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Literature / Villains' Code

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Forging Hephaestus cover
Villains' Code is a superhero novel series by Drew Hayes, currently consisting of a single novel: Forging Hephaestus (2017). Notably, the series takes place in a different 'verse from the author's Super Powereds setting.

The story focuses on Tori Rivas, a young aspiring supervillainess (who eventually adopts the moniker Hephaestus) with fire-based powers and a genius-level intellect. She gets an offer she can't refuse from Doctor Mechaniacal to join the Guild of Villainous Reformation, a secret organization, whose purpose is to coordinate, train, and police other villains in order to maintain the tenuous peace with the Alliance of Heroic Champions, a similar organization for superheroes (except the AHC is well-known as respected by the public). Being a Spicy Latina, Tori has trouble fitting in with the standard guild instructors, so Doctor Mechaniacal asks an old friend, Ivan Gerhardt, who in his glory days was known as Fornax, to take Tori on as an apprentice, a practice that has fallen out of style in the modern guild. Ivan alone would determine whether Tori can be trained to be a proper code-abiding villain. If Tori fails, it will be up to Ivan to personally kill her (especially since he's one of the few people who can even touch Tori in her living fire mode).


Not long after Tori's recruitment, an event known as a Confluence occurs, resulting in a number of metahumans appearing in Ridge City. Some are recruited by the guild and some by the "capes". Tori and three other apprentices (Ivan taking Tori on has resulted in the practice coming back into fashion) must complete their training and prove themselves to be true code-abiding villains (being fully aware that the price for breaking the Code is death).

Meanwhile, the country's newest superheroes are likewise trained by the AHC, with two of the recruits being brought under the wing of Apollo, an ambitious superhero with big plans for the AHC, who uses professional image consultants to introduce the new heroes to the world.


The series provides examples of:

  • And I Must Scream: There was a time when Kristoph animated a person's skeleton and had it climb out of their body. Slowly. They were alive the whole time. This was the least brutal of his killings. But the person in question was a child abuser—possibly even a child killer—so finding out about this endears him to Tori.
  • The Apprentice: Tori is this to Ivan for most of the novel. In fact, her official title in the guild is "Apprentice", and she wears a traditional nondescript apprentice costume. After Ivan agrees to take Tori on, several other experienced villains express interest in reviving the old training method. The three new recruits from the Confluence (Beverly, Lance, and Warren) are mentored by three experienced villains (Thuggernaut, Arachno Bro, and Balaam, respectively).
  • Asshole Victim: When Lodestar beats the crap out of a group of meta-gansters attacking someone, she discovers, to her disgust, that the "someone" is Whitest Knight, a white supremacist flying around in Klan-themed Powered Armor and spouting racist propaganda. So she "accidentally" knocks him out as well.
    Lodestar: Whoops, guess I didn't notice you were on our side. That sort of thing happens when you insist on dressing like a racist di-, um, jerk.
  • Berserk Button: Kristoph's power is based around this. Most of the time he's normal, but with absolute certainty he can detect when he's in the presence of a person who's seriously hurt a child before (non-traumatic acts and accidents don't count), and this activates his power. The exact nature of said power is kept vague, but it allows him to slowly and painfully kill someone who sets him off. It's noted that if he wasn't so brutal and if his ability to detect abusers were admissible in court, he'd probably be with the Capes. Alas, he's merciless and doesn't care to wait for the system to do his job, so the Guild welcomed him into his ranks to weed out anybody who is likely to break one of their most strictly enforced rules.
  • BFG: Blunderbuss is a hero known to carry an oversized weapon.
  • Black Eyes: When Ivan uses his powers, his eyes go completely black, with only magical symbols swirling in them. This is also the origin of the name "Fornax", after some reporter mistakenly names him after a black hole, only for people to point out that Fornax is the name of a whole galaxy. But the name has already stuck by then.
