It was the last two weeks of my internship and not the internship for my engineering degree. That one had ended barely two months in after an investigation and battle that left most of the company’s leadership in prison.
Grand Lake University’s engineering department with help from the FBI had put me into a quiet internship where I learned how to design auto parts for the rest of the year. It wasn’t the most interesting internship, but on the other hand, no one had attempted to kill me, making it much less stressful than my first internship.
This was my post-college internship through the Stapledon program which meant I was interning with another superhero group.
The greater Detroit metro area had a well-known team—Detroit Unity—which had been created by joining together superheroes from the suburbs with the downtown Detroit supers, fixing racial divisions in the local super community dating from the 1967 riots. The group’s history had inspired two documentaries, but I wasn’t interning with Unity.
I was interning with the Motor City Heroes. They helped Unity, but they weren’t part of it.
It’s something of an understatement to say that the Motor City Heroes didn’t have the nicest base. It was a round, concrete tower that rose two stories from a corner lot that had last been used by a dollar store. The name “Motor City Heroes” had been carved into the concrete.
One thing that you could say for it was that unlike your average superhero base in a city, it didn’t put civilians at risk. While it was on a four-lane road, Detroit’s depopulation had left a half-block distance from the nearest home or business—at least on the south side of the street.
Grass and weeds surrounded the building, turning into urban gardens on the next block. Most of the houses had been bulldozed, clearing out the space.
I wasn’t outside the building, of course, I was inside and I couldn’t even look out of the window. Much like an iceberg, most of the base was under water, or to be technically accurate, under ground level.
That’s if, you know, you’re into complete technical accuracy. Because if you were, then I’d also be forced to note that I wasn’t alone down there. I was hanging around with Mateo.
We were in the garage/lab. It wasn’t my lab. It wasn’t even as big as my lab, but it did feel like home even if it was less like the lab than the hangar where we kept the jet and various super vehicles.
The Motor City Heroes’ technical person was a power-suited automotive engineer who went by V8 when in costume and as Willa when she wasn’t. She wasn’t in, but all her tools and machines were. She worked more with metal than I did, but we had similar fabrication machines, and 3D printers. She did more welding and more metalwork. The machines, tools, and counters covered the walls, and the whole place smelled of oil.
In his mid-twenties, Mateo was partly out of costume and leaning against a metal support beam. A little taller than I was and skinnier, he had dark brown hair and tan skin. His blue mask stuck partly out of the pocket of his black button-down shirt (with a priest’s collar) while his rapier hung from his belt.
He folded his arms across his chest. “You’re almost done, right? It’s one week? Two? Then you’re back to Grand Lake.”
“Two,” I said. “It’s been interesting to be here—really different actually. Most of the League’s stuff seems to escalate into world ending territory. This has been nice, more street level and a little more human, if that makes any sense.”
Mateo nodded. “Sure. It makes a lot of sense. We spend all of our time on the ground. When you aren’t flying or hiding behind armor, you have to talk to people. And when you aren’t dressed like a stormtrooper, people come up and talk to you.”
“They talk to me when I’m in the Rocket suit, but it’s a little more of a mob scene and there are a lot of selfies.”
He laughed. “The selfies do get a little out of hand. I should be grateful that the Masks were at their peak popularity in the 1920s and 30s. I don’t get as much of that.”
I shook my head. “I’m still amazed that you’re all still out there and still doing the same thing—masks and rapiers. I know it’s magic, but it surprises me that it hasn’t evolved a little.”
“Some things are perfect as is,” he winked at me. “And besides, it does evolve. It’s a little different for everyone in my family.”
His phone began to ring and he pulled it out of his pocket to answer. After a few minutes of talking in a low voice, he put the phone away and turned back to me. “That was the police. We’ve got a dead body and according to them, it looks like there’s something spooky going on.”
He pulled the mask out of his pocket and it stuck to his face. As he let it go, his clothes changed into shimmery blue clothes that reminded me of something out of a Zorro movie including a sash, broad-brimmed hat, and cape.
“Coming?” He walked across the room and mounted his motorcycle, a long black Harley. His cape fell across the seat behind him, never getting close to the back tire, chain, or engine even though it hung to his knee.
“It’s not as if I have a choice.” My own motorcycle started as I walked toward it.