Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The alley was quiet, a nice shortcut between Sixth and Rogers. I’d used it a few times on dates with Cassie, since her parents were strict on when she got home.
        “So how was the movie?”
        “Interesting,” Edsel said from beside me in his soft, accentless voice. “I had expected a virtual system.”
        “Might happen some day. Right now it’s just to expensive and if everyone sees the movie really differently in VR landscapes. There’s not enough commonality their yet, or something.”
        “I would think they all get different things from it regardless.”
        “I guess. But they have the same basic experience, not having rejigged a VR to turn the characters into furries or something from their view.”
        “Besides, I just wanted to know if --.”
        “Your money, now!” The voice was harsh, a gun waved a the two of us after we walked by the dumpster. The gunman was wearing shades and looked scruffy, sounded desperate.
        I looked down at my hands, which remained normal, and got between him and Edsel. “Are you stupid?”
        “I said gimme all your money! Now!”
        “Do you know how many superhumans and vigilantes this city has?” I demanded. “How many people have you even managed to mug?”
        He stared at me, then waved his pistol. “I’ve got the gun!”
        “For all you know I could be one,” I snarled.
        “You - you haven’t done anything.” He clicked the safety off. “Money! No tricks!”
        I glanced down at my hand, saw my skin had begun to turn red and tried to keep the change from reaching my face. I looked back up and sighed. “Why do you even need the money?”
        “You’re not my goddamn therapist!” He moved closer towards us, and finally noticed Edsel. “Mother of god....”
        I glanced over; Edsel removed the sunglasses he habitually wore outside and was holding them in his hands. Grey, two-fingered alien hands and onyx eyes stared at the would-be mugger.
        “He’s just a friend,” I said quickly; I didn’t know what would happen if he shot Edsel, but I doubted most hospitals would be able to treat the wound fast enough.
        “I. I.” The mugger threw his gun into the dumpster, added an: “Oh shit,” tonelessly and began to run.
        “I didn’t want you getting shot either,” Edsel said calmly as he put the glasses back on. “His motives might be interesting.”
        “Right.” I snapped my fingers, two bolts of red energy flashing from my thumb that sliced brick out of the wall in front of the mugger and carved a line in the alleyway in front of him.
        The mugger stopped and looked back, then froze.
        “You’re going to hurt me, aren’t you?”
        I sighed and walked over. “You could have kept running?”
        “You - you sliced right through the ground!”
        “Oh. Right.” I tried to let me skin return to normal. “Why did you want to mug us”
        “You’re not gong to beat me up?”
        “Why would I?”
        “Your skin turned frikken’ red and-- and--” the mugger waved a hand to the shattered brick wall. “That, to flesh!”’
        “I wouldn’t.” He stared at me in disbelief. “Part of my power is being really good at controlling it; I doubt you’d want a demonstration though?”
        He nodded.
        “So, why this...?” I waved a hand to the dumpster with the gun, but still saw him flinch.
        “I lost my job to the Fixer.”
        “Sorry, who?”
        The mugger scowled. “He fixes stuff. Buildings. Rods. Not much need for public works with assholes like that around.”
        “Public works accepts anyone,” Edsel put in quietly from behind me.
        “What the alien said. Tried finding a job after that, but --.” He shrugged. “I never finished high school, you know? And I thought about how most people expect the heroes to save them, and figured --.” He shrugged. “First two kids beat the living crap out of me. Street Angel got them into self-defence classes. Ended up running away from a suspicious shadow, you know, the second time.”
        “And we were number three?” I said slowly.
        “Yeah. I don’t even have insurance against getting beaten up by super-folk, you know? I just didn’t know what to do.”
        “Wait, insurance?”
        “You’re new at this, aren’t you?” My would-be mugger relaxed a little. “Look, if you spent all your time hitting giant robots, blasting people who can take that,” waving a hand to the line I’d cut in the earth, “All the time, you might hit a regular person too hard one day, right? Or, if not you, some other hero.”
        “It’s why they let the vigilantes deal with muggings. And they’re easy enough to avoid, really. I just --.” He shrugged again.
        “There is a Drycleaners down by the warehouse district, fourteenth and Smith. They’re rebuilding, and could use more staff. Easy job to learn, and there is at least one opening.” I grinned. “Take out one superhuman who is having a fit about the state of his clothing and no one looks at you the same again.”
        “You really don’t plan to hurt me?”
        “I’m not a superhero. So no.” I paused, thinking that over. “That came out really bad, didn’t it?”
        “A little,” Edsel said. “And your powers shielding me or not, I need to get home soon. There is -- too much to See out here.”
        I nodded, walking past the man who’d tried to mug me and kept going.
        “You plan to call and find out if he shows?” Edsel said, sounding a little strained.
        I sent out more energy on the infra-level, trying to give him more respite from the amount of information flooding him. “His choice. Sid you see him?”
        “In the alley. You never issued any warning.”
        “I know.”
        I looked over, but he looked back without any expression I cold decipher. “I’m not a superhero,” I said. “I don’t plan to be one.”
        “I know,” Edsel said again.
        “Then what was that about?”
        “Giving you reasons why. Reminding you, when you fly, that people don’t look up to see gods overhead.”
        “They don’t?”
        “They’re too busy watching for falling debris,” the alien said, and we were both silent for the rest of the walk to his home.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Quest

