A “Super” short story
Let’s get one thing straight – I don’t hate my family. I really don’t. It’s just that I… don’t really fit in with them. I’m not saying I’m the black sheep of the family. I would never say that; Black Sheep is my cousin and is an A-list superhero. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. You know, “The Fuzzy Protector of Grand Junction”… “The Wooled Defender”… “The Wolf in Sheep’s clothing”… You know, that Black Sheep.
Me, you have probably never heard of me. I am the youngest child of Jonathan Delphi and Fiona Duille. Dad is one of the descendants of the Oracles of Delphi and used the hero name Timekeeper. Mom went by the name Freya and traces her family back to the Norse originator of the name. It was kind of a big deal back in the ’80s when they decided to tie the knot. As two A list heroes there wedding was meet with the kind of fanfare normally reserved for Royalty.
Not long after they got hitched it was revealed that there was a prophecy about them, or more specifically their four children. “With a Mother of Nature and Father of Time, four children will come into the world. Each an incarnation and named for the season they emerged. The Four Seasons will keep order as the world falls into imbalance.” I’m paraphrasing of course. The full prophecy is about a mile long and written like bad poetry of doom. One of my favorite lines goes like “When unlife begins four will be needed at the bottom to unbalance the scales.” Like who used the work “unlife” unless you’re just trying to be cryptic.
My oldest sister is Winter. You would know her as Nor’easter. She is on President’s Hero Board of Advisers as well as about a dozen other Super organizations. She is also married to Mr. Amazing – the official number one hero in the country. They even have a son that goes by Amazing Jr, and you guessed it, he is amazing too. He even leads a group of young heroes called the Upstarts.
The second in the family is my sister is Summer aka Corona. Another A-list hero, she has been working solo around the Gulf of Mexico and is a Hero of Texas. You might remember her from the tabloids a few months back, something about having a fling with Lone Star, and before you ask, yes the photos are real.
Anyway… that brings us to Spring. She inherited the hero name Freya from Mom when she retired. While she’s not on the A-list, she could be if she wanted to. She has the power, drive, and resume, but doesn’t like the constant fighting that would be required. She is more content to be an on-call specialist, while she helps cure hunger in Africa… or was it rebuilding the rainforest? I don’t really know what she’s doing right now, but I’m sure it has to do with saving the world from some disaster or another.
Lastly, there’s me, Autumn. On paper, I was a textbook meta case. A destined hero from the moment I was a glimmer in my father’s eye. I developed my first powers around age 14 – right on time. I graduated high school in the top 3 of my class and was accepted to Metropolitan University where I majored in Heroics and minored in Chemistry. But paper doesn’t always tell the whole story. Do you want to know the first power I developed? At age 14 I could make a large area about six degrees colder. Mom took me to see one of the Guild’s metaphysicians. They assured her that it was totally normal for developing powers to need some work before they fully matured.
That earned me a ticket to meta summer camp. Overall, meta summer camp is a horrible idea. 13 teenagers on a remote island with fledgling superpowers. It’s a recipe for disaster. By the time camp was done three huts had been demolished. One by fire, one by lightning, and one by weasel. That’s right, weasels ate the hut. Mental note: don’t pick on the kid that can talk to animals. Unless you like the idea of an angry squeal dropping a duce in your sock drawer. Two good things came out of that summer. First, I found out that I could create leaves… dead leaves. But, if I tried, I could make quite a few of them. The second good thing was that I met Insight. Gifted with supernatural awareness, and one hell of a memory, he could list every detail of every event ever. He can tell if you were sick, lying, had a crush on the girl who could turn into a duck, all just by looking at you, and often before you knew about it yourself. But back then, he was just Benny and would recite massive amounts of random facts about whatever someone else was talking about.
College didn’t go much better on the hero front. Dad got me an internship with Commander, an old friend. Commander was one of those experimental super-soldier types. He could outrun, outfight, out-shoot, and out-think just about anyone on the planet. By this time, I could act like air conditioning and cover a room in dead leaves. Needless to say, Commander didn’t find me very useful in the field. Mostly, I would keep his house clean and handle his fan mail. At least I got college credit.
Graduation day came and went with the normal fan fair. I graduated last in my class for Heroics but number five for Chemistry. After college, I tried out for a few young hero teams. The Main Men, based out of Maine; The Terrors, who turn out to be evil; and New Dawn; who were actually an indie rock band. I found out I can’t sing but I can play a mean tambourine. I was almost accepted into a nature-based group that Mom knew of called the Gardeners of Eden, but they were looking for people who could create growth and make pretty flowers. My dead leaves didn’t go over too well with them.
Real-life came at me in the form of student loans and I had to make some heroic sacrifices to keep my head above water. So I took my degree and some references from my teachers and applied for a lab assistant job at a research lab. I was hoping it would be more of a super-science lab but it wasn’t. We do research on cancer which is pretty cool. Well, I don’t do any of the research. Mostly I feed and care for the lab animals, but it’s kind of like saving the world in its own way right? Right…?
As you can see, my life has not gone quite as planned. I guess it’s to be expected when you are not quite as planned. See prophecies are tricky things. You can fight against them and mess them up. Or, if you like what they say, do your best to go along with them and try to have them come true. So the prophecy stated they the children would be named after the season that the child was born in, and because my birthday is September 23, 1989, the fall equinox that year, naturally my name had to be Autumn. The prophecy never mentioned that I would be a boy and an utter disappointment.
PRRRBBBB… PRRRBBB… My phone buzzed on the countertop in my tiny apartment seafoam colored bathroom. My tie still seems crooked so I undid it for the 4th time and tried again. PRRRBBB… PRRRBBB…The phone buzzed with a second message. I looked down to see what it was.
