I stepped into the only clear corner of Grandpa’s lab. After a brief burst of red light, the retinal scanner passed me, four walls shot up from the floor, and the elevator dropped several hundred feet into the earth.
Moments later, I stepped out into the remains of the headquarters of Earth’s premiere postwar superhero team. Think concrete walls, floors and ceiling with an olive green carpet that had to have been installed in the 1970’s. The TV was twenty feet high and used to show the faces of presidents and generals needing the League’s help.
That night it would show “The Godfather” (Daniel’s choice) which fit the dignity of the place better than last week’s movie--“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (my choice).
Cassie’s choices veered wildly between romantic comedies and war movies.
She sat down and looked irritated when I told them about Jaclyn, but Daniel just said, “Ok, let’s go.”
I grabbed a piece of pizza and sat in a bucket seat salvaged from Dr. Madness’ War Machine, one of many mementos littering the League’s HQ. Whatever else might be said about that late, unlamented, evil genius, he had comfortable chairs.
We watched Michael Corleone get pulled back into the family business. Cassie fiddled with items from her duffle bag, but Daniel and I enjoyed it.
After it ended, Cassie got up and walked to the bathroom while I popped out the DVD and put Guitar Hero II into the playstation.
While Daniel and I worked our way through “Carry On, My Wayward Son,” she came back. I didn’t notice until he paused the game.
“I’m going out on patrol,” she said.
She wore a costume that was an exact match for her father’s—light blue with the red, white and blue of the U.S. flag covering her chest. I recognized the material. My grandfather had designed it for her father. It was resistant to bullets and most physical attacks. Grandpa could have made it bulletproof, but Captain Commando preferred mobility to protection. His major power was regeneration, so being hit wasn't such a big deal.
Cap’s costume had also been skintight, but I’d never thought about it.
I noticed one other thing. She’d cut off her hair. It was a short, blond brush cut instead of shoulder length.
“Your hair,” I asked.
“Oh,” she said, “it wasn’t comfortable under the mask and it moved around a lot. So I cut it off back in August.”
“You had hair five minutes ago.”
She pulled a blond wig out of her duffel bag.
“Now that we’ve got the important stuff out of the way,” she said, “why don’t we get back to the original point. I’m going out on patrol. Anyone want to go with me?”
Daniel said, “Sure. I’ll go get into costume. It’s in my car.”
“You guys go,” I said. “I’ll be here.”
“Why?” Cassie said. Whether her tone had an accusatory edge to it or not, I believed I heard one.
“Because that’s not a direction I want my life to take,” I said. “I sat down here with my grandfather or up in his lab and met the heroes who came through. Half of them were talking about their divorces or how their lives were going down the tubes because they were fighting crime instead of paying attention to their job or their kids. I don’t want to do that.
“I want to have a life where I only have one identity and I have time to do things actually I care about.”
“Oh,” she said. “Well, do that then.”
Daniel said, “It doesn’t have to be like that. My parents have been happily married for years and for that matter, I’d say his work as a prosecutor actually complements his work as a superhero.”
“Let’s just drop it,” she said. “You go change, I’ve got to find something.”
As he walked toward the elevator, he grinned at me and I heard his voice in my head. Don’t worry about it. She’s just nervous. First time out on the streets at night. And by the way, if you do know where her dad’s sword is, tell her. It might be a while before she asks.
Well, a telepath would know. On the other hand, I thought to myself, I could just let her search.
Not worth it.
Cassie, in the meantime, was already looking irritated. The League’s meeting room was the size of a basketball court and filled with file cabinets, obscure curios, small monuments and awards.
More than one sword hung on the wall.
“Cassie,” I said, “ I know where your dad’s sword is.”
“Really?” She swept across the room with her eyes. “That’s great, because I don’t want sort through all this crap right now.”
I got it for her. It was in the storage area for powered equipment just off the meeting room along with my grandpa’s spare suits, all of them standing at attention, shining golden in the light, and waiting for action.
It’s been called the Freedom Sword and the Eagle Sword but that’s just by the press. Cap just called it the sword and occasionally “the goddamn oversized can-opener.” From what I’ve heard, he never had any strong attachment to it. It’s associated with him in the public imagination because it’s the only piece of equipment Grandpa made for him that lasted more than a couple months. Well, that and the fact that he died with it in his hand.
It’s not really meant for sword fighting. It’s more for chopping through things like tanks, walls and bridges.
As Cassie strapped the sword on her back, she said, “Thanks.”
“Not to spoil the gesture,” she said, “but the only reason you knew what I was looking for is because Daniel pulled it out of my head and told you, right?”
“He has to stop doing that. Even when it helps, it’s still creepy.”
“You’ll get no argument from me,” I said.
They left soon after that.
I tried playing Guitar Hero for a little while, but I found I wasn’t in the mood. I thought about going home and going to bed, but it was only nine.
I got up and walked into the lab. I could almost see grandpa there, scribbling on the plans for the next version of his suit, mumbling about what an idiot he’d been when he designed the last version and telling me how much better the next version would be.
He wasn’t there, of course.
The tools, the tables and the fabrication machines… They were there. The computers we’d used to design the last version of the suit were there too.
He’d included me in the process, justifying it by saying he needed a young mind to help him with the CAD software. By the end, I knew every piece of the suit, the materials, the systems and subsystems, his design philosophy and the experiences behind some of the quirkier design choices he’d made.
The suit stood in the corner like medieval armor—assuming that armor had been designed in an Art Deco style. It was golden with black detailing. Streamlined. Slim.
I stared at the helmet.
Would it kill me, I asked myself, if I took to the streets for one night?
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Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at http://legionofnothing.com. He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.