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I turned, expecting to see one of the Elementals. We'd just seen fire. That left air, earth, and water as possibilities, but not, as it turned out, reality. The bearded man behind us was not linked to any element unless camouflage had been added to the list. An automatic rifle that looked larger and heavier than normal hung on his back. His belt held devices I didn't even recognize.

"I am Vengeance," he said.

Cheesy? Just a little, but it seemed a lot less cheesy when you knew his reputation. He didn't have any powers worth mentioning, but he'd taken out powered people by the score.

"Tell the new Red Lightning we need to talk," he said.

Deciding that what I told Vaughn would be more of a warning than a message, I said, "Sure."

"I've got questions for him," he said.

"I'll let him know," I said. "Did you... want to meet him somewhere?"

He laughed. "I'll find him."

In the light of the streetlight, I found that my eyes drifted toward something hanging from a cord around his neck. It didn't look like an ear. Not a whole one at any rate. Maybe an earlobe at most, but definitely a shrunken, dried bit of something.

"One more thing," he said. "Stay away from the mayor. Leave him to the big boys."

Next to me, Haley said, "Isn't that a little condescending?"

"Nah, it's just true. Get a few years in and you might be ready for this. For now, stay out."

He disappeared into the dark.

We stood there for a little while, staring into the darkness. Then we got into the car.

"What a jerk," Haley said. She didn't even put the key into the ignition.

I pulled off my helmet and put it on the floor. I don't mind wearing it, but it gets stuffy after a while.

"I know," I said. "I always heard he was crazy not... I don't know. Whatever that was."

"Why did you even talk to him about Vaughn and all that?"

"I don't know. I was just hoping that he'd go away if I seemed cooperative."

We sat for a few more moments without saying anything.

"So, what do we do now?" Haley asked.

"I'm not sure," I said. Within my brain came the glimmering of the bad point of asking Haley on a non-date to figure out if she'd say yes to actual date--she might not give any sign either way. Or worse, she might give quite a few and I'd miss all of them.

"We've done what we planned," I continued, "I guess we just go home. I don't know how you handled it, but I snuck out the window. I guess I can sneak back in."

"My parents think I'm heading to Sara's to stay overnight after work."

"Does she know that?" One parental call to Sara's could open up a big can of worms.

"She knows. If she gets a call, she'll tell them that I'm asleep. She thinks I'm secretly meeting a boy."

"That's believable," I said. "People really do that."

"They do," she said.

Her expression struck me as somewhere between amusement and frustration.

That's the point at which I probably should have realized that she was trying to tell me something. I didn't. I was thinking about how odd it was that even now in the the twenty-first century asking someone out still often fell to the boy. She probably assumed that because I was older than she was I had some idea of what to do next, and she might even be offended if I didn't do anything.

"You know," she said, "It might be nice if we did something together. I'm not thinking of anything expensive. Coffee could be fun."

On the other hand, it occurred to me, she might have a more realistic understanding of me than I'd thought.
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About the author

zoetewey

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.

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