Playwright and novelist
They were superheroes.
Then they lost their superpowers.
They’re still heroes.
On a good day, a superhero isn’t bothered with performance reviews, time sheets, expense vouchers, or monthly reports.
On a bad day, a superhero gets caught in The Ion Anomaly.
The Super Heroes Of Earth are having a bad day.
The Whistler emerges from the anomaly with Xravia’s power. She emerges with The Cricketeer’s power. He emerges with Judy Joo’s power. She emerges with Intelli-Gent’s power. He emerges with Grow Girl’s power. And she emerges with the Whistler’s power.
Their headquarters have been relocated to a grimy strip mine site in Eastern Kentucky.
And to top it off, the richest man on Earth is stirring up hatred against immigrants, especially those from other planets.
But fear not, Earth: these heroes know their duty. As Judy Joo cries, “All for everybody, and each for one!”
Here is a scene that will give you the flavor of the book.
“Five hundred dollars a night for a room and I still have to pay for Wi-Fi? Is this check-in or a robbery?” Lisa Meadows directed her full ire on the lady whose crisp blue uniform and smartly pinned fresh rosebud served only to distance her from plebeian monetary quibbles, and who stood safely if a little impatiently on the other side of a very large and very marble check-in desk.
“The charge is as advertised.”
“No, what’s advertised is Wi-Fi for a nominal fee. Your words, not mine. ‘Nominal fee.’ Do you know what ‘nominal’ means? It means ‘in name only.’ A nominal fee is one that is so low as to be meaningless. One dollar. That’s a nominal fee. Twenty-five dollars a day is not nominal. You know what you call a twenty-five dollar a day fee? Exorbitant. Not nominal. Exorbitant. Your advertising ought to say Wi-Fi is available for an exorbitant fee.”
“Did you want the Wi-Fi?”
“I just booked seven rooms here. Five hundred bucks a night per room. You’d think the Wi-Fi would be thrown in. Are you going to charge me for soap and shampoo, too?”
“We have a full range of beauty products available in the room for a nominal fee.”
“Oh, so they cost a dollar then? Oh, never mind, just turn on the Wi-Fi. I don’t have time to argue.”
“Our VIP rooms come with an optional security detail. Shall I add that service?”
“For a nominal fee?”
“For a small fee.”
“I don’t want to ask. No we don’t need security. These are superheroes, for heaven sake. What kind of superhero needs a bodyguard?”
“Unless your valet parking guy knows how to drive a spaceship, no. Does this key get me access to the roof?”
Lisa sighed and closed her eyes. “Because that’s where they’re going to park the spaceship! I went over this when I booked the rooms.”
“Rooftop parking is available for a moderate fee.”
Lisa gave a triumphant little laugh. “Not for us! You can’t charge superheroes for parking! It’s in the treaty. Superheroes get to park anywhere for free. Look it up.”
Lisa picked up her bag and turned away with a parting shot. “By the way, if anything happens in this hotel and they have to rescue somebody, there might be a nominal fee.”
Dark and cheerless was Lisa’s mood.
Gray and taciturn had been her mood before she embarked on a plane journey across the country. Had she departed bright and gay, she might have arrived gray and taciturn. But she departed gray and taciturn, so she arrived dark and cheerless, bordering on black and bitter.
She had received daily briefings from the commander during their voyage aboard the Coast Guard cutter. She in turn reported daily to SHOESTRING, who updated SASHA, who informed the councillors, who spoke to Hadron. Communication flowed in the reverse direction only once, and that was in the form of an order. It was Lisa’s obligation to present the order to her superheroes that had turned her mood gray and taciturn.
She needn’t have bickered over the Wi-Fi charge. SHOESTRING had never questioned an expenditure directly related to a superhero. When X-15 wanted Italian marble floor tile in her quarters, the work order sped through in no time at all. Not so when Lisa wanted to replace her cheap vinyl blinds with aluminum ones. “Justification? Urgency?” came the curt reply. And that was in Las Vegas, where the sun shines bright with considerably more force than in Kentucky.
The trick was soon learned: associate every expense voucher directly with a team member. New blinds needed for Britannica’s office; deliver to Meadows’s office. Leather office chair needed for Schist; ship to Meadows. Oriental rug desired by Janet X; Meadows will pick up. And most recently: emergency staff meeting required, location Seattle, incoming team members require comfortable amenities following unprecedented trauma, Meadows will accompany. Commander requires large suite for secure conference.
Whether or not the superheroes needed a few days in a luxury hotel, Lisa certainly did. She and Britannica had grown quite close, and even Schist was going to be missed. There had been no time for a proper goodbye; an order came in and off they went. Lisa would have brought them all parting gifts. In the event all she could manage was a farewell wave as the heroes slunk to their cruiser.
Then she had to oversee the shutting down of SHOE HQ Las Vegas.
Then she had to uproot and downroot in Oliver, Kentucky.
Then came word that the new superheroes had crashed in the Arctic.
Then she was told that the cruiser’s fission-fusion drive, for which there were no replacements on Earth, had to be replaced.
Then she learned that the team’s superpowers were in mad disarray.
One does not accede to the rank of Director of the Support Division within SHOESTRING unless one possesses the fortitude to handle such matters in stride. And so Lisa did. Truth to tell, in the last forty-eight hours her stride had slowed a bit, and acquired a bit of a wobble. Yet on she strode, confident, capable, hopeful.
Then she received the order from Hadron.
Lisa dropped her bag in her room and headed straight for the bar.
“Rye whiskey. Rocks.”
“I’ll add this to your room charge,” said the bartender when he returned with the drink. “May I have your room number?”
“Fourteen eleven and why don’t you write it on the wall so you don’t have to keep asking.”
“Bad week.” Sip. “Bad epoch.” Sip. “Bad milleminum.” Sip. “What comes after milleminum?”
“I’ll drink to that.” Sip. “What’s your name?”
“Ryan, let me give you some advice. No. You give me some advice. That’s it. Ryan you give me some advice.”
“Don’t go swimming alone.”
“No, I mean real advice. A real piece of advice.”
“All right, first one is on the house. After that I have to charge.”
“Put it on my room number. You still got my room number?”
“OK. Here goes. Ryan, what’s the best way to give bad news to someone from outer space?”
“What’s your name again?”
“Lisa, I don’t cut customers off after only one drink, but in your case I’m going to make an exception.”
© 2019 Ross Carter