Mudslide (rather lengthy, but a good read!)




The short figure of a man, caked in what looked to be dried mud, stood under a nearby awning, casually thumbing through the latest Paragon Press newspaper while he avoided the direct glare of the mid-afternoon sun.

Another lab explosion. Another dimensional rift. Another strange artifact uncovered, and another hero, or villain, brought into Paragon - for good or evil?

The squat being led out a deep sigh that held a slight rumble of stone. Why would he be surprised? It hadn't been all that different for him, after all... had it?


Merle Haggard Stinton (his parents were big Country Music fans) had grown up with a skin condition. He went through probably hundreds, possibly thousands, of pounds of moisturizing cream in his youth, yet could never overcome the dry, thick, crust of a forever-cracked skin he was draped in, head to toe. It might have been useful in this day and age, if it had offered some sort of protection - but it was still just his skin. Just some horrible disfigurement that some misguided higher being had decided he'd deserved.

He was forced to attend private schools, due to his condition, where he invariably failed to achieve anything of note. More of a casual misfit than any sort of active anarchist, Merle brought home report card after report card of straight 'C' grades. He had few friends - most kids his age, even the other less-than-normal ones he grew up with - referred to him as "rock face" or "mud skin" or just plain "freak." Outcast and dejected, Merle fell into a depression. His parents decided, the summer before his Senior year in high school, to send him away to a summer camp for "gifted" youths, in hopes that being with more people that suffered similar fates to his, might help him snap out of his stupor.

It was called Camp Statesman, and the kids that showed up that summer were inducted into an order called the State Scouts - a group of young people supposedly dedicated to upholding the lofty moral ideals of The Statesman. Whether the camp was formed with the famed superhero's permission or not, was never revealed to the enrolled. Nor did it really matter, in the end, as the result was the same.

Merle did manage to come out of his shell a bit that summer. He met other children with similar disfiguring mutations that had somehow managed to maintain a positive outlook on life, despite being so down-trodden. Their optimism was contagious, as was that of the camp's councilors. Merle made friends, and finally began to open his eyes to a side of his situation that he'd never envisioned before - in fact, he stopped moisturizing.

It turns out that was a mistake. Within a couple of weeks after giving up his moisturizing cream habit, Merle's skin had become so thick, cracked, and flaky, that his itching was almost nonstop. Unfortunately, there was no relief in sight - he had thrown the family-sized bottle of Jergen's he'd brought with him into a nearby river, and watched it float away. He would shower two or three times a day, trying to somehow scrub away the itch, and let the waters seep into this thick skin.

Late one night, desperate for relief, Merle was elated when he heard the sounds of a thunderstorm on the horizon. He quickly woke a couple of his new friends, and they snuck out of the cabin that night, and headed up into the hills, to await the rain that might ease Merle's suffering.



They rushed off into the hills, the three of them. Eddy's unnaturally long limbs carrying him much faster than the other two - especially the squatty Merle. They figured, the further from the camp they got, the longer it would take for the councilors to catch them. They kept going - climbing, running, huffing, panting, all punctuated with the occasional laughter at their daring escape into the night.

The night sky was the blackest it could be - the clouds of the nearby storm rolled through the sky, as deep thunder shook the heavens above them, and flashes of lightning occasionally lit their path. Then the rains finally came. Stopping on a trail, Merle turned his face to the dark sky, a big smile cracking the thick dry skin of his cheeks.

It came down in sharp, large drops. Slowly at first, but only for a few brief moments. Soon it was a virtual deluge, churning the dirt paths to mud, and bringing a second layer of dark to the already deep and forbidding night. Merle smiled even wider as the itch finally began to subside, while the welcome rain drenched him to the bone.

Not far away, Eddy and the bug-eyed Chris were huddled in the psuedo-shelter of a series of large boulders sitting at the foot of a nearby cliff. They smiled at their friends joy of having this relief, even if they all three knew it would be short-lived, as soon as he dried out again.

The thunder above masked the sound, but Merle suddenly opened his eyes when he felt the earth beneath him rumbling with a constant, aching feel. Casting his eyes instinctively to the lip of the cliff, far above his two friends, lightning flashed through the night sky just in time for him to see the wall of mud, rocks, trees, and boulders just beginning to cascade over the lip of the cliff above.

Merle screamed in terror for his friends to run, but a crash of thunder drowned out his words, and they continued chattering about something, utterly oblivious that their lives might be ended in a mere matter of seconds.

