Adam crouched behind the wrecked rental car, his breathing ragged and eyes wide in disbelief. Everything had gone wrong.
Atria lay still on the ground, the teenager holding a knife to her throat. Stella’s bluff had failed, and the thief was hovering above them. A spike of masonry had destroyed their rental car. And then the car was ripped away by some magical power, slamming against the wreckage of a building wall. A hovering spike of masonry pointed directly at them.
He felt Stella squeeze his hand. “I’m sorry, my wonderful love,” she said. “I think I just got us killed.”
The spike accelerated towards them. He raised his hand and tried to cover Stella with his body. And then the world exploded around him in a flash of silver and black and a massive sonic boom.
Still covering Stella, Adam looked up. His eyes widened in shock. Floating above them, holding the spike in one hand, was a tall figure in silver tights and a black cape. He didn’t need to see the man’s face to know who he was – every boy anywhere comic books existed would know him. It was Captain Infinite, the Man of Titanium, the original superhero, the one who had defined and started the entire genre.
“Throwing pieces of buildings at people is rather impolite too, don’t you think?” he said in fluent Japanese. With a squeeze of his hand, he crushed the spike into rubble. Then he turned to them.
“Do you prefer English or Japanese?” he asked in English.
“E-English,” Adam stammered.
“Are you two alright?” he asked.
“Yes,” Adam said. “But our friend–”
Captain Infinite glanced at Atria. “She seems to have regained her footing.” Adam turned to look. Atria was indeed back on her feet, in a fighting stance with her sabre, facing off against the teenager, who kept looking at Captain Infinite in shock.
“Who are you?” Stella asked.
“I am Captain Infinite, but my friends call me ‘Cap’,” Captain Infinite replied. “I hope you will too. How about I take it from here?”
Stella nodded. “Okay,” she said, her voice almost a whisper.
Captain Infinite turned to the thief and spoke in Japanese. “I couldn’t help but overhear these fine people saying that you have something that doesn’t belong to you. If you and your friend return it now, I’ll let you both go. If you don’t, I’ll have no choice but to stop you.”
“I don’t take instructions from lower beings,” the thief declared. “Even those wearing silly costumes who can fly.”
“You’re one to talk about silly costumes and flying,” Captain Infinite replied. “Last chance before I get serious. Give back what you’ve stolen.”
The thief cocked his head and raised his hand. The side of a building exploded towards Captain Infinite, the pieces of masonry bouncing harmlessly off of him. “Well, I tried,” Captain Infinite said. In a flash of silver, he slammed into the thief, driving him through the side of the opposite building.
Deep in the shadows, Jack Death watched the fight. His eyes widened as a literal superhero – the superhero – descended from the sky.
He frowned. If Captain Infinite had appeared, this didn’t seem like a very fair fight at all.
Atria gasped, trying to regain her breath, as the teenager pressed the razor edge of her knife against her jugular. Her pistol had fallen out of her hand from the shock of hitting the building. She still had her sabre, but the teenager had her sword arm pinned, the sharp edge of a blade pressing against Atria’s wrist.
“I told you it wouldn’t save you,” the teenager said. “Goodbye, anime girl.” The pressure of the blade against Atria’s jugular increased.
The world exploded in a flash of silver and a sonic boom. The shock wave washed against them, the teenager’s blade jerking away from Atria’s neck. The weight of her body still pressed against Atria’s chest, but the pressure of the blade against the wrist of her sword arm was gone.
Atria blinked. The teenager was staring at something in the air, slack jawed. She turned her head to look. A man in silver tights and a black cape hovered between the thief and Stella and Adam, the rental car they had arrived in wrecked and smashed against the wall, a spike of masonry through the cab and engine compartment.
“Throwing pieces of buildings at people is rather impolite too, don’t you think?” the man said to the thief. Atria looked again at the teenager. She was completely rapt. Atria pushed the teenager off her and rolled to the side, bracing herself against the wall as she rose to her feet. Every part of her body ached from the impact and the fall, and she was fairly certain she had cracked at least one rib.
Dealing with injuries would have to wait, though. Atria returned to a sabre fighting stance. The teenager got up slowly, eyes still on the floating man in silver. The floating man said something to Stella and Adam that Atria couldn’t make out, and then turned to the thief.
