as narrated by Simon “Lux” Garcia
I really love people. There’s no other way to put it. My friends, my family, my teammates, people I met walking down the street, even the “villains” that we wind up fighting against. Part of that, obviously, is due to my place as Aphrodite’s champion. She’s the goddess of love and that’s hard not to have rub off on you when you’re her champion. In reality though, I was pretty much like this even before I became her champion.
“Please stop flirting with the snake girl. We have a job to do.” Borderskipper, my impatient teammate, said.
“I don’t flirt.” I told her and smiled at Alil. It was true too. I hadn’t been flirting, I’d been taking Alil’s mind off her missing siblings and reassuring her that they’d be ok. The poor girl looked like she’d be through hell twice over and from what little I was able to tease out of her it didn’t sound like she’d had much chance to make friends with people outside of her family. Once this was over I would have to see about changing that. I knew at least three guys her age (since that seemed to be her preference) that would absolutely flip over meeting someone like her.
“Then stop not-flirting or whatever it is you’re doing. Heartbeat says she and Wind Walker have found the trail Wyrd’s robot took.” Borderskipper said.
“Wind Walker? We’re going with codenames for everyone now?” I asked.
“Yes. Because this is a real operation.” she replied.
“Ok, ok. So what are we supposed to be doing now then.” I asked.
“We’re on standby for when they find Wyrd’s lair.”
“So..hurry up and wait? Weren’t we just doing that?” I asked.
“Do you have your armor on? Tactical gear? Any weapons? Hmm?”
“I can get dressed quickly when I need to.” I pointed out.
“You’re going to need to pretty soon.”
“In that case I guess it’s time for me to leave.” I said, chuckling inside as I waited for her reaction to that.
“What? Where are you going?” she sputtered.
“Just have to look up some old friends.” I shrugged.
“We’re about to start a mission! This is to save Aegis and Thundercrash!” she screamed at me. I loved her too, but sometimes we’re cruel to those we love and sometimes I just enjoy driving her nuts for the hell of it.
“And Amphi and anyone else Wyrd may have kidnapped. I know. I’ll be there. I promise.” I said and slid gracefully out the door. I don’t know if any of our other teammates could have gotten away with that, but I’d proven that I “worked in mysterious ways” often enough that even the eternally impatient Borderskipper was willing to extend me a bit of trust.
Once I was outside the police station that we’d relocated to for Alil and M’Kala’s safety, I took to the skies. Some people use wings to fly, some use rocket boots, I actually used happy thoughts. In a pinch though I did have a set of wings. Aphrodite liked me to make a point about how uplifting love was, but she wasn’t going to leave me crippled when I was feeling down for a day or so.
Borderskipper probably figured I was intending to goof off till the call came in and then streak to the target site just in time to arrive like the cavalry. In that she would have been half right. In truth I had no intention of goofing off. Instead I made a beeline to one of the apartment buildings near the State College campus.
From the outside it’s always a little harder to pick out which windows belong to which rooms, especially if you haven’t visited the people in the apartment you’re looking for in a while. Fortunately the folks I was in search of had left their drapes open and their blinds up so I was able to pick out their room by the posters I saw on their walls.
I tapped on the glass and saw a solidly muscled, dark haired, dark skinned college guy get up from his chair, take one look out the window to where I was hovering and then go sit back down at the computer.
“Was that a tap on our window?” another college guy, this one blonde, pale and lean, said as he walked into the room carrying two lightning rods with electricity arcing between them.
“I’m sure it was just a bird.” the first guy said without looking up from his computer.
“It’s kind of large and glowy to be a bird don’t you think?” the second guy said as he peered across the room and out the window at me. I waved back.
“Nope he’s right, just us big, glowing, talking birds out here. Any chance you have a cup of sugar I could borrow?” I asked through the window.
Eric, the blonde rolled his eyes, put down the lightning rods and came over to open the window and let me in.
“Why thank you Eric, and a pleasant evening to you as well Milo.” I said as I stepped into their apartment.
“It was.” Milo said, still not looking up from his computer.
“Ignore Milo, Simon. He’s a paper due tomorrow and he’s been working on it for days. I think it fried his hospitality circuit.” Eric said and offered me a seat the table in their small living room.
“Hospitality? Do you know that every time I have had a major project come up, every time, this guy has shown up to drag us off to something that gets in the way?” Milo complained, finally looking over at me so that he could jab his finger in the correct direction.
“That’s not true.” I protested.
“So you’re not here to ask for our help with something, this is just a normal visit, like normal people have?” Milo asked.
“When have I ever been ‘normal people’ Milo?” I asked, deflecting the question.
“So what do you need our help with Simon?” Eric asked.
“Have you heard about Aegis and Thundercrash?” I asked.
“Somewhat. I saw a tweet that they’d been taken hostage or something?” Eric said.
“More ‘or something’. A new guy who calls himself Doctor Wyrd got them. He’s using new technology to do it. Space warping tech.” I explained.
“And so you thought of us?” Milo said.
“We didn’t outfit him.” Eric assured me.
“The thought didn’t even cross my mind. What did cross my mind was that you two are both the best experts I know on that sort of tech and the kind of muscle that my team could really use for this sort of mission.” I said.
