"Cody, did you tidy up your room?" his mother called out from the hallway, just outside his room.
"Yeah, mom!" the red-haired boy yelled back through the closed door that had the biggest, coolest poster of Spiderman, EVER, taped to it. Wouldn't it be great to be him, he thought?
"OK then," she replied, walking back down the stairs to the living room.
He had lots of time before bed, so tonight he decided to take a closer look at a website he recently discovered. He clicked on the bookmarked site: superheroesnow.com.
Cody was nine years old; like most boys his age, super heroes, dinosaurs, magic, and stories of adventure fascinated him immensely. They sparked his imagination, and often found their way into his daydreams; sometimes even his sleeping dreams. Tonight he would imagine that he was one of the super heroes on this website. He clicked on the "homepage" icon and read the introductory copy to the site:
"SUPER HEROES NOW!"
"Is there such a thing as a super hero? Do you believe there are men and women that walk among us with abilities to effect positive change, and reduce the crime rates in our communities? If your answer is YES, then you've come to the right place. If the answer is NO, then leave now, oh non-believer."
Right next to the "homepage" icon was a "heroes'" icon. He clicked it and a list of super heroes from all over America were displayed. There must have been at least thirty of them – more than he could have possibly imagined. There was a full colour photo of each super hero, his or her name, and a background story on each that popped up when their picture was clicked on. Wow, how cool was that! He scrolled down to look at all the pictures first. Most looked good in their costumes, five or six looked fantastic; as good as anything he had seen in a movie or comic book, but a couple, he thought, not so much.
Still, real super heroes, and three of them were right here in his very own city! There was Captain Flak – he was this guy all in blue body armour and pads; he had a blue football helmet too. Then there was Mezmo – he looked like a creepy wizard or something; he was all dressed in black, wore a cloak, a very wide brimmed hat, and a scarf that covered his mouth. The coolest costume award would have to go to this guy. And finally, there was RetroBution – he was one of the guys with the worst looking costume, ever. He sort of looked like a jockey; all in bright, canary yellow, and wearing purple goggles. Maybe it was a good thing this guy did his crime fighting at night, he thought.
Cody read every background story for each and every super hero on the entire site, but couldn't find what he was the most interested in knowing. What were their super powers? Talk about a major oversight. How disappointing. Wait, maybe, just maybe, they didn't want to reveal them to just anyone. If a super villain or evil mastermind knew what their powers were, then they could invent or find something to defeat the super heroes with, like a green rock or something. Yes, that must be it.
"Cody, what are you doing in there?" That was the warden, a.k.a. his mother with the light check – it was time for bed.
"Nothing, mom." He turned off the computer, then went over and opened the door. "I'm going to bed."
"OK then. Do you want me to tuck you in?"
"No thanks." He wondered if Spiderman's mother tucked him in when he was nine. No way.
The next day at school, he didn't hear a thing any of his teachers were saying. Well, he heard them, but they might as well have been speaking Klingon or something. He was daydreaming again. He was thinking about all the super heroes on that website, and imagining what their secret, super powers were. Captain Flak? Now, he looked like he could take some damage; bet he was super strong too – probably picked up cars and stuff. Mezmo? He likely had magic powers; maybe he hypnotized bad guys too. Crap! Maybe he could even conjure up demons from the underworld! Not evil demons, you know, but the good ones. That could happen. RetroBution? Well, this guy was a mystery. He looked like he should be riding a horse, but if that were the case, wouldn't it be better to be dressed like a cowboy? AND, if he was a cowboy, then he could be lassoing bad guys. That would work, but he wasn't a cowboy. Cody decided that maybe the jockey look was just an accident. He probably wasn't one, but the costume and name gave him no clue as to his secret powers. Cody decided then and there he just had to meet these local super heroes.
When he got home; at the supper table, he asked his dad the question. "Dad?"
"Dad, could you take me to meet the super heroes?"
"What super heroes?"
"The ones that are patrolling our streets, and keeping us all safe at night. There are three of them right here!"
Brad looked up at Sarah directly across from him. "Do you know what your son is talking about?"
"No idea, and he's your son too by the way. Cody, what's all this about?"
Cody looked at his parents; he couldn't believe they didn't know. "There, are, super heroes, here, in this city." He made sure to say it real slow.
"That's nice," his father said a second before he stuck a piece of steak in his mouth. The way he chewed reminded Cody of a cartoon cow he once saw on TV.
"Oh, Cody, you have such an imagination." His mother smiled that loving, knowing smile that could almost make you hurl.
"I'm NOT making stuff up! They have a website and everything!"
"OK, I'll check it out after dinner." His father just wanted to savour his favourite meal. "Finish your broccoli."
Cody frowned and stabbed at the horrible vegetable with his fork. "This stuff looks like green brains, and tastes like..."
"Eat," his parents said in unison.
After dinner, Brad sat down with his son at the family computer. "Now, what's the name of this website?"
"Super heroes now dot com – all one word." Cody still couldn't believe they had no idea.
"Here we are.... Hey, Sarah, come and look at this."
