Chapter 8 - Fitting In
Finding His Way
“Is this a dagger which I see before me, This handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but A dagger of the mind, a false creation, Proceeding from the heat-oppressèd brain?”
Jet’s English teacher, a shorter man who had worn a suit jacket both days Jet had been in school for, read Shakespeare in front of the room. He was reading from his copy of the play, which was littered with sticky notes emerging from different pages. He closed the book and waited for several seconds as he looked out over the room.
“So? What do we think? We know this takes place just after Macbeth has murdered the king. We watched the stage performance a couple days ago, for those who weren’t here, he was hallucinating a dagger of some kind. What do we think this means?”
The room was silent. Jet looked around his classmates. Some were heads down on their desks, looking up at their teacher with half-closed eyes, while others were looking at their phones tucked into their laps. A select few seemed to be rereading the passage over again, trying to look for clues.
With some hesitation, Jet put up his hand.
“Yes?” the teacher prompted while gesturing towards Jet.
“Well, it means he’s feeling guilty right? He feels guilty for having killed the king,” Jet said.
The teacher smiled warmly at Jet and nodded.
“Yeah, absolutely he would be feeling guilty. Duncan, not a few scenes earlier had said that Macbeth was like a son to him, and so for Macbeth to do that for the promise of power, while at this point in the play when he’s still feeling remorse, would absolutely weigh on him,” the teacher agreed.
The teacher continued to talk and Jet sat with that thought for a moment. He tapped his fingers against his desk for a few seconds, before raising his hand.
“Yes?” the teacher asked, stopping his pace.
“Well, I know I just started the book yesterday, but I’m a little confused about something,” Jet stated.
“By all means,” the teacher prompted, sitting down on an empty desk and looking at Jet intently.
Jet swallowed, unsure why he was nervous.
“If this Macbeth guy is our main character why is, well why is he murdering the king? That’s not very heroic of him.”
There were a couple of awkward chuckles, some students thinking Jet was joking at first. Then they realized he was serious, and a few of them shifted in their seats uncomfortably. The teacher narrowed his eyes slightly at Jet and then stood up.
“Have you been introduced to the concept of tragedy before?” the teacher asked.
Jet scratched the back of his head and thought back to some of the movies he had watched over the past few years.
“It’s where something bad happens to good people, right?” Jet answered.
The teacher nodded and went to continue, but Jet interrupted him, “And then it works out in the end somehow right? Bad people get their comeuppance of some kind.”
The teacher unexpectedly laughed at this, making a few of the other kids laugh.
“Well not to spoil the ending of a play that’s hundreds of years old, but the bad guy will get his comeuppance in Macbeth,” the teacher replied. “But, in most classic Shakespearian tragedies, what we witness is good people having bad things happen to them, or those good people doing bad things, and most result in them becoming tragic figures.”
The teacher was met with a blank stare, and so with a smile, he raised one hand up in the air while lowering the other.
“In the case of Macbeth, we witness Macbeth’s star, who at the start of the play, is high,” the teacher continued. “And throughout, we watch his star fall farther and farther.”
As he lowered the raised hand to emphasize his point, he began to lift his other hand as he continued to talk.
“Meanwhile, we witness Mcduff’s star rise throughout the play, to truly showcase how far Macbeth’s falls.”
Jet sat back in his seat and folded his arms. The teacher could see something was still on Jet’s mind, so he waited for Jet to process his next question.
“So essentially the good guys become bad guys, that’s what makes them tragic figures?” Jet asked. “That doesn’t seem realistic.”
A few in the class laughed, while others let out an awkward breath. The line of questioning was dragging out the lesson, and a few wish Jet would just stop talking. Even though Jet didn’t seem embarrassed, others seemed to be suffering it second hand.
“It’s more realistic than you think, Jet,” the teacher remarked. “You might be tempted to segregate people based on good and bad, but why we read Shakespeare is because it displays to us that rarely ever is the truth so simple. These tragedies, watching characters transform, serve as cautionary tales for the rest of us. In some, like Macbeth, it shows the dangers of ambition. Romeo and Juliet show us the potential follies of lust. Othello is all about jealousy.”
Jet’s eyes went to his desk.
“Ultimately, we read these because, despite the difficult language, Shakespeare shows us that our perceived lines between good and bad are just that. They are only real in the eye of the beholder. And if we can acknowledge that, we can try and navigate murky waters and grow as people,” the teacher concluded.
The class was silent for a few moments. A couple of students looked from Jet to the teacher, and back again.
“Does that make sense?” the teacher asked.
Scratching the back of his head, Jet replied, “Kind of, you used a lot of figures of speech there, but I guess I’ll put it together as I go. I’m down to learn more about this.”
The teacher smiled and nodded in response.
“Good answer, that’s what I like to hear,” the teacher said.
The teacher then carried off with his original point, and Jet found himself smiling. It wasn’t the answer he was necessarily looking for, but he felt encouraged at the prospect of learning more about Macbeth. He wasn’t sure what answered waited for him for the questions Macbeth was positing, but he was excited to find out.