“Why do you keep asking us to do this stuff. We’re not heroes man!” Milo said.
“You’re not villains either.” I said.
“We were.” Eric sighed.
“No, you were kids. Brilliant kids, with great ideas and, let’s be honest, kinda miserable home lives.” I said.
“That doesn’t excuse either of us.” Eric said.
“But it does let him guilt us into being stupid time and time again though doesn’t it?” Milo said.
“Whoa whoa, hold up, wait. This has nothing to do with guilt.” I said. “You two, each of you, have nothing to feel guilty over!”
“I tried to blow up the City Stadium.” Eric said.
“Yeah, and I tried to create an earthquake to flood downtown and let me rob half the banks there.” Milo said.
“But you didn’t. Eric, what happened after you had the stadium ready to blow?”
“You stopped me.”
“No. You stopped yourself. I just talked to you. We were just two kids chatting away. The choice to walk away from that? That was all you. Hell the city was grateful in the end when you pointed out all the holes in their security!”
“What about me?” Milo asked. “I don’t remember us talking much.”
“Yeah, well I was stupider then. How do you think I learned to try talking first? I met you before Eric remember? And who was it again who threw the first punch? Right across the bridge of that big beautiful nose you got there?” I asked.
“Hey, no flirting!” Eric warned me.
“I don’t flirt.” I told him.
“Ok, so you started it. Point is you finished it too.” Milo said.
“Seriously? That’s how you remember it? Milo, you outweighed me by like thirty pounds then. And had longer reach, and you’re about five times stronger than me. I didn’t win that fight, you gave it up.”
“No, I remember thinking ‘this little jerk’s fighting so hard, I’m not going to beat him unless I kill him’.” Milo said.
“And look, here, I’m not dead. You want to know what I was thinking? It kinda sounded like ‘I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m so gonna die’. You stopped yourself just as much as Eric did.” I said.
“Ok, so we got nothing to feel guilty about.” Milo agreed.
“Then why do we keep helping you?” Milo asked.
“You tell me.” I suggested.
“Because we owe you.” Eric said.
“For not turning you in? Come on, that would have been a total scuzzball move if I had. I don’t get points for that.” I said.
“No, for bringing us together.” Eric said.
“Like I could keep you two apart! Seriously though it’s not that either.”
“Then what is it. Is it part of your powers? Make Milo act like an idiot?” Milo asked.
“Like you need Simon for that?” Eric teased.
“Nope. I don’t have any kind of mind control powers at all. Aphrodite has said she will actually kill me on the spot if she ever catches me using any either, so don’t even think of it for a Christmas present ok.” I said.
“Why is it then? Why do you come back to us?” Eric asked.
“Two reason: first you’re my friends. I love you guys, both of you, but then I kind of love everyone, so maybe that’s not impressive enough. The other reason is, when I look at you, do you know what I see?”
“What?” Milo asked.
“I see a kid with electrical powers and a natural talent at engineering who rewired the ICU ward to prevent power surges from harming the patients. I see a guy with earth powers who created an outdoor skating park with the wildest pipes in the city so kids would have a place to go that didn’t put them in traffic where they could get run over. You can say that you’re not all you like, but when I look at you, I see heroes.” I told them. I didn’t shout it. I just said it with quiet sincerity and let them look into my eyes to see the truth of it reflected there.
There was a quiet moment that followed that was interrupted by the ping of my communicator.
“They’ve found the lair. I’m transmitting the reports from Heartbeat to you now. Get there as fast as you can Lux, we need you.” Borderskipper said.
“They need more than me.” I told Eric and Milo. “Doctor Wyrd is no joke. He’s crazy, but he plays it up as a mask. Behind the jokiness, he’s deadly serious about something and we don’t know what it is yet.”
“If he’s using space bending technology that’s almost a given.” Eric agreed.
“That’s true. I’m doing my graduate work on small field distortions and there’s more ways for those to go wrong than I can even remember yet.” Milo agreed.
“So you’ll help?” I asked.
The two of them looked at each other and then nodded together at their silently reached consensus.
“I didn’t want to write that paper anyways tonight.” Milo said, a smile finally cracking over his face.
“Give me a minute and I’ll have something that might help.” Eric said and disappeared into their bedroom.
“What is he going to get?” I asked.
“A bad idea. A very bad idea.” Milo said.
A moment later Eric reappeared with two briefcases in his hands.
“And those would be something that would help?” I asked.
“No. These are our traveling clothes. This might help.” he said as he handed me a ring.
“I’m touched, really, but shouldn’t you be giving this to Milo?” I asked.
“Just put it on. It’s a spatial stability field generator.” Eric said.
“Prototype” Milo added.
“That means it’ll work extra well right?” I asked. I was very familiar with prototypes from working with Gerry (aka Fire Forge), and I suspected that Eric’s wouldn’t be much more reliable than the one in three success rate that Gerry’s prototypes managed.
“Absolutely.” Eric agreed.
I turned to look at them and noticed that the suitcases were open. Somewhat more obvious though were the blue and red suits of armor that had emerged from the suitcases to encase my two friends (blue for Eric, red for Milo).
“Stylish and practical, you two look fantastic.” I complimented them.
“Yeah, yeah, now let’s go be heroes.” Milo said.