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Literature / Clockpunk and the Vitalizer

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"Clockpunk and the Vitalizer" is a short story by American writer HK Lune. Published in 2017 as part of the New Tales with Old Yarn anthology, the story centers around Dolores Veta "Clockpunk" Garza, a time-slowing superheroine who isn't necessarily the best suited to her job. When supervillain The Vitalizer comes to her hometown of Cooley in search of a superweapon named "The Bull," she knows she's outmatched. It's nonetheless up to her to make sure the weapon stays out of his hands, even if it means putting herself in mortal danger.

Did we mention she's got a huge crush on him?

The story is currently available as part of the anthology as well as a standalone story on the author's blog . Inspiration for the story came from The Cattle Raid of Cooley, as evidenced by the city's name and the superweapon; one could call the villains similar, as well. According to the author, a novel continuing the story is currently in the works.

Not to be confused with the Clockpunk genre.

"Clockpunk and the Vitalizer" provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Pun:
    The Vitalizer: “What’s ticking along in that head of yours?”
    • Courtesy of The Vitalizer, when the trio of Dr. Awesome/Bloodwoman/Purple Quetzal show up, he spouts, “I’m not interested in a four-way, so until later, Clockpunk!”
  • Action Girl: Dolores, aka Clockpunk.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: The Vitalizer lets out a short chuckle when he realizes he’s been fooled about The Bull’s true nature and location.
  • Affably Evil: Ignoring the chaos he creates and multiple death threats, The Vitalizer is rather pleasant. See Pet the Dog below.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: In an inverted Villainous Crush, poor Dolores has it bad for The Vitalizer.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing / Color Character: Purple Quetzal.
  • Antagonist Abilities: The Vitalizer is basically semi-telekinetic and very proficient with his powers. Dolores can…slow time for seven seconds and see seven seconds into the future. Armed with what amounts to a BB gun, no less. She can’t help but complain about how uneven the matchup is.
  • Badass Normal: Downplayed. See Fights Like a Normal.
  • Big Bad: The Vitalizer, feared supervillain/total hunk.
  • Blatant Lies: Dolores’s "I'm the Bull." The Vitalizer is skeptical of this assertion, but since it isn’t blatant to him, it works.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The surname Garza is Spanish for “heron.” What does The Vitalizer settle for watching after he’s abducted Dolores? A heron documentary.
  • Book Ends: The Bull is still in the heroes' hold at the end.
  • Chase Scene: During the climax, compounded with an Unconventional Vehicle Chase since The Vitalizer is not driving the bus but rather controlling it from on top.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The donuts The Vitalizer feeds Dolores in the condo lead to her getting (and taking) an opportunity to attack him from the sofa after they dirty her face.
  • City of Adventure: Cooley. It’s implied the other heroes have come here to fight crime before, as well.
  • Coat, Hat, Mask: A variation with both titular characters. The Vitalizer’s is closer to the traditional interpretation of this trope if you consider a hood a sort of hat; the mask and coat are there as standard. It’s downplayed with Dolores, since her “mask” only covers the upper half of her face and her “coat” is her hoodie.
  • Combat Medic: Dr. Awesome.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Dolores is forced to be one due to the nature of her powers, neither of which give her much of an edge in battle (or so she says). The Vitalizer’s do, but he nonetheless finds several creative and clever ways to use them.
  • Crush Blush: Dolores gets hot and flustered throughout the story, but the story only specifies a blush proper when The Vitalizer at the end tells her what he thinks of her efforts.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In their first meeting, Dolores does her best to get around the storm of inanimate objects The Vitalizer’s controlling, going so far as to jump out of a building at him. It goes poorly.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Both Clockpunk and The Vitalizer wear black, but Dolores (Clockpunk) is firmly on the side of good.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Vitalizer. Dolores to a lesser extent.
  • Defiant Captive: Dolores. Sure, she spends much of her captive time sitting around or watching TV while being understandably unsettled by The Vitalizer, but she also strings her "Bull" lie along as long as possible and affords herself a means of retribution and escape at the end of it.
  • Determinator: Despite the odds not being in her favor at really any point in the short story, Dolores pushes herself to her limits to keep the Bull out of The Vitalizer’s hands. She appreciates herself a little more when she’s successful.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Dolores neither wins The Vitalizer’s affections nor woos him to the heroes’ side. She does, however, earn his respect.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Dolores loses her train of thought while looking at The Vitalizer multiple times, including in the middle of battle!
  • Dramatic High Perching: It doesn't necessarily help The Vitalizer to be floating several yards above the Cooley streets during his first encounter with Dolores, but it certainly makes it easier for him to taunt her.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Dolores during the first battle, and every single time Dolores and The Vitalizer are together afterwards.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep" / Spell My Name with a "The": The Vitalizer.
  • Evil Gloating: The Vitalizer’s quick to taunt and belittle Dolores during their battle on the streets. Once they’re in the condo, though, he’s considerably more subdued and concerned with figuring out her tics.
  • Evil Laugh: The Vitalizer’s. Dolores loves it.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Vitalizer is described as having, from Dolores’s perspective, a “rich, perfect voice.”
  • Evil Wears Black: Averted with Dolores; played straight with The Vitalizer.
  • Fainting: Dolores faints twice in the story. Both fall under the Exhaustion type, though the second one could double as an Emotional/Exhausted version.
  • Fights Like a Normal: Dolores’s powers are not the offensive type, so she’s forced to utilize what’s essentially a BB gun and her wits to have any potency. It doesn’t help that she’s treated as a bit of a non-factor because of her gifts.