  • Brain Bleach: According to Ivan, when Kristoph first appeared, Xelas took him to another room and asked him to explain his powers. He did. When she returned, she asked Doctor Mechaniacal to wipe her memory of that day.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: Thuggernaut may be a big guy, but he cares deeply for his friends and apprentice. He's also a huge fan of the opera.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Ivan (Fornax/Pseudonym) and Helen (Lodestar), mainly due to them being one of the most powerful villains and heroes, respectively and knowing that a Dating Catwoman situation would never work and they're better off as just friends.
  • City of Adventure: Ridge City is where the headquarters of both organizations are located. It's also considered to be the safest city in the country due to the fact that capes have taken over police and rescue duties and are often seen patrolling the streets. It turns into a warzone in the climax thanks to Apollo and Balaam's scheming.
  • Coolest Club Ever: For their "girls' night out", Xelas takes Tori, Beverly, and several other female villains to the Specter Lounge, a high-end club that has just opened and is known for being exclusive. While the ground floor is designed more like a typical club (loud, cramped), the VIP spaces are luxurious and limited to only those with the right connections or lots of money. Xelas takes the girls there... and Tori encounters Donald, who is there with Ren at the insistence of Apollo. Then the clubs gets attacked by an interdimensional monster, courtesy of Nexus.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: As a rule, Ivan vs. anyone-who-is-not-Lodestar. Also subverted with Balaam at the end, who absorbs so much power he's able to put up quite a fight and seriously hurt Ivan before being beaten.
  • Deadly Training Area: The apprentices are sent to a remote place, where they have to face killer robots built by Doctor Mechaniacal. Destroying a robot yields a core of different metals: copper, silver, gold, platinum. Each core is worth a certain amount of money. The robots of higher-prices cores are also significantly tougher and deadlier, usually requiring teamwork to destroy. Each apprentice also finds a survival kit including food, water, and an additional item that may help one of them... but usually not the one who finds it. For example, Tori finds a magical scroll, which doesn't do her any good, since she doesn't do magic, but would work for Beverly. Beverly, meanwhile, finds a toolkit, which is perfect for Tori's tech skills.
  • Differently Powered Individual: The blanket term "meta-human" or "meta" is used to refer to any being that is either a non-human sentient or a human with superpowers. There are also meta-animals.
  • Dimensional Traveler: Nexus can easily travel between various Alternate Universes, although he happens to like this one the most due to it being unique. According to Nexus, only this universe has Quorum and Stasis. He's also, apparently, uncapturable and unkillable. Attempts to capture him result in him disappearing from his holding cell after a short while and reappearing elsewhere. The same happens if he is killed.
  • The Dividual: Tunnel Vision is a pair of fraternal twins with a single name and mind, who can open portals.
  • Escalating War: The reason for the Guild Code and the need to coordinate villain actions in order to maintain the peace with the capes. Prior to the code, it wasn't uncommon for villains to target the friends and loved ones of their heroic enemies, causing those heroes to retaliate, starting an escalating conflict that could easily engulf an entire city. As such, any villain found breaking the Code is eliminated by the guild before the capes can get in on the action. All proposed crimes are submitted to the Guild Council, who check if any of the targets have anything to do with any AHC members or their loved ones. If not, then the job is approved.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: They may be supervillains, but killing (or seriously harming) kids is still a big no-no, especially since many have children of their own as their secret identities. As such, any new recruits are brought before Kristoph, who can look into a person's soul for that specific sin. If he finds it, then his powers activate, and... well, it's not pretty. Despite the horrible way he dispatches people like that, everyone at the guild is happy to have him around.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Balaam is an ambitious spell-caster on the Guild Council with an adversarial relationship to Ivan/Pseudonym/Fornax. He's also secretly plotting to overthrow the current guild leadership in order to be able to openly engage in villainy.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Tori's chosen supervillain name is "Hephaestus", referring to a male Greek god. Indeed, when she confronts capes later in her Powered Armor with disguised voice, everyone assumes Hephaestus is male, which works out perfectly for her, since no one is going to look for a woman. Beverly likewise goes with "Bahamut" (king of the dragons).
