"Abaddon will destroy you all!"
Robin Laughlin (a.k.a. the superhero Failstate) has finally achieved his dream. Not only is he a licensed vigilante, but he's respected by his fellow heroes, feared by criminals, and he's finally achieved peace in his family, especially with his brother, Ben (a.k.a. the superhero Gauntlet). That, plus the love of his girlfriend, Charlene, has made life good.
But then Failstate learns a secret about his father. Rather than the loving family man he remembers, Failstate's father was a criminal who got himself killed when he crossed the wrong people. Before he can process this new information, he receives a warning that a villain named Abaddon is coming to New Chayton. The message is all the more disturbing since it's delivered by Lux. She died in Failstate's arms a year earlier. How can she possibly be alive?
Those mysteries will have to wait, though, as Abaddon storms New Chayton, strewing death and destruction in his wake. But he's not the only newcomer. Unusual heroes are appearing throughout the city.
Can Failstate get to the bottom of the reappearance of Lux, the influx of new heroes, and the truth behind his father's past -- all while keeping Abaddon at bay? Abaddon may prove to be Failstate's greatest nemesis. But what will Failstate have to sacrifice along the way?
About the Author
John W. Otte is a Lutheran minister who graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul Minnesota, with a theatre major, and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He currently lives in South St. Paul, Minnesota, with his wife and two sons. Find John online at www.johnwotte.com.
Read an Excerpt
At least I wouldn't have to pay for the property damage.
I glanced around me. The street had been ruined. Craters large enough to swallow a person dotted the pavement, with deep cracks running between them. Most of the buildings, brick and cement structures only a story or two tall, had been wrecked in some way. Lots of broken windows, although the doors to a CPA's office had a mailbox tossed through them. I could already hear the calculators totaling up the bill to fix it all.
My hands roamed over my costume, checking for damage. Not that I should have expected to find any. Six months earlier, Dr. Olympus, a genius superhero, gave me a super durable outfit. I kept thinking I was wearing my old costume, one I had cobbled together from second-hand clothing.
The last thing I checked was my mask. It was a piece of material that I could see through, and it covered my entire face. No holes, no tears. Good. My true face would remain hidden from any potential witnesses. Although maybe showing it to my opponent would be enough to stop him.
He was a large man, made even more so by the layer of black rock that coated his body. It jutted out at sharp angles, grinding as he moved. The stone armor even covered his head completely, like a helmet with spikes along his forehead. Slits in the stone exposed his eyes and his mouth. As near as I could tell, those were the only weak points. Not that that would do me much good. I knew that from experience. Doomstone was tough, even without his armor. I'd had the help of three other superheroes the last time I faced him, and we barely won.
Doomstone slammed a fist into his open palm, the sound of two boulders colliding. "This has been fun an' all, Failstate. After bein' cooped up at Valley, felt good to get a little workout in."
I arched a brow and looked around again at the damage our fight had caused. If this was little, I'd hate to see what he considered big.
"But I can't let you distract me any longer. I got my rep to get back, people to crush. And you're in my way."
"Sorry to inconvenience you." Miraculously, my voice didn't break. Even though my insides felt like they were about to shake free, maybe I had finally learned to project some confidence.
Doomstone chuckled, the sound of gravel crunching under car tires. "Ain't you so polite? Your mama brought you up right, kid. Shame I'm gonna have to break her heart. And your neck."
He leapt forward, crossing the distance between us faster than should have been humanly possible. But then, every one of us who had powers did things that weren't humanly possible. His fists sliced through the air. I had to duck and weave, backpedaling a dozen steps while he tried to connect. Thankfully, I was able to dodge every one.
"Hold still, will ya?"
"I was about to say the same to you." I concentrated on the patch of ground right in front of him. Then I sent a spike of my superpower into the cement. Normally, my powers destroyed whatever they came in contact with, but six months earlier, I learned that they could also transmute matter into different forms. It took me a lot of practice, but I did learn how to control my transformative abilities. At least, I usually could.
