Last week, my daughter found some comic books I wrote back in college. Before you go saying how cool that is, just know that I ain’t no artist. Not even close. My brother and I enjoyed The Tick and the way it poked fun at the super hero genre, and we wanted to do that too. My drawings were never anything to brag about, not even close to comic book quality, but I didn’t care. For me, it was all about the writing. (often a page would be one small picture of a head with a gigantic speech bubble that took up the whole rest of the page. Anyway, like I said, my daughter blew the dust off of them and thought they were funny. So much so, that she demanded I make more. Which I am definitely not going to do! Though it did get me thinking about how different the world was back then. Things change so much decade by decade, yet we don’t even realize it or appreciate it. So I decided to write a short story about a hero in the vein of Captain America or Austin Powers. Only this guy was frozen allll the way back in the nineties. It’s dialogue heavy and would probably work better as a script if I knew how to write one. It’s fast, like 3100 words fast, but that’s well-suited for a comic style story, I think. I decided to put it up here for free and see what the reception is like. Hope you like it.
A HERO FOR THE NINETIES…TODAY!
THE BIG CITY
“You’ll never get away with this, you madman!”
The villain known as Rexcalibur the Wretched bent over until he was practically touching noses with the young vixen he had tied to a chair. “But my dear,” Rex cackled. “I already have!” He straightened back up and motioned to the steady stream of brown boxes slowly moving down the conveyor belt behind him. “The entire city will soon be under my control. You see, every one of these boxes is filled with thousands of pogs, each fitted with a mind control device of my own design. Anyone who possesses one will instantly fall under my command. They will do whatever I say.” He saw the woman’s fierce determination as she gave him a steely gaze. “Let me guess, Miss Windy Summers. You think your hero, Al Powers is going to swoop in at the last minute and save the city. Well, he’s not. I put one of my special pogs in his mailbox just this morning. He is under my control at this very moment.”
“Then it’s a good thing I don’t open my mail, Rexcalibur!”
Rex looked up toward the sound of his archenemy’s voice as it echoed from the rafters of the warehouse. Then, faster than a flash of lightning, the superhero was standing directly in front of the villain. “I don’t believe this! Who doesn’t open their mail? That’s like the highlight of my day!”
“It’s called snail mail now, evildoer! Pioneering heroes such as myself communicate only by electronic mail!”
“What is this electronic mail you speak of?”
“Everything is done by computers now, Rex! Even the mail!” Windy shouted triumphantly from her chair. “And, by the way, pogs are totally over, too. Your failure to keep up with the times has undone your evil plot before it even got out of the warehouse!”
“Windy Summers is absolutely right!” Al Powers proclaimed. “And she’s absolutely beautiful, too.” He winked at her and she nearly fainted.
“Damn it!” Rexcalibur cried. “I suppose you’ll want to punch me now.”
“That won’t be necessary, my evil chum. The police are here to back me up and they already have this place surrounded.” The hero put his hands on his hips. The light caught his smile in just the right way to make it sparkle.
“Curses! It seems as if I am defeated! Luckily for me, it only seems that way!” Rex dashed across the room and pulled down a switch on the wall before Al Powers even had time to stop posing. Four metal tentacles sprung up from the floor and each wrapped themselves tightly around one of the hero’s limbs. Al Powers struggled mightily, but even someone as strong as he could not break the robotic grips. The tentacles yanked downward and though he resisted as best he could, it was only another moment before Al was forced to lie prone on the floor.
“What is the meaning of this?” the hero asked through gritted teeth.
“The whole pog thing was only part of my plan, you see,” Rex announced, hardly able to contain his glee at having the upper hand. “I knew you would come to rescue your beloved Windy Summers. Why else would I kidnap her when she obviously has nothing to do with my pog scheme? Of course you came to save her and of course I was ready for you. It doesn’t happen very often, but this is the part where evil triumphs over good! Muah ha ha ha!”
“And have you forgotten about the police positioned right outside this warehouse?”
“Oh please. There’s not a seemingly abandoned warehouse in this city that isn’t connected to the elaborate tunnel system conveniently located underground. I’ll just take that. After I dip you into a cryogenic freezing chamber and wipe your girlfriend’s memory forever, of course!”
