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    When I was a kid, I wanted to be Superman.

    They said he was faster than a speeding bullet. Not just any old bullet, moseying home after a long day at the office. A speeding one, tearing up the atmosphere like nothing in the world could stop it. I wanted to punch through the sound barrier and carry on and on, away from everything.

    I started running a year after my mom died. I was nine years old, but already fast enough to beat my army dad to the corner of the street. There was a local cop with a big brewster moustache who was always dragging me back home. I forget his name. His sedan could run faster than my legs, and his hand was quick enough to grab my collar. When he was still fetching me back two years later, he stopped by to have a word with my dad.

    "He's pretty quick on those legs of his," he said. "You thought about getting him to do sports? Might burn up some energy."

    Peeking through the banisters, I watched my dad shake his head. He'd gained a lot of lines in three years.

    "I dunno. Sometimes I feel like that kid doesn't even hear me anymore."

    But the next day he took me to town to buy sneakers. I joined the school track and field club the same week.

    I ran middle distance at first, on the flat and over hurdles. I even did steeple-chase at junior county once, but I didn't like getting my feet wet. At fourteen I asked to try out for the two-hundred metres.

    "You want to try a sprint?" asked the coach - a coat-hanger guy with a mouth like a fish. "Think you got the legs for it, kid?"

    His voice was flat, but there were creases next to his eyes. I scowled and whacked my thigh with my fist.

    "Got the legs right here," I said. "You gonna let me try or what?"

    By eighteen, I had world-class PBs in the two-hundred metre sprint and the four-hundred metre hurdles. A year later, I qualified for the World Athletics Championships.

    Nineteen years old and cocky as hell, I waited for the gunshot in my first World Two-Hundred Meter Final. I'd creamed the hot-shot Jamaican in the semis, and his scowl said he reckoned it was payback time. The bang came, and I was necking towards the finish line before I realised it wasn't the right sort of bang. The entire east side of the stadium was coming down, like folded paper under a weight. I saw three shadows shoot over; black Vs against the sky. Then the screaming started.

    All track-and-field competitions were cancelled that year. And the year after. And the year after that. My army dad spent eight months on the front line before a grenade sent him home with a shattered pelvis. He arrived through the front door just in time to catch me packing my things. It felt unfair that he couldn't chase me that time.

    After six months of training I hit the Red Zone; the bit of new desert that separated our forces from the primary landing site. We'd learned a lot about the bugs in the first year of fighting. We'd learned that all their advancement really just boiled down to a few bits of tech. Maybe they'd lifted it all from some other star-crossers; not much chance we'll ever really know. One thing's for sure, we were the inventive ones. The ones with all the crazy ideas.

    Twelve years after I first ran away from my dad, I found myself lying with my cheek to the dirt, waiting for a flare. The Sergeant was muttering on the radio like a man with a shopping list.

    "Just get to the generator, plant the package, and get out. No showing off - just get to the generator, plant the package, and get out. Just..."

    Moving as little as possible, I pressed my speak button, "Sarg, I got it."

    There was radio silence for a few moments while we waited for the light in the sky. I'd spent all day crawling on my belly toward enemy lines, and everything felt like it was full of dust - jacket, trousers, pockets and boot.

    "Hey, kid," said the Sergeant at last. "Anyone you want me to - you know - give a message to? If you don't make it back in one piece?"

    I grinned against the dirt.

    "Sarg, I told you - I'm Superman. I'll be there and back before you can break out the beers."

    "Just in case, kid. Just in case."

    I thought about it, staring along the desert ground at the dark horizon.

    "Tell my dad, it's not his fault that mom died."

    "Uh huh," said the Sergeant.

    Seemed like the flare should have come then, but it didn't.

    "There was a car crash," I explained after an awkward silence. "Dad was at the wheel. Mom didn't walk out."

    "Uh huh," said the Sergeant again. "That how you lost your leg?"

    For a second or two I didn't answer. Staring along that hard ground, I was nine years old again; running down that dark street away from my home, my dad, and my unfair life. Running away from everything.

    "Yeah," I said. "That was it."

    A white flame leapt into the sky, scoring a line across my retinas. I was on my feet and running before the artillery bombardment had even begun. The desert ground was torn up like a dog had been at it, but at least it was dry. My spiked metal foot dug in better than the real one, and my prosthetic leg fell into rhythm with the flesh.

    I had four pounds of plastic explosive in my back pocket and a six-hundred metre dash ahead of me. But I had the legs for it.

    The enemy line was a bit taller than a hurdle, but I wasn't going to get a time penalty for clipping it. The bombardment was keeping the suckers low; the first one only spotted me after I'd already cleared the barricade. I heard him squeal, then the first bullet hissed past my cheek. I had four hundred meters to go, and the bastard was already calling his pals.

    Passing through the protective shield was like running through a half foot of warm butter. I had to crush the urge to wipe my face as I broke out the other side and entered their tunnels. The downward slope was steep, but my spikes could handle it. There were more of the bugs ahead, but I had surprise on my side. No one expects a frontal assault by one man.