It was a good thing Jet was back in school, because he realized he actually quite liked it.
Jet walked into the cafeteria, ready for round two of trying to sit with students his age. The cafeteria was still wall to wall people with the noise of various conversations carrying over the room. There were various different smells of warmed meals, fresh, and leftovers. Jet spied around the large room, trying to spot a free seat. Finally, he noticed a free seat right next to Alan, who was quietly listening to a conversation between two other students. There was a girl on the other side of it who was chatting with some of her friends, but finally seeing an opportunity to make some new friends Jet decided to just focus on Alan.
With an eager smile, Jet hurried over to the seat beside Alan. The circular seat remained open the entire walk over, making Jet feel very hopeful for a much better lunch than the day before. As he neared, Jet slowed down and swallowed any trepidation he had left.
“Hey man, is it cool if I sit here?” Jet asked.
Alan looked over his shoulder to see Jet. For a moment his eyes widened in panic, but then he caught himself and seemed thoughtful. After a moment’s pause, Alan nodded and gestured for him to sit down. Jet grinned and moved to sit when suddenly a pair of girls’ hands blocked the seat.
“Uh, actually I’m saving this for a friend,” the girl on the other side said.
Jet stopped and looked to her. She had long black hair and blue eyes, but she was looking more at Alan than Jet. It took Jet a moment, but he recognized her from his English classroom. Alan leaned back and looked down the row at her friends sitting next to her, which made Jet do the same. They were all mid-giggle, trying to catch themselves.
“Jen,” Alan said, sounding skeptical. “I see all of your friends sitting right next to you. Who are you saving the seat for?”
Jen shook her head slightly and rolled her eyes.
“It’s a new friend, you haven’t met her yet,” Jen argued.
“Really,” Alan said rhetorically, not believing her.
“Really, Alan,” Jen said back firmly.
By this point, Jet had taken the hint.
“It’s okay Alan,” Jet said dejectedly. “I’ll catch you around.”
Jet turned and walked away. His heartfelt like it had shrunk in his chest. As he slowly walked away he overheard the girls talking about him.
“Is that the weird one from English who asked so many questions?” one girl asked.
“Yeah oh my god it was so annoying, Macbeth is bad enough don’t drag it out,” Jen said back, attempting to sound quiet. Her voice carried more than she likely thought it did. Whether it was intentional or not, it still stung.
“Hey, wait,” Alan said.
Jet turned to see Alan had followed after him.
“Screw them. Let me grab my lunch and I’ll come to eat with you,” Alan stated.
The idea warmed Jet quite a bit, but then he looked at the table behind Alan. All of the girls and Alan’s friends were now looking at Alan with raised eyebrows and apprehension. It gave Jet the impression they all thought Alan was crazy right for talking to him. The last thing Jet wanted was to bring the one person who had been nice to him down with him.
“Nah, it’s okay,” Jet said. “I got a sweet eating spot so its all good.”
Jet turned and walked away, one hand was holding his bag lunch and his other in was in a pocket.
A few minutes later, Jet sat in front of his locker. He ate his lunch alone again, slowly chomping away at the wrap his Uncle had made him. It was filled with lettuce, salami, and cheese. But he didn’t taste much of it. Even though the hallways were noisy and crowded as people walked by and socialized, Jet’s world seemed quiet.
He looked up from his lunch and sighed. It wasn’t how he thought returning to high school was going to go.
“You seem distracted,” Paladin commented.
Jet shook his head. The two were perched atop a building overlooking a market district in Vinton. There were jewelry stores, high-class restaurants, and small fashion boutiques lining the street below them. The glow of the street lights and stores giving the district an almost ethereal feeling. It was relatively quiet with not much street noise below them, leaving Jet trapped more in his thoughts than he realized.
“Ah, I’m fine,” Jet replied.
He scratched the back of his head and looked up at Paladin. While Paladin was wearing the helmet, Jet could feel Paladin’s gaze piercing into him. Jet shuffled uncomfortably as if to try and escape Paladin’s eye line. After being unsuccessful, Jet stood up straight.
“I’m just thinking, about Macbeth. We’ve been learning about in school,” Jet lied.
Paladin nodded and looked out back over the city. Whether or not he believed Jet, Jet couldn’t tell. That prompted Jet to continue babbling, just in case Paladin didn’t.
“Our teacher was talking today about how tragedies are all about the rising and falling of character’s stars, which didn’t quite make sense to me, but about good guys can become bad guys and I had a hard time wrapping my head around it. Like that doesn’t really happen does it?” Jet asked.
This seemed to grab Paladin’s attention more closely. He shuffled in his armor for a moment and then looked more intently at Jet. Jet looked apprehensively at Paladin, unsure of what Paladin was thinking.
“Jet… this is why I said…” Paladin began to say, but then he caught himself. “It happens. It happens more than we like to admit.”
