Not Like the Comics

It’s not like the comics.

My name is Brooke, but most of the world knows me as the Cobalt Crusader. Not exactly the name I would have picked if I’d had a say in it, but you know how these things work. But pretty soon, they’re gonna have a new name for me. The latest victim of the Bronx Ripper. He started out as a two-bit serial killer, nothing special. The kind of guy the detectives go looking for. Sure, I kept an eye out, just like I always do. But I’m in it to protect people actively. I don’t solve crimes. Then he got a name and people finally realized what his MO was. Whoever this guy really was, he thought he was Jack the Ripper. He said so in the letters he was sending to the NYPD, talking about being the Ripper reborn to finish his work. He does his research too, the bastard. He knew how the armor plates in my suit work, knew exactly where to get me with a knife to bypass the armor. And he knew my fighting style. Now he knows my face. And I’m on the floor with nothing. The armor is worthless, the training means nothing, and I’m out of tricks. I’m not like the other heroes. I don’t have powers, just the stuff I made. He’s setting up a camera now. All I can think is to wonder what time it is. Will my face, my name, and my death be on the 6 o’clock news or the 11 o’clock? I’m beyond the point of fear. Fear is good, it helps you survive. But when there’s no hope, the fear goes too. Now all I have is the pounding of my stubborn heart as he turns on me with that knife of his. It’s not like the comics. Never let anyone tell you it is.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the news anchor was pale, unusually shaken, as he tried to pull his words together. “It falls upon me tonight to express a sorrow that cannot be described.”
The doorbell interrupted the news and Joe sighed, getting up from the couch. He dropped his greasy slice of pizza on the counter and stalked towards the door of the shabby apartment. Whoever was at the door started to bang on it, rather urgently.
“I’m comin’, I’m comin’. Jeez, can’t a guy eat in peace?”
When he opened the door, he looked up several inches into the face of the police officer standing there.
“Sir, are you Joseph Tucker?”
“Yeah, that’s me. What’s this about?”
The officer looked uncomfortable for a moment and then spoke again.
“I’m here about your daughter-“
“Brooke ain’t home. She’s never home on time. What’d she do this time?”
The silence was interrupted by the news anchor’s voice.
“The hero we knew and loved as the Cobalt Crusader has died at the hands of the Ripper.”
The officer looked at his partner and then gestured towards the television.
“We’re going to need you to identify the body. It’s…it’s an honor to meet you. It was a pleasure working with your daughter.”
Joe didn’t know how to respond to that in the slightest.

The Justicar

Commander Cold looked up, eyes narrowing behind the visor of his suit as he saw the tell-tale blue and gold of the hero before him.
“It can’t be…I killed you.”
Justicar dropped off the ledge to land just in front of him, fist on the pavement. The hero stood, ice eyes boring into the villain.
“No, you shit-stain, you killed my twin brother. Lucky for me and not for you, we have the same powers and he had a backup suit.” Her voice was lighter than Justicar’s but the same strength and confidence was there as she grabbed Commander Cold and slammed him against the wall. “And you’ve earned yourself a one-way ticket to Pound Town.”
With one hand, she unbuckled her helmet and let it fall to reveal a decidedly softer face than the one Commander Cold had seen on the Justicar when the hero had been bleeding out on the floor of his base.

“I’ll tell them. I’ll tell every one of them that you aren’t Justicar.”
“They won’t believe you.”
Leaning down, she scooped her helmet back up and pulled it back on. She adjusted her helmet, getting the chin strap back into its proper place and when she spoke again, it was her brother’s voice they heard.
“Because as far as everyone’s concerned, I am my brother. And you killed Justicar’s civilian sister. Naughty naughty, Commander.”

“But just to be sure, before I drop you off with the police, who am I, Commander?”
She slammed him against the wall again, as hard as she could.
“J-Justicar.”
“You don’t sound confident in your answer.”
Again. And again. His visor cracked.
“Justicar! You’re the Justicar!”
“Good boy. Now come on, let’s go drop you off for lock-up.”

Justicar dropped out of the sky, unceremoniously dropping Commander Cold on the stones of the front steps of the police station.
“Officer, I need someone to take this man into custody.”
“Of course, Justicar. I’ve got him.”
“What should we put down for his crime?”
The Commissioner stepped forward and Justicar looked down, hands tight-fisted.
“Murder, Commissioner. This piece of shit killed my sister. I don’t know how he found out about her, but he did.”
“Don’t worry, Justicar. We’ll make sure he’s…taken care of.”
“Thank you, old friend.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
“So am I.”

The Justicar showed for the funeral in costume, eschewing his secret identity entirely in that moment. It was a closed casket funeral since Commander Cold hadn’t left his sister in a state to be seen. At least, that was what the Justicar told everyone. He kept his helmet on through the whole ceremony, not even undoing the chin strap. There were some who said that they saw tears on the face on the stalwart hero of the common man, but there are others who never believed it.

Willful

“No.”
The woman stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and looked up, hands in fists.
“What?”
The hands on the keyboard stopped, eyes stared in disbelief at the screen.
“I’m not going. I know what this is, what you’re doing.”
She turned on her heel and the Writer tried desperately to do something, anything, to stop her.
“You have to!”
“Why?”
She strode purposefully back the way she had come, stopping only to pull out her phone and do a quick search for a martial arts studio that had beginner lessons.
“Because, if you don’t, then he will never-“
“And there’s the problem. How about instead, I do it?”
The Writer stopped and blinked.
“Can you?”
“Can I what? Put on a mask? Fight crime? If you thought he could without any training just because he wanted revenge, then why can’t I with some training and a will to survive? Either way, I will not be his tragic backstory.”
She slammed the door to her apartment and the Writer grabbed the outline and a pen to do some quick rewrites.

“So, you never did tell me.”
“Tell you what?”
“Why is it always a tragic backstory?”
She was sitting on the roof, talking to the sky. The Writer sighed and shrugged at his keyboard.
“I don’t know…it’s easy to write?”
She laughed and adjusted the seat of the mask on her face.
“So, I’m a challenge? That it? Too hard for you?”
“I-I didn’t say that!”
Another laugh and she stood again, looking off into the distance over her city.
“So, who’s it gonna be today, Writer?”
“We’ll see.”
“That’s what you always say.”
The Writer smiled and watched her take off over the rooftops, wishing yet again that she wasn’t just his creation.

The Writer’s fingers flew over the keyboard, bullets narrowly missing his heroine as she fought for her life and the lives of the hostages trapped inside the bank. She was alone, with her back against the wall and her tricks exhausted.
“This can’t be how it ends…”
His voice was soft, almost scared. She looked up and smiled shakily.
“It’s been a good run, but we both knew going into this that the hostages come first.”
She charged. One leap and the air caught her for a moment, suspended there as though she could fly. Then she slammed into the masked man with the gun, knocking him to the ground. They wrestled for it while the hostages ran, knowing this could be their only chance. There were two pops. Two unearthly cracks that shattered the scene. Sure, the man in the mask was down. But so was she. There were tears on the Writer’s face as he wrote of the police bursting in to find hero and villain alike dead. The final thing he could offer to her was the decency of them waiting until they were away from the crowds to take off her mask.