Message from Winter: Are you coming tonight Dad wants us all to be here. It’s a big deal. Be here.
Message from Spring: Hay Twig Winter is hounding me to see if I have heard from you
I ignored both messages and went back to my tie. The tie was not the worst of my problems, my hair was. The red curly mess on my head refused to yield no matter how much product I put on it.
“Now you listen to me you red devil,” I threatened my reflection. “You will behave or I will destroy you. O you don’t think I’ll do it.” I fiddled around in the drawer next to the sink until I retrieved a set of blue handed craft scissors. Pulling them like Excalibur from the stone I brandished them at my doppelganger. “Don’t make me do this. Neither of us will win.”
Message from Summer: Twig if you don’t get here son Im gonna eat all the food seriously this is a pretty good party
Message from Summer: super seriously Winter will kill you 🙂
I sighed “You win this round you hell beast,” I twirled the scissors and mimicked sheathing them, “But mark my words your day will come.”
I surrendered the battlefield of the bathroom to the reflection in the mirror and proceeded to gather my keys, wallet, and cheap suit jacket from the living room desk. A driftwood frame, hand made by this local guy on the beach, was on the table near the door with a sticky note on it that read, “Wrapping Paper”
In the frame was a 45-year-old newspaper article titled “Mysterious Maden helps solve Mystery of the Missing Metropolitan Museum’s Masterpiece.” It was about a young woman who had helped return a missing Picasso to the Metropolitan museum that had been stolen a few months earlier. The criminals that stole the painting were dropped at the local police station, along with the painting, all gave a very similar description of a young woman with blond hair and her strange powers over nature.
As far as I knew it was the first big Superhero thing that Mom ever did. I don’t even think Grandma had handed down the name Freya yet. It took me forever to find an original clipping, I had to join this Superhero fan club and buy it straight from the president. It took forever for him to give it up.
“There is no way I could place a monetary value on such a thing,” he kept saying. “I could only trade it for something of equal value,” he drowned on.
“Fine, what if I could get you a signed photo of Nor’easter, Mr. Amazing, Amazing Jr and the President of the United States in front of the White House.” I countered.
“You have a copy of the famed Christmas photoshoot, signed? With or without Santa hats?” I could practically hear him drooling through the phone.
“With hats and Mr. Amazing has a Santa beard on.” there is no way this fanboy could say no to that.
“Done!” he snapped.
Double win, I got a present for Mom and I finally have a use for those Christmas photos that Winter insists on sending out every year.
My phone buzzed once more in my pocket. I took it out to look at it.
Message from Uncle Bob: Step back i’m coming in
“Dammit Bob, I hate when you drunk text me.” I put the phone back in my pocket and opened the door.
Or I would have. As soon as I unlocked it, it opened up into me, knocking me back into my old faded yellow couch.
Uncle Bob stepped through the door with a large plastic bag. “I told you to step back.” he harrumphed. Bob was an old Greek man who often smelled of wine. Now he smelled like cologne and was dressed in a dark striped suit with shiny black shoes. Dammit it, I forgot to shine my shoes.
“What are you doing here Bob?” I protested in my off-pitch tenner.
“Making sure you make it to the party.” Bob stroked his short white beard.
“I’m going right now. I was literally heading out the door. Look tie, shoes, keys. I’m leaving right now.” I waved my keys and wiggled my unpolished shoes at him.
“I know but you would be late, where is it.” I stared at him blankly, “Your present, come on boy, keep up.”
I pointed to the table by the door, “You almost knocked it out of my hand when you barged in. I still need to get wrapping paper.”
“Nope got it all ready.” Bob produced a package of glossy blue wrapping paper from the plastic bag and a spool of gold ribbon. He snatched the frame and whooshed off to the bathroom. Emerging with the blue craft scissors he whooshed once more to the kitchen table. Pushing aside some of the mess of unopened mail and empty grocery bags that had gathered there he wrapped up the frame in the time it took me to pick myself up off the couch and follow him to the table.
Bob tied a bow and using the edge of the scissors to curl the ends of the ribbon, “All done let’s go,” he said as I reached the table and Bob whizzed by me heading for the door.
“Come on Tom. Time only waits for me. Not you.” Bob barked as he windmilled his arm trying to hasten me to the door.
Bob hounded me all the way to me cheap silver sedan with its missing front hubcaps. I finally got in and was ready to leave when he tapped firmly on my window until I cranked it down, “What!” I shouted exasperated.
“Remember to take 6th, not 7th there is going to be an accident there.” He advised, “What are you still doing here. Go.”
I bit my tongue. ‘Remember Tom’, I told myself, ‘he’s your elder you’re supposed to respect your elders. Even if they’re bat shit crazy. Do not run over old people, do not run over old people, do not run over old people.’ I recited to myself through gritted teeth as I rolled up the window and left for the party.
Mom’s birthday has always been a big thing in the family, this year was even bigger. This was Mom’s 60th birthday party and the whole family was coming and I mean the whole family. Uncles, cousins, friends, in the know politicians, EVERYBODY who is anybody. My little silver sedan pulled into a parking spot next to one of those “inconspicuous” black German SUVs with government plates and super dark tinted windows that most of the family and other heroes always seemed to drive. I took one last look in the side mirror to make sure that all the product I had put in my hair to get it to behave was working. It wasn’t, the curls would not be tamed and were already starting to realign themselves into their normal tangle. Some day I would make good on my threat to shave it all off. One last deep breath, I tried to breathe in my normal life and hold it for as long as I could as I made my way to the front door. Eventually, I had to breathe out the “normal life” air and was forced to breathe in the “hero life” air as I opened the front door to the event hall that Dad had rented for the event.