Sarah turned the TV off; walked over to stand behind them, and leaned down to get a closer look. "So, there are real super heroes after all," she smiled and winked at her husband.
"Yes, it would seem so," her husband confirmed, smiling back.
"I want to meet them, pleeease!"
"Brad, now you know how he gets when he's like this." His mother was surrendering even before Cody started his incessant whining and begging.
"Yeah," Brad breathed out the word in resignation. He clicked through a few pages until he found what he was looking for. "Here's something.... They have weekly meetings, and there's one this Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. It says all are welcome to come."
"Can we, dad?"
"Yeah, sure." Brad looked at Sarah, and shrugged his shoulders. She gave him back a look that meant: "Just do it".
Saturday took forever to arrive; Cody had been ready two days ago. He even printed out the local heroes' photos so he could get their autographs on them, even the guy that looked like a jockey. Come to think of it, he kinda looked like a yellow canary too – if he had been green, maybe a frog, especially with those big goggles.
Brad drove his excited son into the downtown core. For the most part, it was a relatively safe area. It was nowhere near as bad as some of the larger cities. Sure, there was the occasional drunken brawl, even the odd murder, and there were a couple of gangs around; their graffiti was noticeable here and there. But he was never concerned when he came downtown at this time of day by himself. It's just that, he was now here with his son, and he didn't want to put him in harms way, even if there was a remote chance of something happening. His son really wanted this bad, but he still felt a little guilty for bringing him to this seedier part of the city. Well, at least it wasn't dark, yet.
He parked the car in a small parking lot just across the street from a row of old storefronts. One of those shabby units was suppose to be the super heroes' hangout. Super heroes? Right. Brad shook his head. As they walked closer, he could make out a second-hand bookstore in one unit; another was being used for a local politician's campaign headquarters. Not so bad, Brad thought, at least there wasn't a porn shop among them.
"Dad, look! Here it is!" Cody shouted, as he pointing to the sign on the door; he read it out loud: "Super heroes are real and we are here now."
Brad noticed that it was like one of those two-sided open/closed signs. He imagined the other side should say: "Super heroes are all out to lunch."
Brad tried the door, but it was locked. He looked inside, but the front half of the run-down store was empty. There was another door toward the back of the store; a bright light glowed from the wide gap at its bottom. He pressed the buzzer; a few seconds later, the door opened and out walked...
"Captain Flak!" shouted Cody gleefully, as he clasped his hands together.
Soon Cody and his dad were sitting around a wobbly card table with all three super heroes in full costume. Cody noticed his father looked a bit uncomfortable.
"We like to think of this as our round table, as in the Knights of the Round Table," Captain Flak pointed out to break the awkwardly long silence.
"Looks more square," Brad observed dryly.
"Yes, but the corners are rounded," Mezmo defended.
"Point taken." Brad wasn't going to push it. "So, what do you fellows do?"
Cody leaned up to whisper in his dad's ear. "Ask them about their super powers." There was no reaction from his dad.
"First, let me welcome you," Captain Flak began. "We don't get many visitors here, but we are always looking for new members, and are always open to the public. I'll let Mezmo answer your question – he's better at that sort of thing than me. Mezmo?"
"We are a subculture of heroes, based in reality, that don elaborate costumes to reflect our strong, inner resolutions to become part of a comprehensive solution in solving the extreme problems we continuously face in our urban communities in this space-time continuum."
Dead silence – you could have heard a smiley button drop. Brad looked at Captain Flak, then at RetroBution. He avoided further eye contact with Mezmo.
"What he means is that we patrol the streets as a group, and that our visibility in the community helps to keep crime down," explained RetroBution, who had been forced out of silence by Brad's stare. "We also participate in food drives, and other charitable things throughout the year."
"Oh, OK, that sounds good." Brad was relieved by the second answer – he put off his excuse for getting out of there in a hurry. "So, you guys are basically providing a community service; whatever might be needed at the time."
"Yep, that's it in a nutshell," said Captain Flak.
"What are your super powers?" Cody blurted out to Captain Flak. He couldn't stand not knowing any longer.
"Kid, we don't have any real super powers. We're super heroes, not super humans – there's a difference. Super, for us, just means that we're very good at what we do, and we like to think of ourselves as heroes to our local community; thus the term 'super hero'."
"Oh." This was worse than when he found out Santa Claus was a fake. He wasn't going to cry though. Super heroes, even fake ones, never do.
"Sorry, kid. Anyway, thanks for dropping by, but we need to hit the streets, and start our patrol. It's getting dark and it's Saturday night – a perfect storm for crime."
"Sure," Brad said, as he got up. "Thanks for your time. Come on, Cody."
Cody stood up, but was now staring down at the yellowing (once white) tiled floor, and with a frown that no amount of chocolate ice cream could ever reverse.
"Say goodbye, Cody."
"Bye," he said meekly in defeat, and trailed behind his dad to the front door.
No sooner were all five of them out the door than the sound of shattered glass was heard. All looked in the direction to see Brad's car being broken into by a gang. There were five young men in their late teens or early twenties. Individually, they would have passed for any typical looking youth from the rougher part of town, but together, with their body language, and of course the group's interest in the contents of Brad's car, it was immediately obvious that this wasn't going to be good.