Paladin stared at Jet for a few moments, and Jet’s confused expression met Paladin’s stone one like a wave of water over a rock.
“Xanor used to be a hero,” Paladin said while turning his head back to the city. “A great one, actually.”
Jet’s eyes averted downwards and his body slumped. It almost felt like a defeat at that moment, like Jet had lost something. He couldn’t place what it was, but it rattled him.
“I’m not sure,” Paladin said with a sigh. “He went by a different name before, Omega Man, I believe. And he even showcased a different power set before too. He would fly, had super strength and endurance. Classic superhero type.”
Jet listened to Paladin talk wistfully about Omega Man, and couldn’t help but think that it sounded awfully familiar to Alpha’s power set. He didn’t have time to linger on that thought, however, as Paladin continued to talk.
“But, there are several rumors as to why he changed his name and became a villain. Honestly, most of us wouldn’t know it was the same man unless we had seen him unmasked before. He never told us his identity, but we had a few maskless meetings with other heroes,” Paladin continued. “The biggest rumor is he had a child and needed the money, he had mentioned his wife was pregnant. But others think he just snapped and wanted the power.”
Jet pondered that thought for a moment.
“But, I mean however powerful he was, it sounds like there was more than just you back then. Why couldn’t you guys have stopped from controlling the city?” Jet asked.
There was an unsettling quiet, and then Paladin answered.
“For a while, he didn’t, he just did the usual bank robberies and such. But then...well he and the gangs struck a deal of some kind. And then Marath...,” Paladin answered.
An uncanny chill ran up Jet’s spine. That name struck a chord Jet couldn’t have expected. A dark cloud entered Jet’s mind. A boogeyman that existed in the shadows of Jet’s conscience, something he didn’t know was there before.
Before Jet could ask, an alarm nearby went off. Both Jet and Paladin involuntarily jumped and turned their attention to the sound.
“It’s time to be heroes!” Paladin declared, any sense of trepidation or fear in his voice gone. Back was the over the top bravado that still shocked Jet.
Paladin lept from the rooftop, using perches and mounts on the wall of the building to scale down, using a lamp post as his final stepping stone to the ground. Jet chuckled to himself for a moment, still laughing at Paladin’s hero persona. Jet then followed Paladin’s lead, using the same ledges and the lamp post to reach the ground.
The alarm was coming from a jewelry store nearby, just a block down the road from their location. Paladin and Jet dashed to the location, Paladin several feet ahead of Jet. The jewelry store had a large lit sign hanging above its front entrance, which was covered with large front-facing windows and a glass door. The lights inside the building seemed to be dimmed, otherwise, the store would be a beacon on the side of the street.
As Paladin neared the shop, he skidded to a stop and looked more intently inside. He paused and waited for Jet to catch up, who much more ungracefully slowed to a stop, nearly tripping over his own two feet upon arriving. Jet looked up to Paladin and then into the shop, and then back to Paladin.
“Jet, I want you to go in first,” Paladin instructed.
Jet’s widened in excitement and confusion.
“You sure?” Jet asked.
Paladin glanced down to Jet and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“If you want to be a superhero, you need the opportunity to make heroic entrances, and this will be a perfect chance to practice yours. There aren’t too many in there, you’ll be okay. I’ll follow up if you need help,” Paladin said.
Jet swallowed, and then eagerly dashed forward. It meant the world to him that Paladin finally trusted him enough to do something like this, to take on real bad guys without his help. It was a chance for him to test himself, and to be the hero he always wanted to be.
With a tenacity that had been building for years, Jet propelled himself forward. Not really thinking things through, Jet crashed through one of the windows of the shop. He landed into a roll, trying very carefully not to cut himself on the glass he broke on his way in. His mind raced, trying to think of the perfect quip, the perfect one line to say as he encountered the villains he was about to fight.
Name’s Blade Boy, let me introduce you to my fist! Don’t you dorks know that crime doesn’t pay? For trying to rob jewels, I’m going to kick you in the jewels!
The last one made Jet laugh the most, so as he sprung upwards from his roll he smiled and prepared to say it. However, the words only got half out as he saw who was actually in the room.
There were three Brigand looking goons, they were wearing large shoulder pads with exposed circuity, wires of various colours protruding out of the front, and the top of them. In their hands were obscenely large rifles of some kind, at least three feet long and thick as tree log. Across from them were two men clad entirely in tight black linens with katanas drawn. They were being standoffish, and the Eastern vibe they gave off made Jet realize they were Wintu.
However, standing between them with hands outstretched to both groups, was a figure clad from the top of its head to its very toes in a smooth, metallic-looking armor. It shined with a black matte that covered most of its body and it had a purple outline that glowed outwards in a thick line along with the frames of the armor. The form was lean and lithe, with a very circular head. It was a bit shorter than Jet, and Jet got the impression based on its general build that it may have been a teenager. Its back was to Jet, and upon Jet’s crashing entrance, it swiveled its head back to look at him. It had large, slanted green eyes that illuminated outwards. Upon seeing Jet, the eyes narrowed slightly, and then its head looked back to the two goons.