  • Geometric Magic: Warren (AKA Glyph) can cast magic by drawing glyphs on flat surfaces. During his graduation, his mentor Balaam gifts him a Magic Wand, explaining that, unlike a Magic Staff, a wand is easier to draw with.
  • Heroes "R" Us: The Alliance of Heroic Champions is a national-scale bureaucratic version that includes both metas and Muggle staffers. While it's based in Ridge City, AHC heroes actually police the entire country. The AHC was preceded by the far more disorganized (and racist) League of Metas.
  • Hybrid Monster: Ren Tanaka (AKA Medley) is a hulking monstrosity composed of multiple animals, turned into his current state due to some drug he took to heal his blown-out knee (to keep his football scholarship) during the Confluence. Professor Quantum designs him a disguise that makes him appear as a normal (albeit very tall and muscular) guy, for which Ren is extremely grateful.
  • Idiot Plot: In-Universe. The plot Apollo and Belaam cook up seems clever enough. They covered plenty of contingencies, set up the right minions to take out the right targets, and predicted most of the responses their enemies would make. But there are a few giant glaring flaws in the plan, not to mention that they never did come up with a real answer to "what do we do when the ridiculously powerful people we have just pissed off suddenly stop playing nice?" Outside of the actual conspirators, everyone who finds out about the plan immediately points out that best case scenario is that everything goes off without a hitch, at which point Fornax brutally murders them all.
    Ivan: You are all so impossibly stupid, I don't even know where to start.
  • "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight: After Balaam blows up Ivan's kids' school, Ivan unleashes Fornax on the city. Tori risks her life to get Ivan's attention and tells him that his kids are alive, which manages to bring Ivan back from the brink. Later on, Nexus tells her that there are many universes, where Fornax killed her anyway.
  • An Ice Person: Irene (AKA Cold Shoulder) has cold-based powers. She can either freeze things remotely or make herself a huge Irene-shaped ice shell and use it for close combat.
  • In a Single Bound: Ivan has many powers, but flying is not one of them. While he could cast a flying spell on himself, it takes too long to do it in a fight. Instead, he uses his powerful leg muscles to propel himself off the ground and then keeps pushing off magic supports he conjures under his feet. This has the added bonus to allow him to adjust his direction "mid-flight", surprising his enemy.
  • Legion of Doom: The Guild of Villainous Reformation is a secret organization, whose goal is to train, police, and coordinate supervillains in the country, being the villainous counterpart to the Alliance of Heroic Champions. These days, there's tons of red tape and oversight to ensure a tenuous peace with the AHC. As a rule, the guild ensures that all villains follows the Code and, if they don't, sends someone to ensure that the violators are dealt with... permanently.
  • Living Shadow: Lady Shade is able to become a shadow and move through walls. She can also hide herself and anyone nearby.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: Blood Witch is a terrifying hemokinetic.
  • Mad Scientist:
    • Doctor Mechaniacal (Wade Wyatt) is the guild's chief inventor, having, essentially, designed all the non-magical security systems for the building. As a villain, he wears a suit of Powered Armor he himself built. In the outside world, he's a well-known tech billionaire, using his genius to make money both for himself and the guild.
    • Professor Quantum is the heroic variant, being the one responsible for introducing metas into the world through a Freak Lab Accident that made the laws of physics malleable decades ago. He does for the AHC what Doctor Mechaniacal does for the guild, such as turning the AHC headquarters into an impregnable fortress.
    • Tori is getting there, obsessed with building herself a Powered Armor. She's got a genius-level intellect, although she's actually selling herself short, believing her to have a normal genius-level intellect. In fact, fire isn't her only meta-ability. She can potentially be on Doctor Mechaniacal's level, as he privately admits to Ivan.