Time slowed. Instinctively, Merle's arms thrust toward the cliff face as a another scream of determined rage ripped through the night, drowned by the downpour from the heavens, and the constant rumble of the earthen death cascading down from the cliff above. An instant before the rocks and earth descended on the two unwary teens, the cliffside suddenly erupted in a blast of rock, as a wide stretch of the rockface thrust out into the night sky, creating a canopy over Merle's two friends. The mud, rocks and debris harmlessly piled off the side of the the newly created shelter, just a matter of feet away from Eddy and Chris. In another flash of lightning, they stared in fear at what had just transpired, and made a dead run back for the camp.

Suddenly drained of every ounce of his strength, Merle collapsed in the muddy trail, and passed into unconciousness.



Merle awoke slowly. At first, he thought he was still laying there in the mud where he had collapsed, but as conciousness slowly overtook him, he felt began feeling what must be a bed beneath him, and a sheet over him. He was in one of the cabins, back at the camp, but he didn't recognize it. Dark drapes covered the windows, and the thinnest line of sunlight crept around their edges. The main source of light in the dim room came from a door nearby, cracked open about a foot. He could hear voices, but they were muffled, almost whispering.

Not more than a few seconds after waking, their talking stopped, and a councilor he knew as Gene came into the room. His dark eyes wore a look of curiousity, and warning, all at once. He cautiously, but with purpose, strode to Merle's bed, and pulled a chair up to sit at eye level with the young man.

"Do you know what happened, Merle?"

About to speak, Merle opened his mouth, but suddenly the memories of the night before flooded through him, and his mouth shut again. That couldn't have happened... there's no explanation...

"You're right, Merle, there's no explanation for what took place last night at the base of that cliff two-point-three miles from Camp Statesman. None at all. Of course, there's also no explanation for why I know exactly what happened."

Merle's eyes widened in shock, as his jaw again dropped open - Gene could read his mind!

The councilor smiled slightly, and put a reassuring hand on Merle's forearm. He hardly felt it.

"Welcome to the real purpose for Camp Statesman, Merle. My code name is 'Psylore', and I can help you...."

Gene - Psylore - went on to explain that the camp was a cover for a small scout troupe from Paragon City, and an operation known as G.I.F.T. - an organization which assisted superpowered mutants in getting their footing in a new and dangerous line of work, as defenders of Paragon City. If Merle was willing to assist their cause, they would in turn assist him in understanding and controlling his newfound powers.

They warned him, however, that further exercising his power would most likely worsen his skin condition, to the point that eventually his skin would be indistinguishable from a layer of stone wrapped around his frame.

Such a small cost, to be able to help so many people with his new powers - control over the earth itself.

Merle, now codenamed "Mudslide" in honor the near-tragedy that unlocked his latent mutation, left the camp that summer and traveled with Gene and the other members of G.I.F.T, directly to Paragon City. There, he completed his senior year of high school with the enhanced speed of having a psychic assist in his studies, and passed all his exams with blinding success. Upon graduation, he immediately sought enrollment in G.I.F.T., but was denied.

"Our ranks consist of the trainers, the teachers, the seekers, and the helpers. We are not the place for a Hero."

A Hero. That sounded good. Much better than anything else that he'd been called in his life. But what did the past matter now, with such a bright future ahead?


The sun was finally dipping behind the tall figures of Atlas Park's skyscrapers when Mudslide was brought out of his reverie by the nearby sounds of a screams and laughter - a mugging in progress, or worse.

With as little as a thought, the ground beneath the perpetrators began to erupt in jagged earthen spikes, enclosing their feet, ankles, and more, in prisons of stone. As he rounded the corner to assess the situation, they took aim and pressed their triggers, attempting to ward off their prey's would-be savior. Most missed, as these low-ranking thugs never gained the privelege of training with their weaponry.

One bounced off the thick hide-like skin on his shoulder, as a glancing blow failed to penetrate the tough shell he'd been blessed with.

Blessed. How long had he considered it a curse?

Another stuck into his chest, almost an inch deep. Hardly more than a flesh wound, despite the pain, where it may have been a fatal blow for most civilians. But after months of patrolling and street cleaning, such minor wounds were becoming the norm for this new Hero.


Wincing at the pain, yet smiling at some inner sense of self-worth, Mudslide brought the world crashing down around the thugs' ears.



Earth/Kinetics Controller
Guardian Server
Guild : The UnNaturals