“Um, sorry I didn’t know this robbery was already spoken for,” Jet commented.
“Don’t worry,” the figure said back. “It looks like there’s plenty of bad guys to go around.”
The voice sounded slightly hollow like it was coming through a speaker, but Jet picked up it was light and had a bit of a bounciness to it. It wasn’t readily obvious by the armor, but this was a girl.
One of the Brigand thugs, who was bald with several nose, ear, and lip piercings, turned to another who was also bald but wearing skull face paint.
“Rex, what is this? I thought we were just here to teach some Wintu a lesson, not a bunch of brat kids,” the one with piercings said.
“I don’t know Ibsen, maybe if someone hadn’t set off the alarm when we found the Wintu, then we wouldn’t have attracted the attention of super brats,” Rex responded.
The two Brigands then looked to their third, who for whatever reason, was wearing a gas mask. He looked from the Wintu to the superheroes, to his comrades.
“What?” he asked, his voice sounding muffled from the gas mask.
“Stupid Flax,” both Rex and Ibsen muttered as they readied their guns.
Jet stood up more properly than before, drawing the aim of the Brigand thugs and causing the Wintu to angle their swords at him.
“Did...did you guys miss the memo? It’s not the eighties anymore, your punk rock thug look is pretty old, and actually is kind of offensive to honest hard-working punk rockers everywhere,” Jet commented while walking forward apprehensively.
Jet knew if he could get them talking, he could better position himself to actually be an asset in the fight to come. Fortunately, it seemed like the girl had the same idea.
“Yeah, and nobody has thought about the Three Stooges in like a decade so this whole routine is just wildly outdated,” the girl chipped in.
That drew forth an honest laugh from Jet as the three Brigand thugs all looked at each other in a mix of confusion, and a bit of insecurity.
“Ha! Nice. What’s your name?” Jet asked as he continued to inch forward.
“I’m Blade B-uh, you know what just call me Blade for now,” Jet responded, his name feeling awkward as it almost left his lips.
Jet was almost beside Sting, trying to position himself between her and the Wintu. He didn’t know what Sting was capable of, but the look of her armor gave Jet the impression that she would be more capable of taking whatever those giant guns were packing. She even shuffled slightly to let Jet on that side, telling Jet he had the right idea.
“Enough talk!” one of the Wintu yelled. His voice had a definite accent, however, unlike in some of the movies Jet watched with ninjas in it, his accent wasn’t stereotypical enough for Jet to pick up.
“Do you really think the Wintu were foolish enough to fall for your trap Brigand?! We came knowing we would kill you and destroy your shield pads and rifles to send a message to your leaders. Bringing young heroes into the mix will not help your cause,” the Wintu shouted.
“Wow monologuing now,” Jet said quietly to Sting. “This is just an unfortunate day for stereotypes everywhere.”
Jet made sure he had said it loud enough for the Wintu to also here, once again drawing their attention.
“It’ll take more than two teenagers to stop-” the Wintu’s words were cut short as the wall behind him exploded inwards into the shop.
The Wintu leaped forward to just avoid the rubble of the wall crumbling on top of him. All eyes in the room turned to a newly created hole in the wall, which would have been no easy feat as it appeared to be built from brick and be heavily reinforced inside. As the dust cleared, standing in the hole was a new figure. Standing a bit taller than Jet and covered in a more medieval-looking armor was an imposing figure. Its armor was a dark shade of green and it had a gold trim that ran along the armor’s edges and grooves.
The armor covered from the base of the neck down to just below the waist, and it looked heavy and stiff. There were thigh and shin guards which led into grieves that had the same color scheme as the rest of the armor, but it was wearing a pair of light tan slacks underneath. It was wearing a helmet with a round top, but it didn’t fully cover the face as a slit came just to cover the nose leaving the rest exposed. In its hands was a giant large silver hammer, with it’s handles almost the length of the wielder’s body. The head of the hammer was the size of a watermelon and was circular, the front end was flat and the back end protruded into a spike.
Its hammer was lowered towards the ground, having just been swung downwards. Legs crouched, the figure stood up tall to face the room. While it did, it began to talk.
“You criminals are done flaming this war in my city. Run back to your masters and tell them this is Siege’s city now,” the figure was saying, but it trailed off upon seeing Jet and Sting. His voice was deep, but despite the tall and muscular stature, there was almost a nasally aspect to its voice. Jet finally got a good look at its face and could see that much like his voice, it’s figures were masculine but still developing. He was also a teenager.
“Siege was it? Welcome to the party, nice entrance, very bravado-esque,” Jet mentioned.
The face under the helmet scowled, a cross between annoyance and embarrassment.
“Never trying that again,” he mumbled to himself.
