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Aberrant: 200X - Wherein I meet a Bulletproof Monk


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So, here's my reentry into the XWF, not going quite as smoothly as expected.

Anyone who's even a passing fan of my illustrious and pyrotechnic profession knows about the Three Circles: Silver, Red, and Black. What they don't know is the degree of care that the XWF places on slotting its radioactive demiurges into those three circles. Right now, the Powers That Be are hoping to slot me into the Black Circle, but my defenses aren't quite up to where they feel safe doing so.

See, Black Circle is what puts the asses in seats. There's no one alive today who remembers a world without comic books, who hasn't grown up wondering what a contest between Superman and...hell, Thor would look like. Well, that's what the Black Circle is supposed to provide: a safe, yet up-close, seat to watch city-leveling carnage, a schoolyard brawl swollen to epic proportions. Problem is, some of that epic-ness comes from guys like Duke Core Baron, who generate dangerous amounts of energy, energy I need to be able to shrug off if I don't want to become ring-smear.

Then there's the other side of this: there aren't many people in the Red Circle who are thrilled at the prospect of going up against me, because I hit both hard and fast like the guys in Black do. We need me to be able to cut loose in order to sell me, and we can't do that if I'm popping opponents like a high school kid popping zits.

Technically, I'm what they call an Infra-Red: a Red that doesn't look much different than Black. So, they decided to help me toughen up a bit by pairing me with a sparring partner in the same boat: a Silver that they're trying shift up to Red. His nom-de-nova is Bulletproof Monk. He's this incredibly flexible and quick Japanese-American kid (stay classy XWF!) who's gotten a little too tough to be entertaining in the Silver Circle, but isn't sturdy enough to be moved over to Red full-time. Turns out he requested me because he's a wrestling nerd that wanted to meet someone he'd only ever read about in the old wresting archives.

I won't print his real name here, because he deserves his privacy, but I will say he's earnest, energetic, and basically a decent guy. A decent guy who spends our sparring lessons hitting me as hard and as fast as he can, which is supposed to help me toughen up enough so that my Node decides I should grow Armor or better defenses. It's not like I stand there and take it by choice, either. He's damnably fast, La Arana fast. And he can blast out bolts of sheer kinetic energy. Sometimes, I catch up with him, and then he gets a chance to toughen up a bit. So it balances out. In the meantime, I catch him up on what the world of pro-wrestling was really like back in the days, and he catches me up on the latest gossip about the back-room deals going on. Fair trade. Also, he tells me about the bit parts he's gotten in some low-budget Bollywood films, which is probably where I want to diversify next.

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So we're sparring, and in between him cranking up the speed, and me trying to toughen up, we talk. Most times it's bullshit about who's screwing whom, who the Gang Up Top is maneuvering into potential super-stardom, when the hell they're going to get on time with the paychecks, and so on. But sometimes we talk serious stuff.

Like today, Bulletproof just stops in the middle of launching his 1000 Dragon Lashes attack, and asks me, "Do you think there's anything to it? The whole sterilization conspiracy thing, I mean?"

I think he's setting me up for a surprise shot, so it takes me a second or two to realize he's really concerned about this. I compose myself, and say, "No. Not really. I mean, how many eggheads do we have in the world now? Don't you think they'd have blown the whistle? I mean, the decision to raise a family is a real serious one, and there aren't many people I know who'd settle for someone making that decision for them, not if they can level cities when they're pissed."

"That's what I keep thinking. But I know I'm not...the only one who wants to be a father. So why hasn't anyone come up with a solution yet? I mean, what I do is fun, and it pays well, and I'm truly fortunate to have this opportunity...but it's no substitute for a life. I want to continue the cycle of life, to pass it on to my children."

I nodded. I know exactly where he's coming from. In my darkest moments, the fact that I never had a real lasting relationship or children were the things that burned in me the most. I'd given up everything for the dream of being a Titan Of The Ring, and now, with a second chance, I'm no longer sure it's all I want. I don't want to be where I was just a short time ago.

"Yeah, I hear you, kid. I really do. But...something to consider. What if novas simply aren't designed to reproduce? What if all this energy we pull in and squeeze out makes it impossible for sperm or eggs to incubate? What if evolution designed us this way so that we don't drive everyone into extinction? We consume a hell of a lot. If it wasn't for all the terraforming, we'd be causing mass starvation and food riots, even with the number of us that die off in combat. Look at the stats; it's fucking ridiculous. And if we did all that and reproduced? Pretty soon, we'd all be signed up with the Daedalus League looking for a new homeworld to plant some crops in."

I knew he didn't want to hear that. I've had a lot of time to think (since I don't sleep much anymore), and I haven't liked the conclusions I've come to, either. But it was something we have to consider. What if the node is just one of those genetic emergency button you hit when the population is either ready to go extinct or ready to hit critical mass, and just recedes when the crisis is passed? It's not a foolproof theory, but it would explain a lot.

He nodded. "Yeah, I've thought about that. I also think that technology is much better now, and we can find a way. There's a lot of us," and here he looked at me, bless his heart, "that I think would be good parents, and deserve that chance. There's got to be more to life than this. It can't be all about just us. You know?"

Yeah, I do. I just have no clue what to do about it.

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