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Literature / Curveball

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America's Greatest Hero is murdered. His sidekick wants to know why.

Curveball is a Web Serial Novel centered around the eponymous villain turned hero who discovers his former partner Liberty was murdered under mysterious circumstances.

The story primarily follows Curveball as he learns of his ex-partner's murder and begins his investigation. It also dips into the perspective of other heroes, villains, and the victim's great granddaughter.

Curveball borrows liberally from the conventions of comic book publishing, adopting a monthly release schedule, referring to each release as an "issue," and creating cover art designed to resemble a comic book cover.

This series provides examples of:

  • 555: So far, every e-mail address in the story has ended with ".tti", which is a non-existent Top Level Domain. This is later justified; Gladiator (a.k.a Robert Thorpe) created his own micronation for Thorpe Industries, and apparently managed to get some international recognition, which would qualify him for a country-specific TLD.note 
  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: Farraday City's sewers were apparently built specifically for people to travel through — complete with secret rooms for the travelers to hole up in. Later on, we find out that the water that flows through them during a storm forms a magic rune the size of the entire city.
  • All Part of the Show: Back before they both retired, Alex and CB got into a little fight over CB dating (and sleeping with) Alex's daughter. The fight only ended when they both fell off the under-construction building they were on, through a skylight, and into a Bar Mitzvah celebration. Fortunately, the father at the celebration was pretty quick on his feet, and introduced them as though he were expecting them. Alex and CB played along, and a good time was had by all.
  • Atrocious Alias: Everybody thinks that "Doctor AEvil" sounds like something a kid would come up with as a name for their MMO character. (Hey, at least it's better than "DocEvil666" or "xXxDoctorEvilxXx".)
  • Badass Longcoat: CB's trenchcoat, as seen on the cover above.
  • Big Eater: Whenever Red Shift exceeds a certain speed, his powers also accelerate his metabolism for the next few days, resulting in him eating doughnuts by the box. In addition, if he's going to be traveling a long distance at high speed, he has to wear a special IV harness that pumps glucose and nutrients directly into his bloodstream (and he's still hungry afterwards).
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Doctor AEvil drives a gold-plated Mini-Mecha around. He also likes to put his minions in shiny gold stormtrooper armor, complete with golden laser cannons.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Whenever Agent Grant puts ammo into his gun, all his clones have access to it. Thus, one of his clones can blaze away without pause, so long as he has another clone in a safe location swapping magazines.
  • Captain Ersatz:
  • Code Name: It's traditional that every person with powers has some kind of code name, even if they don't have a secret identity to protect. This is especially important to the members of Crossfire, who absolutely insist on calling people with powers by their code name. Red Shift discovers that this can be pretty inconvenient when talking about someone who just got powers and hasn't had time to think of a code name yet.
  • Combat Clairvoyance: One of Curveball's powers is that he knows a lot more about what's going on during a firefight than just what he can see and hear.
  • Concealment Equals Cover:
  • Convection, Schmonvection: When Red Shift has to outrun a fireball, he still feels the heat from the explosion on his back, even though he's exceeding Mach 3.
  • Defiant to the End: Richter has Liberty at gunpoint, from the other side of the room. Liberty deliberately charges him, knowing he would die, to protect his source.
  • Differently Powered Individual: The term "Atomic Humans" was apparently used during the first part of the 19th century to describe people with powers. "Metahuman" has become the modern term for them.
  • Dying Clue: Played with; That e-mail that Liberty sent just before he was attacked probably contains a perfectly coherent and logical explanation of what's going on. Too bad they can't decrypt it.
  • Friendly Enemy: Overmind admits to feeling admiration for Liberty, and displays an interest in finding the people responsible for his murder.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: There used to be an island nation, about the size of the Dominican Republic, right in the middle of what is now known as The Bermuda Triangle. It was completely erased from history, along with everyone on it, in order to stop something even worse from happening. A remnant of the island still exists, though, stuck repeating the last day of the island's existence over and over for the rest of eternity. It occasionally reappears in the island's original location to trap the unwary.
  • Gun Fu: In Issue Four CB displays casually deadly proficiency with handguns.
  • Healing Factor: All over the place, with various justifications.
    • Super powers: Liberty, Curveball, and Jenny/Zero can recover from injuries as serious as multiple broken bones overnight. Vigilante can heal from much worse than that in fifteen minutes.
    • Medicine: Crossfire has access to an IV medicine that can cure a concussion in a few days. Thorpe Industries has a "medical tank" that's supposed to be even better — if they could get around all the legal red tape blocking them from actually selling the things.
    • Magic: Plague gets a healing factor that's almost as good as Vigilante's by having magic runes tattooed over his entire body.
  • Heel–Face Turn: CB was once a villain and one of Liberty's arch enemies. The actual turn occurred before the start of the story.
  • Hollywood Silencer: The people who offed Liberty used silencers to avoid alerting the neighbors.
  • Infrared Xray Camera: Street Ronin has one built in to his visor.
  • Knockout Gas: The fire sprinklers in Agent Travers' office don't spray water, they spray an instantly paralyzing neurotoxin. One whiff and everyone in the room drops like so many discarded toys.