The Wintu backed up slightly, looking more apprehensively at the room. Even the Brigand seemingly began to get nervous, as they swiveled the point of their guns between all the opponents in the room. Rex nervously turned to Ibsen and made a head motion to back up. Ibsen stared at him in confusion, so Rex more vigorously tilted his head towards the shop’s back entrance.
“What? You kidding me we kill all these punks and we’re made as lieutenants for sure,” Ibsen argued.
Before Rex could argue, a voice cut him off.
“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.”
There was a clicking sound behind Ibsen’s head and he slowly turned to see someone new standing behind him. Standing just under six feet tall, this young black man was wearing a pin-striped suit with a fedora. He was wearing a blue scarf and had a domino mask over his eyes. In each of his hands was a handgun, and he had them pointed at Ibsen and Rex.
There was a quiet pause in the room, only broken when Jet started to speak.
“Did anyone see him come in? Or am I the only one who didn’t see him come in?”
The young man smiled, not taking his aim of Rex and Ibsen.
“I was just going to watch and record for evidence purposes, but since that’s all shot to hell with the broken wall, windows, and presumably soon to be faces, I figured I’d come to have some fun,” he explained. He then tilted his head back to reveal some of his features, “Since we’re sharing codenames, I’m Hunter.”
It was one of the quietest, most surreal moments, of Jet’s life. In the span of less than a few minutes, a standoff between Brigand and Wintu had escalated to involve some kind of cybernetic armor girl, a medieval-looking knight, a noir-style detective, and him. Nobody moved, it felt like nobody breathed, lest some new combatant entered the room. When nothing happened, it was when everything else did.
Jet could swear in that quiet moment before all hell broke loose, that he watched a blood vessel pop in Ibsen’s forehead.
Ibsen roared and spun around in a circle firing his rifle wildly at Hunter. Bright yellow and pink blasts launched from the rifle. Hunter dove out of the way while firing his own guns back at Ibsen. For a moment, Jet was worried Hunter was going for the kill, but as the bullets hit Ibsen, a blue translucent field materialized, taking all the impact from the bullets. Ibsen seemed unfazed as the bullets fell to the ground.
On the other side of the room, one of the Wintu turned and slashed at Siege. Siege blocked the attack with the handle of his hammer. The Wintu tried to follow up with a kick, but it was met with a loud clang as his foot hit the armor. Siege grabbed the foot of the Wintu and picked him up, swinging the man like a club into the counter of the store, shattering glass and showcasing his awesome strength. The Wintu recovered from the impact and barely rolled backward out of the way as Siege swung his hammer down in what would have been a fatal blow. The attack missed, shattering the remains of the jewelry stand. The Wintu grimaced under his mask, clearly surprised that a teenager almost killed him. It was all revealed to be feint, however, as in the chaos broken glass and jewelry Siege suddenly jerked the end of his hammer forward, slamming it upwards into the Wintu’s chin.
The Wintu recoiled back, and dropping his hammer, Siege reached forward and grabbed the Wintu by the sides of the head. To finish him off, Siege slammed the Wintu’s head into his knee, knocking the assassin out cold.
“Some ninja,” Siege commented.
As Ibsen fired at Hunter, he suddenly felt his gun pull away from his target. It flew out of his hands towards Sting, who had one hand outstretched towards the gun. As it neared her in the air she lowered her hand and it dropped towards the ground, its momentum gone. Before she could do anything else, Rex opened fire on Sting. Sting leaned backward, dropping to the floor and dodging the blasts. Then planting her hands on the ground, she sprung forward feet first, soaring across the room and kicking at Rex.
Sting’s kick impacted Rex’s forcefield. She turned the recoil into a graceful flip, landing in a crouched low position. Rex took aim and tried to fire a blast from his rifle at point-blank range. Sting only raised a hand in return, and as Rex fired, a bolt of green energy shot from Sting’s hand into the blast from Rex’s gun. The two created a mini-explosion in the air, stunning Rex. As Rex tried to recover, he suddenly felt his armor being lifted up and off his shoulders. Rex went to yell, but the armor suddenly turned in the air and was dropped back on his head. The weight knocked him out and he collapsed to the ground. Sting lowered her hand, again seemingly having made that happen with her own movements.
Hunter landed from his dive and continued to fire at Ibsen. Ibsen spun back around to face Hunter, and with a growl, he closed in to attack him. As Ibsen neared, Hunter quickly sheathed one of the guns and reached into his coat pocket. While he was in the process of doing so, Ibsen roughly picked up Hunter by his collar, lifting Hunter to his feet. Ibsen reeled back a fist to punch out the teen while he held him in place, but Hunter quickly slapped one of his hands over Ibsen’s wrist that held him in place.
“Gah, what the hell?” Ibsen demanded to know, and he let go of Hunter to inspect his wrist. There was a small square device that had dug into his skin right where Hunter had slapped him.
“One of my Dad’s inventions. A small low powered taser,” Hunter explained.
Ibsen’s eyes widened, and then suddenly a surge of electricity shot through him and seized his muscles. It was short but painful, and Ibsen panted.
