Fiction Fragment Friday
This week’s story comes from a place of struggle and self doubt. I have been locked up unable to sit down and write for over a week now. I just could not get out of my own head. When I sat down to write this week’s story I decided to use it to exorcise the thoughts I just couldn’t get rid of in another way.
I planned out the direction of the story, but once I started writing the ending went in a completely different direction than I had planned. While the main character’s obsessing is very much a part of me his final conclusions do not at all match my own view of comic book heroes and villains.
I hope that by writing this I have cleared my head and worked through the writers block. Only time will tell.
Sometimes a well meaning complement can be more devastating than the harshest criticism. Case in point last week I was told that I had the potential to be the best sidekick that Protector had ever had. That might sound like a complement I could be proud of, but the subtext is what sticks in my head. The hero that told me that didn’t see me as Protector’s partner like I had come to think of myself. They also didn’t see me as someone who could be a hero in my own right someday. By complementing me they were putting me into a box and defining my limitations. Someone criticizing me tends to motivate me to prove them wrong. I might dwell on that criticism for a time, but a complement like that one will stay with me for much longer. While a criticism may chip away at my confidence, a complement takes up a home in my head and wrigglers it’s way into my every thought. I acknowledge I might have some issues I should probably be working on in ways other than dressing up in a SuperHero costume and looking for someone to punch.
It was in this mindset that I found myself late last night perched on a downtown rooftop. My target was going by the name Adam Baker, but that identity seemed to spring into existence about six months ago. It was good work and would hold up fairly well to scrutiny for anyone who didn’t have offline copies of quite a few federal databases to compare it with. As I watched him through my binoculars that voice in the back of my head kept telling me I should call in Protector. Normally I would just handle something like this myself, but that voice was there telling me that maybe I just wasn’t good enough to work on my own.
I had stumbled across this man when he bought my best friend’s building and started forcing the tenants out. Initially I started looking into him out of anger, but the more I dug the stranger it got. It seemed that every new tenant of the building had previously worked as a henchperson for one of the many costumed villains this city seems to attract. The Adam Baker identity just appeared one day with all the needed records, but no trace of where he got his money. His first action was to buy an apartment building and start renting it to known criminals at an extremely low rate. It sure seemed suspicious but I was questioning my instincts and wondering if maybe he was just helping them reform.
With my thoughts so distracted I didn’t notice that I was not alone on the roof until I heard the the sound of a revolver being cocked behind me. “Don’t even think about moving kid.” Nothing pisses me off more than being called a kid. I’m 19 and I’ve been doing this for almost four years, but every two bit thug wants to dismiss me as just some kid. I’ve been trained by the best and have more field hours than some heroes twice my age. As angry as the dismissal makes me it is also my greatest weapon. They always underestimate me.
“Please just don’t hurt me.” I tried to add a quiver into my voice to really sell the fear. I listened for the sound of footsteps, but the gunman didn’t seem to be moving. With a fluid motion I grabbed a smoke pellet from my belt, smashed it into the roof, and dove to the side. This was a dangerous move. I have slightly enhanced speed and strength, but I can’t move faster than someone pulling a trigger. I just had to hope that if they were prepared to shoot it would hit my armor and not a softer target. With a blur of motion I rolled behind the rooftop central air unit and tossed a throwing star. It hit the gun and sent it sliding out of the man’s hand. I got my first look at my assailant and realized he was wearing a security uniform.
“I think there’s been a misunderstanding here. I’m just going to go now and leave you to doing your job. OK?”
“Yeah I don’t think so.” The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a syringe that was shaped like a candy cane.
“I thought you looked familiar. You henched for the Candy Striper didn’t you? He called you Dr. Night Night right?”
He lunged at me with the needle, but I easily sidestepped the attack. I grabbed his forearm and twisted it sharply behind his back making him drop the candy cane needle. He elbowed backwards with his left arm but I easily ducked it. After a couple quick jabs to his side I was able to get his left wrist cuffed to his right and pushed him to the ground. I grabbed his ear piece and started to listen in. Adam was coordinating quite a few people throughout the city. He was in full monologue mode. It took me a bit to understand just what was going on, but once I did the pieces all fit together.
I grabbed the guard’s radio. “So let me get this straight. You got tired of playing second fiddle to Hackmaster so you recruit every henchperson in town to pull off a coordinated attack on their villains. What makes you think you have what it takes to be a criminal mastermind?”
“That’s rich coming from a sidekick. I’ve outsmarted every major villain in this town and from where I sit that means I’m on top.”
His words hit a raw nerve, but they rolled off quickly. A cheap shot is a way to try and undermine your opponent. Where the complement had felt like it was dismissing me, this insult revealed a concern. It validated me as a threat. Protector would never get here in time, but I didn’t need him. I was a hero, but you don’t get to be a hero by just saying you are. You have to show it with your actions. My action was to leap off the building and use my grapple gun to adjust my angle. I crashed through the window into Adam’s apartment and rolled to spread the impact out. I came up to a fighting pose.
Adam Baker stood there clapping for me. “Brilliant entrance. Truly magnificent. Protector would be so proud.”
“I’ve figured out who you are Cyberaid. Hackmaster must be so disappointed in you.”
“You don’t get to talk about him like that. He was my older brother and Straight-jacket killed him. Do you know how many of their own henchmen these villains kill? You can’t really blame them though because they’re crazy. You and your mentor however choose to let them live knowing they will just escape. Well no more. All through the city tonight Justice is being done.” He knelt in front of me and put his hands out to be cuffed. “Go ahead and take me in, my work is done. You think you’re the hero? Well ask yourself who really made this town safer?”
As I cuffed him I couldn’t help but wonder if Protector could have stopped him. Then I thought of all the pain and suffering the villains had caused and for the first time I couldn’t help but be a little glad that it was only a sidekick that showed up.