There was no way that this night was going to go well and I knew it. I just knew that everything that could go wrong, would go wrong. Hmm if I wrote out that thought like a rambling drunkard I could consider it my own proficiency. There were dozens and dozens of people milling about, all dressed in suits and cocktail dresses. All the walls had “Happy birthday” banners and streamers hung from them with balloons and happy music playing from a live band. A long heavy dark oak table 4 or 5 deep with presents sat to my right. I looked down at my meager 4×8 blue wrapped box. Bob had done a really nice job wrapping it. All the corners were nice and neat and the fold were all in the same place. But no matter how nice the box was wrapped it looked a bit plane compared to some of the other huge boxes with fancy paper and lace ribbon. After a moment of contemplation, I put the box inconspicuously in the back of the pile.
“Hey Tom,” Charles Prescott Jr, aka Amazing Jr, put his huge present wrapped in gold foil down on the table, “I didn’t know if you were going to make it.”
Charles, or Chuck to the family, was cut from the same mold as his father, strong jaw, dark brown eyes, wide shoulders. He was only 16 but already had passed the 6’2 mark. About the only deviation from his father was the light almost white hair that he had inherited from his mother, Winter. I reach up and scrubbed my hand through the long locks messing them up, “Jr, it’s good to see you. Are you still planning on graduating early?”
Jr shook his head lightly and the ruffled hair fell back into place, “Ya, end of the year. Dads setting me up with one of his old hero buddies for an internship for the summer. After that, I think I’ll go full time.”
“Whoo straight into the pros, no college? Your Mom isn’t going to like that.” I started walking with Jr toured the food tabbed, always the best part of these events. Mmmm free food, the best kind of food.
“Ya but you know how it is in the biz, experience counts for more than a paper.” I was glad that Jr was occupied filling his plate with grilled chicken drumstick and a pile of mashed potatoes when he said that so he did not see the pain that flashed across my face. I had the same plan but when my powers were being a bit slow coming in I decided a few years in college might give them a chance to catch up. They still will you know, I’m just a late bloomer. A really late bloomer.
The thing that really hurt was that Jr wasn’t being boastful. He probably could go straight to a full-time hero. He probably already had big-name teams sending him invites. Trust me I know, I got a few early looks from some of the smaller foreign teams back in the day. Well, I think they were invites, I was never very good with Dutch.
Jr finished filling his second plate, this time with salad and some sort of lean beef strips and a few roles. “Hey, have you ever met my team?”
I was the only other male member of the family that Jr had near his age so he and I used to hang out at the family gatherings a lot. I don’t know if that’s why he always seemed to look up to me, or maybe it was all those grand stores I would tell him about meta camp and my adventures in college. For just a Moment Jr looked like that wide-eyed kid again. I really, really didn’t want to meet his team of super impressive youths but how could I say no to my kid nephew? “Ya, I would love to meet them.” I smiled fakely and walked with Jr over to a table near the wall where The Upstarts sat.
The Upstarts composed of four people. Jr went around and introduced me to all of them in the Superhero version of ASL (that’s age, sex, location for those of you who didn’t grow up with chat rooms, god I’m old). First up was Sara, no last name was given as was the custom. Jr handed her the beef and salad plate.
“thank you,” She was very quiet and polite in her blue pants suit and short brown hair. “please to meet you sir” she almost whisperer and for good reason, she was the screamer of the team code name Shatter Storm.
Next was Ray, aka Red Blaster. He was the tech head of the group. Dark skinned, glasses, in a white button-up shirt and black slacks. He was playing on the biggest phone I have ever seen. He folded it in half, then in half, then once more before putting it in his pocket and shaking my hand. “Always a pleasure to meet Chuck’s family,”
The last one I knew before the introduction. His name was Rodriguez, he was part of an old mystic family in Mexico. Mom had hosted him a few years back as part of the mystic exchange program and because I did not have any pressing hero duties that could endanger the youth I had to spend a few days showing him around the town. He was a cool kid and it was nice to skip out on work for a few days and take in the sites. “Good to see you Rrrrodrrrregus,” I made sure to roll my R’s past the point of obscurity. When this skinny Mexican boy had come to live with me I found out that I could not roll my R’s at all and he made it his personal mission to teach me how. Now here he was in his fashionable purple shirt and elaborately knotted tie, all, or almost all grown up. His hair was systematically parted to the left with some sort of oil to give it that super slick shine. It’s a shame he never taught me how to manage my hair so well.
“You have not forgotten my lessens, that is good.” His accent was thick with rolling tones.
You know how you can sometimes tell when you meet a stranger that they’re from your home town. Something about how they talk or act just strikes a chord. Well, I have always heard that Supers can do the same thing with each other. People with similar abilities or that pull their powers from the same source can just know. When I shook Rodrigues’ hand I could feel his power, the magic in him called out to my own. My innate magic tried to wave back and instead fell down a flight of metaphorical stares. His thin light hand felt heavy as lead that was both on fire and freezing. It was somewhere between breathtaking exhilarating and pee your pants terrifying. “So what did you decide to use as a code name?” I asked him tiring to keep my voice level.
“Furry,” he said flatly. I giggled and so did Ray, even Sara seemed to smirk at the name.
“So are you the newest member of the team,” I asked. Rodriguez nodded, “Well it’s a great name where did you come up with it?” I asked with a grin.
“Sara said it was a combine of my animal magic and furious. She said sounded… Cool,”
“Ya it’s very cool,” Ray chirped.
“Super cool,” Jr added
“the coolest,” Sara whisperer
“So why you all laugh?” Rodriguez accused his fellow teammates. You could tell that he smelled a rat.
I nudged Jr and whisperer “So how long were you going to let him go before you told him what it really means?”
Jr finally broke composure, “Sara only convinced him of it yesterday and we have all been doing so well to keep a straight face.”