“I couldn’t help but overhear these fine people saying that you have something that doesn’t belong to you,” the man declared in Japanese. “If you and your friend return it now, I’ll let you both go. If you don’t, I’ll have no choice but to stop you.”
“I don’t take instructions from lower beings,” the thief stated. “Even those wearing silly costumes who can fly.”
“You’re one to talk about silly costumes and flying,” the floating man in silver said. “Last chance before I get serious. Give back what you’ve stolen.”
And then the side of the building opposite them exploded, chunks of masonry falling around them. Impossibly fast, the man in silver streaked into the thief, smashing both of them into the building on the other side. Atria blinked. The only person between her and the orb was now the teenager.
The teenager turned, shifting into a low combat stance, knives ready. Out of the corner of her eye, Atria saw Stella start to sneak towards the orb. The teenager glanced at Stella as well.
“Stella, don’t!” Atria barked in English. “She’d kill you before you got halfway there – let me handle this!”
The teenager turned to face Atria. “Is she like us? A character from a story?”
Atria nodded. “We’re the good guys, you can trust us. That orb is dangerous.”
“Well then,” the teenager said. “If she’s fictional too, then when I’m done killing you, I’m going to kill her, just because you annoyed me.”
“Not on my watch,” Atria said, swinging into action.
Captain Infinite threw the thief through the wall of another building, following close behind. The thief shook his head and waved his hand. An invisible force grabbed Captain Infinite and slammed him into the ceiling, and then the floor. The floor collapsed beneath them, dropping them to the level below.
“I can keep this up all day, friend,” Captain Infinite said, getting back to his feet. “Just give back what you stole and you can go on your way.”
“You face one with all of the powers of a god,” the thief declared. “Now learn what it is to be swatted by one.” He waved his hand, and the invisible force threw Captain Infinite through the building wall, onto the street. Captain Infinite looked up, watching the side of the building collapse, the thief hovering unharmed above the wreckage. He launched himself at the thief, grabbing him and slamming him down into the debris.
Dust and falling debris clouded his eyesight. Captain Infinite glanced around. Somehow, the thief had gotten out from under him. Then the rest of the building fell on him.
He punched a hole out of the debris and flew up above it, taking stock. They were at least three streets away from where their fight had started. His hyper-hearing picked up the sound of a sabre clashing against long knives. The thief was nowhere to be seen below him.
So the thief must be above him.
Before Captain Infinite could check, the side of the opposite building exploded out towards him, showering him with massive chunks of masonry.
“That didn’t work before,” he declared, staring up at the thief hovering about thirty feet above him. “It won’t work the next time either.” He rose higher, far enough in the air to get a sense of the street layout. It was too even a match – he needed another approach.
Captain Infinite nodded. He knew what he would do. Accelerating past the speed of sound in an heartbeat, he smashed into the thief, sending him flying several blocks away. Then he headed back to the street where his new comrades still fought.
He landed to find the woman in the green uniform still fighting the teenager. The orb hovered a few feet away, unprotected. Captain Infinite approached and put his hand on it. So this must be what the thief stole.
A wave of nausea and weakness rippled through him. Captain Infinite blinked in shock. It couldn’t be – the orb couldn’t possibly be emitting that radiation, could it?
A chunk of debris struck him on the back of the head, sending him crashing against one of the few remaining standing walls. His vision swam before him.
For over a century, fictional characters have been falling out of their stories into our world. Some, like mech pilot Atria Silversword and isekai protagonist Daiki Yamato, want to go home. Some, like JRPG non-player character Princess Stellaria, want a new life. Some, like superhero Captain Infinite and devil king The Destroyer, want to meet their creators. Some, like monster hunter Jenny Calhoun and super-assassin Jack Death, want justice for their suffering.
And one will fight a bloody war to liberate them all.
New chapter(s) every Friday.
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Art by Foxtail: https://www.deviantart.com/wilsanne07/gallery/
Review by Josh Piedra at The Outerhaven: https://www.theouterhaven.net/2022/05/light-novel-review-reapotheosis/
Print and e-book editions, with a new afterword by the author, will be released on November 21, and are now available for pre-order!