely covers, although he's missing the
merchandising and medical insurance parts), had she not retired.
To expand on my "heroes tend to go where the action is" answer: at least
in the ASH Universe, hotspots develop and move around over time. As I
explained it to Andy, it's like the music scene...any sizeable city is going
to have a bunch of local talent, but anyone serious about making it big is
going to move to whatever city is a big deal for their style, be it Nashville
or New York or Seattle or whatever. Detroit in 1994 was not a hotspot, the
nearest one was in Columbus OH (due mainly to the presence of the Raiders),
and supernaturals with any serious amount of power or skill would tend to
have left Detroit in favor of Columbus or some other city. Yeah, even the
villains. Maybe I'll write a longer essay on the reasons for that someday.
The upshot is, though, that people like Doctor Developer and Mistah Mekanique
are the top dogs in Detroit pretty much by default. And even Deedee moved
out once he became higher profile.
Finally...yes, there's some similarities here to other recent works,
like Adam Warren's Empowered or Eric Burns's "Interviewing Leather" (although
Unbeatable took a rather different path than Dynamo Girl). I only mention
this so people don't feel compelled to point it out to me. ;) And Andy
tells me he's deliberately holding off on reading "Interviewing Leather"
until he finishes LL&DD #12, so as to avoid inadvertantly ripping it off.
Empowered, though, is another story. Heh.
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