Halloween was Zero’s favourite holiday this side of Christmas. She was ready to hit the parties, meet some of the other heroes, and just have some fun. Zero was dressed as a Team Rocket Grunt this year; black skirt and a tee with a giant red ‘R’ on the chest. The costume showed a bit more leg than Zero was normally comfortable with, but hey, it was Halloween.
That said, crime didn’t take holidays, and proper costume or not, Zero had a job to do. Her contacts in Westside had seen L’Homme Horrible and his goons breaking into an old library that had been abandoned after the Qularr attack. Zero considered L’Homme Horrible to be her problem. Her nemesis, she supposed.
Really, L’Homme Horrible more of an nuisance then a nemesis. He was obsessed with ‘freeing’ Quebec, quoted the FLQ a bunch, and refused to speak English. His costume consisted of a toque and a pair of jeans. He went shirtless all the time so he could show off the giant Fleurdelisé he had tattooed on his chest. L’Homme had a freeze ray, or an ice beam, or whichever you wanted to call it, and that was about it. However you wanted to look at it, L’Homme was small time.
Zero had hoped to bop L’Homme Horrible on the head quickly and get to the party on time. Her hopes dwindled when she had to use a full powered kinetic blast to just get the old library door open, and found the insides of the building completely frozen over.
The library was like a dark winter wonderland. The floor was a sheet of slick ice, which would be dangerous if not for the fact that Zero flew everywhere she went. The shelves were all buried in black ice, creating jagged cold islands throughout the main floor of the library. The windows were lost behind frozen walls, letting only ambient light in from the streets. The library was dark, and it was cold.
Worse yet were the smaller icebergs that dotted the snowy scene. In the dim light Zero could just make out the humanoid shapes of people inside. All of them seemed to be L’Homme goons, though Zero only braved a glance at a few of the frozen figures.
Zero wished she had her full uniform instead of her Halloween costume. The interital barrier that kept her safe did nothing to stop the cold, and the library was colder than Zero had been in a long while. It reminded Zero of the demon winter in the NWT, which was not a comforting thought. Zero floated through the main floor of the library, finding more of the frozen goons, but no sign of L’Homme. It wasn’t until she braved the basement storage of the old library that she found her nemesis.
The basement was even colder than upstairs. The whole of the area was lit by a dim purple glow, though Zero couldn’t see the source. She found L’Homme Horrible deep in the storage room, back turned to her, idly flipping through an ancient book. Zero immediately wished she hadn’t found him.
L’Homme Horrible turned in a stiff shuffle to face Zero, an action that was punctuated by sharp cricks and cracks from inside his body. L’Homme’s skin was horridly cracked and discoloured. It split in several random locations to give way to sharp spikes of dark ice. L’Homme’s eyes were gone, replaced by orbs of black ice. Wisps of frozen air escaped his ruined lips as he spoke to Zero in a whisper. She only barely noticed over all this that L’Homme was speaking to her in perfect English.
“Zero,” L’Homme acknowledged. “Such a fitting name. You are of no consequence, and you are too late.”
“Oh my actual gosh,” Zero gasped. “L’Homme, what have you done to yourself?”
There was a sound of cracking ice as L’Homme Horrible tilted his head inquisitively. “I have…moved on, evolved, become better,” L’Homme replied. He dropped the book, and opened his arms wide with a crackle. “What you see is me at my utmost potential. I have opened myself to power,” L’Homme explained. “I have opened my body and soul to…”
Zero was never one to listen to monologuing. She pointed palm first at her nemesis, and let loose a bolt of pure force. L’Homme waved casually, and a wall of thick ice shot up between them. Zero’s kinetic bolt slammed hard into the ice, and barely left a dent.
L’Homme dismissed the wall with a similarly indifferent wave. “I have opened myself to Kigatilik ,” he finished.
L’Homme Horrible motioned at Zero, and before she could react a thick block of ice formed around her body. “The Horrible Boy you knew is gone, little Zero, and I have moved beyond you.”
Zero struggled against her ice prison. Her inertial barrier had kept her from being body tight in ice, but only barely. She couldn’t get her hands free, not right away at least. Desperate, Zero tried to use her very limited telepathy against L’Homme Horrible.
That turned out to be a horrible idea. L’Homme’s new mind was full of black and cold and horror that Zero couldn’t grasp. She recoiled from it, an action not unnoticed by the ice villain.
“This isn’t right.” Zero said. “You’re L’Homme Horrible, you know? Ice villain, sure, but not this? I mean, you’re, you know…?