There was a loud rumbling sound and the part of the floor Al Powers was pinned to began to separate and lower down to the next level. Al saw smoke billowing all around him and was already beginning to feel the effects of the cryogenic chamber.
“Al Powers!” Windy called out as she watched in horror from her chair. “I love you!”
“I know! I’ll use my super power of…blarrrrrrrrgh!!!!!!”
“Cryogenic freezing complete,” a computerized voice stated coldly.
“Hmm, what was that super power he was going to use?” Rexcalibur the Wretched wondered out loud. “No matter! There are no ‘deus ex machina’ last second saves this time! My plan totally worked.”
Windy Summers began to whimper. “I guess it did. What the hell?”
FIFTEEN YEARS LATER…
“I don’t think we should be here, Tyler.”
“Relax, Jake. Tell me you’re not having fun exploring all these seemingly abandoned warehouses.”
Jake stopped walking and looked his older brother in the eye. “I’m not having fun. Why did you think it would be fun to do this? They’re abandoned warehouses, for crap’s sake!”
Tyler shrugged off his brother’s lack of enthusiasm. “Well, I think it’s cool that they’re all connected. And besides, they’re seemingly abandoned. Which means there might be treasure in one of them or something.”
“I think it means that rats live here, actually.” Jake kicked a stone with his sneaker. It sailed across the warehouse floor and though it was too dark to see, it sounded to the boys like it had struck something metallic.
“What was that?” they both asked each other.
“I don’t know!” they both answered each other.
“Legend has it,” Tyler said, as they slowly crept toward where the rock had landed, “that one of these warehouses contains a frozen super hero. You ever heard of Rexibald D. W.?”
Jake scratched his chin. “The business mogul? Who hasn’t?”
“A lot of people think he was the one who defeated the hero and put him down here somewhere. But no one could ever prove it.”
“And you think two random kids like us are going to just stumble upon it after no one else could find…”
“I think this is it!”
Tyler and Jake almost collided with the large metal chamber tucked into the back corner of the warehouse. There was a glass panel near the top. Tyler had to stand on his tiptoes in order to blow and rub years of dirt and dust away. He gasped when he saw a frozen face staring back at him from the other side of the pane.
“What did you see?” Jake asked, feeling nervous, though he didn’t know why.
“There’s definitely a dude in there,” Tyler whispered to his brother.
“What do we do?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we should try to open it.”
“But we’re just a couple of kids. It’s probably really complica…”
“Got it!” Tyler lifted up a latch on the door and there was a loud hissing sound as air and steam burst forth from the odd machine. Then the door swung outward and the person who had been trapped inside slowly stepped forward. The boys trembled as the figure towered over them; the smoke had not yet cleared enough for them to get a good look at him. The strange man was either ignoring them or had not yet noticed them. He turned his head from side to side and kept walking forward.
“Sir?” Tyler said timidly. The man stopped when he heard the boy’s voice. Then he stepped out of the smoke and approached the frightened children. As he got closer they could make out his muscular frame, his chiseled chin and perfectly coifed brown hair. They had never seen him before, but he definitely looked like some kind of superhero. “The legend is true…” Tyler whispered under his breath.
“What has happened here?” the hero asked. “What is this place?”
“You were defeated,” Tyler said softly, his voice almost cracking from his nervousness. “Frozen in that chamber by a villain.”
“Really? Being defeated doesn’t sound like me…”
“It happened, I guess. We just found you and set you free this very minute,” Jake offered even more hesitantly than his brother. “It’s 2012, in case you were wondering.”
“2012. My God.” The hero turned away from them and studied his surroundings more closely. “Look at this degradation! Is this what happened when the computers couldn’t process the year 2000? Society collapsed?”
“Um, no. This is just an old warehouse,” Jake said.
“Oh.” The hero began to look agitated as he more fully realized his situation. “Fifteen years I’ve been frozen in time! Windy Summers…”
“Is that a douche?” Tyler asked.
“No, it’s a retirement community!” Jake answered.