"Get away from that car!" Captain Flak yelled, as he walked toward the group, followed by his costumed companions as backup.
The gang stopped what they were doing, but stood their ground, and waited for the three to approach. At first, all were speechless; stunned really, like raccoons in headlights. Then one started to laugh, then another and another.
"You're joking, right?" one said.
"Look, it's Captain Ameri-can't," said another.
"Who are your friends?" a third added.
"That one looks like Zorro, or is that Zerro, but your mask should be over your eyes, not your mouth," said the first one, who could barely force out the words between his bouts of laughter.
"Should be over his whole face," another added. With this, the group broke down into hysterical laughter.
"You, yellow dude. I think, your horse, is five miles that way," the first one could barely talk, but managed to point in the general direction of the racetrack.
Captain Flak wasn't amused. "Are you guys finished?"
"No, I'm Danish." The first one was on a roll, unfortunately, the rest of the gang didn't get the joke.
"Yeah, he's a tasty pastry," said a fourth, which further killed the moment.
The link in the chain of jokes had been broken, and the laughter soon died down. The group now focused their attention back to the business at hand.
"So, besides making us laugh to death, what are you going to do?" said the first one – the leader and spokesman of the gang.
"This!" Captain Flak yelled, as he pulled out a baseball from one of his many utility pockets.
The leader responded by pulling out a knife, and advanced on the overly padded crusader.
Like a pitcher, Captain Flak used a standard fastball grip, and threw the ball with all his might at the thug. Sadly (for the leader), the Captain's aim wasn't very good, and the hard ball missed the targeted knife-hand, but did hit his groin dead centre. This brought down the leader quickly; he wasn't laughing now, but Cody did learn a couple of new swear words. His gang wasn't laughing either, and they too were now swearing, as they advanced on the three heroes. Two pulled out knives, but a third pulled out a small, black handgun.
But before they could take a second step, all four froze in their tracks, as if incased in blocks of ice. None of them could move a muscle, or even speak, but they all saw the little, red-haired boy who came out from behind the three costumed heroes.
"You are bad guys!" Cody shouted. "I don't think I like you at all." He gave them an odd stare while raising his small hands over his head.
The four men were lifted up off the black pavement, and floated in place a couple of feet from the ground; their paralyzed muscles were useless. Only fear and disbelief could be seen in their eyes, as they stared (unable to even blink) at the angry nine-year-old looking up at them.
"Cody, stop that now, please," said his father firmly, and walk forward to stand beside his son.
"But, dad, these are bad guys."
"I'll take over from here."
"You never let me have any fun." He pouted, put his hands on his hips, and started kicking at something invisible on the pavement with the toe of his orange sneaker.
Brad held out his right hand; curled his fingers slight downward, and like puppets on strings, the four men were lowered back down to the pavement. Then, with a flick of his hand, he released them from the hold. The four just stood there shaking with fear; not one of them had anything clever to say.
"Now, get out of here and take your friend with you."
One reached down to help up their leader, but the other three just ran away as fast as they could.
Brad approached the three heroes who stood motionless with disbelief. "Forget," Brad said as he gestured like a magician with a wave of his right hand. All three closed their eyes for a second; when they opened them, they had a look of total confusion.
"What's going on?" asked Captain Flak.
"Some kid was breaking into my car, but you fellows scared him away. Don't you remember? Anyway, thanks again for everything."
"Yeah, sure, of course," the Captain replied, as he racked his synapses to remember.
The three just stood there with blank looks on their faces, as Brad and Cody got into the car, and drove off. On the way home, Brad decided to have a talk with his son about what had just happened. "Cody?"
"You did the right thing. I'm very proud of you."
"Thanks, dad. But why can't I do it all the time? I'm a real super hero; not like those fakes."
"You were a hero today, Cody, but there's no such thing as a super hero. It's all fantasy; it's only in films and books."
"But what about our powers?"
"I'd rather you call them 'abilities'. Remember, on the planet where you were born, everyone has these abilities. And if everyone is the same, no one is really super. Also, we can't be called 'super human' either for an obvious reason – wrong planet."
"Right, dad." He sighed.
Brad wasn't completely lying to his son, but he knew it was only a matter of time before this shaky level of logic would no longer work. Under different conditions, his son could be Earth's real life super hero, but he knew the realities of this planet. His son wasn't going to be turned into some government lab experiment, or fought over by greedy men lusting for power, if he could help it. Super heroes were a reality – the fantasy was that this world would actually leave them alone. He didn't come to this conclusion arbitrarily. He had read their histories. He knew how badly they had treated their own people with special abilities in the past. Just look what they had done to the son of their own God. What chance does the son of an alien have?
"So, how are you doing at school?"
"Pretty good, I guess."
This story was not intended to put down the fine community service that real life costumed heroes do. Yes, they are real. I am all for super community service, just don't take the law into your own hands. Help others if you can, but do call the police a.s.a.p. if needed.
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