  • Living Lie Detector: Agent Henry's ability to detect lies is so sensitive, he can tell if you're trying to misled him in any way (i.e. exact words, metaphorical truths, etc.). What's more, while he's making direct eye contact with you, you lose the ability to lie at all.note 
  • Magic Is Evil: It's difficult to use, it harms the soulnote  of anyone who uses it, and it wants something.
  • My Hero, Zero: After Jenny gets her powers, she starts using the name "Zero."
    Red Shift: I thought she was too young for Schoolhouse Rock!.
    Curveball: She is.
  • Not Wearing Tights: Curveball did have a costume when he was with The Gladiators, but since he "retired," he does most of his crimefighting in a badass longcoat. Jenny/Zero hasn't had time to put together a costume yet, and so makes do with some borrowed body armor.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: In his civilian identity, Curveball is known only as "CB". Subverted later on, when we find out that that is his actual, legal name.
  • Outrun the Fireball: It's a little more realistic when the one doing the running has Super-Speed.
  • Playing with Fire: Agent Hu can become a living pillar of flame (asbestos underwear not included).
  • Present Tense Narrative: Every issue is published in third person present tense.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The board of directors (and the employees that are in the know) of Haruspex Analytics. They draw their paychecks, hang out after work, and go home to their families at the end of the day. This is the same group that ordered the assassination of Liberty, and are killing people in highly unethical medical experiments.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Regiment uses the phrase verbatim when he starts contacting the former members of The Gladiators to deal with the global conspiracy Curveball's managed to stumble into.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Thorpe would be perfectly happy to sell his amazing inventions for profit. It's just that his competitors, fearing they would be put out of business, used some underhanded legal tricks to block him from doing so.
  • Required Secondary Powers:
    • Agent Hu has the ability to turn into living fire. Unfortunately, she doesn't have the ability to keep herself from immolating her own clothes (which, admittedly, isn't so much required as it is would be really, really nice).
    • Officially, Agent Grant has the power of teleportation. However, in his particular type of teleportation, there's a split second when he exists at both the origin and destination points simultaneously. He learned at a fairly young age how to interrupt the process at that point. However, since his powers didn't originally involve cloning himself, they don't provide any help at all in keeping track of his various bodies. He recalls one incident where one of him turned left down a hall, and another one simultaneously turned left off of an overpass and into traffic.
  • Resurrective Immortality: Vigilante never stays dead. His team keeps a police body bag to have a convenient place for his body to sort out his various organs and bones.
  • Ret-Gone: See "Groundhog Day" Loop, above.
  • Ritual Magic/Wild Magic: Magic is invoked through drawing runes and enacting rituals. At the same time, magic is alive, and is capable of influencing its users toward some goal of its own. The seemingly self-contradictory nature of magic has driven more than one powerful wizard insane.
  • Secret Identity: Some supers have them, some don't. In addition, although it's not exactly a good thing if your secret identity is found out, it doesn't necessarily mean the end of your superhero/supervillan career, either.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Agent Henry wears sunglasses at all times as a courtesy to others, because his gaze removes the ability to lie.
  • Superheroes Wear Tights: Having your own costume is another tradition of supers, for both the hero and villain types (although, villains are more likely to break with this tradition than are heroes, natch).
  • Super Team: All over the place. The Gladiators was a New York-based team that both Liberty and Curveball were members of before it broke up, and the vigilante group Crossfire plays an important part in the later part of the story.
  • Tap on the Head: Agent Grant is able to take down over a dozen bank robbers by either using a cattle prod as a tazer or hitting them in the head. He later mentions that he wouldn't have brought the cattle prod if he knew that hitting them would be so effective.
  • Telepathic Sprinklers: A single lit cigarette manages to set off every ceiling sprinkler in the bank lobby in Issue One.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Overmind is trying to Take Over the World, because he believes that the world would be a genuinely better place to live with him in charge. This makes him perfectly willing to help investigate the murder of a hero like Liberty.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Thanks to his Healing Factor, Alex aged at a fraction of the rate of most people. So, he got to watch his wife grow old and die without him. The fact that CB has the same power, and thus wouldn't be able to grow old with Juliet, turns out to be the real reason behind the fight mentioned under All Part of the Show, above.
  • Which Me?: Alan Grant can make several copies of himself in distant locations. Unfortunately, this didn't come with the ability to keep track of which clone is doing what — he had to learn how to do that through experience. So, he always refers to his clones in the first-person singular, because to him, they are him.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change!: One of Curveball's powers. It seems to be limited to immediate, short-term effects, though; he can make somebody unlucky enough to trip over their own shoelaces, but can't make them so unlucky that they accidentally mail valuable information to him.
  • Wretched Hive: Farraday City is routinely excluded from crime statistics reports, since it's such an outlier.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: When Street Ronin calls Red Shift by his real name rather than his code name, he knows that something major is wrong.