I'm the locker room joke come to life. Everyone makes those jokes, about the kid who can see into the girls locker room, or the invisible pervert. I'm superhuman: I can do both those things, and a few more beside. I can shift my shape and sneak into places, through barriers -- but none if makes a superhero.

Not that I ever wanted to be one. We all grew up reading about them, about their exploits and their deed, and until the Super Expose came along no one probed into marriages, team rivalries, bad passport photos: they'd all be scared. But not Mac the Maverick. He went after all of them (even Atomic Crunch) and they beat up photographers issued restraining orders, blew up his offices, sued him -- and that was just the superheroes. But he published anyway , the truth, the lies, the slurs that people gave up and got paid for (sometimes) and showed, sometimes painfully, how thin the veneer of 'super' lies over that of 'human'.

Everyone hates me. Even those who loved what he did hated him. But I never did. I wasn't going to go around calling myself Peeping Tom and being some superhero, or some villain, or work for some shitty shadow government. I was going to get rich. And I did and I have. I don't do it for the money anymore. Mac has other superpaparazzi for that these days. I just follow special projects, like The Eight.

And Dance Master. He's fast, he flies: that makes him hard to take pictures of, track, pin down. I've followed him for that alone. And seen him dance. I've seen his dances that kill ninjas, his dances to woo women, his death dance that took down an entire Chess Board in close quarters. I've seen him at his strongest, his weakest, and every point between.

But he' s clever. For all the press hounds him, he declares he has no boyfriend at all. I understand why: he doesn't get many endorsement deals as it is. I know finding this will hurt him. But there is nothing more important than truth, no matter how many stones we uncover to get at it. He's handsome. Beautiful. Athletic. Male. And his power is superdancing for chrissakes. Anyone can draw the lines, but he still refuses to let them put the picture together.

I admire that. I really do. But it does not prevent me from doing my job. Nor the women he brings home and screws like wine bottles. (I called it "corking them" in an editorial; the lawsuit is ongoing.) I know it's just a cover. I know he loves me, deep inside. I know what his powers are trying to tell him.

I know he'll understand, some day. The letters, the roses. the articles. All of it. We only hurt the ones we love. All he has to do is admit what everyone knows. And I will applaud his bravery, smile
my bedroom smile, and he will know how much I cared for him, how much I love him, to drag him into the light.. With one simple camera, and a flash.

Friday, October 10, 2008


It all depends on upon the things it all depends upon
When the air is full of whispers, and the sky is filled with pain
And no one is there to tell you just what it's supposed to mean