“It’s high enough know to short circuit electricity like force fields though,” Hunter mentioned, sheathing his other gun.
Ibsen’s eyes narrowed about as he thought about it, and then they widened again.
Hunter kicked Ibsen in the leg, dropping him to one knee. Ibsen tried to punch Hunter again, but Hunter grabbed Ibsen’s punch by the wrist and pushed it aside. With one hand still on Ibsen’s wrist, Hunter pushed in on Ibsen’s elbow and dislocated it, making Ibsen yell in pain. Ibsen slumped over and looked up just in time to receive a brutal punch in the face from Hunter, knocking him out cold.
Jet meanwhile, dashed forward as a Wintu had charged Sting while she somehow stole Ibsen’s gun. He attempted to slash at her, but Jet interposed with his sword and blocked the attack. The katana bounced off Jet’s larger sword. Jet attacked in with his sword, attempting to push the Wintu off-balance, but the Wintu spun around the slash. He stabbed in at Jet, and Jet brought his sword in front of himself vertically and deflected the blow, just diverting the attack off Jet’s cheek. Jet swung upwards wildly, making the Wintu jump back to avoid the long-reaching sword. Once the Wintu landed on his feet, he was shocked to see Jet had dropped his sword and lunged forward with a fist. The punch hit the Wintu hard, sending him through the glass of the display case and hit the back wall of the store.
The Wintu slumped against the back wall, and Jet closed in to make sure he was unconscious. As he neared, the Wintu suddenly sprung forward with a slash aimed at Jet’s neck. Jet barely leaned back in time to avoid the slash, but it left him vulnerable as the Wintu quickly reversed his grip and stabbed his sword forward. For a moment, Jet thought it was all over when the Wintu stopped mid-lunge and dropped his sword. Siege stood there, his hammer lodged up in the Wintu’s torso.
“That’s all your ribs broken,” Siege stated to the Wintu. “You’ll live.”
The Wintu fell off to the side of Siege’s hammer, and Siege shot a look at Jet. It reeked of disapproval for a moment, but then Siege’s attention, like everyone else’s went to the last one standing. Flax, who hadn’t moved since the first shot was fired, stared apprehensively at the four teenage heroes. With a bit of a cry, he tried to run away but didn’t look where he was turning and crashed into the wall. The force field shot up and he bounced backward, falling onto his back like a turtle.
“He’s not going anywhere,” Hunter commented while looking down at Flax.
There were a few quiet moments, and then Jet eagerly proclaimed, “That was awesome!”
Siege lifted a finger for Jet to be quiet and then looked at the other three heroes.
“Not here. There’s a rooftop three blocks down, on top of a pizza place. Meet there,” Siege instructed.
As the police rolled up, all they found were four unconscious criminals, and one squirming on the floor trying to wrestle with force field pads.
Five minutes later, Jet vaulted up the side of Michaelangelo’s Pizza, unsure of what exactly he was going to find. He had debated not going up, not meeting with these three strangers. His experiences with other teens earlier in the day had already gone poorly, and he was scared of isolating himself more. But after trying and failing to find Paladin, Jet worked up the courage to go and meet the heroes he had just fought alongside.
Pulling himself up a neon red pizza sign, Jet cleared the side of the building with a graceful leap. He landed and crouched down to brace his legs. As he stood up, he saw the Siege, Hunter, and Sting standing in a half-circle, seemingly waiting for him. Jet scratched the back of his head awkwardly and approached the group. Siege stood with his arms crossed, while Hunter had his hands in his pockets. Sting stood with one hand placed on her hip, and she leaned her weight on that side.
“Sorry if I kept you guys waiting...I was looking for Paladin,” Jet said.
“Paladin?” Hunter asked. There was recognition in his voice, but confusion as well.
“Yeah I’m his...his uh, his sidekick,” Jet explained.
This drew mixed reactions from the group. Hunter’s eyes widened a little and he nodded, Sting stifled a laugh, while Siege looked at him incredulously.
“You’re his sidekick?” Siege asked. “Do people still have sidekicks anymore?”
Jet felt his face flush red and regretted his choice to find the group. However, Hunter pointed a finger at Siege and chirped him back.
“I mean, is this legally ‘Siege’s city’, or are you in the process of applying for a mortgage?” Hunter replied.
Sting couldn’t stifle a laugh anymore and burst outright. Siege looked to Hunter and Sting, and his whole body lurched slightly. A small smile found its way to Jet’s face, having felt stood up for. With a sigh, Siege suddenly took off his helmet. Hunter and Jet both straightened in surprise while Sting fought to regain control of herself.
His helmet off, Jet got a full view of Siege’s face. He was definitely around Jet’s age, maybe a little order. But his head was shaved, leaving the thinnest trace of hair on his head. Siege rubbed his head, and Jet and Hunter exchanged looks.
“Look sorry man, you don’t have to show us your identity,” Hunter said. Siege waved a hand dismissively at him.
