The child would have powers. She had promised herself that when he had been born. This child would have powers one way or another. No matter what it took, she would not let her son be one of the few Normals of Scuttle Bay. Even if she was, even if her husband was. The question was how. It wasn’t in his blood, that much was clear. That left magic and science as her options. From the day he was born, she started in with everything she had. Vitamibe, spellwork, offerings left for Faeries and gods alike. None of it worked. Finally, she took her infant son to the coast. A pirate wreck lay deep under the water still and she could just barely see the shadow there. Holding the child by the ankle, she held him in the water. He would have powers. He would be a hero. He would make it in this place. Of that, she was convinced. The boy stopped moving. She pulled him out, a mad gleam in her eye. What great powers would he manifest? But his eyes were glassy and dull and he didn’t move
That’s the thing with living in the Scuttle Bay area. It seems like half of the people in the city have a mask tucked in a pocket and some kind of super powers. It could come from the nuclear tests they did just up river back in the 40s. It could come from the modern biotech firms dotting the city. It could also come from the meteor storm that struck about ten years back. I’ve even heard a few people say it’s an old curse or something else to do with the pirates the bay is named for. But honestly, it doesn’t matter. It’s enough to know that half the people in the city have powers and other lives. And the biggest hero is none other than Atomic Ace. He’s pretty much what you’d expect, really. Over 6-foot, sculpted like a god and hung like a horse based on the way the leather clings. Bright blue eyes, like a cloudless day, framed by strong, dark brows and a roman nose. His hair is black as night and cut in a way that screams rugged and manly, which is honestly impressive for a guy who wears his underwear on the outside. Who am I? Folks around here call me Rabbit. I’m what you’d call a speedster. It cropped up when I was about 14, and my folks are both normals so it was something of a surprise. I tried to live as normally as I could, blend in and all that. I was about 17 when I first encountered Atomic Ace. And I thought I was going to die
Marlee Walker held her toothbrush between her lips and glared at her reflection, trying to pull her curly black hair back into a loose ponytail. She had 10 minutes to finish getting ready, get downstairs and get to the bus stop. Assuming, of course, that her day didn’t get wildly disrupted like it usually did. There was a reason she was still working at the family business, after all. At least her folks understood when she had to suddenly vanish in the middle of the day.
That was when the sound of shattering glass echoed through the air. With an audible groan, she jammed her toothbrush into the cup on the counter and spat out of the mouthful of toothpaste. She could fix her hair while she flew.
“Boomerang!” The woman standing on top of the giant robot grinned broadly, throwing her arms wide. “What a pleasure.”
Marlee hovered in the air, a frown on her face behind her painted leather half-mask.
“Who are you and what are you doing?”
The strange woman fidgeted, adjusting the mask that covered her own face.
“That… isn’t important. I’m here to… defeat you!”
Marlee stretched idly, landing with barely a sound.
“Well, we’ll see about that.”
The robot lay in pieces, metal scattered all over the ground. Boomerang held this strange new villain against the wall of a nearby building.
The woman tried to look away.
“I…it’s… I still have one weapon left.”
She blurted the last bit, seeming to surprise even herself.
“Oh? And what’s that?”
Then the woman smiled nervously and leaned in to kiss Marlee gently on the lips. For a long moment, Marlee just stared at her.
“What is this really about?”
The woman pulled her mask off to reveal Marlee’s best friend, Emily, with a chagrined smile on her lips.
“I… couldn’t figure out another way to get your attention. You’re always running off and…”
Marlee could feel the blush coming to her cheeks.
“Em?” She looked around at the scene around them. “You did this so you could…?”
“Corner you long enough to ask you out on a date?”
Marlee pulled Emily in close and carefully floated back down to the ground.
“Friday night sound good? Just don’t bring the robot this time.”
“Only if I get to come with you if you have to run off to save the world.”
You know, there are days where I really feel like I don’t live up to the name Captain Courageous and today is one of those days. Standing in front of the door to Doctor Destruction’s secret base with a bouquet of flowers in my hand and one hand upraised to knock on the door. Before I could move, the door slid open and I found myself staring just over the head of a small robot.
“Master is expecting you.”
“Uh…oh. Good? Th-thank you?”
I’d never really gotten a good chance to look around the volcanic base. Usually, we were fighting. It felt odd being here without my shield, being guided by one of the robots that I was usually trying not to get killed by.