“What does this mean?” Rodriguez accused the people at the table, “is this like the name Gigolo.” the table lost it, I almost dropped my plate. “Snakes all of you.”
“Well it’s been fun folks but if I don’t eat this food soon I’ll never make it through the night. I’ll look for you all in the papers,” I gave a small wave to Jr and his team and left.
With little pause, I found an empty seat and stared down at my plate of mashed potatoes. One bite, amazing, second bite, heaven. “I made those myself you know you could at least try to chew.” Spring and her long time boyfriend Gean aka Green Thumb, took the seats across from me. She was dressed in a long green dress and a light brown formal jacket. An embroidered purple headband held her light brown hair back from her always youthful face and bright brown eyes.
Gean was dressed to match in a dark brown suit and green shirt with a purple tie. His skin was tanned from long hours in the sun and the hand he extended to me was strong and calloused from hours in the fields. “Nice to see you Tom, you still have not made it out to the farm. You really must see it.”
I swallowed the mashed potatoes, “Ya Gean, maybe in the next few months. Hi Spring how’s Africa?”
“South America” she corrected, “I’m teaching the rainforest how to fight back against illegal logging now. But I would not miss this Twig, I learned from the people down there how important it is to honor your elders. O Twig you would love it down there, you should really come back with me.”
“I’ll see if I can get the time off work, do they have sunscreen down there?”
“O forget about work, this is so much more important than feeding lab animals, it’s about saving the world. Tell him Gean,” Gean started to talk but Spring charged on, “There this waterfall that we found, it’s like out of a book. And everything is always growing you can feel the whole place breathing like it’s all connected, you know what I mean.”
I didn’t actually. Spring and I shared one commonality with our powers that often let us connect more than I did with most of the family. Both of us were more transactional than Summer or Winter. Spring was about the awakening of nature after its long sleep. Spring was antsy, ready to get going, ready to grow and change the world from a barren winter waste into a lush garden. Autumn, on the other hand, was more like 2 am at the bar. Everyone had had their fun and now all they wanted to do was get some tacos and go to sleep. “I’m sure it’s lovely I’ll see if I can make time.”
“Holy crap Twig you’re finally here.” A ball of dyed blonde hair hugged me from behind. Summer sat on the table and snatched one of the drum sticks from my plate. She took after our Dad more than anyone in the family. Thin and lean with olive skin tanned in the sun to match her dark eyes. Her short black skirt with a slit up the side was just this side of formal and looked more like a swimsuit cover-up when matched with her black halter top than it did a dress. Downing her yellow Mexican beer she finished the chicken and put the bone back on my plate. “Is this what it takes to get you to a party free food,” she mumbled with her mouth full.
Everything about Summer made you want to strip down to trunks and jump in the pool. It was just a feeling that surrounded her. We all influenced those around us and could change the behaviors of the people that we were around pretty heavenly. For example, every girl I have ever dated start to wear long sleeves and sweaters no matter what time of year it was or what they would wear when we first started dating. But Summer seemed to have the strongest pull out of all of us. I have never figured out a good reason why it might have less to do with the Hokies Pokis that we all have and just more to do with… her. Off all the siblings she was the one that invited, no, dragged people into her world, her party. Nothing about Summer was subtle. She was bold and in your face about everything. Summer began to go for my last drumstick and I slid the plate just out of her reach to discourage her.
“Will you two behave, there is company present.” Winter’s chill had always been strongest when she scolded you. All of the younger siblings froze in place as the Ice Queen surveyed the scene. Winter was the tallest of us. At least I think she was. It always seems like she was looking down on us. Her long white hair was neatly kept in a small bun on the top of her head held in place with black chopsticks. The few strands that escaped fell down around her face in what could only be a very intentional way. Why did everyone else’s hair behave and mine did not?
Winter’s skin could only be described as ivory. A clean healthy white. As opposed to my skin which could only be described as transparent. She looked closer to a marble statue dressed in a stylish almost business-like black dress. Whereas I looked closer to a corps with freckles who was going to church. Is it a woman thing to be able to pull off the pail beauty thing? Do I just have the wrong chromosome? Well, that’s a deeper question than I’m ready to handle right now.
“Twige your late and your shoes are a mess, did you even try to dress nicely for tonight?” Winter was like a frozen wind hitting you. Legend has it that she subdued Raptor Man by verbally berating him with her ice breath about how ashamed his mother would be if she knew what he was doing. I would just like to claim that victory for my own. It was me that she perfected her “your mother would be so ashamed” speech on. Just so you know.
I look at my food in shame rather than look at Winter. Or I would have if Summer had not taken my entire plate as her own. She licked the last of the mashed potatoes off the spoon as I threw up my hand in protest. “I think it’s a good time for me to say hi to Mom.” pushing myself back from the table I excused myself.
“You know Summer I made those potatoes myself. You could at least try and chew them.” Spring began once more.
I ran my hands a few times through the tangle on my head as I made my way up to the main tables. Mom had on a long brown dress with her graying hair pulled up into a fancy bun. She was chatting with a few of the Suits as I approached.
Want to see a neat trick, I can predict exactly what Mom will ask about.
# 1 “When are you coming to visit?”
# 2 “Are you eating enough?”
#3 “Are you seeing someone?”
#4 “How’s work?”
#5 “What else is new, you should get out more”
#6 “When are you coming home next?”
“Hi Mom, I don’t mean to interrupt, I just wanted to say happy birthday.”
“O Tom you made it.” Mom reached out to hug me.
She turned to the man she was speaking to, “It was nice talking to you, I’ll be sure to come by the office the next time I’m in town.”
“That would be wonderful mum,” he replied in a British accent as he excused himself.
“Who was that?” I inquired.