    The tunnel opened out into a vast chamber, and I grabbed the explosives from my pocket. Two hundred metres ahead was the generator, wrapped in a case like a wasp's nest. By that point, the bugs were screaming and shooting wild. With no hotshot Jamaican in sight, I started my final sprint, sucking air like a vacuum cleaner. I wasn't a kid running away anymore. I was a bullet chasing down a target. A bird with one metal wing.

    The crack as I slammed the package through the paper skin was like a thousand cameras going off at once. White flashes blazed all around me as I turned to face my adoring crowd. In the clatter of wing-cases, I could hear my applause.

    I didn't get my beer in the end. And I didn't make it back to base in one piece.

    But I did make it back.

    "So, you er… You thinking of racing again?" asked my dad the day after the war ended.

    We were out on the porch, my dad in his wheelchair and me leaning against the doorframe.

    "I'll give it a try," I said. "Not sure I've got the legs for it anymore."

    It was true. My beautiful lightweight prosthetic had gone up in smoke along with the swarm. Funnily enough, that wasn't the bit I was most sad to leave behind.

    My dad looked down at his hands, clasped in his lap. "They shouldn't have let you join up. Hell, I shouldn't have let you join up. As if you didn't have it bad enough already..."

    "Dad," I said, cutting him off. "You're getting all mopey again."

    I pushed off the doorframe and went to lean on his chair instead.

    "I've got my life, my freedom, and my good looks," I said. "And you know what the best part is?"

    My dad looked up at me, his expression more than a little incredulous.

    "What?"

    I grinned and winked. "Now my feet match!"

    For a moment, my dad didn't answer. Until at last, he couldn't resist reflecting my smile.

    "You're a damn brave kid, you know that?" he said, blinking as he turned away. "Your mom always said you'd grow up to be a superhero."

    Well, she was wrong about that. Turns out I'm not faster than a speeding bullet. I'm not Superman.

    But that day in the Red Zone, I was pretty damn close.

I haven't been working on any big writing projects for a while, partly due to a busy time at work and partly due to being distracted by a couple of video game projects. (I write code as well as prose. I may not have mentioned this before.)

But stopping writing entirely makes me go a little bit strange. So here's one of the odd shorts I've been writing on the train. I've been tweaking it and tweaking it, and I don't now think it's going to get any better without a total overhaul (which I don't have the patience for right now). So up it goes to stop me fiddling.

Edit: I did some fiddling. To be precise, I made some slight changes to the running section to make it a little more sensible. The plot isn't affected.
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:iconlcstoryteller:
LCStoryteller Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2014  Professional Artist
I am a storyteller and I would love to add this to my list of stories to tell -- I would give you credit as the writer and I would use the story in an event that focuses on 'personal power,' 'being a hero' 'overcoming handicaps' or something like that.  Would love your permission to tell the story orally as written.
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for the comment. I've sent you a note.
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:iconredheadfred2000:
RedHeadFred2000 Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2014
No words. Just wordless feelings.
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for reading and for such a lovely comment. :)
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:iconredheadfred2000:
RedHeadFred2000 Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014
Always welcome!
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:iconbrisingr-arget:
Brisingr-Arget Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This is very touching. I'm glad I read this.
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. :)
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:iconplasticusforkus:
PlasticusForkus Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012
I'm afraid that I don't really have any feedback. Sorry. Melding disability/prosthetic limbs with something so SF is a great concept.

I'm sad that other things are distracting you from writing. That said, looking forward to what those alternative projects might produce!
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. Glad you like the concept. :) I should probably confess that watching the Paralympics was the main inspiration.

I'm writing again (hooray!) but it's a play (boo!) so I'm going to have Epic FunTM getting the formatting to work on dA if I want to post it. :shakefist:

Not sure exactly why I'm writing a play. I had a long chat with my dad (over a couple of pints) about ideas for his next play and got inspired.
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:iconplasticusforkus:
PlasticusForkus Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013
Plays are a bit advanced for the standard level of writing on this site :lol:

I haven't written anything for a very long time. But I seem to have sorted my life out a bit now and I'm feeling a bit more creative.
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:icondamonwakes:
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2012  Student Writer
I was really not expecting an alien invasion in this sort of story, but it totally works.

If you were looking to make serious changes to this, I might suggest mentioning the prosthetic leg a little earlier. Having it first mentioned before the run with the beacon seemed effective to me, but I think it would still have much the same effect if that was only the first time it was spoken about. A bit more of a hint earlier on might make the first half of the story a little more clear. As it is, though, it's very good: I'm not sure it would be worth monkeying with it.
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. The aliens were mostly my way to avoiding any sort of political angle to the conflict (and without resorting to North Korea like everyone does). I'm really glad it works.

I wanted to leave the prosthetic leg until quite late to try to surprise the reader with it. But I appreciate that a) this may not have worked and b) it's a bit of a cheap trick. I'm not sure how much I want to mess around with this story now, but I'll certainly have a think about it.

