The sun is shining down between the buildings of Windsmith City. Even though the sky is free of clouds, there are shadows cast by the floating air turbines drifting high above the cityscape, tethered by giant cables. The city is flanked by two rivers, the North Shannon and the South Shannon, and it's the North Shannon that you're standing next to. Behind you, other cosplayers are taking their turns doing various poses for a photographer. There's a mix of cosplays from fiction, but a few, like yours, are cosplay of real superheroes.
"Hey," one of them calls out to you, "Zero Sum! Come over here!" Zero Sum isn't your name, of course. It's the name of the hero you're cosplaying as. You run over and pose with all the others.
Zero Sum has been your favorite hero for years. They first appeared in New Zealand, but since then they've shown up in various places all across the world. Their costume is simple and iconic: white tights, with a long green tunic that split on the sides for added mobility, and matching green boots. Their torso is obscured by a large armored plate. The best part is the helmet, which is covered in metallic green scales. It covers their whole head, obscuring their face with a dark black screen. There were theories that the helmet was completely opaque and that the inside lit up with a high-tech HUD.
But the best part of all was that Zero Sum was here in Windsmith for the convention. You've been training for months to get in shape, your costume is on point, and you're going to meet them tonight.
After a couple more pictures, you stand off to the side again and look out across the river at the mountain on the other side. Along its ridge, tall windmills spin lazily.
Suddenly, a boom comes across the river. Everyone stops and stares, aghast, as one of the windmills falls. A dot appears next to it.
Not a dot, a person. The person grows unnaturally in size and you realize that, no, they're not growing, they're moving.
And they're coming right at you!
You fall backwards and a huge man, dressed in bright neon colors like a jazzercise giant, flies over and collides with the landscaping behind you, sending cement and rose bushes spinning in all directions. The sound of the impact was louder than you thought possible and your ears ring. You try to turn and look at the man. He's huge.
He turns and looks at you. "Zero Sum, I am Beatz," he says. "You ruined my life! Now, it's time for you to die."
Suddenly, a figure all in orange flies straight at him, striking him on the sternum. The figure lands between you and the man. They're wearing a heavy orange flight suit with a white helmet that attaches at the collar. It's the Flyer.
The monsterous Beatz stumbles backwards. Behind him you see a man wearing tight black shorts, no shirt or shoes, and a black lucha libre mask. He bends down and rapidly passes his hands over the ground behind Beatz, then jumps away. Beatz falls backwards, and lands right where the man's hands were waving. He sticks. The man scantily clad in black runs around beside the Flyer. It's Epoxy, and he's glued Beatz to the ground.
From behind you runs in a third person, another man, carring a shield and a long pole that ends in two square prongs. The hair on the back of your neck stands as he passes you by and jumps on Beatz, stabbing down with his weapon. Beatz grunts and goes stiff. After a second he joins the other two. He is Sparktacus, and electricity glows and crackles from his eyes.
"My glue won't hold him long once he wakes up. We have to get you to safety," Epoxy says.
Who do you go with?
[[Go with Sparktacus]]
[[Go with Epoxy]]
[[Go with the Flyer]] Epoxy waves for you to follow him as the other two turn their attention back to Beatz. The giant is already starting to come around and you only have a moment to get away. You rush around the corner and Epoxy turns to you.
"We're not going to get enough distance on foot, and there's no place to hide," he says. "But, I bet we can confuse him. Look." Epoxy points to three of the buildings surrounding you. The Chevlan Building is stone with gothic arches and pillars, stretching up into the sky. On top of it sits a cathedral built by an eccentric newspaper kingpin in the early days of the city. The second building is a typical glass and steel box named the Hatman building. The last one is the tallest building in Windsmith, the Aeolus Building, a white tower that soars up with deco style geometric pillars that forms into the suggestion of giant wings.
"Which building do you think we should use, Zero Sum?"