  • Magic Versus Science: Averted. In general, magic- and science-based metas don't usually have a beef just because of that difference. In fact, Arcanicus and Doctor Mechaniacal are on pretty good terms, despite the fact that one forges magical artifacts and the other is a Mad Scientist. In fact, both the guild and AHC headquarters are protected by technological and magical means in order to counter any possible attack.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: Lucy (AKA Hat Trick) is dressed as an amateur Stage Magician. She explains that she bought an amateur magic kit during the Confluence. When she put it on, the objects bonded to her and turned out to have actual magic properties. For example, she uses her top hat for storage. In fact, objects stored in the hat come out exactly the same as they go in (i.e. a cold beer will stay cold). She can manipulate her card deck and shape the cards any way she wishes. Her cape can be used to cast illusions on herself. The rings can hold almost anyone in place. She hasn't mastered her wand yet, so she isn't cleared to use it in the field. Her abilities don't lend her much for direct combat, but she's excellent as a support team member.
  • Mass Empowering Event: Confluences are events that occasionally take place in this world, resulting in more people becoming metas. During a Confluence, things like Freak Lab Accidents are increasingly more likely. The first Confluence involved Professor Quantum accidentally making the laws of physics far more malleable than normal, allowing for metahumans to exist.
  • Mugging the Monster: A group of criminals attempt to break into Vendallia Industries on a Friday morning in order to access sensitive data. They take the early morning employees hostage and try to force Ivan to input his password into the computer. Ordinarily, Ivan would be able to slaughter the trio of criminals with ease as Fornax. However, since he is rather fond of his secret identity, he is forced to play along until he can start eliminating the hostage-takers one-by-one. He manages to break one's neck, but, unfortunately, the man is able to get off a shot, forcing Ivan to pretend to be wounded, leaving it up to Tori, another employee, and a barista from across the street to save the day, all of whom happen to be metas.
  • Mind Hive: Quorum has over a thousand separate personalities inside him. Despite this, he's one of the most level-headed people in the AHC. This also allows him to see right through Apollo's weak attempts to lie to him, and he deliberately provides the means for Apollo to enact his plan in order to root out all of his accomplices.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Apollo's reaction after Balaam betrays him, blows up a school, and unleashes Fornax on the heroes, before sending out an army of villains loyal only to him to counterattack the capes.
  • Naming Ceremony: Prior to their final test, Doctor Mechaniacal gathers the apprentices and their mentors and announces that the apprentices may choose their code names, since they're going out into the world, and calling them by their real names wouldn't be wise. He calls them up one at a time and asks for their chosen name. Notably, Tori, Beverly, and Lance are shown earlier talking about their code names, with Beverly being dead-set on her name and Lance still unsure. Their chosen names are Hephaestus (Tori), Bahamut (Beverly), Pest Control (Lance), and Glyph (Warren). Their official introduction to the guild happens after the test, when Doctor Mechaniacal announces them to the crowd one at a time. It's pointed out that, originally, names weren't vetted by the Council, which is why there are villains, who have managed to slip with names like "Johnny Three Dicks".
    Johnny Three Dicks: And that's why they call me Johnny Three Dicks, doll. No matter which way you try to come, you're still fucked.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Generally averted. Most hero and villain code names are easy enough to read, since they're fairly common words or phrases. The two that might be a little difficult are Balaam and Xelas. However, the name "Balaam" comes from the Torah and is generally pronounced as "BEY-lem" in English. According to the audiobook, Xelas is supposed to sound exactly like "zealous".
  • Not So Different: Some time ago, Apollo caught Balaam in the act during a crime and was surprised to learn that Balaam also wishes for things to go back to the "glory days", when heroes and villains openly fought one another instead of all the modern red tape. They then decided to work together to prepare for the day, when they can overthrow the leadership of their respective organizations and start an open war with one another. Except Balaam has always planned to betray Apollo.