“It’s fine, that whole, my city ‘shtick’ wasn’t really me,” Siege said. “I only wear the stupid helmet so they can’t make out enough of my features.”
Siege’s eyes wouldn’t meet the groups for a moment.
“It just kind of felt like what you were supposed to say, right?” Jet asked.
Siege looked to Jet, and then sniffed and looked away.
“Yeah, I guess so. At any rate, just stick with Siege. You don’t need to know any more than that,” Siege finished.
Jet nodded, and then looked to Hunter and Sting.
“Actually, I think the only code name we don’t know is yours,” Sting pointed out, looking at Jet.
For a moment, Jet forgot he had even been given a code name. Then as he remembered, he rued sharing it.
“Its uh...uh… Blade Boy…” Jet mumbled.
“What?” Sting asked. “Say that again.”
With a resounding sigh, Jet said more loudly, “...Blade Boy.”
There was a brief pause before everyone laughed.
“Can’t help you this time man,” Hunter said between laughs.
While Jet felt embarrassed, something about this particular laugh felt good. He was the butt of the joke, but he didn’t feel like he was being made fun of.
“Well, I mean, I got a big blade, I’m a boy, so Paladin thought Blade Boy fit!” Jet argued, a small smile on his face. As the laughter continued, Jet pushed, “It’s not like I had a choice in it! Or in this costume!”
That managed to get a few more laughs, making Jet’s smile grow. As the group got control back, Jet pointed at Sting.
“You’re awfully content to just sit and laugh at us, but what’s your story? Were you using telekinesis in there?” Jet asked, trying to shift the conversation away.
Sting let out the last laugh before settling herself back down. When she was calm, she outstretched a hand.
“Not exactly,” she replied.
The three boys watched as the armor that covered Sting’s hand lifted into the air in small pieces. It revealed her brown skin, and as she rotated her hand the pieces of her armor floated further upwards, some swirling in the air around her hand. She rested her hand back down, and the armor settled back onto her hand, each piece shuffling back into place to reassemble the gauntlet.
“I don’t fully know how to explain it, but this suit, this armor, they’re like little robots and I’m their hive mind,” Sting explained. “They help me manipulate magnetic fields, so if I’m close enough I can move metal around. I can also glide, kind of, if I can find the right fields.”
Jet, Siege, and Hunter stared wide-eyed at Sting. She looked at them, and even though they couldn’t see her face past the large glowing purple eyes, Jet was pretty sure she was grinning at their dumbfounded expressions.
“What...how is that all powered?” Hunter asked. “That’s some advanced tech to just have.”
“Well, I don’t just have it,” Sting replied. “From what I can tell, it’s powered by kinetic energy. So the more I move, the longer I can use.”
Then she looked to the side. She extended a hand towards the edge of the building, and then suddenly a blast of green energy shot forth. It hit the edge of the building and blasted away a chunk of the railing, making Jet jump back slightly.
“Or, if I really feel like it, I can burn some of that energy to do that,” Sting commented.
Jet didn’t realize he was cowering slightly, his arms tucked into his stomach. Not really thinking about it, Jet raised a hand to ask a question. Realizing he wasn’t in school after a moment, Jet shook his head and spoke up.
“So what happens if you run out of energy? And where did you get it?”
Sting shrugged her shoulders.
“I’ve been too afraid to find out, honestly. It’s part of the reason why I decided to do this, to make sure I move around enough that I don’t,” Sting answered. She let out a sigh, and her voice tired she said, “I haven’t really slept since… anyway, as for how I got it, I don’t know you guys well enough to share that.”
Jet was disappointed, but he nodded in understanding. Sting then pointed at Siege.
“Okay, your turn,” Sting commented.
Siege raised an eyebrow.
“I just spilled my guts on what I do, what about you?” Sting motioned to Siege’s armor and hammer. “I mean you’re a big looking guy but it takes more than what you’re packing to bust through a wall like you did.”
Siege gripped his hammer tightly and stared at it.
“We really doing this right now?” Siege asked.
“Doing what?” Jet asked in confusion.
“If we’re going to be sharing this stuff, I think we need to set up some ground rules,” Siege said. “First, we shouldn’t share any personal information like names. We’re safer if we don’t know. Second, we should only contact each other or see each other for things related to to...well, this kind of stuff.”
Hunter crossed his arms.
“Contact each other?” Hunter asked.
Siege glanced at Hunter and then took a step forward. He grumbled a bit and rubbed his head,
“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I know I stand a better chance against the hell this city can throw at me with backup. Now I’m not saying every time I go out here I want you guys tailing me, but if we know something is coming up, then, well that just makes sense to me,” Siege explained.
Jet’s jaw dropped in excitement and pumped his fists in the air.
“Do you mean like a team-up?!” Jet exclaimed.
Hunter smirked and hid a chuckle as Sting laughed outright again. Siege pointed a finger at Jet but refused to make eye contact.
“No, not like a team-up, just us working together occasionally. Emphasis on occasionally,” Siege retorted.