If I had succeeded, the pavement would turn to the consistency of pudding. Time to see if it worked.
Doomstone stepped onto the patch and his legs sank into the goopy pavement up to his knees.
I bit back an excited laugh and let the road revert to its usual form. Doomstone lurched forward, stuck. He looked down at his legs and laughed.
"Got a few new tricks, huh, kid?" He yanked at the cement but his legs didn't slip free. "Too bad I came up with a few new ones too."
He cocked his hand back and then jabbed an open hand in my direction. Black shards exploded from his palm and sliced through the air. I threw up a destructive field to intercept the projectiles, but a few managed to make it through. One sliced through my costume at my right shoulder, grazing the skin beneath. Pain burned down my arm.
Doomstone threw more dagger stones at me. I rolled to my right and ducked behind a nearby car. I had no idea if it would offer any protection, but it was better than nothing.
I risked a peek over the car's hood. Doomstone bashed at the pavement around his feet. Within moments, he had shattered the street and stepped out of the hole.
"Play time's over, kid. Time for this to end."
I couldn't have agreed more. I opened my hands and jabbed at Doomstone, unleashing a wave of destructive energy. Normally my destructive powers had trouble with organic matter, but I knew from experience that Doomstone's rocky armor could be affected.
Sure enough, he staggered and the armor around his arms and chest boiled away, layer by layer, until patches of his skin were exposed. But just as quickly as the armor vanished, it regrew. Doomstone swelled larger and larger, jagged spikes erupting from his knees, shoulders, and elbows.
I grimaced. I couldn't keep up with how fast he could grow the armor. My arms dropped to my side and I backed up, looking around for something new.
Doomstone was on me in an instant. He grabbed me into a crushing bear hug and started to squeeze. "I'm gonna enjoy watching you pop!"
A groan escaped my lips. Although I couldn't be sure, I thought I heard my back crack. Pain built in my chest and spine. I had to do something. Anything!
An idea leapt into my mind, a desperate gamble. I sent a burst of power into the face of Doomstone's helmet, softening the stone. Then I transmuted the fabric of my mask, making it as strong as steel.
I slammed my head into Doomstone's face.
Stars burst in my vision and pain exploded in my forehead. I ground my teeth together to keep from screaming.
Doomstone shouted and dropped me. He staggered back a step or two and clawed at his face. The front of his helmet had been squished, the eye and mouth slits smashed shut.
I wanted to laugh. My plan worked! But before I could do anything, the rock around Doomstone's head peeled open and retracted back into his shoulders. His face was square, with salt-and-pepper stubble around a wide mouth. He glared at me with steely eyes.
"Don't think this is gonna change anything. You're dead!"
I tensed, but then I heard it. Just beneath the sounds of distant police sirens was the unmistakable roar of a motorcycle's engine, one that grew louder with each passing moment.
Doomstone started to say something, but the scream of the motorcycle as it came around a corner swallowed up his words. The motorcycle screeched to a halt halfway down the block and the rider vaulted over the handlebars. He tucked and rolled, a blur of blue and gold, then popped to his feet. He rammed his fists onto his hips. Even in the dim light from the streetlights, the armor on his shoulders, arms, and legs gleamed. He wore blue tights with a white star in the middle of his chest. Even though he had ridden a motorcycle, his blond hair was still perfectly in place. He looked like he was posing for a poster.
I don't think I'd ever been happier to see him.
"Gauntlet!" Doomstone laughed. Stone flowed up from his shoulders and encased his head once again. "You were on my to-do list too! Looks like I can go for a two-fer."
Gauntlet chuckled. "I don't think so. You're going back to Valley."
"Are you kiddin'?" Doomstone sneered. "No prison can hold me! And neither of you can stop me! I'm the unmovable rock."
Gauntlet's chin lifted a fraction. "Then it's time to meet the unstoppable force."
If anyone else had said it, it would have sounded corny. But Gauntlet injected so much confidence into his words, I felt a surge of hope.
