Alpha (a superhero serial)

A story of superheroes.
A work in progress (find out more).

Chapter 1, the present


Adam is considering the olive in his martini. It has failed to protect the pimento it shelters from the savage cocktail stick. Both have been speared by cruel destiny. Captured and impaled.

Adam cannot feel the cold marble of the bar, and this martini will get him no more drunk than the nineteen before it. Adam is a superhero.

He has a friend, Jigsaw, who sees glimpses of the future. For her entire life, Jigsaw has been plagued by flashes of a distant apocalypse.

This morning she told Adam that it will be his daughter who destroys the world.


Adam comes to this bar because the martinis are stirred, not shaken. Sometimes right or wrong is a personal, inconsequential choice.

A woman sits on the stool beside him. Adam can hear the flap of a sparrow's wing a mile away. He heard no one approach.

"Hello, Whisper," He says, without looking up.

Her voice is like falling leaves. "Can we go somewhere private?"

"Here's fine. Frank's a friend." He lifts a hand to the bartender.

Frank, at the other end of the bar, nods to them. He makes a fist in empty air, when he opens his hand, an ice cube clinks into the glass below. There is no one else in the bar.


Whisper sits beside Adam. Her hair is shades of autumn and her eyes are springtime green. She is only ever heard by those she chooses.

"Thunder told you."

"Yes, Adam. He is my husband, you are our friend."

"I am a soldier, Wendy, a knight. I rely on Jigsaw's visions to guide my lance, but now..."

"Now she sees your daughter. There is no disgrace here, find a way to beat this. You always do."

"Jigsaw would not have trundled this vision out unless she were certain." Adam frowned, "But how could Megan destroy the world? She has no powers."


Whisper puts her hand on Adam's arm, "We will find a way to beat this."

But Adam is in a rare, cantankerous mood and ready to argue. "How, Wendy? Do I gather Thunder, Quake, Singularity? Bring the Guardians to my house to take down a powerless girl? Throw Megan in prison for atrocities she hasn't committed?"

"If I didn't know better, I would say you were drunk, Adam. Oratory is definitely not one of your superpowers."

"Wendy," Adam's voice wobbles.

His phone interrupts with a chime. A very particular chime.

"Go," Whisper says, "hit things. I think you need it."


Adam has an understanding with the barman. He leaves his civilian clothes in a backroom, suits up, and takes to the air.

People often ask him what it feels like to fly. It used to be the hardest feeling to articulate, and then he lost his wife.

He shakes his head. Whisper was right. He needs to hit things.

He approaches the destination displayed on his phone.

A giant of a man is pelting the police with their own cars. He is naked, furred, with blue whorls patterning his skin. They call him Savage. This is something Adam can hit.


Alpha takes in the scene with a practiced eye. People are in danger, other concerns recede from his mind.

He drops in a flash and catches a police car before it can plough into a cowering huddle of citizens. He hears his name as they recognise the white and red of his suit, the bold A on his chest.

Savage recognises him too, they have fought before. The whorls of blue on the giant's skin begin to throb in agitation and, never overly articulate, Savage roars.

They leap, grapple, and begin to pelt one another with blows like mortar fire.


Alpha is straddling Savage. The blue whorls in the supervillain's skin twitch as punch after punch slams into his face.

There is a sound like a bomb detonating and something grabs Alpha's hand. He turns to face this new enemy, rage etched into his features.

"Take it down a notch, Alpha." Thunder's voice is low and hard. "You're killing him."

Alpha tries to pull his hand away, but Thunder holds tight. There aren't many people with the strength to do that.

"Fly with me," Thunder says, "let's decant some of that anger. The containment team can deal with this mess."


How can you describe flight? Imagine standing on a broad, empty plain and staring up at infinite blue. Let the vast magnitude above swallow you, then double that for below. The skies are so uncrowded.

When they are somewhere far out over the Atlantic Ocean Thunder signals to Alpha and they slow. They hang there, facing each other, shifting slightly in the air currents.

"Don't let her prediction destroy you, Adam, like some demonry."

"It's hard, Thom. Jigsaw's words are an abyss yawning below me. I don't feel pain, and yet I cannot begin to catalogue the ways this hurts."


The Keep floats one kilometre above the Arctic, a jellyfish of glass and shining steel. Some eldritch form of science keeps it aloft, levitation generated by the tentacles that writhe slowly below the main dome.

