“So… Sudden-Oven-Man?”

“I prefer James.”

“Really? Is that your actual name?”

“It is, amusingly enough! When your first name is James, letting that secret out doesn’t actually give the shadowy conspiracy of anti-appliance villains a lot of help tracking your home or work address.”

“You have a, ah, ‘normal’ job?”

“I do, though I’d prefer not to go into it. It’s boring. Tedious, even. But if I told you I was a pizza delivery man, which I’m not by the way that’s just a hypothetical, but that might actually put other ‘Jameses’ who deliver pizza in danger. In case the League of Appliance Repairman Assassins ever went on a rampage.”

“You don’t seem to take this very seriously.”

“I get called ‘Sudden-Oven-Man’ on national television. How seriously should I take it?”

“So if you don’t like the name, how did you get it?”

“I strongly suspect it’s related to my ability to spontaneously manifest 40″ O’Keefe & Merritt ovens anywhere within a few hundred feet of myself. It’s a nice model. Four burners, chrome griddle, oven on the right side, ‘Grillevator’ broiler on the left. It even has side salt & pepper shakers.”

“We mean, who chose that exact name, which is so closely associated with you, and why didn’t you fight against it if you dislike it?”

“I’m pretty sure the Chicago Comet stuck me with that nom de mask first, when I got involved in the Battle of Bronzeville. As for why I haven’t fought it… what’s the point? I summon ovens. Suddenly. What am I going to come up with that’ll replace ‘Sudden-Oven-Man’ in people’s heads? If the ovens could produce fire I might go with ‘Grillevator,’ just because I like the sound of it, but it’s not like they come connected to gas lines.”

“Why DID you get involved in the Battle of Bronzeville? Over the years it’s become very clear you’re not motivated to be a full-time hero. Sometimes years go by without you doing anything with your powers.”

“I got involved because people were dying, and the heroes on-scene were overwhelmed. We all thought Gargoyle was dead, Red Tail was having to hold the line at Sunset on his own and Hexen started yelling near a shop where I was that we had to evacuate. She turned to face down a wave of razorlings to give us time to flee.. and I just didn’t see how she could do it. Not alone. A cop ran up next to her and started firing his pistol, and I figured I had to do my part. So I began dropping ovens on them.”

“How do you do that?”

“Gravity, mostly.”

“We mean, how does your power work? Where does it come from? Why… why ovens?”

Actually it’s not just ovens. I can also summon a small stretch of tile floor, a gust of warm air, a cast-iron cooking tray, and some wonderful oatcakes. They just don’t come in as handy.”

“Do you know the origin of your power?”

“My grandfather was a Boomer Baby. No, I won’t say if you know him. My mother didn’t have any powers we ever noticed. And I summon ovens. Pretty clearly it’s a skip-a-generation thing. After Bronzeville, Doctor Phoenix checked me out. He says the oven, and the other things I can summon, are quantum projections. He suspects when the Big Boom hit in New York, one of the things it destroyed was a kitchen that had all the items I can now create, as hiccups in the space/time continuum.”

“Are their any limits to your, er… oven-summoning powers?”

“Many. The ovens don’t last long, about six hours on average, though if they get hit by high-energy states they sometimes go ‘piff.’ They are all the exact same oven, or copies of it. I’ve studied it pretty closely. There’s a scratch on the chrome on the left-hand side, and it’s not completely even on a level floor. It has momentum relative to the most influential gravitational field it’s being summoned within, which is a fancy way of saying it always appears stationary compared to the planet. I can’t ‘throw’ ovens, just drop them or set them on the ground. But it’s pretty heavy, so both those things work pretty well. The back is tougher than the front, weirdly, and I have learned to summon it in new orientations, so I can drop it point-first on someone. The oatcakes too, for that matter. And I have a maximum range of less than 1,000 feet, though Gargoyle won’t let me say exactly how far.”

“Do you interact with Gargoyle often?”

“Weirdly, yeah, I do. He arranges for training for me, though I’m never doing enough hours in a week to satisfy him. But I’m not really a hero. I don’t want to be. I help where I can or must, but I have no interest in forming ‘Kitchen Appliances for Justice,’ or anything. You said sometimes there are years I don’t do anything with my powers, but that’s not really true. My main power is humanity, just like everyone else. I pay my taxes, love my family, volunteer at a soup kitchen. Overall, I think those do more good than creating sudden ovens in the name of liberty. And, of course, there’s the babysitting.”

“We’re sorry, what?”

“Well, sometimes its ‘dog sitting,’ or ‘quantum anomaly sitting.’ That’s actually the main way my powers are used, which is to say to not use them but be able to if things go wrong. When one of Gargoyle’s allies needs someone to keep an eye on something, generally something weird, but they don’t think it’s important enough for a real hero to be sidelined doing it, they call me. I’m back-up. It’s a lot less dangerous than actual hero work, though I did once have to drop 47 ovens on a Fanashi Warcaster to protect a baby mammoth.”

“Does, does that sort of thing come up often?”

“For me it’s four or five times a year, on average. Some other folks in the back-up business have gigs almost every week. More during alien invasions and demonic outbreaks. I mean, look, we live in a world where people can fly by force of will. Mythic objects are walking around as people. Super-science allows zero-point rods to rewrite reality. Psychics can travel through time with the power of their bald minds. People wear onesies to fight crime. That’s the top level of weird. But there are lots of levels between that and spoon-bending, and for a bunch of us, that’s where we can contribute the most.”

“So you’re saying there are a lot of people doing… back-up?”

“Oh, yeah. More than full-time heroes. A lot of retired heroes in their 70s and 80s who don’t happen to still look 22. Apprentice Supreme Spellcasters. Younger sibling of kid sidekicks who can’t go into the field yet. And folks like me, weirdos with bizarre powers that are only sort of useful. We often call ourselves the Oddities. Sometimes we get together for Bar-B-Ques.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Not this time, no. It’s a messed up world. I summon ovens for justice. None of that should get in the way of having a good time with friends.”


About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a developer for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, the project manager for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on July 11, 2015, in Short Fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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