Doomstone roared and charged. Gauntlet smirked and rushed forward to meet him. Doomstone swung one of his massive fists at Gauntlet's head. Gauntlet dodged, interlaced his fingers together, and swung his arms.
With a crack that sounded like a cannon shot, Gauntlet's fists connected with Doomstone's jaw. The rock-encased super villain was blasted off his feet and thrown thirty feet into the air.
Gauntlet tensed his legs and then launched himself after Doomstone. As soon as he caught up to him, he grabbed Doomstone, drew back a fist, and smashed it into the villain's face.
Doomstone streaked to the ground like a meteor. He slammed into a nearby building, a one-story box made of dingy brown bricks, punching a hole in its wall. A cloud of dust exploded out of the new opening.
Gauntlet floated to the street and dropped next to me. While my brother appeared to have super strength, in reality he was telekinetic. He could move stuff with his mind. Normally, he used his mental abilities to make it look like he was incredibly strong. Lately, he had been working on his finer control. Apparently that included slowing his fall.
He offered me a half-smirk. "Hey, little brother, how's it going?"
"What were you thinking? What if someone was inside there?"
Gauntlet pointed over to the ruined building. Now that the dust started to clear, I could see large orange signs that declared that the structure was condemned. A closer look revealed that the whole thing was going to be torn down in two days.
I turned back to him. "There's no way you knew it was going to be torn down!"
His smirk grew wider. My older brother had always been lucky like that.
"So shall we go see if he's out?" Gauntlet asked.
I nodded. We walked over to the hole and peeked in. Doomstone had not only punched through the outer wall, but through the floor and into the basement below. I took a deep breath and slipped into the building, then clambered down into the ruined hole, finding hand and foot holds where I could.
I took a step lower. "So what took you so long to get here?"
"Sorry. I ran across an apartment fire on the way. Had to save some people trapped on the top floor. Looked like you had everything well in hand."
My back twinged, a reminder of Doomstone's bear hug. "You know, for once I'd love to fight someone who isn't so much stronger than I am."
Gauntlet chuckled. "Maybe we can take out an ad. 'New Chayton seeking new type of supervillain. Wimps only.' That ought to bring us more people like you."
I parsed Gauntlet's words for any hint of venom, which, not that long ago, would have been a given. As a matter of fact, just a year earlier I wouldn't have ever considered working with him. Thankfully, I didn't hear any real malice in his voice — just teasing.
I reached the bottom and looked around. "Let's go get Doomstone."
We found him in the bottom of a crater in the building's basement. Thankfully, he was unconscious. Unfortunately, he was also naked. His body must have absorbed his rocky armor when he passed out. The only hint of his true identity was a small rosette of stone embedded in his chest.
"Gauntlet, why don't you call this in? I'll see if I can find something to cover him up."
He nodded and scrambled back up and out of the building. I looked around the destroyed basement. There wasn't much of anything, just bare cinderblock walls and a stained cement floor. Not too surprising, I supposed, given that the building was going to be demolished.
I widened my search and found nothing except a battered old plastic mop bucket. That might have to do. I turned to walk back to Doomstone, but then the building groaned and rumbled above me. I froze. Was it all about to come crashing down? Maybe I should grab Doomstone and get out.
The basement shook. Dust fell from the ceiling. A portion of one wall crumbled and fell apart. Then the noise subsided and everything went still.
I let out my held breath. "I don't know about you, Doomstone, but I think it's best if we —"
The words died in my throat as my gaze landed on the collapsed wall. Somehow, the bricks had fallen out in a precise rectangular shape, almost like a doorway. And there was a room behind it. I looked along the wall. There were no other doors in it. How did anyone get into that room when the building was being used?
Maybe I should have left well enough alone, but my curiosity got the better of me. I had to know what was in that room. I stepped over the crumbled bricks and went through the hole.