It is all that remains of an attempted alien invasion and it is the manse of the superhero aristocracy. They call themselves the Guardians. The alien tech grants them access to the world's information networks, from your home wifi to the Pentagon's isolated, violet-clearance mainframes.

They occupy the Keep so the technology doesn't fall into the wrong hands, to protect the world from itself.


Inside the Keep, Alpha strides towards Jigsaw's quarters. Thunder puts a hand on his shoulder.

"Before you say something you'll regret. How long have we known Jigsaw? Has she ever led us wrong?" Thom holds his hand up, ignoring Adam's impatient grunt. "Wait, I know how turbulent you must be feeling. Everything's back to front, I mean, look, I'm the one holding you back. We've said time and time again there's no handbook for the superhero game. You take each play at a time and you work out how to win."

"This isn't a game, Thom. It's my family."


"You see pieces, Jigsaw, fragments. Maybe there is more. Look again, please, for me."

Her round face, framed by the straight edges of her bobbed auburn hair, is expressionless; her dark eyes reveal nothing. But that is her way, she has always kept herself locked up tight.

"The future is not a charitable place, Adam, and I fear to trample your feelings any further. But I owe you so much. If you truly desire it, I shall see what fresh pieces might present themselves."

"Do it."

As her eyes wash white, Adam's heart feels like pistons pounding in his chest.


Black stars pinwheel across Jigsaw's white eyes. She moans, and starts to mutter.


She twitches, takes imaginary bites from the air.

"Apocalypse, and four horsemen at its locus: fire, an empress, death and deliverance. The fire is alive. Megan is inside it."

Adam leans forward, he needs to know what Miku sees.

"The fire is alive. It cannot touch Megan, she is so impressive, and the world burns around her. The fire is sentient... I can't... it sees me!"

Jigsaw screams and the black stars coalesce back into pupils in her wide, stunned eyes.

She gasps, "It saw me."


Jigsaw is easily agitated.

Adam wants to comfort her. And he wants to shake her and demand more details. But he knows not to touch her.

She flinches away from contact or intimacy as if they are caustic. When she came to them with her gift she told them she wanted to avenge her family, but she would say no more and they have never pressed her.

Her room is bare, spotless, white. She listens to simple, ambient music generated by the Keep itself, although no one knows how she made it do that. The music swells and she calms.


"Megan was 'impressive'?" Adam finally asks.

Jigsaw nods, "An avenging angel. The fire raged around her, yet she did not burn. Cities broke, yet she did not break. Civilisation fell, yet she would not fall."

"That sounds dangerously religious."

"We say 'superheroes'; do we not mean 'gods'? Are we ordinary mortals, to fly, punch through mountains, see the future?"

Adam always thought such sentiment caustic, poisonous, setting themselves above everyday people.

"You know I don't think that, Miku."

She sighs, "I didn't mean to intimate such, Adam. I dream puzzle pieces and think in labyrinths. I cannot always speak straightforwardly."


Adam wants to ask more questions about Megan but it feels asinine to keep pushing. He would move Heaven and Earth to save his daughter but this is going nowhere.

"Tell me about the fire, Miku."

She shudders as if something pungent has been thrust beneath her nose.

"It was wild, and everywhere, and something wild lived within it, guiding it. Something malicious."

"Fire often seems malicious."

"No, this was different. I saw it, and it saw me."

"How is that possible?"

"I don't know. I was not really there, but it reached out to me. It knew my name."


Adam leaves Jigsaw to her white walls and whiter music. He steps out onto a high balcony and the Arctic winds howl around him, so cold he can actually feel a slight chill.

He thinks about what Miku has said.

A grand malefactor might still reveal himself, for the Guardians to defeat, as they have so many others. But every time he thinks it might be that simple, he remembers that Megan is at the centre of it all, untouched by a fire that burns the world. In his heart he knows something crafty is at play, some darker cunning.

Chapter 2, the past


Adam flew fast, but they had asked for his help too late, a last resort, not quite trusting him yet.

In the distance he saw the meteor tear through skyscrapers. Explosions of concrete and molten glass erupted where it passed, leaving gaping urban wounds with architectural framework exposed like skeletal ribs. It ploughed into the park, mercifully empty in the early morning.