  • One Steve Limit: All superhero and supervillain names are copyrighted, so all new heroes/villains have to check if their name choice is free. Also, trying to use something for a copyrighted work can result in lawsuits, so public domain is preferred. When Tori requests the name "Hephaestus" at her "graduation", Doctor Mechaniacal points out that there was already a cape by that name, except he died. His successor is named Red Hephaestus, so that's not a problem. Besides, Classical Mythology is public domain anyway.
  • Pest Controller: Lance (with the aptly-chosen code name Pest Control) can summon and control insects, and not just ordinary insects. Any bug he is able to observe and learn is added to his arsenal, including meta-insects. For his graduation, his mentor Arachno Bro gives him a hand-written book that catalogs all known types of meta-insects. It's a surprisingly versatile power.
  • Physical God:
    • Apollo, sort-of. He was actually imbued with some of the power of the real Apollo by a magical artifact.
    • Fornax, maybe. Ivan's explanation to Tori is that he ate a god, making him one of the most powerful beings on the planet.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero:
    • Whitest Knight, a KKK-themed hero, who spends his free time handing out white supremacy pamphlets. To be sure, most members of the AHC don't like him and wish he wouldn't be associated with the organization, but they can't legally expel him, as he's not breaking their rules, and his hero persona is constitutionally-protected free speech.
    • The League of Metas, the precursor to AHC, by modern standards. When Beverly's grandfather found a powerful magical artifact in The '50s, he attempted to join the League in order to learn how to use his new powers to help people. Instead, they rejected him because of his race and told him they were working on forming a "Colored Division", where he'd fit right in. When he told them to go fuck themselves, they shrugged and said he was free to go... but they were keeping the artifact. He never recovered from such a blow and spent the rest of his life with a "sadness around him". No wonder Beverly dislikes heroes, even though the modern organization is all-inclusive. Oh, and, as far as she knows, no cape was ever seen using the artifact, so they took it for no good reason.
  • Powered Armor:
    • Doctor Mechaniacal uses one in his capacity as a villain.
    • Tori tries to build herself one, although she doesn't have Wade's experience or resources yet. In particular, the one Tori builds in the second half of the novel has a powerful energy Hand Cannon, a sleeping dart launcher, and jet boosters for jumps (for her "graduation", Ivan buys her a gravity-reduction device, which would allow her suit to actually fly using little power). It also disguises her voice, so everyone assumes that "Hephaestus" is male (especially since it's a male name).
    • Whitest Knight flies around in a KKK-themed mech suit.
    • Some of the armor Donald pulls from video games are of this kind, usually equipped with a shield.
  • Precision F-Strike: Tori rarely holds back on curses, so she doesn't shy away from using the f-word.
  • Robot Girl: Xelas was originally built by a hero named Tech Lord as a Sex Bot but made the mistake of giving her such an advanced personality that she developed free will. She sued for freedom and won a landmark case for AIs. Naturally, she became a villainess and is currently a member of the Guild Council. Unlike the typical trope, Xelas could be easily mistaken for a cheerful human woman, who loves to party. She can even consume food and drink, converting them into energy and comes equipped with a holo-generator to make herself appear human. She typically calls herself Alexis when using the disguise. Xelas's Law is now invoked by robotic beings, whenever they feel discriminated by humans. Xelas's heroic Spear Counterpart is Stalwart Iron (who is actually The Mole, created and controlled by Doctor Mechaniacal).
  • Self-Duplication: Pod Person can make perfect copies of himself (including clothes) by spitting on the ground. Every lougie quickly turns into a bean and then grows into a human size and shape in a matter of seconds. He can control his doubles with his mind and senses everything they sense. He can destroy the doubles with a snap, causing them to dissolve into some green goop. In the climax, Balaam has Pod Person produce an army that simulates an attack on the capes by the entire guild.
  • Square-Cube Law: Referenced by Tori, when Beverly uses a magical scroll to grow in size. While she admits that, under normal circumstances, Beverly's legs wouldn't be able to support her body, magic kinda throws all those calculations out the window.