“Him, o Mr. Clarkson is with the British agriculture bureau. I do some advising for them from time to time. Come up here Tom I haven’t seen you in months. You should come home more. You look skinny, have you been eating?”
“Ya Mom I just did. Sorry for not coming by works been really busy.” I mumbled.
“O anything interesting?” Mom presses politely.
“Not really we’re just short-handed so the researchers are stressed. It’s all fine really.”
“Fine is another word for not great. What’s wrong Tom,”
God, I forget how direct Mom was sometimes. Telling her the truth, that I didn’t want to be here, was not an option so I did what any good son did, I lied. “Just some trouble with Lora, nothing big.”
“She’s your new girlfriend, right. I have yet to meet her. Is she here tonight,” Mom scanned the room.
“No this isn’t her sort of thing, and she had to work,” I lied some more. In truth I had forgotten to ask her. But this really wasn’t her sort of thing.
“Hmm… Well, you really should bring her by some time. I would like to meet her. Are you going to come home for the 4th? You could bring her then.”
Well, I think that’s all the topics necessary to be considered a polite conversation. Time to initiate the escape plan. “I’ll try. She might be working but I’ll see if I can get the time off. Have you seen Dad, I should say hello to him.”
“Not sure, last I saw he and Bob had gone off with one of the ministers. Make sure to talk to your nephew he was asking about you.”
“I will thanks.” I wandered off as Mom was approached by yet another foreign-looking man in a suit.
Well, that was fun. Might as well talk to Dad and get it out of the way. He was a bit harder to find tucked into one of the far back corners sipping on his drink. He wore a nice suit with a stark white shirt and the classic bow tie. The bow tie was undone as was his top button. He looked tired. Most people might not have noticed them with his tanned greek complexion but he had circles under his eyes and a worn look about him.
“Tom, I’m glad you made it have you talked with your mother yet?”
“Ya just did,” I sat down across from him, “Are you feeling ok Dad?”
“Fine… why do you ask.”
“You just look tired, you know.”
Dad chucked, it was a bit forced but mostly sincere, “You try arranging this many people to be in one spot at the same time.”
“Ya I get that, but this isn’t the first party you guys have had.”
“I’m just showing my age I guess then. Enough about me, how have things been going with you. Your Mom would like you to visit more you know.”
O I know, “Ya I have just been busy with work and stuff.”
“Really is there something exciting?”
“Not really, we lost one of our techs” Dad perked up a bit at that, “Not in like an accident or portal, he just moved.”
Dad relaxed back down, “That’s good. You should stay away from the super-science, it’s not good to get involved in that sort of thing.”
“Dad, it’s not like I work as a particle physicist. I monitor the research animals at a cancer lab.”
“Nonetheless, you know the old saying, super science leads to supervillains,” Dad chided.
“Ya and superheroes. Your friends with Gray Matter and he was in a superlab accident.”
“Nonetheless it’s not the life for you.” he tried to change subjects “So are you seeing anyone Tom?”
“Ya, I meet this girl name Lora. She works at the bar.”
“O how long has this been going on? You haven’t brought her by yet.”
“It’s not that serious Dad. We have only been seeing each other for a few weeks, hanging out and stuff.”
“Tom you said she worked at the bar is she a…” Dad seemed worried.
“Ya she a super, why?” I questioned.
“She will bring you nothing but trouble,” Dad mumbled.
I got a bit snotty at that, “Is that some sort of prediction.”
“Yes..” Dad hesitated, “and just years of wisdom.”
It hit me then, for a brief moment it all made sense. “Are you and Mom fighting?”
Dad look shocked at the suggestion, almost appalled and revolted by the idea, “No why would you think that?”
“Well, it makes sense. Your overhear tired and sulking suddenly talking down on supers and dating supers. Are you getting a divorce?” I accused.
“Were fine Tom, we are not getting a divorce, and we are not fighting. I’m just worried about you, and where you’re going with your life!” Dad didn’t quite shout but he was definitely upset.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked but I knew the answer.
Dad didn’t think I would ever be a hero. I was his great shame and he just wanted me to slide off into nothing. Well, let me tell you a secret about Dad’s powers. They were easily skewed by one’s opinion. He had worked a lifetime to develop a neutral state of mind so he could accurately predict the future. And let me tell you one other thing, his family was one thing he could not help but have an opinion on. So even if he did see that I would never make it, it didn’t mean anything. Ever since I came back from meta camp he had believed that I wouldn’t make it. I wouldn’t make a difference.
“You know Dad if you keep sulking Mom will leave you,” I stormed off feeling really good about getting one in on my old man, and really really bad about saying that. Maybe he was just getting old. It happened to all of us I guess, even a time wizard, I think?
I took refuge where all angry people do, the bar. I could see an open stool and like a man lost at sea I clung to it like a piece of driftwood. Then I did what anyone in my generation does when they’re at a social event they do not want to be a part of, I pulled out my phone.
“I wonder if they have Wifi,” I mumbled to myself. Turns out they did, and it was password protected. “Dame it, and I’m low on data.”
I spent the next few minutes trying to guess the password. The phone number for the hotel, no. Name of the hotel, no. Name of the hotel with a 1 at the end, no. I got it, phone number backward…. Still no. O come on it’s always the phone number backward. With a sigh, I put my phone away the battery was almost dead anyway.
“You’re doing it wrong,” Bob plopped down next to me.
“Doing what wrong, trying to hack the wifi?”
“Yes that too, but mostly you’re sitting at the bar and not drinking.” The bartender handed Bob a drink in a lowball glass and set down a very fruity looking drink with a purple straw and umbrella in front of me. “Great, 8:47, right on time. This will be our last round so close out my tab please,” Bob instructed the bartender.