Jet brought his arms down but looked Hunter and Sting with a glowing red face.
“Guys, that sounds like a team up to me,” Jet commented.
“You’re going to make me regret this, aren’t you?” Siege asked, twisting his head slightly to look at Jet.
Jet just beamed at him, too excited at the possibility of being part of a mini team like this. Siege sighed and stood up straight. He held out his hammer far in front of him displaying it to the group.
“Anyway, Sting there was correct, I am more than just muscles,” Siege explained. “I was trained by an order of knights, they picked me up under the pretense of a boarding school when I was just a kid. They gave me this armor and this hammer which they told me are magically enchanted. The armor gives me super strength and its bonded to the hammer which makes it easier for me to lift when I’m wearing it.”
Siege then retracted his hammer back into himself and rested it on the ground. After scowling for a moment, he said, “But don’t think I couldn’t take any of you without the armor. I’m pretty fit underneath it.”
Sting scoffed a little, drawing Siege’s ire.
“Sorry, it was just a very macho moment,” Sting said. “Tell us more about how you’re jacked.”
Siege’s glare softened a bit as he found himself smiling, Sting’s sarcasm well placed.
“Sorry, toxic masculinity is something I got from the order of knights, I’m still working on it,” Siege replied.
There was a quiet moment where no one could tell if Siege was joking or not, his tone not quite right for the statement he made.
“Toxic masculinity from something that was based in the 1500s? Nah, I don’t believe you,” Sting followed up with.
Siege then nodded a head towards Hunter.
“What’s your deal?” Siege asked.
Hunter let out a breath of air and reached into his jacket. He pulled out his two pistols and spun them in his hands with a quick flourish before letting them rest in his open palms.
“My dad was a policeman and then a detective here in Vinton, and he taught me everything I know,” Hunter said. “The gangs had him killed a few years ago, but he left all his files and stuff to me, so I’ve been trying to pick up the pieces, see if I can bring down the gangs through the legal system.”
He shrugged and then placed his pistols back in his jacket.
“When it looks like I can’t, I got those. I’ve never used them lethally, but I know how to if I have to,” Hunter said, his voice sullen.
There was a quiet moment where no one said anything.
“So, you don’t have any powers?” Sting asked.
Hunter shook his head.
“I do what I can with what I got,” Hunter replied.
Jet had been looking at Hunter’s costume for several minutes, trying to discern why it bordered on familiar. He knew he had never seen Hunter before, but there was something about Hunter’s clothes that Jet recognized. Finally, it clicked, and Jet snapped his fingers.
“You’re basing your costume on The Spirit, right?” Jet asked.
Hunter turned to Jet, his eyes wide in surprise. Siege and Sting looked in confusion from Jet to Hunter, not sure what Jet meant.
“The Spirit! The old pulp comic by Will Eisner. I used to read that in the bunker, I loved those comics! That’s what you’re going for, right?” Jet pushed.
Hunter laughed and went to respond, but the words were stuck in his throat for a moment.
“Yeah, actually,” Hunter said awkwardly. “I didn’t really think anyone else was into old Eisner comics.”
Jet smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
“I read whatever I could get my hands on down there,” Jet replied.
“First sidekick now bunker?” Hunter prodded. “What’s your story Jet?”
Jet stopped and pondered the thought for several moments. Then with a smile, he put a hand on his hips.
“I guess mine is just getting started.”
The four teens went on to exchange phone numbers, promising Siege they would only contact each other if they needed something superhero related. They then went their separate ways, Jet going back the way he had come from, climbing up to the roof he and Paladin had been perched on earlier. As he did, he found Paladin with his helmet off, scrolling through his phone.
“Hey!” Jet called as he saw him. “What happened to you?”
Paladin looked up from his phone with a smile.
“Did you catch up with them afterward?” Paladin asked.
Jet nodded and walked towards his teacher.
“Yeah, we exchanged contact info and power sets,” Jet replied. “Just in case any of us need help with something.”
Paladin nodded and stood up.
“I saw that one in the black tech suit, and thought it’d be best to let you stumble into it,” Paladin said. “I wanted to let you navigate that situation on your own.”
Jet scratched the back of his head.
“Well, I did I guess. Will you be cool to let me patrol with them on occasion?”
Paladin looked contemplative at that moment. With a sigh, he rested a hand on Jet’s shoulder.
“I’m glad it looks like you have some friends now in the superhero scene, but let’s just say maybe for now,” Paladin said. “I haven’t seen quite enough yet to be okay with that.”
Jet nodded in understanding, expecting that answer. Paladin then turned and picked up his helmet and placed it back on his head. He started to head back towards the city center, and Jet started to follow but lingered for a moment.
It was frustrating that Paladin didn’t trust him enough, but he was feeling a sense of elation of something else Paladin had said. He had friends in the city. He hadn’t had them for long, and he wasn’t totally sure they were his friends yet. But the possibility was there, and it filled Jet’s heart more than he expected.