Thursday, September 20, 2012

Self-Taught Superheroes, Part Eighteen

I know I've mentioned this before, but comic books did not actually provide a very good guide to how my life was going to be when I got super-powers. Especially when it came to meeting other superheroes. In the comics, it's so common it's got an entry on TV Tropes all to itself; when two heroes meet for the first time, the first thing they do is assume the other one is a villain and start pounding.

In real life, it totally doesn't work that way. First, none of us are stupid. We did kind of notice a whole bunch of unconscious guards, and an even larger number of freed prisoners who didn't look especially menaced. Even in the heat of battle, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the weird-looking guy in the junkshop armor and the woman whose hands were shimmering with unearthly light might have been responsible for that.

Second, none of us are stupid. When you run into a room and see someone who's obviously got superpowers, and you don't know what they are, the last thing you want to do is just start punching. What if their super-power is they have acid sweat, or that they can make you feel all the pain inflicted on them, or their bodies are actually portals into the Dimension of Angry Telepathic Frogs? You look pretty stupid, is what. (And ouchy. Stupid I can handle, but ouchy less so.) Superheroes fight like cats do, lots of sizing each other up and trying to look like someone you shouldn't mess with and deep down, in the back of your mind where you hope it doesn't show, calculating your odds of getting your butt kicked and wondering whether you should just run away.

So that was pretty much how we met Shining Dragon Fist and Neutrino Man. Not that either one of them was called that, then.

"I'm Captain Light," Josh said. "You might have heard of me." It was almost funny, watching him meet other superheroes. He was totally different from the way he talked to me. He lowered his voice a little, stood up straighter...he didn't actually add "citizen" to the end of all his sentences, but you could imagine him doing it with a straight face. (Well, with as straight a face as you already had. When I said 'almost funny', I really meant 'I was trying so hard not to bust out into giggles that my face got flushed.' Which is actually really weird looking on someone with light green skin. But I digress.) He finished up with, "We're here to rescue you."

Shu bowed low. "I am Shu Mai, the Shining Fist of the Celestial Dragon of the North Wind. We are most deeply gracious for your assistance, and I offer my own humble skills in return."

"I'm um, Kevin." Kevin waved. (In case it wasn't obvious, he wasn't Neutrino Man then.) "Am I supposed to have a cool name? I mean, I could probably think of one if you need one, but I really don't want to start thinking of this as a career choice or anything. I'm just trying to help out."

John Q. Public smiled. "Helping out is like shingles, my man. You get it once, it gets into your system and you're stuck with it for life." He looked over at Lord Raptor, who was just beginning to get those shifty eyes that suggested he was wondering if we were distracted enough not to notice him sneaking away. "Too bad it works both ways."

And of course, that left it to me to be the practical one. "Um, hate to break up the introductions, but there's still a lot of bad guys. How many prisoners are there, and do we have a way to get them out of here?"

"No," said Lord Raptor. "You don't." His eyes were doing a mile-a-minute shifty, now, but his voice was calm and confident. "My men are disorganized at the moment, but that won't last forever. If you leave this base, I can guarantee you the automatic defenses will cut your prisoners down before they've gone fifty feet. Even if you disable them, you couldn't possibly stop all of my Raptor transports from killing them from the air. You're outnumbered, outgunned, and frankly outclassed. Your best bet is to surrender now."

"Spoken like a man with a lot to lose," John replied, charging up his stolen rifle. "Do we need to go over the whole question of your courage?"

"Yes," Lord Raptor snarled back. "We do. Because I guarantee you, my men will settle the score. Seventy-two people, Mister 'Public'. You will not get them out of here alive. You have my personal word that dead or alive, I will ensure that those fatalities are on your conscience. I'm not without mercy, of course. If you surrender, I will arrange for an exile in another dimension once we've solved the problem of powering the portals. Not the most comfortable of fates, but better than your current dilemma."

John glared back. "You think that we're just going to hop into one of your portals and leave the Earth to--"

"Oh!" Kevin cried out. "Oh, oh, I think-- Yes, if we just-- Oh, this is so clever..." He suddenly became aware of everyone staring at him. "Sorry. I just figured out how to get everyone out of here. Us included. The portal chamber, where I came from. I hacked into their computer system and sealed off the route between there and here, I didn't want to have to fight anybody I didn't have to. We can get back there without running into any guards. Then we just have to set the portal to a destination here on Earth, somewhere safe, and we can herd everyone through!"

"I thought the portals couldn't be sustained that long," Josh replied. "How are we going to get them going without a power source?"

"We've got a power source," Kevin said, his face alight with excitement. "You!"


1 comment:

Les Fontenelle said...

This is excellent, Mr. Seavey; please keep up with the fascinating work. I loved the bit about superheroes fighting like cats, it makes an enormous amount of sense.