“She is a woman! The most beautiful woman in the world! And we were going to be together before…before…”
“Before you were frozen in time by that evil business guy!” Jake finished for him.
“Exactly! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to win back the girl and defeat the villain. I will show you helpful children that good will always triumph! Al Powers is back!” He strode confidently off to the right. When he found no way out, he walked back across the boys’ line of sight to the left. A second later, he returned and stopped in front of them again. “Maybe you guys could just help me get started. A door would be a good first step, for example.”
“We’ll help you! That would be so cool!” both boys chimed in simultaneously.
TEN MINUTES LATER…
“Wow! Everything looks exactly the same but slightly different,” Al declared as the boys led him through their city neighborhood. “So really nothing happened during Y2K?”
“I guess. I was only two and Jake wasn’t even born. You can ask our parents maybe.” Tyler bounded up the stairs to the boys’ building and motioned for the superhero to follow him inside.
“Okay, so what do you want to do first, Mr. Powers?”
“You can call me Al. And that’s not a Paul Simon joke.”
“What?” a bewildered Jake asked. “Who’s Paul Simon?”
“Never mind,” Al replied, shaking his head. He allowed Tyler to take him by the hand and lead him to the family computer in the corner of the living room.
“You know what the internet is, don’t you?”
“Of course I do!” Al answered defiantly.
“Good, because that will be the easiest way for you to find the people you’re looking for.” Tyler pulled out the chair and let Al sit down in front of the keyboard. Then he grabbed a nearby folding chair and positioned himself next to the hero.
Jake appeared behind them with a wireless phone in his hand. “I’m calling Dad to tell him we have company. Hope he doesn’t freak out.”
Al’s eyes widened. “Don’t use the phone! We’re on the internet over here! You’ll knock us off!”
“Mr. Powers, the internet doesn’t work like that anymore. You can get it through cable TV now.”
“So you can’t watch television while you’re on the internet? That seems so much worse.”
“What? No. Never mind! Here, I found some information on Rex D.W. We can confront him at his office. The address is listed right on the site.”
“Wow, Tyler! How did you get the page to load so fast?”
“I don’t know. It just does. Jake, when you get Dad on the phone, tell him I’m out with our new friend and we’ll be back for dinner after we defeat evil.”
“Defeating evil, got it. Yes, I’ll hold. His son. Tell him his son is calling.”
Al’s head was spinning. In what had seemed like only the blink of an eye to him, he had gone from a superhero with super speed to having circles run around him by a couple of tweens. The speed of this new world he found himself in would take some getting used to. Tyler was leading him back out the door before Al had even remembered what his AOL screen name was.
LATER, AT THE R.D.W. OFFICE BUILDING…
Rex sat down at his large oak desk and ran his fingers through his fine silver hair. He was about to sign the contract that would enable R.D.W., the company he had built from the ground up, to absorb its third small business in the last three years. It was a proud moment for him and he decided it was one worth sharing. He pressed the intercom button and summoned his secretary, Brenda. Oddly, she did not respond.
“Brenda? I said I’d like a couple of employees in here and a camera for the newsletter maybe. Are you there?” Brenda was always at her desk; she was Rex’s gateway. No one got to see the head of the company unless they went through her first. Rex stood up and strode over to the door of his office. He feared something had happened. Even on the rare occasions when Brenda excused herself to the lavatory or to go to lunch, she always informed him first. Rex opened the door and his face instantly turned a ghostly shade of white. And indeed, it was as if he had seen a ghost himself. Standing before him, gripping poor Brenda in a chokehold, was Al Powers, an enemy Rex had vanquished fifteen years earlier. And some random kid.
“Unhand that woman! I will call the police! You there, boy, do you have a cell phone? Call the cops!”
Al tossed the woman onto a nearby couch and pointed his finger squarely at the president and CEO of R.D.W Industries. “You should have killed me. We both knew this day would come, Rex.”
“Al,” Rex stammered and backed slowly into his office. Al Powers matched him step for step. “You haven’t aged a day!”
“Yeah! Thanks to you!”
Rex bumped into his desk and scooted around to the other side of it. “About that, see…I’m really sorry. I’ve been meaning to come get you and make things right. But I couldn’t remember where you were. I’ve had people looking, I swear. A lot has happened since our last encounter. I’m totally legit now.”
