Cassie held out the latest issue of “Double V,” flipping the front half of the magazine under the back to make it easier to hold. She pointed to an article titled “Twelve Threats: New and Notable.”
Halfway down the list of new supervillains was a picture of a group of men and women with automatic rifles. Below the text it said:
Syndicate L: A growing criminal organization originating in the northeast but with connections throughout the country, it specializes in acquiring materials-both legal and illegal. Staffed primarily by normal, unmodified humans, it employs a few supers as hired muscle.
“We could take them,” she said. “Not the whole group, but definitely a local branch.”
I stood by my locker, flipping my eyes between the magazine and her face.
This was the part where (in her mind) I should now be saying, “Great, let’s go out tonight and take on organized crime.”
Or to put it another way, it was a totally crazy idea. I was about to tell her as much when one of her friends stepped out of the between classes crowd and stopped next to us.
“Hey Kayla.” Cassie pushed the magazine into my hands.
“Thanks for showing me the article, Nick,” she said, leading Kayla down the hall.
Kayla gave me an odd look, likely mystified as to why Cassie would be talking to me at all.
At that moment, I was living proof that knowledge did not bring peace of mind.
Last year she wouldn’t have been talking to me. We moved in different circles. Hers: girl jocks. Mine: smart kids who spend more time on odd projects like building trebuchets or robots than doing their actual schoolwork.
The latter circle, by the way, was a group of one.
That changed last summer. My grandfather had died in May; Cassie had called to find out how I was doing. She also asked if I knew what any of the others were doing and mostly I didn’t. With the official dissolution of the Grand Lake Heroes League and the deaths of all but two of its members, I didn’t know where to begin.
I visited her a few times though. She was on bed rest for half the summer due to receiving some kind of treatment. I guessed cancer, but she didn’t want to talk about it.
We did talk about our shared childhoods-picnics in the park near my grandfather’s lab, almost all of the heroes being grandparents now and their costumes packed away. The only exception to this being Cassie’s father (Captain Commando), who, thanks to an acute case of immortality, was still active more than fifty years after World War II.
I remembered him manning the grill, joking along with all the adults, but sometimes going silent and gazing off into the distance. In retrospect, I wondered what was going on. Was it just his temperament or was he reflecting on the fact that all his friends – all the people he would ever meet – would die soon and he would just continue living? If so, it was ironic that he would be blown up four years before my grandfather died.
Not that Cassie and I discussed that much.
“DVD Night” was her idea. Get together all the kids again, hang out, watch a movie and remember.
It was a success of a kind. Most of the kids were older than we are and had left town for one reason or another, but we managed to get four of us most weeks, sometimes a few more.
Cassie and I were regulars, of course, but we also had Daniel, son of Mindstryke and grandson of the Mentalist (another war buddy of grandpa’s), and Jaclyn, a granddaughter of Hotfoot. Sometimes one or another of Jaclyn’s older brothers would be there and sometimes the grandchildren of Red Lightning or the Night Wolf but nobody else I considered a friend.
In August, Cassie began to feel better. The treatments stopped and I began to realize what kind of treatments they were. They weren’t treatments for cancer. They were treatments for being normal and she had definitely been cured.
She spent one week completely awake, occupying herself by doing things like running to and from Jericho, a town forty miles up the coast of Lake Michigan. Unlike Hotfoot or his grandchildren, she wasn’t spectacularly fast, so it really did take her most of the night.
I remember running into her at DVD night the next day.
“You’re… okay?” I said after hearing about what she’d done.
“I’m not just okay,” she said, “I’m not even tired.”
A couple weeks after that she signed up at the studio where I took martial arts. If this were any normal martial arts studio, I’d undoubtedly be telling you how she shocked the teacher with her intense focus and inhuman level of athletic ability, but it was not a normal studio.
So I’ll just tell you that she fit in-better than I did, actually. When I wasn’t wearing my grandfather’s armored suit, I didn’t have any powers.
Not having powers wasn’t a problem though. Unlike Cassie, I had no intention of going out in the night and fighting crime.