  • Gibberish of Love: Dolores is noticeably flustered the first time she speaks to The Vitalizer and at several points thereafter. Not that he notices.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Let’s be honest, Dolores beat the hell out of The Vitalizer with that streetlight.
  • Graceful Loser: The Vitalizer at the end. Realizing The Bull is out of his grasp, he simply laughs and concedes defeat, but not without complimenting Dolores on her tenacity.
    The Vitalizer: I’m impressed, Clockpunk. You might be my new favorite of this pathetic bunch.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Dolores’s Kick-Gun doesn’t help much at all during the first fight. When she meets The Vitalizer to negotiate later, she doesn’t bring it at all in order to sell the bait.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Though The Vitalizer’s pretty hands off, he nonetheless smashes a lot of stuff; Dolores is more or less relegated to her Kick-Gun. Subverted during the climax: Dolores doesn’t have her gun but ends up not needing it—using her tied-up body to beat up The Vitalizer works just fine.
  • Held Gaze: Right before she’s finished slamming her roughly 400-pound tied-up torso on The Vitalizer, he and Dolores share a quiet stare at each other as he considers his options.
  • Heroic RRoD: Though she succeeds in keeping The Vitalizer from the Bull, Dolores has sustained multiple injuries and goes right into hospital care after he leaves Cooley.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Downplayed. Dolores does her best with what she has, but as the heroes deliberate on how to handle The Vitalizer’s tirade, she feels she hasn’t done much good thus far. She starts to believe in herself at the end.
  • Hidden Wire: The superheroes conspire to set Dolores up with a small camera for her meeting with The Vitalizer midway through the story. Subverted, as he unknowingly breaks it a few minutes after it’s introduced in the process of tying her up with a streetlight. She’s left with no way of communicating her location or status as a result.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: If The Vitalizer hadn't fed and tried to clean Dolores, she would’ve never had the opportunity to climb onto the sofa and drop her + the streetlight’s combined weight on him, enabling her escape.
  • I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: The Vitalizer need only sit down for Dolores to be mesmerized. It doesn’t help that he’s rather civil in the middle of trying to use her for her “powers” once he’s kidnapped her.
  • Improvised Weapon: All the various street fixtures and furniture The Vitalizer flings at Dolores, not least of all the palm tree he uses as a bat. On the flip side, the streetlight he uses to tie her up is used against him to great effect.
  • Indy Ploy: With no Kick-Gun, access to the other heroes, or means of fighting back, Dolores has no choice but to think on her feet during her second face-off with The Vitalizer.
  • Insult Backfire: A mild version. An “old white” journalist on the news refers to The Vitalizer as a “sociopath unchained” and “greed-driven asshole”; The Vitalizer responds with what Dolores interprets as interest and eagerness to hear more.
  • Light 'em Up: Purple Quetzal’s superpower, alongside flight.
  • Living MacGuffin: As The Bait, Dolores invokes this trope in-universe via a MacGuffin-Person Reveal to The Vitalizer. It’s all pretense, but he falls for it.
  • Mind over Matter: A version with The Vitalizer, as he’s capable of controlling anything inanimate. It’s possible that this is also how he flies.
  • Near-Villain Victory: The Vitalizer comes damn close to retrieving Dolores after her escape, thanks to both the flurry of city fixtures he flings at her during their downtown chase and just how run-down she is. If it weren’t for the other superheroes catching up, there’s a good chance he would’ve killed her.
  • No Escape but Down: How Dolores escapes both the condo and The Vitalizer’s clutches, taking the dive off the condo balcony and slowing time – slowing gravity's pull – to land safely.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Much to Dolores’s distress, The Vitalizer has no problem getting up in her face while fighting or interrogating her.
  • Obviously Evil: The Vitalizer for sure.
  • Oh, Crap!: Dolores’s reaction upon the streetlight wrapping around her, especially when it breaks the camera on her waist.
    “Combined with the pole’s weight, she thought maaaaybe she was doomed.”
  • One-Way Visor: Dolores wears one along with the hoodie to mask her identity.
  • People Puppets: Bloodwoman’s power.
  • Pet the Dog: Though Dolores is his captive, The Vitalizer goes out of his way to feed her donuts from the condo’s kitchen when her stomach growls. He also lets her sit with him on the sofa and (albeit begrudgingly) gets up to find something to clean her confection-covered face.
  • Playing with Fire: Dr. Awesome’s superpower, though we never see it in action.
  • Say My Name: Right before Dolores jumps off the 30-story-high condo balcony, The Vitalizer half-terrifies her with a roaring, "CLOCKPUNK!"
  • That Came Out Wrong: There’s this gem from Dolores’s inner monologue:
    Dr. Awesome seriously has to give me more to work with, lest this…this ne’er-do-well pound me into the concrete.
  • The Bait: Dolores comes up with the plan to present herself as bait to keep The Vitalizer occupied while the Bull is moved. It works.
  • Time Master: Dolores’s powers make her one, although to a downplayed extent. She can slow time for seven seconds and see seven seconds into the future.
  • Verbal Tic: Dolores repeats certain phrases three times, the last time being emphasized, twice in the story when she’s stressed.
    • Come on come on COME ON.
    • Not good not good NOT GOOD.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: When the other three heroes come to Dolores’s rescue at the end of the story, Bloodwoman tells The Vitalizer the heroes will show him mercy if he leaves Cooley immediately. What with him being injured and the Bull long gone, he does so without argument.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Bull is regarded as one. Thankfully for Dolores and the other superheroes, it’s never used.
  • Worthy Opponent: Before he leaves Cooley in defeat, The Vitalizer stops to tell Dolores he’s impressed by her success in stopping him. He even says she’s possibly his new favorite hero. Dolores swoons.
  • Would Hit a Girl: The Vitalizer pulls no punches with Dolores. Unfortunately for him, she isn’t hesitant to return the favor.