[[The Chevlan Building]]
[[The Hatman Building]]
[[The Aeolus Building]]Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!You point to the Hatman Building. The two of you run across the street and away from the increasing noise of fighting behind you. Once you're at the base of the building, Epoxy stops.
"Aren't we going inside?" You ask.
Epoxy shakes his head. "No, he'll follow us right in. I think our best chance is to go up, where he won't think to look."
"Up?" You want an explanation, but a loud boom and a piece of debris skitters into the street near you. You both look back expecting Beatz to be there, but he isn't. Yet.
Without another word, Epoxy puts his arm around you and reaches up with his other hand. Then, lifting you off the ground, he crawls up the glass surface of the Hatman Building, each bare foot and his one hand making slight sucking sounds as he moves rapidly upwards. What's more surprising, his grip on you seems much more secure than it should be.
"How are you doing this?" you ask.
"Shh, concentrating," Epoxy grunted. He continues to climb and you watch the distance between you and the ground grow at a rate faster than you're comfortable with.
Another boom comes from across the street, and this time when you look up, Beatz is there. And he sees you.
"Zero Sum!" The monsterous man makes a giant leap at you, seeming to fly through the air like he did when you first saw him. Neither you or Epoxy have a chance to react to the neon blur, and soon the impact is sending all three of you through the impact resistant glass of the building and into an office space.
You and Epoxy roll to a stop. Epoxy isn't moving, but his arm is still glued around you. You see Beatz stand up and look around the maze of cubicles, unable to see you. In front of you, in the ruined cubicle, is a corded phone, a stapler, and a rubber duck.
[[Use the phone]]
[[Use the stapler]]
[[Use the rubber duck]]Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!You reach for the phone. You stretch your arm as far as you can but you're only just able to knock the reciever off its cradle. It's just enough, and you pull the whole thing to you as quietly as you can.
Not knowing what else to do, you dial 9-1-1. It rings once and then it's answered.
"Ninth floor reception," a pleasant man's voice says. You pause, stunned.
"Not 9-1-1?" You try to keep your voice as quiet as possible. The man on the other end of the line sighs.
"This happens all the time," he says. You're about to tell him to shut up and get help, to call the police, to call the military, to call the superheroes, but all that comes out is a squeak as you feel yourself lift off the ground. Beatz has Epoxy in one hand and is pulling you up to face level with him. You can smell his cologne, or whatever else it is he last smeared on himself by the gallon.
"Found you," Beatz says.
You struggle to remove yourself from Epoxy, but you're stuck fast. Over the phone, the man is telling you that you need to dial star-zero to reach an external line. Beatz holds you up and opens his mouth wide. You feel like he's about to swallow you whole, so you do what anybody in your situation would do: you stick the phone in his mouth. As the giant makes muffled yells, the Epoxy's eyes open abruptly and look around. "Oh, sorry," he says and you suddenly fall free, hitting the floor.
"Yraaagh!" Beatz pulls the phone from his mouth and tries to throw Epoxy out of the way, but instead he flails the scantily clad hero through the air, unable to detach himself.
You stand up to run, but you only see two ways to go.
[[Go to the broken window]]
[[Go to that door over there]]Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!Beatz wouldn't expect you to run for the broken window!
You see Beatz grab Epoxy by the leg and begin trying to pull the hero off of his hand. After a brief scream, Epoxy releases himself, but by then you're already running for the hole in the glass. You hear a crash behind you, which you presume is Epoxy being thrown across the room. The glass crunches under your feet as you run, and then the crunching stops.
You're over open air. You must be sixty feet up! Maybe more! Why did you do this? Why?
Suddenly you're hit hard by a blur of orange and white. The impact drives the breath from your lungs, and you're no longer falling, but sailing high into the sky. It's the Flyer, and you're alive (and in a lot of pain).
As you regain your orientation, you find yourself hovering high above the city, cradled in the Flyer's arms. Around you the floating sky-mills quietly convert the high altitude air currents to electricity for the city.