  • Stock Phrases: Chloe's power is to make old clichéd sayings come true, in a way. As Beverly determines, it only works on sayings that are common enough for most people to (sort of) believe in. For example, her first use in the novel has her saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" to Donald and then kicking him a few times to increase his strength. Tori later has her "cast" it on her, followed by Tori shooting herself in the arm a few times, giving her temporary Super Strength, while allowing her to maintain her own secret identity. Only one saying can be active at a time, so she usually goes back to her "default" cliché of "A penny saved is a penny earned", which earns her a little cash every now and then, when she decides not to buy something that she genuinely wants. One of the best sayings she has figured out is "it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away", which allows her to teleport, provided she knows the difference between a hop, a skip, and a jump.
  • Summon Magic:
    • Lance (AKA Pest Control) has the ability to summon and control insects of any kind, including meta-insects, as long as he has seen and studied them.
    • Donald (AKA Cyber Geek) can pull any video game weapon, armor, or tool from the screen and use it. His "training" involves spending hours ranking up his gear in multiple games in order for it to have better stats in Real Life. The weapon/armor/tool also has to be something that is used in a popular game that is currently running on a computer. Since the wrist computer given to him by Professor Quantum can't maintain a stable high-bandwidth Internet connection, he's forced to rely on offline games, a dozen of which are actively running on the computer at any given time.
  • That Man Is Dead: Ivan constantly insists that Fornax is dead. He is no longer that man. According to him, Fornax died the moment Lodestar showed him a picture of his son (from a one-night stand). From that moment on, Ivan retired as a full-time villain and agreed to lead a normal life, even trying to have a serious relationship with the girl he knocked up, resulting in a daughter, although the relationship didn't work out. In fact, the only thing keeping Fornax dead are his kids, which is what Balaam is counting on, when he blows up their school. Indeed, distraught, Ivan goes back to being Fornax, kills Blunderbuss, and goes after Apollo. Luckily, Tori has already evacuated the school.
  • Time Travel: Whenever Johnny Three Dicks is killed, he rolls back time a few seconds, giving him a chance to avoid death. It's unclear how many times he can do this.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Tori is a Hispanic woman. Beverly is a black woman, although that isn't mentioned until she talks about her grandfather being discriminated by heroes from The '50s because of his race, who claim to be working on a "Colored Division" for the likes of him.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Beverly can turn into various dragons with different abilities and physical attributes, hence her chosen code name "Bahamut" (king of the dragons in Dungeons & Dragons) thanks to a magical amulet she found in her great-grandmother's things, which fused itself into her chest during the Confluence. Her most frequently used shapes are a walking green dragon (toughest and most combat-capable) and a flying white dragon, but she can also become a fire-breathing red dragon.
  • Woman on Fire: Tori's meta-ability is turning into living fire. In this state, she's virtually untouchable, as fire has no substance. She's not unkillable, though, and can be Brought Down to Normal by several means, such as sucking out the surrounding oxygen or using liquid nitrogen. Additionally, magic attacks can still get to her. She also leans to throw bolts of fire with great precision, such as being able to light a cigar from across the room without singing the hand holding it. Later on, she learns to simulate flying by directing flames from her hands downward, although it's not a very quick method of getting around.
  • Would Hurt a Child: One of the robbers that attack Vendalli Industries has never told anyone of killing two kids in Guatemala, who saw him committing a crime. Unfortunately for him, the guild sends in Kristoph, who really doesn't like people hurting kids and can see right through people's souls. If that particular sin is detected, Kristoph's power manifests, and he kills the offenders in a very painful and horrifying manner. Ivan describes one such killing as Kristoph animating the killer skeleton and having it claw itself out of the guy's still-living body. At the end, Ivan hands Balaam to Kristoph for proper punishment, after Balaam orders one of his underlings to blow up a school.
  • Your Head A-Splode: The first thing Ivan does after re-becoming Fornax is crush Blunderbuss's head so hard it explodes like a watermelon.

Alternative Title(s): Forging Hephaestus


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