Photon and Spark – Issue #1

Spark hovered over the city, uncertainty showing behind her mask. This was one of those turning points where you have to make a decision. Are you the hero or are you the villain? When the chips are down and your father is holding out his hand to you saying he has the power, with you at his side, to fix everything. He can bring your mother back, he can put the city to rights. Photon’s cape fluttered in the breeze and Spark took a deep breath. He could probably do it too. She knew his powers inside and out, they were the same as hers after all. For a long moment, Spark looked at her hands.

“Dad…”

“Just think about it, Princess. We could have your mom back. We could have everything back.”

His hand was still outstretched, hoping she would take it. She could see it in his eyes behind his crimson mask. Then she flew back a bit.

“You hurt people, Dad. Innocent people. You told me heroes never do things like that.”

Photon’s hand dropped to his side and he sighed.

“Spark, how can you call them innocent? They took your mother.”

Electricity flared around Spark for a moment.

“They didn’t, Dad. It was an accident. A stupid accident. And you’re scaring the shit out of me right now.”

Photon raised his hand again, flying towards her. But Spark pulled back again.

“Are you turning on me?”

“What?” Spark’s voice cracked on the single word, confusion evident on her face. “Dad, you’re… you’re not acting like you.”

“I don’t want to fight you, Spark.”

There was lightning whipping around Photon now and light building up around both of his hands.

“Fight? What?” Spark threw a translucent shield up just in time as Photon swung his electrically charged fist at her. “Dad! What are you doing?”

He bounced off her shield, spinning for a moment in the air before he righted himself.

“The right thing.”

He growled the words before throwing himself at her again. Spark dropped out of the air as quickly as she could, positioning her shield over her head. She couldn’t take Photon in a straight fight. He outweighed her, outclassed her in experience. But she had one advantage he didn’t have. She was fast and she had friends he didn’t know about. And today, he was going to learn what she had really been doing on Saturday nights when she said she was out partying. Spark spiraled in the air, using it to control her speed as she dove between buildings at breakneck speed. She had to make it to the south side. She had to find…. There!

Slamming into the ground, Spark barely caught herself to prevent a crater and ran.

“Jackal! Turbo! I need backup and I need it now!”

The two young heroes exchanged a look and then looked at Spark.

“What’s up?”

She looked into the sky nervously.

“My dad. He’s…gone rogue. I can’t get ahold of anyone at the Sanctum. I tried that earlier. It’s just us.”

Jackal’s eyebrows shot up, his glowing red eyes wide.

“Well, shit, Spark. We gotta fight Photon?”

Turbo shoved Jackal teasingly.

“Yeah, hot stuff, and we gotta win. You ready?”

Jackal took a breath and adjusted his armor before stopping to check Turbo’s equipment. Turbo was a speedster, sleek and muscular in his lightly armored spandex. When he was certain that everything was settled right, Jackal leaned in to kiss Turbo gently.

“Don’t let him hit you, Turbo, or you’re gonna be a skidmark.”

“Yeah, I know. Duck, dodge, weave, right?”

The three teens exchanged a shaky smile and looked up into the sky as a shadow fell over them. Photon was here.

Advertisements

Secrets in the Attic

Rachel was playing in the attic like she did on a lot of rainy days. The things up here were interesting and exciting to a girl who had been raised in a world where everything seemed to need batteries or wifi. Up here was a whole different time and place. She climbed over the trunk in the corner to grab an old, careworn bear off a shelf and then wondered, not for the first time, about the chest. It was Mommy’s, she knew that much. And locked. She’d tried over and over again to find a way to open it, but never managed it. Pulling the bear to her, she moved to start shimmying backward back to the floor and found herself pitching forward instead. Grabbing wildly, Rachel dropped the bear and grabbed the shelf with both hands, pulling it off the wall in her fight to keep upright. Much to her surprise, it wasn’t just the shelf that fell. There was a small, black leather pouch that fell too, landing with a soft metallic noise beside her. Bumps and bruises forgotten, Rachel grabbed for it and immediately opened it, wondering excitedly if this might be the missing jacks set her mother had promised her was up here somewhere. It wasn’t. At first, she wasn’t sure what she was looking at, but then far more than the missing word came unbidden into her mind. She worked her way around to the front of the chest and knelt, touching the lock with her small fingers. Yes, she could open it now. Pulling the torsion wrench and one of the picks out of the small kit, she went to work on the old lock, never once questioning how she knew how to do this.