“Ummm..” I slid the girly drink away from me, “I didn’t order this.”
“No I did for you at like six, I pre-order all my drinks, it really speeds up service time. Drink it you’ll like it.” Bob said it as less of a suggestion and more of a statement.
‘Don’t run over old people, Don’t run over old people’ I sipped the drink, and like always Bob was right, some mix of strawberry and pineapple.
“How did your talk with your Dad go?”
“You tell me,” I grumbled.
“You know they’re not getting divorced right?”
“Is that a prediction too?”
“Yes and no.” Bob mused. “I know my brother, there is only one thing that gets him worried like this and its family, but it’s not your Mom.”
“So he is worried, well o wise one what has him so twisted?” I blew a few bubbles in my drink.
That was a new one, ”What do you mean not sure? Losing your touch old man?” Ok, now I was just being mean because I felt guilty and the most human way to relieve guilt was to do other things that made you feel more guilty.
“I can’t see everything kid, most of the time the really big things are so blurry that none of us are any use. Kind of like my prediction about you.”
“If you’re implying that I am a big thing I think you have had a few too many drinks.”
Now it was Bob’s turn to get snotty with me, “First, never assume that a single person is not important, powers or not. Just because your life is not how you would wish it to be does not mean that it has less importance or will have less of an impact. Second, life shits on everyone so get used to it. Just because you have problems doesn’t mean that other people aren’t dealing with the same things. And 3rd what I mean by my prediction of you is that I knew you were going to be a boy. Your Dad did a viewing and was convinced that you would be a girl completing his femme fatale set. It was one of the biggest mispredictions of his life and a massive blow to his ego. At the end of it all your Dad loves you and loves that he has a son. Always has and always will. So shut up and drink your drink, your life isn’t that bad.”
I blew a few bubbles in my drink as I moped. Maybe Bob was right it could be worse. I like my job, and I liked not having all the stress that comes with hero-ing. Maybe I should be thankful for what I had.
2 gun shots cut through the noise of the room. Lots of different guns make lots of different sounds. A .22 is almost a popping sound, like PA PA PA. Your normal hunting rifles are a bit more sharp like CrAck, almost like a whip. Assault rifles are a bit quieter actually because of the suppressors, like Wack Wack Wack. A laser pistol falls somewhere between letting the air out of a balloon and nails on a chalkboard like squEEE. Shotguns make the most noise with a loud and reverberating kBoOm. That’s what these shots sounded like. kaBoOm kaBoOm. “Everyone on the ground NOW!” A man in tactical gear and a black ski mask shouted.
More men poured in behind him as people yield and dropped to the floor. Something like two dozen men swarmed in, all armed with shotguns or rifles, some had handguns on their hips while others cared large canvas bags.
The last man to enter was less of a man and more of a stuffed animal walking on two legs dressed in the exact same suit I was wearing. His face had a snout with a mouth full of sharp teeth and topped with dark beady eyes. His face was covered in dark coarse black fur with silver fur covering his head and continuing down the back of his neck and under his shirt. His hands were covered in the same black fur and tipped with long strong blunt claws. “Good evening everyone, I am the Honey Badger and I take what I want. And before any of you try to talk to me or beg me I just want you all to know that Honey Badger…”
“DON’T CARE!!!!!” shouted the two dozen armed men from around the room.
“Exactly. Men go to work.” Honey snarled.
‘OH crap, oh crap, oh crap. A fecking supervillain. How did my day go so sideways?’ I lamented to myself as a goon ran over and forced me and the other people at the bar out onto the dance floor with the other party guests. The goons forced us into a rough line and began searching all of us. Wallets, watches, jewelry, all went into bags one by one as the man with the bag and Honey Badger moved down the line. Honey made a point to stare down everyone throughout the prosses.
Something did not seem right. Why was everyone going along with it? Half the people in the room were registered supers. Just about any one of them could single-handedly take these mooks.
Honey got to an elderly man in an expensive white suit. “That’s a nice suit you got, not as nice as mine.” Honey taunted as he reached out his clawed hand and tore off the breast pocket.
That’s when it hit me. The old man once upon a time was known as Helios. Back in Mom and Dad’s day, he was one of the top dogs. He also founded and still the headed of the Hero’s Guild. The group that ever super in this room was registered with. The Guild provided team up, legal and medical support, mediated hero contracts and help to regulate the hole hero profession. Helios was a big believer in the protection of hero identities and by default the bottom line. With all of the camera phones, internet and facial recognition software out there it was becoming harder, and by association more expensive, to keep a hero’s identity secret. Mask were now mandatory for any practicing hero. Any heroics performed outside of the mask was grounds for write-ups and disciplinary actions. One guy in New York lost a city contract for floating up to get a cat out of a tree on his way home from picking up takeout.
With Helios, politicians and regulatory type people here no registered hero was going to make a move. That ruled out everyone in the room except one. Me. I was the only Metta in the room that Helios could not sanction. Ya, I was registered with the Guild, just about ever Metta was unless they were a Villain, but I was the only non-practicing, non retired one in the room. I had to save the day. It was now or never.
The goon with the bag was making his way to me, I had to think fast. I would make him suddenly chilly and he would drop the bag. Than Honey would be all like “what did you drop the bag for dummy that was dumb, don’t be dumb.” and then he would reach for the bag. Then I will fill his face with leaves to incapacity him. I’ll say something snappy like ‘Why don’t you leaf them alone’ ya that will be cool. A quick kick to the shin and a punch to the head and I’m sure that he would drop like a sack of rocks. Once his men saw me drop their boss in two hits they will totally give up. Everyone will cheer my name. TOM! TOM! TOM!. Then the theme music will start and Helios would crown me hero of heroes and I will take that crown over to Dad and be all like, “So now what future do you see old man.” This was a good plan, I was sure of it. Nothing could go wrong, it was bulletproof. I was bulletproof!