“Nothing you think you know is true,” L’Homme Horrible said. “Not any more. But I know you. I see you in ways I’ve never seen before. I know your true fears.” Ice crackled behind L’Homme’s smile. “We have such sights to show you.”
Tendrils of cold shadow coalesced in front of L’Homme Horrible. They shaped and solidified, until they took the form of a costume snowman with dead black eyes, a giant smile, and a jaunty red cap.
Zero gasped her surprise, but she put on a brave front. “Bonhomme?” she questioned in a shaky voice. “Really? I mean, ok, he’s sort of creepy? But I wouldn’t go as far as calling him my true….” Zero trailed off as the Bonhomme reached up to remove its costume head. “oh…oh no,” Zero pleaded suddenly. “Don’t do that!”
Bonhomme smiled its empty smile, and twisted its head sharply. There was a horrid hissing as the Bonhomme’s costume head began to come loose from its body.
Zero screamed. Her ice prison shattered, and chunks of the ice shot towards the Quebecois mascot. Books and shelves flew across the room, and crashed in an explosion of wood and papers. The large shelving unit behind L’Homme Horrible threw itself down on both L’Homme and Bonhomme. Zero tried to get control of her terror, but Bonhomme’s empty head rolled to a stop at her feet, smiling up at her.
Zero kicked the empty costume head away in horror and disgust. She could see the body of the snowman getting up from the rubble, hunched over with its back to her. Zero screamed again, and flew from the basement in blind panic. Deep inside Zero recognized that it was a ridiculous fear, but she did not want to see what was under the Bonhomme’s costume head.
Upstairs, the doors to the library were frozen shut again, this time with thicker ice than before. Zero began to blast her way out, but stopped as she heard the cracking ice around her. The smaller islands of ice exploded, releasing the frozen goons on Zero, or at least what was left of them.
The creatures that stumbled out of the ice were hunched stumbling monsters with misshapen bodies of ice. The clothes and skin of L’Homme’s goons hung from these creatures like poorly fit disguises. They hissed and groaned as they staggered towards Zero. From beyond them, Zero could hear heavy footsteps on the basement stairs.
Zero fired pure kinetic energy at the closest ice zombie things, flinging them back into the others. They hit with a sickening crack, but seemed unfazed by Zero’s assault. She flung a shelf at the group for good measure, which only in the end cleared a path for the Bonhomme to join the fray.
The Bonhomme stalked towards Zero, dashing ice monsters aside to get to her. Its body was battered from Zero’s earlier attack, and black shadowy smoke leaked from tears in the costume. Its head was gone, likely still downstairs, and the same black tendrils of shadow flailed from the neck hole.
Zero stared at the hulking figure, but the fear was gone. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected to see beneath the costume head, and it dawned on her that it wouldn’t have mattered anyways. “Ok, so, you’re just an empty costume?” she said. “I can totally, you know, deal with that?”
The headless Bonhomme stopped in its tracks. Zero braced, expecting it to rush her. She focused kinetic energy to her hands, ready to blast the Bonhomme across the room, but it turned out to be unnecessary. The Bonhomme costume stood for a moment longer, and then collapsed like a stringless marionette. Around her, the ice zombie goons did the same, shattering as they hit the ground.
“Ok, gross?” Zero commented of the goons, because it was. She drifted cautiously through the library, watching for any stray ice monsters, but there were none. She flew quickly past the unmoving Bonhomme costume, and down to the basement.
The storage room was destroyed, far beyond the damage that Zero had done. The ice was thicker on the shelves now, and there was no way to get any of the books free without destroying them. This meant that there was no way to catalogue what L’Homme Horrible had taken from the library. Of course L’Homme was gone with whatever his prize was.
“Well. Looks like L’Homme is blasting off again.” Zero said to the no one else around. She shuddered as she looked down at the Bonhomme head on the ground, and then forced herself to pick it up. It was a simple mask, made of plaster and wire and felt.
“I remember when I was a kid? I saw you? When my mum took me to Quebec?” She rolled the mask around in her hands, and messed with the attached red cap. “I saw someone in the costume, you know? And they were going to take the head off, and I ran away?” She gave a shrug. “It’s weird, right? That I spend my time around people with costumes and masks, but, you know, that’s what stuck with me? But I was never afraid of you. Just…”
Zero shrugged again. She considered chasing after L’Homme Horrible, but recognized the futility of it. Equally futile was sitting in a freezing library psychoanalyzing her fears to an empty Bonhomme head. Zero considered keeping the mask, but in the end she tossed it aside. She’d faced her fears, but the mask was still creepy. Besides, it didn’t really go with her costume, and there was still a Halloween party to get to.