It took a few minutes to get the lid open, big as it was, but Rachel grinned as she looked down into the chest. Mostly it seemed to be books, papers, and pictures but there were a few other things. A set of throwing knives, a pistol, a long slim blade, an odd set of gloves with claws on the palms. They’re for climbing. Rachel wasn’t sure how she knew. She just did. With a shrug, she turned, grabbing the bear she’d dropped and pocketing the lock picks set. It sounded like the rain and stopped and that meant that she could go play outside again.

The Ship of Dreams

“I will arrive by week’s end, my love. Wait for me at the White Star Dock and together we will have the someday I have promised you for so long.”
Those had been the words Harry had written Clara in the last letter before he took to sea. Now, she held that letter before her as she stitched shirt sleeves with the other young women chatting around her.
“News from home, Clarrie?”
She smiled up at the older woman. Erin was a kindly grandmother of a woman with curly hair that had once been as red as Clara’s was blonde.
“From my fiancé. Harry’s coming over on a ship this very week.”
There was a chorus of excitement all about the factory, one which was quickly silenced as they heard the door from the offices opening. It wouldn’t do to be seen lazing. Even if they were doing no such thing. Clara’s sewing needle darted in and out of the cloth she was stitching as she imagined seeing Harry again for the first time in nearly a year. They could finally marry, finally start a family and finally have the life they’d been dreaming about for so long.
As Clara tidied up her station, Erin waited patiently. It was a custom of theirs for Clara to walk the older woman to her lodgings before headed home herself.
“So, tell me, Miss Clara. Is he coming on that fine ship of dreams everyone’s been talking about in the papers?”
Clara absolutely beamed, her smile threatening to split her cheeks.
“He is! I’m just so excited, Erin.”
Placing her hat on her head, Clara turned that smile on Erin.
“Any day now.”
Erin offered her young friend a smile of her own, then concern flickered onto her face.
“Will you be leaving us?”
As they walked to the door, Clara waved that concern off.
“Not right away. Someday, certainly, when we’ve a mind to start a family. But we’ll need the money I make until Harry’s all settled in.”

The sound that woke Harry O’Dell was like nothing he’d ever heard before. It was metal shearing metal, like the very walls of the ship were being rent by some giant with a knife. He leapt out of his narrow cot and was in the hallway in naught but trousers in a moment. There were others there as well, women holding crying children, even some of the ship’s crew looking just as lost as the rest of them.
“What’s going on?” He grabbed one of the crewmen as he passed. “What happened?”
The man looked at Harry, taking in his red hair and freckled face before shaking him off.
“Nothing. It was nothing. Go back to bed.”
The man continued on down the corridor, moving briskly and leaving Harry in his dust. Resigned, Harry turned back to his room to help the young mother bunked in with him calm her two young children.
When the water began to enter the compartment, Harry knew they had been lied to. Whatever had happened was far from nothing.

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Titanic sinks! Massive loss of life!”
Clara stopped dead in her tracks, slowly turning to look at the young newsie standing on the side of the road.
“Wh-what did you just say?”
“The ship, Ma’am, it sunk. Hit a big old iceberg, it did.”
She was shaking as she held her hand out.
“How much for the paper?”
“A penny, Ma’am.”
He held out his hand and she gave him one of her precious pennies, taking the paper. Slumped against a nearby building, she began to read. In the dark hours long before dawn. A great loss of life. Mainly women and children among the survivors. Harry, oh Harry.

Hot, silent tears streamed from her eyes and Clara’s grip on the too fragile newsprint tightening until it tore. She stared for a long moment at the shredded yellow paper in her hands. It didn’t matter now. It didn’t matter how much they had both saved and scrimped and scanted. There was no future for Clara and Harry, no future in which she was Mrs. O’Dell. All the happy dreams of a home together and a little crop of children under foot were as sunk as the vessel that had called itself the Ship of Dreams.

The paper fell from Clara’s fingers as she walked towards Pier 54 where the ship would have come in. There was already a crowd when she arrived, but she paid them no attention. She stood nearby, as close as she could get, and stared out at the water. It wasn’t the ocean, not here, not really. But she wondered, as she stared into the water, if God would bring her to Harry if she jumped in anyway. The thought nearly slapped her in the face when she realized why she had come here, what she was contemplating. Then she thought of the life ahead of her, so far from the land of her birth and her family and now without her Harry O’Dell. There were tears in her eyes as she stepped off into the air.

