The New Heroes League: Part 4

He really could have been here to go after us, but I hadn’t seen any hint of it. Of course, if he were good at his job, I wouldn’t.

“Then we have to get him,” Cassie said.

She tapped away at the keyboard. “The sightings all seem to be ten, twenty miles north of Grand Lake. I wonder if he’s staying at a cottage?”

“In December?” I said. “Can people use them in the winter? I always thought they were summer only.”

“My family’s got a cottage on Lake Michigan,” Haley said. “We do our family Christmas there.”

“Really? I didn’t know.” I said.

“We use ours mostly in the summer, but it’s comfortable during the winter too. It’s a little bigger than most, but it has to be. My dad’s side of the family — brothers, sisters, cousins… They all come for Christmas. You ought to come.”

“I’d like to,” I said, “but I’d feel a little weird walking in on your family’s Christmas party.”

“Don’t worry about it. Between everybody, we’ve got more than one hundred people there most years and people bring friends… and dates. You’ll fit in. I don’t even know all my cousins.”

“It must be nice,” Cassie said. “I’ve only got two cousins my age and I wish I didn’t know them. Anyway, let’s say we’ve agreed that some cottages can be used in the winter. From what I see here, he’s come around this time in other years.”

“Which means he probably isn’t targeting us,” I said.

“He might have a cottage,” Daniel said, “or maybe a hideout.”

“You’d think they’d have caught him by now if he did,” I said. “Someone would watch for him.”

“They are,” Cassie said. “That’s what’s cool about this thing. You can sign up to receive updates on him by email and, if you want, you can publicly list yourself as being after him.”

“Who’s on the list?” I asked.

Cassie smirked. “Protection Force.”

“Oh. Wow,” I said. “That’s wild.”

Haley said, “Are they the team that sells ad space on their costumes?”

Cassie said, “You’ve got it. Protection Force — justice and sponsorships.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it necessarily,” Daniel said. “Taking sponsors is okay. Putting their logos on your costume is legal. They just go a little too far.”

“It’s embarrassing,” Cassie said. “Half the time they’re on TV, they’re trying to slip in the name of their sponsors.”

“Didn’t Larry used to cover his costume with logos?” Haley said.

“Oh, yeah. He looked like a NASCAR driver,” Cassie said.

“Well, to be fair to him,” I said,” the factory he worked at had closed and unemployment had run out so he was basically living off his sponsorships at that point. Once his brewery started growing, he ditched all of them except for a pizza place and that’s only because he really likes their pizza.”

“He had to pay his bills,” Daniel said. “I’m sure the Rhino suit and the Rhinomobile don’t come cheap.”

Daniel had a point. Anyone who wanted to be a superhero (teams especially) eventually faced the issue of money. Did you want to go full time? Buy or create more equipment? Expand your reach beyond your hometown? Money decided whether or not you could. Some, like the various Defender groups, were mostly government funded. Others were non-profits. Still others took the for-profit route. Most of the last managed to look less silly than Protection Force, licensing out the rights to action figures or technology instead of taking advertising.

The car went silent for a little while as we all tried to remember where the conversation had been going before the detour.

“I wonder why no one but Protection Force is after him?” I asked. “He seems kind of major.”

“Like I should know?” Cassie shrugged. “They don’t publicly list everyone who wants email updates. Maybe a lot of people care, but only Protection Force wants to be listed.”

“Could be,” Daniel said. “It’s accessible to any heroes that ask for it whether they’re active or not. My dad never publicly lists himself as being after someone unless he wants the person to know it.”

“Does he really think supervillains are using it?” Haley sounded surprised.

“That’s the thing,” Daniel said, “he doesn’t know, so he doesn’t assume they aren’t.”

* * *

We changed seats again at a McDonald’s. I ended up driving. Daniel got his laptop back and spent most of the rest of the ride experimenting with his internet access and the Alliance’s online applications.

The driving wasn’t bad. The freeway turned out to be free of ice and snow despite being piled high on either side. I drove about five miles per hour over the speed limit and passed a few cars. I guessed that we’d probably get home before five.

Haley sat across from me in the front and twisted back toward Cassie, “Travis wanted me to choose a wolf based name because of Grandpa, but after Travis took Night Wolf what was there? He thought I should choose a name based on a female wolf, but I didn’t like ‘She-wolf’ and I really didn’t like my other options.”

Cassie laughed. “What did he want you to do? Call yourself ‘Night Bitch’?”

“See?” Haley said. “There aren’t any good female wolf names. That’s why I went with Night Cat.”

“I think it’s a good name,” I said. “Night Cat, I mean. Not the other one.”

“Nice save, Nick,” Cassie said, sounding amused.

“You know I didn’t mean — ” I began.

Haley laughed.

From the back, Daniel said, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if the Executioner had family here and that’s why he came back?”

“Not if it were my family,” Haley said.

12 thoughts on “The New Heroes League: Part 4”

  1. Dude great plot twist. The Executioner is a part of the Haley’s family tree šŸ™‚ I can’t wait to see how this develops.

  2. To some degree, but not just to comic books because it seems like you can barely find anything that doesn’t have advertising in it somewhere.

    Also, I go at this from the perspective of a science fiction writer. If we had a society where superpowers existed and the idea of superheroes became accepted, what happens next? One thing that happens next is that someone attempts to make a buck off it. I’ve known business owners who were comically tone deaf about the customer’s experience of their business and Protection Force probably represents them somehow.

  3. “Night Bitch”????? I didn’t laugh, so much as just stare at the screen with an “Oh snap” look.

    Jim, I really like the way you you include comic references and yet it makes SO much sense.

    I also like your commentary about bringing the realism in your sci-fi. For the record, I’ve always tended to look at your story from a sci-fi perspective and less as a superhero story; probably because I’m a Trekkie and I watch Heroes but anyway….

    You’ll recall, one of the reasons Stan Lee’s Marvel heroes were so popular is because he too deconstructed the idea of heroes save damsels in distress and puppies but never need a dime.

    One of the funniest Spider-Man moments was when he wanted to cash a check, and nobody believed him cause he had no ID.

    I like where this arc is headed. Remind me again, is Executioner a super, or is he just a super-slick ordinary guy, like Tony Stark?

  4. Bill: The whole section about the names that Haley’s not going to be using is largely prompted by originally thinking that Travis and Haley probably ought to have names on the same theme (since they’ve got pretty much the same abilities). Then I discovered that there weren’t any good female wolf themed names…

    As for Stan Lee: Yeah, for better or for worse his idea of trying to put the characters’ powers into as a normal life as possible is an influence.

    Spider-man being unable to cash a check would be a great scene and totally fits the feel of the character.

    The Executioner: Whether or not he’s got powers hasn’t yet appeared. It’ll show up near the beginning of the next post.

  5. Hmm…Haley just starts talking about her new name without any provocation here, doesn’t she? Or did Cassie ask and I just missed it?

  6. She didn’t ask, but if she did, it wasn’t included in the story.

    That’s supposed to be a “slice of life” moment in the drive without a whole lot of before or after.

  7. Interesting idea, superheroes selling ad space on their costumes. I always figured advertising would be a good idea for superheroes to make money, but I was thinking more along the lines of appearing in adverts – Superman gets recorded drinking Coca Cola, put on TV, that sort of thing. Selling merchandising rights could also be good.
    I really like stories (like this one) that look at “what would happen if superpowers were real”.

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