Every Thursday, barring giant robot attacks, the superheroes of Rush City would meet at the YMCA downtown.
“So there I was, brand-new cape,” Eagle Eye explained. “I mean, you know how expensive those things are! And of course with my color scheme I had to get the two-toned. I was just going to take it out for a spin.”
“Oh yeah, how was it?” Weather Man asked. “I heard the new designs are more aerodynamic. Hurricane Boy and I have been thinking about upgrading.”
“It was great. The new material minimizes flapping so you don’t feel as much drag. But as I was rounding Park, Toxic Sludge decided he needed to make an appearance.”
There was a collective groan from the circle of brightly dressed individuals.
Castor, the older of the Gemini Twins, rolled his eyes. “I thought we flushed that guy down the drain last week!”
“Obviously he doesn’t know when to quit,” Castor’s brother, Pollux, said.
“Oh, he doesn’t. And now he apparently has this thicker sludge that not even Dawn can get off. I have to buy a completely new cape, as if money wasn’t tight enough. I mean, you guys know how it is.”
Heads nodded and there were more than a few mutters.
“I swear, super-villains nowadays are so inconsiderate,” Mr. Indestructible said. “When I was first starting there were no giant robot attacks before 9 AM and no arch-enemy battles on Sundays. But this new guy, Psycho, called me out right in the middle of Sunday brunch with his army of mind-controlled zombies. I mean, can’t a guy do a crossword and read the Sports section in peace?”
“Here, here!” Werewolf growled.
They went around the circle for almost half an hour, each telling stories of their latest brush with one of the villains of Rush City. They didn’t realize that not everyone was participating. But Oracle, known for her perceptive powers, did.
“Technolad, you’ve been awfully quiet.”
The superhero in question looked up from the smart phone he’d been taking apart and putting back together over and over again during the entire meeting.
“That’s right,” Mr. Indestructible said. “You never told me how the fight with Robo-Master went.”
“Fine,” he mumbled.
The group looked at him expectantly. “Well, did you win?” Purple Cobra asked.
He sighed, pulling all the pieces back together with a wave of his hand. “Yeah.”
Mr. Indestructible laughed. “Well, tell us about it then! Come on.”
The other superheroes all echoed his sentiment, but Technolad didn’t seem very interested. He fiddled with the phone in his hands until the others began to realize that something else was bothering him. Oracle was the one who finally convinced him to tell everyone, claiming she would if he didn’t.
“Fine!” Technolad snapped. “My girlfriend found out about my super ego.”
The circle fell quiet. Werewolf whined and the Gemini Twins exchanged identical winces. Technolad didn’t look up, but he finally stopped fidgeting with his smart phone. For a while, nobody knew what to say. Every superhero had a super ego and an alter ego. The super ego was the public face, but the alter ego was something sacred. Even those in the group didn’t know who each other was in their “private life”. For all Mr. Indestructible knew, the father and son who lived next door to him could be Weather Man and Hurricane Boy, but he’d never ask them.
It wasn’t that they didn’t trust each other. In fact, the ten superheroes who gathered every Thursday at the YMCA downtown were probably the most trustworthy people any of them knew. Lord knows you can’t trust super-villains. This group was the closest thing any of them had to work friends. Sometimes Eagle Eye liked to team up with Weather Man and his sidekick Hurricane Boy. Every now and then Mr. Indestructible needed Purple Cobra’s finesse. But super egos and alter egos never mixed.
A superhero’s alter ego is his down time. It’s his escape. Superheroes can’t go on vacation because evil never rests. But alter egos can. To have one’s alter ego revealed was unthinkable. It was the whole reason they wore masks! Well, that and the costume just wouldn’t look complete without one.
Eventually Hurricane Boy asked the question that was on everyone’s mind.
“How’d she find out?”
“Yeah, how’d she find out?” Eagle Eye said. “You made it through high school without anyone finding out.”
“Yeah but college is different,” Pollux said, his brother nodding.