Phone Calls

As the door to the White Elephant opened, I looked up half making a silent bet with myself. Tourist, God, or wayward soul? I hadn’t bet on a teenage girl being escorted by a large dog.
“Um…” I hesitated for a moment, uncertain. I didn’t interact with the boss’ daughter much. Usually Mel was out on the beach with Spots or off in the city with her dad. “Hi. Is…um…?”
“Spots knows how to behave.”
Mel took my stammered question the wrong way, but I didn’t push the matter. She slipped behind the counter and the Great Dane settled onto a cushion in the corner. I watched him for a long moment, wondering if I could get her to teach me her tricks for dealing with her parents’ guard dog.
“Mother told me to tell you call your parents and say we’re taking you for dinner tonight. She wants you to meet Father.” Mel grinned wickedly. “Don’t worry, he’ll like you. Oh, and Mother said if you want Hermes’ number after all, she can give it to you. Apparently he likes you a lot.”
That was a whole lot to take in and I took a deep breath, leaning on the counter.
“I’ll go call them.”
She flicked a piece of paper in my direction and I blinked, taking it.
“His number. Seriously, Uncle Hermes likes you. Like…like-like. Date territory. Carpe diem, mortal girl.”
I crammed the paper into my pocket and just about fled out the back door to take my five and make a phone call. Or maybe two.

Coins

The baker glared down at the two youngsters standing before him and then at the coins they’d placed on the counter.

“Tharius the fifth? What kind of fool do you think I am? Take your false coins and get out of my shop before I call the Peacekeepers.”

Aleria was the one to grab the handful of coin up, then she grabbed her twin by the arm and dragged him out of the shop. Andrean growled and whirled to face her.

“What’d you do that for? We both know they’re not fake.”

She scuffed one sandaled foot in the dirt, looking down.

“I know, but if we get hauled up before the Keepers and they don’t believe us, then you get conscripted and where does that leave me?” There were tears in Aleria’s eyes when she looked up again, but her gaze was direct and fierce. “I won’t let them take you away, Andrean. Not now, not ever.”

She took a moment to put all the coins carefully back into the pouch she wore on a cord around her neck. Then Andrean looked at her, uncertainty in his eyes.

“What now?”

His sister looked away, unable to meet his eyes.

“We go home and tell Mother.”

Magic Powers and Vigilante Justice

The morning was still dark with the pre-dawn haze as Marcy sat up. She wasn’t overly surprised to see that the spiders were there, not really. She was surprised when the woman strode into the room. She was clad in an odd white garment that Marcy was hesitant to call a dress. Certainly, it bore a remarkable resemblance to one, but at the same time there was something much more ancient about it. With dark brown, nearly black hair, and olive skin, she was a wonder to behold. But the part that made it the oddest was that the door she’d come in through was very much closed.

“Who-“ but the question died on Marcy’s lips as the woman sat on the foot of the bed and the spiders went to her.

“Dear child, dear sweet child, you who have protected so many of my children. I am here to meet you. In answer to the question you did not finish, I am Arachne, the mother of spiders.”

Pulling her knees up to her chest, Marcy watched this woman for a moment and then smiled.

“I’ve heard stories about you. And not just the human ones, either.”

“Good, my little ones followed my instructions. Dear girl, you who have risked so much for my young ones, you have not let me down once. Even in meeting you, you are everything my children have described and more. And for that, I would give you something.”

She stood again then, beckoning for Marcy to come to her. Marcy obeyed, but still she argued.

“Its the right thing to do, I don’t need a reward for doing the right thing. And anyway, they saved me.”

But Arachne was having none of it. She touched a hand to Marcy’s forehead.

“Already you could hear my children and speak with them, but now you will also be able to work thread as we work our silk.”

Marcy blanched and pulled back a little.

“W-wait…um…”

The woman laughed cheerfully.

“Don’t worry, my dear girl, you won’t have spinnerets. Merely the ability to work thread by means of magic.”

“Oh! Oh wow. Magic? Magic is…is real?”

“You who talk to spiders question if magic is real?” Arachne laughed again and tousled Marcy’s hair. “Dear Marcy, yes, magic is real, as are the gods of old. But, you will learn.”


 

I’m late. I’m late. I’m late.

Marcy chanted the words in her mind as she ran, heels click-clacking loudly on the stone floor of the courthouse. She cradled the heavy leather briefcase in her arms and ran into the prosecution counsel’s office.

“Sir, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I had to grab these and…the traffic…and…”

Jared, one of the senior partners, stood near the window and didn’t even turn to look at her. Pausing, she looked him over, noting that his shirt was rumpled…and the same one from the day before. His tie was sitting on the table beside a half-empty glass of what looked rather like bad scotch.

“Its alright, Marcy. We don’t have a case any more.”

She blinked a few times.

