Fiction Fragment Friday
This weeks story is much more standard Superhero than some of the ones I have done lately. I’m going to keep this short and sweet because it is a busy week. Expect a bigger update on things in the works soon.
The most difficult thing about being a superhero is the day when you realize that you can’t save everyone. The guilt of that moment never quite leaves you no matter how many you are able to save. For most superheroes, this moment comes quickly, for some it takes longer, but for far too many it happens as part of their origin. Guilt can be a powerful motivator, but it is just not healthy to let it drive you. That is why so many heroes struggle with mental issues or worst devolve into villainy. Even if you could talk to a psychiatrist without giving away your secret identity, they could never quite understand what you have gone through. That is where I come in.
Last year I started a free underground psychiatric service for superheroes. I saw this gap and being the only super with a psychiatric degree I was uniquely qualified to fill it. I have a website, business cards, and most importantly good word of mouth marketing. When a superhero is struggling, they can reach out and make an appointment. We meet in an agreed upon location in costume and I help them work through their struggles. Most of the time they just need someone who understands to vent to, but sometimes these individuals are truly haunted. The stress of living a double life, the guilt of failure, and foolish decisions made while full of adrenaline all keep many of these individuals walking the fine line of a nervous breakdown. I try to be their lifeline, but it was during one of my recent sessions that I was reminded of that lesson we all must learn.
“It’s just so frustrating doc. It seems like no matter how many times I put the Ogre away he just keeps coming back.”
With a normal patient I would use my trick of pretending to write notes as a way of stalling, but superheroes don’t want any kind of record of their appointments. There is a fear that my notes would get stolen and used against them. “Ah that is the catch-22 of what we do. If we don’t stop them people will get hurt. If we do stop them any evidence, we find can’t be used in court and we can’t testify. Even if they do miraculously end up getting convicted the system just isn’t built to contain super powered inmates.”
“Exactly, it’s all broken.” I could see tears forming in Akita’s eyes. “Samantha broke up with me for being too overprotective. It was hard enough hiding all the bruises, but this last time I stopped him outside her apartment building. He has to know who I am, it’s just too much of a coincidence.”
This was a common delusion that Akita struggled with. He thought that all his villains knew his identity. “How would he have learned your secret identity? Did he say or do anything to indicate that he knew it?”
“Well no, but why would he be at her apartment building?”
“Isn’t Ogre Samantha’s brother? I know villains tend to get obsessive, but you have to start asking yourself if these encounters are about you at all.”
I felt like I had been punched in the stomach the moment the words left my mouth. I had said that almost that exact same thing to my sidekick Rotor two years ago. He had become obsessed with the villain Nucleotide. In the end it turned out that he was right. Nucleotide did know who we were and he slaughtered Rotor’s family right in front of him. I should have been there for him, but I focused on taking down the villain and not helping my friend. He didn’t have anyone to talk to and in the end, it broke him. He started hunting the villains first, and then the heroes for letting the villains live. That was the day I realized that I couldn’t save everyone. I couldn’t save my own sidekick from his own mind, but maybe I could be there for other heroes.
“You sound like her. She said I always make everything about myself and that I went too far this time. She’ll eventually forgive me though.”
“Too far? Akita what did you do?”
“I got a little help and finally put Ogre down for good. He can’t hurt anyone anymore.”
I looked at the young man in shock. I could see my failure written across his face. I was losing another one. I couldn’t imagine how it could get any worse and then I heard a voice behind me that I had not heard in quite a while. I turned pale at the sound.
“That’s right doc. Akita here found someone who would actually help him unlike you. All I asked for in return was the time and place of his next appointment with you.” Rotor stepped out of the shadows with a flourish and a bow. “You can go now Akita.” At first Akita just looked back and forth between us so Rotor yelled, “I SAID OUT!!!” That was all it took, and Akita rushed for the door.
“Jeremy even after all this time it’s not too late. Let me help you.”
“Help me? I think it’s a little bit late for that don’t you?” He twirled a bit balancing a knife on the tip of each index finger. With a fluid motion he flipped them in the air and flung them both directly at me. I managed to dodge one, but the other sunk to the hilt into my right shoulder. He knew me well enough to anticipate how I would move. I let out a gasp of pain and tried to put some distance between us. “You know doc your little friend there was right. Ogre did know who he was.”
“How do you know that?” I had to keep him talking until I could come up with something.
“Because I told him.”
“Why would you do that?” My right arm was useless, but I was far from helpless. With my left hand I generated balls of energy and flung them at my former sidekick. My aim is not good with my left hand, and he easily dodged them.
“To prove a point. See we have been playing a game and you didn’t even know it. That broken little puppy that just ran out the door is the prize. Who can mold him best? Certainly, looks like I have the upper hand.”
“Well maybe you should look again.” A sonic scream hit Rotor and sent him flying through the wall. I turned to find Akita standing in the door smiling.
“Good work kid. Went just like we planned.” I walked over to the hole in the wall and stared down at the unconscious Rotor. “I may not be able to save everyone, but I haven’t given up on you yet.”