“Of course it is,” said Mr. Incredible. “We’ve all been there. Technolad?”
Technolad was still toying with his smart phone, but now there seemed to be an edge to the once gentle movements. He slammed the back casing onto the phone and shoved it in one of the many hidden pockets on his super suit. The other superheroes stared. They’d never seen Technolad treat even a lowly calculator in such a way. He was always gentle and tender with their broken cell phones and laptops. Pollux once said that he looked like he was trying to coax a stray dog. Castor said it was a little creepy and handled their repaired laptop at arm’s length.
“Stella told on me.” He bit out each word, like he was telling his friends a girl cheated on him.
“Who’s Stella?” Purple Cobra asked.
“She’s Elle’s computer. You might as well know my girlfriend’s name is Elle.”
“I always liked that name,” Purple Cobra said.
“I think it’s too girly,” Werewolf said.
“You think everything is too girly. Purple is too girly too.”
“Purple is the color of royalty!”
“Doesn’t mean it’s not a girly color.”
“Purple Cobra, Werewolf, please,” Mr. Indestructible said.
“Yeah, give it a rest,” Castor muttered as Pollux snorted.
“This is a safe-zone. We all respect each other here and right now we’re being very disrespectful to our friend, Technolad. You said Stella, E—your girlfriend’s computer, told on you?”
“How?” Hurricane Boy said.
“He helped her get over a virus,” Oracle said. “She was so sick, Technolad. You did the right thing.”
“Doesn’t feel like it.”
“Helping someone, or something, is never wrong,” Weather Man said. The other superheroes agreed whole-heartedly, clapping and stomping the floor (gently in Mr. Indestructible’s case).
“Except now she knows about my super ego.”
The clapping and stomping stopped.
“What did you do?” Eagle Eye asked.
“I had to tell her! She was going to call the cops. You know how my fingers spark when I’m working, with the electric currents. She thought I was going to kill her or something!”
“But…I thought those sparks only affect technology?” Pollux said.
“But she didn’t know that. She was going to call the cops and poor Stella was only half-clean. She threw a cup of water on me. I think she thought maybe it was like fire and she could put it out.”
Castor, Pollux, and Oracle laughed. Hurricane Boy was nearly on the floor, in stitches. Even Purple Cobra was smiling. Weather Man and Eagle Eye were obviously trying their hardest to still look concerned. Technolad slumped over, his forehead in his hands.
“Did she involve the Police?” Mr. Indestructible asked very calmly and very seriously.
The superheroes of Rush City and RCPD had a provisional relationship. Technically, the superheroes were vigilantes, working outside the law. But nobody would say something like that to Mr. Indestructible or any of his fellow superheroes. As long as the superheroes kept bringing in criminals, rescuing cats from trees, and generally fighting crime and lawlessness, then RCPD was happy to look the other way. But they couldn’t get any complaints. If someone said they saw Weather Man and Hurricane Boy shoplifting, that would be it for them. If Technolad was reportedly involved in a situation of domestic violence, even if it was a misunderstanding, that would be the end. And if one of them went down, it would only be a matter of time before all the others did too. The balance of good and evil in Rush City was fragile. Each superhero pulled their weight, fighting crime and super villains. If that weight had to be redistributed to the others it would be too much.
“No, thank God.”
Everyone in the circle exhaled.
“Except now she knows about both your super ego and your alter ego,” Eagle Eye said. “You know that doesn’t work. Two people can’t keep a secret and this is a super secret.”
“Meaning it’s even harder to keep,” Purple Cobra added.
“Well,” said Werewolf, “you know, three people can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”
“Who said that?” Castor asked. “I feel like I’ve heard it before.”
“Now there’s an idea,” Purple Cobra said.
“We are not killing Technolad’s girlfriend,” Mr. Indestructible said, glaring at Werewolf and Purple Cobra disapprovingly.
“Nobody would know,” Werewolf said, examining his claws. “And it’s not like we haven’t done it before.”