Not empty enough.

At the centre of the crater was a sprawled and broken corpse.

Adam landed. As he stood astride the body, glowing blue ribbons snaked across its skin, living tattoos, writhing, throbbing. Impossibly, the corpse stirred.


Adam backed up as the corpse shifted. The blue whorls of tattoo settled, but still pulsed.

What if it was a life form, transported through the depths of space, gestating in the meteor? Some parasitical alien, bonding to a host, reanimating this corpse.

Its skin was already drab with pallor mortis. It looked up at him with milky eyes.

"You better not be contagious," Adam warned, "blue will be most unbecoming against my red and white," he indicated his suit. He shook his head, glad no one was around to hear the terrible one-liner.

The corpse screamed inarticulately.

"Yeah, sorry."


The living dead thing lurched upwards. It jerked itself to standing, clouded eyes never leaving Adam.

"Uh... welcome to Earth." It hadn't actually proven itself malevolent, technically the meteor had killed the man it had been. "Why are you here?"

Its answer came in the form of a vicious swipe, surprisingly swift but clumsy, easily dodged. The corpse lunged at him again, shrieking.

He flew a short distance upwards, out of reach. It seemed to be growing more coordinated with every second. What godforsaken place had spawned this monstrosity?

He could worry about its provenance later. It crouched, and leapt.


Adam had not flown high enough. One grasping hand wrapped around his ankle, pulling him down even as the creature clawed its way up. There was nothing grandiose in its attack, just fundamental savagery. It clung onto him, pounding, raging, biting.

A detached part of him observed its continuing changes. Wisps of dark hair were sprouting and spreading across its skin. And it was getting stronger. He began to feel the rain of blows.

He fought to keep its snapping jaws away from his face, and with each ferocious lunge saw a flickering glow in its eyes, twin warning beacons.


Adam flew upwards. He tried to tear the creature off but its grip was like steel shackles chaining them together.

They rose higher and higher until its snarling growls grew muffled in the thinner atmosphere, as if someone had shoved cotton wool in his ears. But still it hung on, and he needed to breathe – his one physical weakness – so he began to drop.

They plummeted, the morning's second meteor.

He wrestled and manoeuvred his struggling opponent underneath him. The thing would soon be a whole lot flatter, hammered between Adam and the ground. Or at least unconscious... he hoped.


They slammed into the ground and the impact jarred Adam's bones but he felt the fierce grip loosen and fall away as the corpse-thing went limp, out cold. There was no blood, no visible damage. Whatever the varnish of blue whorls was – alien parasite or biotechnology or something else – it had made the body incredibly durable.

He could hear sirens approaching, and military choppers. The government would have to figure out some way to confine it, a normal cell wouldn't work.

He lifted himself up, wary, but not wary enough. The blue throbbed and a powerful punch erupted from below.


The blow made Adam's head ring. It befuddled his senses, sent his super hearing haywire and filled his mind with an unsymphonious blend of chaotic noise. It knocked him into the air.

His vision blurred, and as his body arched and his head tilted back he saw something heading towards them at high speed. He wondered if the military, in a moment of fear and exceptional idiocy, had launched a missile.

His sight cleared as the object reached him. It was a man, outfitted in black and blue, who locked eyes as he passed.

A thunderous boom shook the park.


Adam cursed himself for getting sloppy and letting the thing blindside him. He halted, hovered in the air and looked back. The newcomer was like him: another super.

There were so few of them, the public was only just beginning to believe they were anything more than a fabrication, not just special effects and rumour milling by the media.

Like Adam, he was well-built, though from the way he was pounding the creature and the deep sonic explosions with every punch there was much more to his strength than pure muscle power.

Adam launched himself back into the mêlée.


It was like a schoolyard brawl. Adam and the other super grappled with their cumbersome foe as it thrashed and flailed.

Eventually they pinned it face down. Adam sat on its shoulders, holding its hands tightly, while Black and Blue sat on its legs. It bucked and twitched beneath them, testing.

Black and Blue said, "I'm Thom Thunder."

"Alpha. Please tell me Thom isn't your real name. You sound like you ought to inhabit some fairytale."

"Right. And you know your cape makes you look like something from a comic book."

Adam immediately regretted the discord. Knew it was his fault.


"Listen," Adam started, "that wasn't–"

Thom raised his hand, "I know. Don't worry about it."