Al put his finger down and rested his hands on his hips, not in the manner of a confident hero, but more like a sports coach confused by a referee’s bad call. “Make things right?”
“Yes! Yes! I was so young and stupid back then! There’s so much more money to be made in legitimate robotics; I don’t know what I was thinking with all that evil scheming back in the day. I guess I got so caught up in my hatred of you, that I wasn’t looking at the big picture. Once you were gone, I got my act together. For the last thirteen years, I’ve built R.D.W into a very powerful company. I’m rich beyond belief.”
“That’s, uh, admirable. I’m glad you saw the light. But I’ve still lost fifteen years.”
“Yes, I know, and I want to make up for it. It would be so bad for my company if word got out that I used to be a super villain! And of course, I have wronged you so badly, as well. Maybe $75,000 would keep this whole thing out of the news, I hope?”
Al thought for a moment. “Make it a hundred and some stock.”
Rex cautiously made his way around the desk and held his hand out to his hopefully former arch enemy. “I can do that,” he said confidently.
“Let’s see it in writing.”
“Absolutely, absolutely. I told you, I’m completely legit now.” The two men shook hands; something neither of them would have believed possible fifteen years ago. “Brenda, could you draw something up for Mr. Powers? I’ll fill in the details later.”
“Wait, so you’re not going to beat his brains in?” Tyler asked from behind the hero.
“What’s with the kid? Look, boy, life isn’t a comic book. Real men work out their differences.”
“Al Powers, you’re going to take the money and forget the whole thing? Is that what heroes do?” Tyler questioned, his eyes looking betrayed.
Al looked at the kid with regret etched in his face. “What choice do I have? I’ve not only lost fifteen years, I’ve lost the world I knew. I’ve lost my home, my friends, my identity! I’ve gotten so caught up in vengeance today, that I haven’t even thought about where I’m going to sleep tonight.”
“I thought I had unleashed a hero, but instead I got another instant sell-out. Maybe you can get a reality show.” Tyler stormed angrily out of the office.
“Tyler!” Al called, though he did not go after the boy.
“You know,” Rex said, putting his hand on the hero’s shoulder, “I can probably help you get some of your life back. I have strings I can pull in some government offices. What’s your real name? Al Powers?”
“No. But I shouldn’t tell you.”
“Come on, Al. I want to help you. The world has changed. There are no heroes and villains anymore. At least not in the sense that we once knew. Just tell me and I can get the ball rolling on getting your identity back.”
“Fine,” Al answered reluctantly. “It’s Beeba. Justin Beeba.”
“Ummm…you might want to stick with Al Powers.”
LATER, ON THE CITY STREETS…
“Tyler! Tyler, wait!” Al shouted.
“How did you find me?” Tyler asked grumpily, continuing to walk away.
“I used my super tracking powers. Also, you’re walking in the direction of your apartment.” Al put a hand on the boy’s arm so he would turn and face him. “I know you didn’t like what you saw in there, but I think you know deep down that violence doesn’t solve anything. Grown-ups work out their problems in more grown-up ways. That’s the reality you have to face as you get older. Being a hero is not always beating up the bad guys. It’s making sure every situation has the best possible outcome.”
“I guess,” Tyler shrugged.
“But you’re not convinced.”
“I can’t believe how easily you were convinced. Guy owns a company and has a nice suit and desk now, so you just take his word for it? What if he just found a sneakier way to be evil? What if he was buying you off so that you wouldn’t dig deeper and find out his evil plans? People don’t change. My mom always said she would stop cheating on my dad, but she never did. And now she’s gone. You just seemed so gullible in there. Just like every time my dad took back my mother.”
“I know we just met, but don’t think so little of me, son. I got stock. Stock gets me into shareholder’s meetings. If he’s up to no good, I’ll be around to catch him.”
Tyler smiled. “Not the most exciting superhero adventure ever, but I guess you can’t get it all back in one day.”
“Thanks, buddy. Now how about we move onto Phase 2? Let’s go get the girl!
TO BE CONTINUED…