Most of us are hoping that, through some kind of nuclear accident or other, we'll wind up with super powers. It's just a matter of time, right?
If you could pick what power you wind up with, what would you take? It's not as easy a choice as it sounds, because as it turns out, you can expect some pretty annoying (or deadly) side effects.
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Man, who doesn't want to be able to fly? You can laugh at gravity, zoom through the air unaided, like Superman or Neo or several thousand species of bird. And, like them, maybe find out what it's like to take a dump in mid-air. What are they going to do, arrest you? Only if the cops have a damned jet.
So how fast are you going up there? Were you assuming you'd get super speed to go along with your flight? OK. Have you seen what a bird can do to a jet engine at high speed? Imagine what it does to your face. Yeah, that's why anything going faster than a hang glider has a windshield up there.But if instead just you're flying at about the same speed you run, then, well, you're like that old couple that drives 25 on the interstate. The crime will be long over by the time your slow ass gets there.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me."
But let's say you did get some kind of speed boost, and a bird-proof face. Do you know where you're going? Up there in the wild blue yonder, without landmarks, how do you expect to navigate? Do you have an exact map of the entire country in your head? Sure, you can find the Empire State building if that's where the bad guys are, but what if the crime is happening in some house way the fuck out in the middle of nowhere, amid a tangle of looping country roads?
OK, so you get some kind of radar installed in your head. But now you have the atmosphere to deal with. Wind constantly blowing particles into your eyes and the freezing cold. Granted, you'd have to go up pretty high to get that effect, but you're not going to be a moron and fly where people can see you.
"'No, honey, you take the car, I'd rather fly'. Such an idiot.
Oh, by the way, you might want to be careful what you wear. Not only is it cold enough to freeze your balls, but lower temperatures mean you're more of a conductor of electricity. It's like when you're walking home on a winter day, come in and shock the shit out of whatever you touch. Multiply that by say, a million. If you're wearing anything like wool--though we don't know what the Hell kind of superhero would wear wool anyway--you're going to be a human capacitor. If you happen to be a supervillain, we suggest working on your Palpatine voice so you can make one Hell of an entrance when you land.
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Super strength, as demonstrated by pretty much every fucking superhero ever, is the superpower that everybody wants most. Yes, more than flight. Flight doesn't do you a damned bit of good if after you get there you can't kick some ass. But there are a couple of big problems with it. Big ones.
So the first thing you'll want to do in your career as a superhero is try to lift something huge. Hell, that's all they did in the last Superman movie and--oh no! That bus is falling off a cliff! Better go catch it!
Or you can just hold a bunch of trash, or whatever.
You jump up and catch the underside on your hands. Great job! But, instead of the relieved cries of little Johnny and Mary as they're saved from falling to fiery doom, you hear screams of agony as your hands rip through the undercarriage, up through the aisle, your arms and torso now bloodied like some B-grade zombie. It's not your blood; you just impaled little Johnny from crotch to sternum.
You can thank the laws of physics, specifically, pressure. Because all of your super strength is concentrated in your tiny little hands, you're basically like a dagger plunging into a watermelon. Remember when Superman caught that airliner in Superman Returns? He'd have just gotten embedded in the nosecone. He'd be puncturing the plane, not catching it.
Same thing when you wind up launching yourself into space to stop that asteroid. At best you'll bury yourself in the surface of the rock, at worst you'll crack the thing into pieces, turning one killer asteroid into three. If there were any life on Earth left, we're pretty sure on your tombstone it would read something like "Here lies ______, who passed away from being metaphorically slapped in the face by Isaac Newton's penis."
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So let's settle for a lesser super power. How about super speed, like the Flash? Outrun bullet trains, bullets and/or bullets being fired by trains. You can get anywhere you need to be faster on foot than most people can drive.
You may have noticed after your little impression of the Flash that your whole body's wreathed in fire. It's the friction of your body rubbing against a whole bunch of air molecules. The rest of us mortals aren't bothered by that because we move at the pace of a narcoleptic snail compared to you.
So this is the Flash, but fire burned his costume. The fire also gave him a mustache, somehow.
But, hey, maybe you've got some kind of fireproof suit. But Newton is still going to find a way to fuck you up. And if you thought friction was an asshole, wait until you hear what inertia is going to do to you. Let's say you hear about a totally awesome party across town and there's a girl there who wants your junk like, right this second. Zoom, off you go. But wait, what's that gooey shit on the ground behind you?
That, my friend, is your internal organs being liquefied from approximately 25 Gs and pushed out through your pores. Not that you'll care because the moment you do your immediate, Flash-like stop, your brain will go slamming into the front of your skull.
OK, so maybe you've got a special suit that is both fireproof and somehow overcomes the forces of inertia. For super speed to be of any use to you, your perception would have to be sped up as well. Otherwise the landscape will go blurring past and you'll wind up pulverizing yourself on the nearest wall like a fly on a windshield.
OK, so fine, let's say you've got super sped-up senses to go with your super speed. Now your problem is that when you're functioning at normal speed, the rest of the world will seem impossibly slow to your super-fast brain. You watched The Matrix, right? Of course you did, don't play that game. Well, imagine what it would be like if you were in bullet time all the fucking time. Thanks to your sped-up perceptions, everything takes place in super slow motion, including the waiting room at the dentist.
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Ah, telepathy. You're basically like Charles Xavier, and can read people's thoughts. You should be able to tell when somebody's thinking about committing a crime and stop them before they can do it, right? Or you can find out what people really think about you and/or get prices on used cars like you wouldn't believe.
People's thought processes don't work at all like they're portrayed in TV shows. When say, Matt Parkman from Heroes picks up someone's thoughts, it's almost always a complete sentence, a complete idea. Humans don't think like that. A peek into your suspected criminal's brain will go something like:
"Holy fuck that chick is hot I'd like to imagine railing her or imagine that other guy railing her with a huge dick wait am I gay for that Hell no chicks are hot just like the Transformers especially Starscream I wonder if he ever did it with Bumblebee and wait what was I supposed to be getting from the store again oh yeah milk why is it okay to drink fluid from a cow's tit but not a human's and... "
"If everyone could just shut up for like five fucking seconds...
All of this will be playing against some 10-second snatch of pop song or commercial jingle they've gotten stuck in their head. And that you now have stuck in yours.
Now, imagine getting something like that, but from multiple people all around you. Imagine sitting in a restaurant trying to have a nice meal when you hear the waiters thinking about the hot hand-to-gland combat session they had in the kitchen and their spunk getting in your soup. Then suddenly you scream in sheer horror as a semi half a block away plows head-on toward a small car--the raw emotion overwhelming your ability to discern whether those are your thoughts or someone else's.
In fact, you likely wouldn't even be able to hear your own thoughts after a while, say, a minute or two. The next thing you know, you're being carted off by the nice men in white coats, babbling and shitting your straitjacket all the way.