The parasite-ridden corpse saw the opportunity and bucked, making Thom quickly grab its ankles again. It twisted its head, hissed, and glared at them with a dark beady eye.

A hundred questions rolled through Adam's mind. He'd never met another super face to face, but in the end he said nothing, and the silence stretched into awkwardness.

The military helicopters approached languidly, like fat whirring beetles.

"So, uh," Thom eventually said, "How do you think they'll get him to pose for the rogues' gallery?"

Chapter 3, the present


The sky roars. At high velocities air becomes like water, a palpable presence, a physical force to be pushed through. Even so, this is not Alpha’s top speed.

He flies slower so Thunder can keep pace.

They are high over the vast rippling sapphire of the Atlantic Ocean. Mindmap briefs them from the Keep.


Mindmap is a psychic, drinks a lot of energy drinks, is constantly wired, and always sounds as if she’s shouting.

Explain, Mindy...



The bubble over London is sixty kilometres wide. It glistens, shimmers, and allows nothing in or out. Not people, cars, calls or even light.

From above, Alpha sees tiny figures rioting impotently against it.

The air near him bulges black and twists, as if the very tissue of reality is being gripped and torn away. It is.

A figure slips through, more like a figure-shaped hole in reality. So devoid of colour or shade that features are impossible to determine. It reads from a bible.

“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.”


“His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.”

Its voice is like silk: smooth, soft, with shimmering depths. It tucks the bible somewhere within its absent existence.

Mindmap bounces into Alpha’s brain.


Singularity’s already here, Mindy. Quoting scripture.


Singularity is immune to psychic powers. Sometimes Alpha envies that.


Her enthusiasm is ruthless. Alpha catches Thunder’s eye, his look conveys everything.

Go ahead, Mindy.


Alpha, Thunder, Quake, Singularity. They are heroes, champions, protectors. They are the Guardians.


They descend to a deserted playground. Alpha and Thunder touch down. Singularity does not interact with matter like ordinary people and cannot ever land. It is a rare punishment for power like theirs.

Adam taps on the bubble. It is solid to the touch and cold, like metal, but a ripple of pale rainbow radiates from the point of contact.

The woodchips on the ground begin to shake and a man rises from the earth. He is broad and solid. His bald head is an outcrop impressive as any rock formation and a thick angular beard emphasises his chiselled jaw.


“The bubble continues below London,” Quake says. “Also, it is impregnable. I cannot pass.”

Quake moves through and disturbs solid matter. He travels underground, amongst deep roots, fossils, and buried history.

This is his home turf. His parents, Russian emigrants, wanted a life of finance for him, of old school ties and a political future. They named him Quentin, cruel fuel for public school bullies. He renamed himself Quake.

“So,” Alpha takes stock, “it’s resistant to physical strength, to phasing and to teleportation.”

“Effectively muzzling us,” Thunder says. “Alien tech?”

“Like none we’ve encountered. We’re in England. I’m guessing magic.”


“I hate magic,” Thunder grumbles.

“You supers always do.”

Previously unseen, a woman sits on the high end of a chunky see-saw. There is no counterweight, yet up she remains. She has dark wavy hair and elfin features, fashionable jeans with a Condition Red T-Shirt (Alpha thinks they are a band). She could be mid-twenties, but her eyes say older.

“Nimue,” Alpha says, finally recognising her. She has always been older, before.

She smiles, pleased; turns serious, “Magic is taught. It has rules. We know the places and planes it flows from. Can you say the same of your powers?”


  1. What a cool experiment and an interesting way to write a story. I like the immediacy of the set up. And the speed at which we're learning about the world.

    And I love superheroes (and you're writing) so I'm here for the long haul.

    I'm very curious to see if this 'chunks' approach works as things develop or whether the pressure to include words and write small gets in the way.

    1. Thanks, Pete. =)

      It's going to be interesting. Let's see if I can turn all of that superhero reading into some decent superhero writing. ;D

  2. I really enjoyed this. Each snippet works self contained, but the overall picture is fascinating.

    I have to say, I'm not at all comfortable with ANYONE, super heros or not, accessing my home computer! All those pictures of Doctor Who...

    1. Ha! Thank you, Catherine. =)

      I was hoping people would find that detail just a little sinister... ;)