“But…but…Sir?”

“Our key witness…he’s dead. Without him, we’ve got nothing. This guy’s going to walk.”

She blanched and set the briefcase on the table.

“Maybe there’s another angle, Sir? Something we haven’t tried?”

Jared turned and grabbed his glass, not even looking at her as he downed the rest of it.

“Marcy, we already tried everything. Even DNA is circumstantial with this guy…Dammit, I know it was him. And now the bastard’s gonna walk.” With a long sigh, he slid the case over to him. “Well, I’m going to work out the best defense I can manage…but…you might as well not suffer too. Take the rest of the day off, go relax or something.”

“Sir…?”

“I mean it, go on. I’ll make sure you get paid for the day. Go have fun.”

She was reluctant to leave him alone like this, but well…he was the boss.

“Yes, Sir.”

Once she was out of his sight, she leaned against a wall and wondered what she could do. Then she had an idea. A crazy, stupid, possibly suicidal idea.

I’m either gonna get in so much trouble, or this is going to be awesome. Now I just need to find the Little Ones.


With a glance into her bag to make sure everyone was still alright, Marcy got off the subway. It wasn’t until she got to the neighborhood where the perp lived that she realized she probably shouldn’t let herself be recognized. Ducking into an alley, she sat and called on her new powers. Slowly, she reshaped fabric of her clothing into an entirely new outfit. But…she needed a bit more to make a mask. With a sigh, she took the whole thing in, tightening the weave until it hugged her figure. Then she pulled on her new mask and held her hand out to her Little Ones.

“Come on.”

She’d promised them a meal, and a good one. They climbed all over her, taking up a perch wherever they could as she climbed up the side of the building. Again, the blessing of Arachne benefitted her. Her fingers clung to the tiny cracks between bricks as she climbed, pulling herself up with an ease she never could have imagined. She swung herself up onto the roof and stretched, bouncing idly.

“That was fun. Everyone still alright?”

“We are fine, Protector.”

“Great! Then, off we go.”

She was glad she’d swapped over for her old Skechers, even if it meant her shoes were hot pink. They were a lot more comfortable as she ran over rooftops. Part of her was surprised how easy it was to fall back into the old pace, but then, she had been a runner for most of her life. Periodically, she glanced down into the streets to make sure she was going the right way, making her way to the house. Finally there, she grinned wickedly and climbed down. Happily for her purposes, a window was open. She climbed inside and started to look around for the man. She found him quickly enough, sitting at a table laughing and playing cards with his buddies.

“Hello, Mister Richardson.”

“What the fuck?! How the hell did you get into my house, you costumed freak?”

“You killed your daughter, Mister Richardson. And then you killed her boyfriend so he could testify against you.”

The other men were starting to stand now, moving towards Marcy, but she held her ground. Then she grinned wickedly.

“I’m here to make sure you never hurt anyone again.”

The spiders all moved at once. And not just the ones Marcy had brought with her. All of the ones in his home too. She flicked her hand and his clothing started to stitch itself together. The others were screaming, but she did nothing to stop them from leaving. Stepping out of their way, she moved closer to him.

“Confess, Richardson.”

“You’re a psychotic bitch!”

“Now, now. You really should get caught up with the times, we don’t call people that anymore.”

And the spiders began their real work. Marcy didn’t watch. She just thanked them and made her way back out. Pausing for a moment on the roof, she wondered what people would say when they only found his bones the next morning. Then she just sat down to wait for her spiders to return so they could all go home together.

Differences

Something had been off all day. Jess just didn’t seem like herself. At least, that was what Keith thought. She was quieter, seemed to be staring at him or off into space a lot. She hadn’t even remembered to feed the cat she lovingly called her fur-baby. Actually, come to think of it, Keith didn’t even know where the damn cat had gotten to. He looked around the apartment for any sign of normalcy or anything to tell him what might be going on. Jess was in the kitchen now, supposedly making herself a snack. She’d eaten a lot today, way more than usual. He’d wondered at that, but now it was really nagging at him. Her keys weren’t hanging by the door. Why weren’t her keys hanging by the door if she was at home? And where was that damn cat?

“Jess?”

He walked into the kitchen and stopped in the doorway, watching for a moment as she made a sandwich. She sliced it in half and then turned to screw the lid back onto the peanut butter jar.

“Who the hell are you and where’s Jess?”

Jess, or the woman who looked like Jess, turned and looked surprised.

“What?”

Keith pointed one shaking hand towards the jar on the counter.

“Jess is allergic to peanuts. That’s mine. Who the hell are you?”