Ok, it’s now or never Tom. There were 5 people before the goon with the bag would get to me. Ok, it’s go time.
4 people. Ok deep breaths. In, out, in, out…
3 people. All right relax, remember your training
2. O Crap what the hell am I thinking!!!!
1. It’s now or never let’s do this!!!
The goon with the bag grabbed my arm and check for a watch, “Hey why don’t you…” was as far as I got.
O MY GOD. The nose was so loud it made me see spots. I’m pretty sure my ears were bleeding. Wine glasses around the room broke as the noise hit them like a hammer. My hands tried to block out the noise without me directing them to do it. The room went dark, or I had pinched my eyes shut to try and block the sound. Either way when light returned the room was in chaos.
Several of the goons were on the floor wrapped in coils of green snake-like energy emitting from Rodregis’s hand. The same green energy was traveling down his legs changing his outfit from his normal street clothing into a tribal looking jaguar mask and tunic made of the same pelt. A similar transformation was happening to the 3 other members of the Upstarts. Red Blaster now dawned red and white battle armor and twin pistol-like ray guns on his hips. Shatter Storm hovered over the room in long white gloves and boots with a red undersuit and face mask. A matching white armored chest piece finished off the ensemble.
Jr, in the full blue and white spandex treatment, appeared next to Honey, “Didn’t your mother ever teach you to say please.” he quipped as he tossed Honey at his gun welding crony.
The crowd broke, people running every which way. Some made a break for the front door, others for the kitchens. Me, I stood there clutching a fist full of leves. Red worked on rounding up the goons while Shatter Storm hovered high in the room called out the situation and took shots at anyone going for the “civilians”, Jr waded through the throng, toward where Honey Badger was last seen. I had a hand full of leaves. Why did I ever think I would be able to stop a supervillain. Just look at them. Jr tossed a goon armed with a rifle into the wall.
HHHISSSSSS. The wall sprouted green energy snakes as a parrot flew by and held the goon with their feet dangling off the ground.
“Move it you’re in the way,” someone grabbed my arm. Summer hauled me to the side of the room and we took cover behind the massive stack of presents. “Dam it Twig it’s like this is your first super fight. Rule one of a super fight, get clear. Dammit did you never see those public service announcements”
Bullets began to fly, stuffing dropped on me form one of the presents. More gunshots rang out.
kBoOm Wack Wack Wack Wack Wack Wack kaBoOm kaBoOm.
A pair of goons were trying their damndest to take Red Blaster out of the air, but most of their shots miss completely in their panic. Debris rained down from the ceiling as Red Blaster few in small arcs avoiding the bullets. SQEEEE SQEEEE he shot red stunning bolts at several other goons that were trying to make it out the door. Jr took up one of the small round drink tables in one hand and lining up his thumb to his eye as he took aim and hurled the table like a javelin hitting a pair of goons. As soon as they hit the ground a massive jungle cat ghosted into existence over them. HHHHIIIISSSSS more green energy snakes bound them tightly to the floor.
Honey Badger leaped at the cat swiping with his claws. The cat scraped and bit back. Honey Badger’s claws left long deep gashes on the cats face and flank. He lunged at the quicker cat, but just as his claws reach it, the cat magically faded into green smoke and reemerged as the parrot flying far out of reach. Honey only had a moment to stand confused before Jr, having taken a flying leap from across the room, smashed into him with both knees, like he was coming off the top ropes in a wrestling match.
A trio of shotgun wielding goons had lined up like duck hunters taking aim at Shatter Storm as she hovered above the melee. I only had a moment to cover my ears as I saw her inhale.
The world seemed to fade to red at the edges of my vision. When my eyes cleared I peeked up over the mound of presents. Jr and Honey Badger circled near the center of the dance floor. One of the lights had broken off and was swinging above them like a spotlight. “Did you know that you’re not really a badger. You’re more closely related to a raccoon.” Jr bantered as he and Honey Badger exchanged blows. Claw, first, claw, elbow.
“I don’t care about your physics lesson!” Honey Badger spat back, “What are you even doing here Jr, I thought your team was based down south.” Honey Badger smashed a long dining table over Jr’s head.
Jr managed to get his arms up to block and emerged unruffled. He grabbed one of the broken table legs and countered with an almost baseball like swing. It connected with the side of Honeys head. Crack, it’s a home run. “I’m just getting a leg up on villains like you.”
Honey stumbled with the hit coming inline between Jr and the table I was crouched behind. “Scatter!!!” Summer shouted and pushed me out the side of the little cover that I had.
Red Blaster, Shatter Storm, and Rodriguez, still in the form of a parrot, flew in over Jr and unleashed hell.
Honey Badger was struck by bolts of red energy, green snakes and the full directed concussive force of Shatter Storms sonic hammer. The presents table burst into splinters and flames as Honey Badger was blasted into it and the trio poured on the juice. Presents of all shapes and sizes exploded in a rainbow colored cacophony. As I slid out of the way I took note of one box in particular as it sailed above me in slow motion. A small thing wrapped lovingly in blue with a gold flaming ribbon, inside of it a one of a kind news article about a young girl. The blue wrapping paper was a bit shredded as it sailed over me with flames covering the outside looking like a blue comet, and like a comet it crashed to the ground in a broken heap.
The room fell silent except for the ringing in my ears. After a few moments, I remembered that my eyes were closed and I tentatively opened them. Honey Badgers face was about a foot from mine.
“AAAAAHHHHH!” Is what my brain tried to tell my mouth but it came out more like “MMMMMMHH!”