"Thanks," you say. You have to speak loud over the wind. The Flyer nods in acknowledgement. You're not sure if they spoke and you didn't hear because of the helmet or the wind. Before you can ask, the Flyer points at two spots: the convention center in downtown Windsmith where you and your friends were before going to take photos by the river, and another spot on the ridge of the mountains to the north near the windmill that was knocked down. They seem to want to know where you want to go.
[[To the convention center]]
[[To the fallen windmill]]Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!You land at the convention center. Around you, other con-goers watch in awe and excitement. You hear people talking about how awesome Flyer is and there's excited gasps of "Zero Sum!"
Once your feet are on the ground, you turn to Flyer.
"Why do you all keep asking me what to do? You're the heroes!"
Flyer tilts their head, then points to you and makes a flurry of gestures that were mostly finger wiggling. Sign language.
"Oh, you don't talk, do you," you say. "I don't know sign language."
From the front doors of the convention center, Sparktacus calls to you and Flyer. Once you join him, Flyer makes another series of signs.
"They said they're asking you because you're Zero Sum," he says, reading their signs.
"I'm not," you exclaim. "I'm just a cosplayer!"
They both look at you in a stunned silence.
"Wow," Sparktacus says. "You're a dead ringer for the real Zero Sum. No wonder Beatz mistook you for the real one."
Excitedly, Flyer batted Sparktacus on the shoulder and made a few more signs.
"They're saying we need to warn the real Zero Sum," Sparktacus interpreted. "I agree. He's doing signatures right now."
Without warning you first, Flyer steps forward, bends down and picks you up over their shoulder. Before you can even say anything, you're flying again, this time through the open door of the convention center, down the wide hallways, and into one of the exhibit rooms. Around you people are pointing and staff members are trying to decide if they ought to stop you, but none of them can react fast enough to do anything. In mere seconds, you fly past the line of fans waiting to get Zero Sum's signature. You look at them sheepishly as they stare. You finally stop, and Flyer sets you down. You're standing next to Zero Sum who is sitting at a table with photos spread in front of them. Flyer begins to sign.
"Wait, wait," Zero Sum says. "You're the Flyer, right? And who are you?"
"Um," you say. The Flyer makes more signs urgently. In the distance, you hear what sounds like the crash of glass followed by screams.
[[Tell Zero Sum they're in danger->Tell him]]
[[Ask for an autograph->Ask autograph]]
[[Run for it]]Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!"Beatz thinks I'm you and he wants to kill us," you blurt out. The screams are growing louder in the distance.
Zero Sum gives you a worried look and then turns in his chair towards the curtain behind him. "Um, Zero Sum? Zero Sum! Get out here! Uh," he looks down the line towards the door. The screams of panicked con-goers are getting louder. The people in line start to turn nervously and look, too, and for the first time you realize you're not the only cosplay of Zero Sum in the room. "Uh. Zero Sum? Hey, get out here! I quit!" Suddenly Zero Sum jumps up from his chair and begins to run. As he does, the curtain moves aside and another person, also dressed as Zero Sum, steps out.
The wall explodes and through it enters Beatz. He's twice the size and, somehow, twice as colorful as he was before. The sound of the wall cracking and breaking hits you like an anvil, knocking you and everyone else to the ground. Beatz yells.
"Zero Sum! Face me!"
Across the room, people start running, but many of them are merely standing, frozen in place. The Zero Sum cosplayers are rising onto their feet and facing Beatz, as requested.
"This is bad," the new Zero Sum whispers as he stands next to you and Flyer. You look at him, confused. "My powers stop working when I'm," he sniffs a little, "sick."
"ZERO SUM," Beatz yells, turning to punch the wall for emphasis. "Do not hide behind these cheap impersonators!"
This new Zero Sum, the real Zero Sum, you presume, is about the step forward.
[[Let him step foward->Zero Sum steps up]]
[[Step forward before the real Zero Sum can->You step up]]Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!Come to Brian Hagan's table in Artist Alley to vote for this path!