Motor City Intern: Part 1

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.

29 thoughts on “Motor City Intern: Part 1”

  1. So, is this a crossover issue of the Heroes League comic, a crossover of the Motor City Heroes comic, a one-shot, or a limited series?

    Only half kidding.

    1. A couple times, but Blue Mask is the one who’s only appeared so far. He appeared in Compound Kids when Nick and the others were part of teams in a tournament, but I don’t think he ever got a line then.

  2. Nick comes off as, uh, kind of patronizing in a couple of places and doesn’t even seem to realize when Mateo is giving it to him back.

    [“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.”]

    TRANSLATION: Your missions aren’t as important as ours.

    [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.”]

    TRANSLATION: You aren’t part of the community you’re protecting, and you frighten and intimidate people.

    [“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.”]

    TRANSLATION: Actually, I’m famous and everyone loves me.

    [“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.”]

    TRANSLATION: Your techniques and approach haven’t changed in 100 years, and I don’t have confidence in your ability to meet the challenges of the modern world.

    But all of this with like zero self-awareness.

    1. Let me offer a different translation.

      [“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.”]

      TRANSLATION: We keep ending up with such big projects we miss the people we want to protect.

      [“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.”]

      TRANSLATION: People talk to the Rocket. And never actually to me.

      [“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.”]

      TRANSLATION: I have to alter my suit practically every fight just to survive. How have you guys kept the same pattern for a hundred years?

    2. Also “it’s not as if I have a choice”, which is a pretty messed up response to “there’s been a spooky murder”.

      1. I can see how you might say that, but it was said in the context of being offered a choice that’s more polite than real. If you’re not going to do what’s asked of you in an internship, what’s the point of being there?

  3. Wait, “post-college internship”? Has Nick graduated? Book 10 took place during his junior year. Or does “post-college” mean “during the summer”?

    1. Nick graduated. The next book takes place after college. I didn’t feel like I wanted to do anything special around his graduation unless it’s a short story at some point.

  4. Dang, his senior year must have been the most uneventful year since they restarted the Heroes’ League.

    1. Also, things that might be worth a story at the beginning of the series aren’t worth a story now. They probably faced a number of supervillains over the course of the year, but none of them moved the plot of the series forward and therefore they don’t appear in a book.

      1. Also I doubt many(if any) of them were on the scale of the villains that have been more recently introduced

  5. I was honestly surprised that Nick felt the need to do an internship. He’s been an active member of a superhero team for years now and has had many adventures of his own. Sure there’s always things to learn, but something like that could be in the context of a team exchange. Calling it an “internship” implies certain things about the relationship. It’s like… if he had started being a superhero at age 22 and was coming in for an “internship” at age 27, wouldn’t that feel a little weird?

    1. It’s part of the Stapledon program. It is true that in starting at 18 and continuing through to his current age (21), he’s got more experience than the program assumes. On the other hand, he’s not alone in this either.

      Even beyond self taught teen supers, the program has a percentage of former military who definitely have practical experience and are 22+. The idea of the internship is to give people practical experience with a mentor in an area where they don’t have it. He doesn’t have street level experience to a great degree.

      Nick could have played the, “I’m the Rocket’s grandson, so this rule doesn’t apply to me,” card, but he didn’t.

      1. While comics don’t seem to have that many teams. I can also see this as a method of cross training sidekicks.
        Imagine a Superboy or Supergirl mentoring for a time under Green Arrow or Batman. To learn how things work as said here, street level. Also to show them a few tricks outside just their powers.
        Now imagine the latest Robin spending time with Superman.
        First you get the whole help everyone vibe. You also could get things like from the animated movie Superman vs the Elite. Where he shows them how to get creative and combine their powers to something greater than any one of them can accomplish.

        1. “By your power combined…”

          Sorry, should have gone with something a little more classy… Wonder Twins? Power Rangers?…

    1. It’s a short story set in between the last book which ended with the last post and the next book which will take place as Nick starts his two years of service following completion of the Stapledon program. It may be that I should have signaled that more clearly ahead of the post.

      1. It’s the sort of break that’s common between books in many series but wasn’t early on in this one; I realized during my reread that there’d been more time skipped in college than I thought, usually a semester at least but since it’s all just “college” it was easy to miss.

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