Thanks for taking the time to give such a thoughtful comment. :)
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:iconrodtheworm:
rodtheworm Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2013
For what it's worth, I really liked the late reveal - made me see the coach's comment earlier in a new light.

I'm not sure how he got out with his real leg blown off, but I'm  not too bothered by it, as I love that ending scene. ;)
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. That's the effect I wanted with the late reveal. :)

And I have no idea how he got out either! But he's a hero. They always get out. ;)
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:icontheglassiris:
TheGlassIris Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
The theme of running and the ingraining of an alien invasion was so smooth and promising. The ending too, is fantastic, I just love the way you can establish a backstory so effortlessly. And the connections with Superman, a bullet, and prosthetic limbs was great as well, practically seamless.

The war part does get a little hazy at times and the alien invasion itself is unclear, but you used it so effectively that I couldn't help but think that the main character really was going to either go up in smoke or die a hero. You did better though. You made 'em happy.
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. I'm really glad the ideas seemed to meld together in a good way.

The war part is - in some ways - intentionally hazy. In my original plan it was going to be war with either China or Russia. But having the hero take part in blowing up fellow human beings seemed to detract too much from the idea of Superman (and gave the whole thing a political leaning that I didn't want). An alien invasion seemed the best way of having an easy, faceless villain for him to defeat. Then I worried that the idea of aliens would also be distracting. (It's not a story about aliens; it's a story about a guy with a prosthetic leg who runs very fast.) So I made the decision to describe them (and the invasion) as little as possible.

That said, it sounds like I may have gone too far with that idea, and I could have given the aliens more coverage (and the story more clarity) without destroying my story-about-a-guy-who-runs-very-fast.

And glad you approve of the happy ending. I like happy endings. :)
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:icontheglassiris:
TheGlassIris Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
What I also thought worked well when left hazy is the gender of the main character. While they do exude masculine qualities, it's easy to visualize the main character as the kind of tomboy who could effortlessly run laps around a fatass like me. I found it very appealing, being able to imagine some parts (like getting caught by the policeman at nine years old) as either a boy or a girl.

I thought it was interesting, the main character becoming this mirror that reflects qualities such as overt bravery, a sort of brashness of confidence that enables one to do anything, and a spirit of living that extends far past the battlefield. When you see those kind of actions in a story, you don't care whether it's a guy or a woman. That's a hero right there.
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:iconkirel-kemmetmau:
Kirel-Kemmetmau Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2012  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
<3
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
:)
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:icondomsaverem:
domsaverem Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2012
That was brilliant! :w00t: Well done MM!
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. :)
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:iconwyrdfate:
WyrdFate Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2012
That was freekin amazing.
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Aww. Cheers. :D
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:iconkumacat5:
KumaCat5 Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
LOVE it!
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. :)
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:iconlegolass1119:
legolass1119 Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2012
This was fantastic! I love the story, and it told a pretty big story in a short amount of time. Really great work. :)
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks. It's fairly "high level" (not a lot of detail) so I'm glad the story is still enjoyable. :)
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:iconexelsiar:
Exelsiar Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2012
whatcha working on gamewise?

'a little bit strange'... when haven't you been :P
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I was doing a fair amount of work on a 2D platformer project headed up by an American guy I met online. But I'm trying to shift away from that now to concentrate on a sort-of-squad-based space-RTS idea that Mark came up with. It has space ships. And explosions. And I'm thinking of getting some of the actor types I know to do voices.

And I'm never strange. :p
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:iconplasticusforkus:
PlasticusForkus Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012
Have you played Geometry Wars? Or at least seen it? Ever since playing that I've wanted to make a space RTS that involves lots and lots of very colourful explosions. I don't know why games try to be realistic. It's a game. It's doesn't have to be realistic. Sometimes, they are not meant to be realistic.

Also, did you ever get involved in the acting stuff at uni?
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I haven't played Geometry Wars (or even seen it) but you're the second person to mention it after hearing this game concept, so I shall be seeking it out directly.

I got bitten by the tech theatre bug whilst on my gap year and have been doing lights, sound and some DSMing for various am dram groups since then. It's given me a lot of actor/amateur-actor/acting-student friends.
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:iconplasticusforkus:
PlasticusForkus Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013
It's a fun little game. You can get it on Steam if you have that.

Did you do any stuff for Showstoppers?
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I helped out with Stage Soc a few times (usually just rigging/de-rigging - Stage Soc was a little bit overpopulated with tech people for the number of shows there were) but never on a Showstoppers show, sadly. They seemed like a real laugh and I enjoyed seeing a couple of their shows.
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:iconplasticusforkus:
PlasticusForkus Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013
I've only met a few of them, but I'm reliably informed that they are all mental!.
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:iconmetalmagpie:
MetalMagpie Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Well they're certainly lively, from what I remember!
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:iconexelsiar:
Exelsiar Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2012
:o that sounds rather fun :D shame there's nothing i can do to help >_<

suuure never strange... and i'm a poptart XD
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