The conditions of my grandfather’s will, I decided, were a weight over my head. The money. My grandfather’s lab and the ownership of the complex underneath—what was I supposed to do with them? Revive the Grand Lake Heroes League? In its time it had been major, but now things were different. We weren’t heroes coming back from a war. We were a bunch of kids with middle of the pack powers.
They’d done a great thing and the best I could follow it up with was a kind of mediocre sequel.
With that melancholy thought, I sighted the warehouse. In the twilight I couldn’t see much other than that it was old, brown and brick—which meant it didn’t stand out at all in that section of the city.
Daniel and Cassie were on the roof of the warehouse’s twin across the street.
I landed on the far side of the roof, trying not to be too obvious about it, and started walking toward them.
Suddenly, I heard Daniel’s voice in my head.
Crawl. They’ve got cameras and someone to monitor them. I think he missed you, but he’s on the edge of my effective range, so I’m not sure.
Right, I thought, and crawled the rest of the way across the roof.
The delivery already came. It’s over there.
A picture of the loading dock on the other side of the building appeared in my head. A semi had backed its trailer in.
So why are we on this side of the building, I thought.
Cassie’s idea was that I could clairvoyantly scry from over here since they don’t watch this side much.
So do we have a plan?
It’s not much of a plan, but it’s good enough. We fly over there, take them out, and call the police.
Are you sure that’s enough?
They’re normal people, Nick. All they’ve got are guns. And besides they’re all in the room next to the loading dock. I’d bet it’ll take less than a minute.
Cassie said, “Let’s go.”
I stood up.
And got shot.
“Where’d that guy come from?” I muttered.
He must have moved when we were talking. Sorry. He’s behind the top floor window, the third from the end.
I dived off the building with rockets engaged, hurtled across the gap and broke through the window, flying over the shooter and landing behind him. Landing is actually a charitable word for it since I stumbled and landed on my chest.
I stood up and turned around to find a man in a black uniform pointing a rifle at me. I grabbed the rifle’s body with my right hand, bent the barrel ninety degrees with my left and stepped forward to punch the guy in the face.
He fell to the floor.
As I looked down, wondering briefly if I’d killed him despite my training, I heard Daniel in my head again.
He’s alive and we’re off to the loading docks. Meet you there.
I flew out the window and above the building just in time to see Daniel and Cassie disappearing over the far end of the roof. Not long ago he’d had a hard time moving a basketball with his telekinesis. Now he could move people. It made me wonder what he’d be able to do in five years.
I caught up quickly and landed on the loading dock only slightly after them.
Cassie had jumped into a group of three, downing one of them with a punch that knocked him off the loading dock. Two more were firing submachine guns at Daniel, but he seemed unharmed.
The other three are behind the door. Get them before they call in reinforcements or something.
A human-sized metal door stood to the left of the large door meant for unloading the truck. I ran for it, hitting it at as close to full speed as possible and knocking it out of the door frame.
It slammed into the wooden floor inside and then slid for a few feet, knocking over a cot. The loading bay appeared to be some kind of combination control center and camp, containing cots, sleeping bags, a laptop, guns and boxes of gear.
The laptop on the desk showed eight different views of the outside of the building.
The people inside the room pulled out guns and started firing at me. I didn’t make any effort to disarm them. I just punched them until they stopped.
Cassie walked in after me, stepping over the door. “What did I say? It was easy. Good job, Rocket.”
That was probably one of the stranger moments of the evening. In my mind, it’s still my grandfather’s name. I imagine him to have been confident in his abilities. Me? I was still worried I might have accidentally killed one of them, and, disturbed that one of them was a woman. Mind you, she had been firing an AK-47 at me, but it still felt wrong.
Is it sexist that I didn’t feel as bad about the men?
“Good job… uh… Captain Commando?”
She laughed. “You know, it’s funny that you didn’t know. You’re right, but I…” She lapsed into silence, eyes on the unconscious bodies for a moment and then flicking back toward the door—behind which lay five more bodies if she and Daniel had done their jobs.
“It’s funny,” she said again, not sounding amused at all, “it’s his name and his costume and it was all so easy. I should be happier about this, but…”
She trailed off again.
“I think I know what you mean,” I said. “It feels off somehow.”
Daniel (or I suppose “the Mystic” in this context) poked his head through the door. “My dad says fighting normal people is a lot like fighting ten year olds. You’re just so much better that it’s not much of a challenge.
“Anyway,” he said, “anyone want to find out what’s in the semi?”
“You don’t know?” I said. “I thought you could sense what’s on the other side of walls and stuff.”
“Not if they block me.”
We walked out to the loading dock and stared at the back door of the truck.
Cassie put her hand on the latch. “How would they block you?”
“Well,” he said, “some people use electronics. Sometimes telepaths can do it. That kind of thing.”
She pulled the doors open.
It looked more like an expensive hotel suite than I’d expected--wall to wall carpeting (dark red), hot tub, big screen TV, large bed, and a walled off area at the far end that I assumed had to be the bathroom.
A big man sat on the couch in front of the TV.
He picked up the remote, turned off the TV, and pulled himself up to his full height. I’d guess he was around six and half feet tall, but he wasn’t especially frightening looking. He was balding, unshaven, had a bit of a potbelly, and stifled a yawn while he walked toward us.
He wore a bathrobe.
Cassie turned to me and said, “This can’t all be for him, can it?”
I didn’t answer. I’d just recognized him.
“Double V” is the fanboy nickname for “Villains and Vigilantes,” a magazine that covers supers. I don’t get the magazine, but my grandpa did. I follow their website’s RSS feed and had read his profile a couple years before.
His name is Jason Swan, AKA The Grey Giant, AKA The Rock Goliath, AKA the West Coast ATM Thief. From what I remembered at the time, he was practically invulnerable and incredibly strong. He also had one other power, but I couldn’t think of it.
That bugged me.
On his own he wasn’t much of a threat. He didn’t have much ambition. This isn’t a guy who would be taking Chicago for ransom in exchange for ten billion dollars. Left to himself, he emptied bank vaults and stole ATM machines, but he didn’t terrorize people.
When working for other people though… He killed two supers in Seattle three years ago—Lightweaver and the Shield. From what the article said, it wasn’t malice. He just hit them too hard. That doesn’t even count the normals who died when he knocked out a load bearing wall on a five story building.
In the end, they needed half the North Pacific Defenders to take him down.
Basically if you needed a distraction, needed to guard something, or needed somebody beaten up, he’d do it for a price. The article described him as “a small time thug with the powers of a world-beater.”
And here he was.
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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.