Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Something more important than winning

[I've got some stories with superheroes, and some of them are set in a universe where superheroes and villains are common.  So I figure if I ever want to be able to do anything with that universe or those universes (truthfully I haven't figured out which yet) I should work on populating it/them]
[That and this has been in my head since the munchkins watched a certain episode of Mighty Med while I had the misfortune of being in the same room.]

This time it was going to go perfectly.  He wouldn't stutter, he wouldn't stumble on his words, he wouldn't stumble on his feet, he wouldn't mispronounce her name --"po-dar-ke, po-dar-ke, po-dar-ke" he repeated in his head to make sure he broke the syllables in the right place this time-- and most of all he wouldn't lose.

He would defeat his nemesis once and for all and then, tomorrow, he'd take over the city.  Maybe the county.  It all depended on how much he could consolidate in a day.  Expand too fast and you're not ready for the backlash.  World domination was not a game for the impatient.

"Prepare to fight, Podarke, for I the--" and that's when he noticed that she was crying.

"Um, Podarke?" he said cautiously.

She barely seemed to notice him.

"Are you, you know, going to fight me?"

She looked up, he saw her tear reddened eyes, and then she laughed in a way that was so very much not about things being funny.

After a few moments the laughs turned to sobs.

"I . . ." and he didn't know.  He what?  This was not how things were supposed to go.  "I'll . . . I'll say that you defeated me, but you seemed distracted and I used that to escape."

He started to walk away.  A few steps later he stopped, turned back, and looked at his sobbing foe.  "You gonna be ok?"

She didn't look up.  She just shook her head.

He walked over to her, then sat down beside her.

"Want to talk about it?" he asked.

"Not really," she said, but she sounded a bit better.

"Ok, so, I've always had a question," he said, "and I'm probably not going to get another opportunity where you aren't trying to hurt me."

She looked up at him and said, "Downnburst, I'm really not up for--"

But he thought her voice was getting stronger and her tears were ebbing, so he went ahead, "What does 'Podarke' even mean?"

She laughed, and this time there was a hint of actual amusement, "It's from ancient Greek, except there it would be 'podarkes', focus groups apparently thought that female superheroes should have names ending in vowels."

"You get focus groups?" he asked.

"Yes, heroes have access to all kinds of focus group data," she said.  "Anyway, it means 'running to the rescue' but it can also mean 'swift footed'."

"So it's a hyperspeed thing," he said.

"It's a hyperspeed thing," she said.  There was a pause.  A pause during which she didn't cry.  "What about you, Downburst?" she asked.

"Well the really fast wind that goes in a straight line is just called 'straight line wind' which does not a good name make," he said, "where downbursts cause those winds so . . . " He sighed in a defeated sort of way.  "Honestly it's just because--"

She finished the sentence with him, "--all the good names were taken."

"And trademarked," she said.

"And they're so damned litigious," he said.

For a while there was quiet.

"My boyfriend left me," she said.

"That's why you were . . ?"

"By faking his death," she added.

"Um," he said.  And for a time had nothing else to say.  Eventually he managed a, "Damn."

There was silence.  At least she wasn't crying anymore, but . . . still.

"When I feel really bad," he said, "like, when-someone-I-cared-about-treats-me-like-utter-shit bad, know what I do?"

"Try to take over the world?" she asked.

"Nah, that requires either confidence or anger," he said, "despondency doesn't cut it.  No, what I do is I get an ice cream and find a nice place overlooking the ocean to eat it."

"Ok. . ."

"I know this great ice cream place a few blocks from here," he said.  Then he got up.  "I'm buying."

She didn't say anything, but she slowly stood as well.

* * *

"Black raspberry is the best!"

"Strawberry is a classic!"

It was an argument without any animosity.  It ended in laughter.

"You think . . ." he said, "you think you'll still feel good after you run out of ice cream, Podarke?"

"Riley," she said.

"Sorry, didn't catch that."

"My name's 'Riley'," she said.

"Fabian," he said.

He looked across the water to the lights of the island.  Normally he'd be thinking about how he'd live there one day --imagining what it would look like with the lights of his fortress-- but today his mind was mostly empty as he looked at the lights.  This was supposed to be the day he beat his foe once and for all, somehow it had turned out better than planned even though he was no closer to his fortress than he'd been when he got up that morning.

Things would probably be complicated with Podar-- Riley in the future.  Whatever.  Acceptable losses.

They were nemeses, and that meant something.  If he'd been sobbing, she would have tried to help him through his difficult time.  There were rules to this --hazy, unwritten, and unenforced-- and one of them was that you only kicked someone when they were down literally, never figuratively.

Besides, faking your death to break-up with someone . . . that was beyond evil.

Fabian sighed.  Then he looked at Riley and smiled when he saw that she was looking at him too.  She smiled back.

This was a good night.



  1. I like this. And the correct answer is Maple Walnut.

  2. This darn near had me crying.

    Although I find myself kinda hoping that somewhere down the line - not immediately, everything's too raw, but some time - Fabian's going to construct some kind of ultimate trap with a helpless victim as bait, who just happens to be Riley's bastard ex. Bonus if it's something very public and possibly humiliating.

    But I'm mean like that.

  3. You know a thing you can do that apparently nobody else can, Chris?

    Write superhero stories where I actually want to read more.