As I did, lights snapped on overhead. I frowned. If the building was going to be demolished, why would there still be power? The room wasn't very big, maybe ten feet by twenty. A metal desk with an outdated computer dominated one side of the room. A large map of New Chayton hung on the wall behind it, the neighborhoods painted with different colors. On the other side of the room were row after row of olive-green filing cabinets, all of them looking like refugees from the '50s. A mural stretched the length of the wall above the filing cabinets, depicting a pack of wolves stealing through the woods in winter.
A bank of flashing lights caught my gaze. Embedded in a corner of the room was a control panel of some sort. I leaned in to inspect it. A generator of some kind? Looked like it, but then, my forte with machines was breaking them, not identifying them.
"Failstate?" Gauntlet's voice came from behind me. "Where'd you go?"
"Check this out!"
Gauntlet ducked and stepped inside the room. He looked around and frowned. "What is this?"
"That's what I'm trying to figure out." I stepped around the desk to examine the map. It was out of date, printed in the '90s. There was no explanation of the color code.
"Someone really loved wolves," Gauntlet said.
I glanced at the mural, but then noticed that Gauntlet was pointing to one of the corners, near the ceiling. I looked to where he indicated. In each of the room's corners was a life-sized bust of a snarling wolf. Each one was a bit different, but they all conveyed the same amount of menace.
Gauntlet opened one of the filing cabinets. "Hey, look at this." He pulled a thick, leather-bound ledger out.
I looked over his shoulder. The book was filled with numbers and long strings of letters, grouped in columns. It didn't make any sense.
"Whoa ..." Gauntlet whispered. "I think someone was moving some serious funds between a number of different accounts."
"How on earth can you make sense of that?"
"I took Accounting 301 last semester."
I gaped at him. "You ... why?"
"The TA was cute."
I snorted. Should have known.
Gauntlet kept flipping through the ledger. "I don't have any idea why they'd have everything in code like this. Whose office do you think this is?"
I took another look at the room, examining the filing cabinets, the mural, the wolf heads, the desk, the map. That's when I noticed it: there wasn't another exit. No stairs, no doors. The only way in or out was the rectangular hole. And someone had bricked over the entrance? Why would they do that?
"Failstate." Gauntlet shoved a stack of papers into my face. "Look!"
What had him so excited? I looked over the top page. Some sort of purchase order for a construction company. Most of it was financial gibberish, but then I saw the signature at the bottom of the page. My mouth went dry and I felt dizzy.
Gauntlet giggled. He actually giggled. "This has to be his archives! Can you believe it?"
I couldn't. Deacon Wolff had been the head of one of New Chayton's most powerful criminal organizations thirty years earlier. If it was illegal, Wolff either knew about it or controlled it. He had been a thorn in the side of every hero for years until he died in a firefight with an amateur vigilante who called himself the Laughing Fool. His son, Preston Wolff, took over the criminal empire, only to be arrested and sent to prison, where another inmate killed him. According to urban legend, the Wolffs had kept meticulous records about their enterprises, but the police had never found them.
Could these be the missing files?
I glanced up at one of the wolf head busts. It snarled at me, as though threatening me for encroaching on its turf. I stood a little straighter. If they didn't like it, tough.
This was turning out to be a decent night after all.CHAPTER 2
Gauntlet glared at Doomstone, who was still unconscious. We had created impromptu restraints using a bike rack I found down the block. I pulled my cell phone out to check and see if I had any messages. Unlikely, given that it was the middle of the night.
I froze when I saw the list of missed calls. Three of them, all from Charlene Gardner, my girlfriend. Why would she be calling me so late? Maybe it had something to do with her father. He had emphysema and hadn't been doing so well lately. What if he had taken a bad turn? What if Charlene needed me right now? Maybe I could slip away, give her a quick call, and ...
Gauntlet stopped his pacing. "Head's up."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Failstate: Nemesis"
Copyright © 2014 John W. Otte.
Excerpted by permission of Third Day Books, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed his third installment of Failstate. Superheroes who pray before going into battle, and attend church—I love it! While some may find the book a bit preachy, it reminded me of what a great God I serve and how I can pray at any time over any situation. Some of the writing could have been better in places, but overall, a worthwhile read.