“Janus was a super villain.”
“Your super villain, if I remember.”
“Technolad’s girlfriend is not a super villain.”
“That we know of.”
“So we’re not going to kill her!”
“Maybe she just got in the way.”
“And maybe that’s murder!”
“Werewolf,” Oracle said softly, “that isn’t the superhero way.”
“I’m just throwing out ideas,” Werewolf growled.
“I think Technolad should decide,” Purple Cobra said.
Technolad looked a bit pale from Werewolf’s and Purple Cobra’s suggestions. “I don’t want to kill her. I love her.”
Eagle Eye snorted. “Superheroes don’t have time for love. They’re too busy fighting evil and crime.”
“You can’t keep dating her,” Castor said.
“But if he doesn’t, she might tell everyone his alter ego, just to spite him,” replied Pollux.
“That would be horrible,” Hurricane Boy said. “To have all my friends know that I run around in a spandex suit with my father?” He avoided Weather Man’s pointed glance.
“Or we could just do what I suggested,” Werewolf said.
“Hold that thought,” said Oracle.
At that moment, there was a tentative knock on the door. All ten superheroes turned as a teenage boy with a very unfortunate case of acne poked his head inside.
“Sorry to bother you sirs, um ma’ams, but we uh, need this space. Zumba class.”
“I love Zumba.” Oracle smiled. “It doesn’t even feel like you’re working out.”
“Really?” asked Weather Man. “I’ve always wanted to try it. I’ve heard great things.”
“I highly recommend it. And Werewolf, you shouldn’t do that. Technolad cares about Elle and we’d all know it was you.”
Werewolf growled. “Just get out of my head.” He shoved his chair and sent it sliding across the room into the collection against the wall before leaving. The others heard his frustrated snarl just outside the door and the YMCA boy’s puberty-broken shriek.
Purple Cobra sighed. “I’ll go talk to him. He won’t do anything until next week.”
“Thank you, Purple Cobra,” Mr. Indestructible said.
She left and Eagle Eye was just behind her.
“If you need any tips, we’ve dumped tons of girls,” Castor said.
Hurricane Boy snorted. “And have probably been dumped by way more.”
“Says the boy who runs around in a spandex suit with his daddy,” Pollux added. He and Castor high fived before leaving too.
“Just think on it,” Oracle suggested. “That always helps me.”
Oracle, Weather Man, and Hurricane Boy all left as the Zumba class began filing in with their workout bags. There were more than a few stares at the two remaining superheroes. Usually they were very careful about only using their allotted time and leaving before they made a scene, like this one. But something like this had only ever happened once before, with Mr. Indestructible’s ex-archenemy, Janus.
“I agree with Oracle,” Mr. Indestructible said. “You need to think on this. If you can’t find a solution, Werewolf will. You know how he likes to take matters into his own hands.”
“I don’t want him to kill her.”
“None of us do.”
“But what else is there? I don’t want to…leave.”
“None of us want that either. Sleep on it.”
“Excuse me, are you here for the Zumba class?”
The entire class was now assembled and, while they gave the two superheroes some space, everyone was watching. The Zumba instructor smiled enthusiastically.
“No,” Mr. Indestructible replied. “Unfortunately not. We will get out of your way. Have a good class.”
“Thank you! And if you decide to join, you’re always welcome.”
“We will keep that in mind.”
Mr. Indestructible and Technolad left before the music started, passing the still wide-eyed YMCA employee in the hallway. They left the downtown YMCA together, a bold move with today’s super villains. They were known to sometimes sit in wait for them after these Thursday meetings. But no army of robots or mind-controlled zombies attacked today so Technolad and Mr. Indestructible seemed in the clear for at least a few more minutes.
“I’ll see you next Thursday,” Technolad said.
Mr. Indestructible nodded. “Take care.”
At the intersection Mr. Indestructible jogged off down Bridge Street while Technolad turned west, towards Rush University campus.