Then we turned a corner and my jaw dropped. There was an entire dining room and kitchen just…here. Doctor Destruction had his back to me as he hummed along to his music and puttered at the stove.
The words were out of my mouth before I had thought the better of it and I felt the blush creeping out from under my mask. Luckily for me, Doctor Destruction had a wonderful sense of humor.
“Of course I do, silly. Do you think I can get delivery out here?”
Part 1: here
Cataclysm wavered where she stood and fell to her knees. She was out of tricks, exhausted, and overwhelmingly done. That meant Vanguard had won again. She looked up at him, ready to surrender, and realized something was wrong. The look on his face. Eyes wide in shock, mouth open. What was happening? What was he looking at like that? Suddenly he stepped in front of her, arms thrown wide.
“What? What are you talking about?”
His voice cracked as he spoke again.
“Just…just stay down. I won’t let them. I won’t let them do this.”
She stared up at him and realized there was a single tear rolling down his cheek.
“I always thought they’d listen to me. I’ve always believed in you, that someday you’d listen and stop all of this. I…I guess they didn’t believe.”
He was shaking.
“Vanguard, what are you talking about?”
Her voice was hard with fear and confusion and he just looked at her, his own eyes full of sorrow.
“There’s a sniper on the roof behind me. Right now, they’re trying to decide if I’m an acceptable loss in taking you down for good.”
“But.” She faltered. “You’re a hero! You’re their hero. Why would they do that? How do you know?”
He hesitated and reached to brush her auburn hair away from her forehead.
“I saw the laser sight. I’m so sorry. If I’d known… If I had any idea.”
Cataclysm reached up and pulled her mask off.
“Jamie. My…my name is Jamie Fisher. Tell them I’ll stop. I’ll surrender. Hell, I’ll become a hero, if that’s what they want. But I’m not worth you dying over.”
Vanguard relaxed slightly and started to move, reaching for the radio that would let him speak to the police. Then a single world shattering crack tore through the sky and he fell. Cataclysm stared in horror as his white body armor began to turn red.
“Wait, wait, go back. You like me? Like me like me?”
Slowly, I lowered my deathray and stared at Captain Courageous. He had a wry smile on his face and a bit of a blush under his mask.
“I know, it was a surprise to me too.” Taking a step towards me, he slung his shield on his back again. “To be perfectly honest, before I met you I’d never even…” He took a breath and looked me up and down. “I’d never considered that I might-”
“What?” I cut in, grinning. “That you might be capable of love? That you might have a crush on a villain?”
He reached out and grabbed the front of my costume.
“That I might be gay.”
My breath caught in my chest and then I let my deathray fall from my fingers as I reached for him.
“No, I’m not going all existential on you, I’m being 100% serious. What makes him a good guy and me not?”
I looked him over, arms crossed over my chest. It was an interesting question, really.
“Your last operation, what happened?”
He sighed and brushed his hair back out of his eyes for the millionth time. The white streak was still there, cutting its way through the dark brown like a bolt of lightning. Dropping back into his chair, he steepled his hands and leaned his forehead against them.
“It was the usual, really. A snatch and grab. I got the loot and got out, no problems, no casualties.”
Another long-suffering sigh and he shifted.
“I split it up with a few of the guys that work for me-“
I said it calmly, no judgment in my voice, but he still went tense.
“They’re not minions. Minions wear faceless masks, no one knows their names and they have a short life expectancy. Danny and Coop have been working for me for nearly ten years and I know their families.”
“Okay, okay, employees.”
“They even have dental plans…” He smiled sheepishly and then continued. “Anyway, we split up the cash and they were taking it to the drops.”
“Oh, you know,” there was a little flutter in his hands now and a smile on his face, “soup kitchen down on third and the battered women’s shelter on fifth. I was taking the rest to get it to this guy who’s a whizz at laundering. He makes sure the guys get paid a legitimate paycheck.”
That made me pause and I set down my pencil.
“You were making donations? You stole from the bank to make donations.”
It took me a long moment to pull myself back together enough that I could keep taking notes.
“So…so what happened then?”
“Well, Captain Courageous shows up, as always. He put Coop in the hospital, by the way. Danny managed his drop alright, but Coop…poor guy. I’m still making sure we get the usual amount to the shelter…its just coming out of what I usually use to post bail.”
“I’m here again, aren’t I?”
He looked at me seriously for a moment and then looked pointedly at the glass separating us.
“They’re getting paid and Coop’s medical bills have been taken care of. It just means I’m staying here a little longer than usual.”