Green energy wrapped around Honey Badger in a double thick coating of emerald snakes. Apparently Rodrigues spell had a bit of a radius and lack of discrimination as evident by the fact that I was also pinned to the ground in the sprawling heap I had landed in. The snakes looped around my waist, legs and apparently one had wedges itself between my mouth in the same way they had with Honey Badger.
Honey Badger was awake but had apparently passed the point of struggling. Now he was just staring at me straight in the eye. He huffed and his breath hit me hot and foul in the mouth. The Upstarts were gathered around Honey Badger and myself mid discussion.
“So how long until the snakes were off.” Jr posed to Rodregis.
“An hour or so,” Rodriguez responded, “but hit him with it a few times, could be longer.”
“I take it that dispelling them is also not an option?”
“Same problem, energy has to go somewhere. Dispelling one of them would be ok, but more than one intertwined…”
“It could hurt the bystander,” Jr finished. He squatted down just outside the radius of energy so I could see him better, “Sorry to get you tangled up in this.” O nice word choice there. “We will get it sorted out as soon as we can. Please just be calm and try not to struggle, the snakes will tighten up when they sense movement.”
“What do you mean tighten up, like strange me?” is what I tried to say but once again it just came out “MMmm mmmmMMM?”
So I laid there staring at Honey Badger. Honey Badger stared at me. Time passed slowly as my shoulders cramped up and by back managed to tie itself into a knot more complex than the snakes that held me. Sirens soon could be heard from outside. Cops and Super Response Troopers hustled across my field of vision as they secured the scene. Quite sometime later Honey Badgers henchmen were all walked out in restraints. I looked at Honey Badger, Honey Badger looked at me.
An eternity after that I took notice that the pressure on my jaw was losing by a fraction. Rodriguez perked up like he had heard a bell. “It is time I think. The first encantamiento just released.”
Jr and all of the other Upstarts gathered around the circle of green energy. A minute or so later I felt pins and needles in my hands and legs as the blood flow was slowly returned to them. Honey Badger seemed to still be bound tight, and thus still staring at me due to lack of mobility of his head. With a node from Jr, Rodriguez entered into the circle, the green energy washing around him like that of a river and stone. He slipped heavy manacles first around Honey Badger’s hands, then feet. Finally taking what looked to be a muzzle from one of the Super Troopers and fastening it around Honey Badger’s mouth. The mesh of the muzzle passed through the fading green snakes almost like dough being passed through a pasta machine.
Finally with Honey Badger fully secured Rodriguez flipped his hands in a few quick dismissive gestures and the snakes vanished instantly. I rolled away from Honey Badger, happy to not have to look at that face anymore. My back and legs immediately started sending signals of protest to my brain. I let the signals go to the equivalent of voice mail as I enjoyed my new found freedom. The ceiling loomed over me full of burn marks and bullet holes. I managed to turn my head as they took Honey Badger away. Once he was clear of my view I could see the burned remnants of the blue gift box. With a heavy sigh I rolled my head back to looking at the ceiling, letting the numbness of the moment sink into me.
The paramedics reach me not long after and proceed to give me a once over. As expected nothing beyond scrapes and bruises. They recommended I lay down for a bit before I try and move to much. I thought that was a great idea.
Dear diary. Today I had my first chance to be face to face with a supervillain, it did not go as expected. Also good job me on finding the greatest birthday present in the world than watching it burn. It’s been the best day ever. 😉
I lay there wallowing in my self-pity for some time before a face appeared over me. Bob seemed no worse for wear. Not surprisingly, it seemed like he had escaped most of the tussle. “Your hair looks as good as ever.” he quipped.
“Well you know, I use that super strong hair spray,” I intoned flatly as I continued to stare past him at the ceiling.
“So I take it that you intend to lay there until you die?” he slid down the wall near me.
“Well, it seems like the thing to do after your life’s goal is crushed.” The bullet holes and burn marks in the ceiling looked kind of like constellations. If you squint a bit you could make out one that I called Spot the dog.
“Harumph life goals, why do people always think that it’s the goal that you need to get, not learning how to set and seek them. Besides lots of heroes start small and even more suffer utterly humiliation, soul-crushing defeats. Sometimes literally.”
“Are you trying to say that you predict that from this I will rise to my true potential and achieve my dream of being a superhero?” My voice was filled with disbelief and sarcasm.
“God no, I predict that in the morning you will have a hard time getting up to pee because of your back injury, I recommend bringing a bottle to bed with you.” Bob fiddled with his suit coat pocket.
I rolled my head in Bob’s direction, “Jesus you suck at pep talks.”
“True, I do. My job as a profit is to tell the truth. Let’s face it the Delfi family has always been a bit too good at telling the truth. The story is that after telling the kings of Greece bad news one too many times they tried to banish or kill the whole family. But you know what saved us all those years ago?” I stared at him blankly, I was too tired to play one of Bobs guessing games.
“A healthy dose of foresight, forethought,” Bob produced an unwrap 4×8 box from his coat and slid it toward me, “and a super-sized dose of being really really sneaky.” His face didn’t change much as he intoned what was almost a family motto for the Delphis, but his eyes. His eyes spoke of tricks, mischief, grand plans and misdirection going back to almost the beginnings of human history. “See kid, life doesn’t always take a shit on you.”
I almost couldn’t believe it as I pick up the gift box. Inside, still in perfect condition was a driftwood picture frame encasing a new article about a young supper just getting her start. That sneaky bastard had switched the boxes knowing that this could happen. He made sure I wasn’t late, if I had been, I might have been walking in the door just as the shooting started. Most of the time being in a family of clairvoyants was just annoying, but sometimes it did have its perks.
I rolled to my feet, my back instantly sent a damage report to my brain that would have been best measured on the Richter scale, but it didn’t matter, I had a present to deliver.