Chapter 13: The Super debate
“So you can train, lift weights, climb that stupid bar until your heart explodes, but you’ll never be as fast as I am. You’ll never be what I am. And that’s got to hurt your rock-hard pride, Ollie.”
~ Barry Allen (The Flash)
My fork tapped on the tablecloth with an insistent urgency. The more I listened, the faster my fork bounced against the tablecloth.
I was resisting the urge to throttle every adult in the room, yes, even Oliver’s mother and her boyfriend.
(Especially the boyfriend.)
Somehow the conversation had drifted to the supers and I was not liking it one bit. My parents might not have known for sure that I was a super, but they sure as hell believed every single one of them were villains. And, if I was defending them, I might as well be as bad as the rest of them.
Oliver must’ve been uncomfortable, but his poker face was a bit better than mine. After years of lying straight to people’s faces about being a superhero, he was probably used to hiding his emotions.
“Yes, I totally agree with you, Sharon. Why they didn’t take government action back in the seventies, I have no idea! It seems about damn time someone did something about these freaks of nature parading about like it’s Halloween.”
“They did.” Oliver spoke up, barely audible.
“What did you say, my dear?” My mom asked.
Oliver looked up from his mashed potatoes and flashed his whitest smile. “They did take action – the government I mean. Back in the late sixties, when people with super human abilities first appeared, the government tried to hush it up. People who lifted rubble after an earthquake to save innocents soon disappeared. People who performed unnatural feats were soon gone. The government was picking up these strange humans with strange abilities so as to study them and to hide them from the public.
“It wasn’t until about 1972 that one super human put on the mask and saved a bus from crashing. The next day he stopped an assassination attempt on the mayor. Soon he was saving the entire city. The government couldn’t find him, and there was no way to shut down the news articles talking about this person with superpowers in such a big city like Empire City. The Avenger was the first superhero, and he was no freak or anti-hero. Soon other supers got the idea and started putting on masks as well. The government couldn’t make them all disappear, people would surely notice now that these saviors were being kidnapped.
“So, the government instead created protocols to make sure these supers stayed in line. They all signed the Super Ordinance and swore to protect and serve on the Homefront. All supers who didn’t sign were considered villains and were sought after by the police.
“But when supers got popular, the government shut up about their old projects. They didn’t want to admit to trying to stop these saviors from saving lives in the first place. They didn’t want to admit that they were wrong in experimenting on innocent lives. They didn’t want to admit that they did something unconstitutional in the name of science.
“So, when you all talk about getting rid of the ‘freaks’ who save our city every day, remember who you’re talking about. These citizens save us from countless threats. So what if some of them are bad? There can never be any guarantee that everyone wants to be a hero. Just because some are villains, doesn’t mean that all the supers are bad. The same goes for politicians, or just regular people in general. You can’t blame every member of a group of people for the actions of only a couple of them.”
The table was quiet at Olly’s words. They hadn’t expected an answer.
“So,” he continued, “if you want to get rid of these supposed ‘freaks,’ you’d better be ready to survive without your saviors. If you really want them to be carted away like hogs, then remember not to come crawling back to them when you need saving, because you’ll find no one there to answer your call.”
I agreed wholeheartedly with Oliver. The whole Remedist business was stupid. If you couldn’t be happy when you were saved from a detrimental attack because the savior was young and ‘inexperienced,’ then you didn’t deserved to be saved in the first place.
Just because someone was young didn’t mean that they were any less experienced than any adult.
Just because someone was young didn’t mean that they couldn’t do just as much, if not more, than any politician had ever done.
If you want to get rid of the supers because they were powerful, then you shouldn’t be crawling back to them when you needed them. If the supers went away like the Remedists wanted, then they would just try and call them back as soon as the next terrorist attack hit. The public was too dependent on supers to live without them now.
“That was a nice . . . um . . . speech, Oliver.” My mom said, trying to cut through the tension in the air.
“Can you pass the potatoes, please?” Olly asked, ignoring the glares of the adults around him.
My father was the first to recover.
“You’re wrong there, Oliver. The public did just fine without supers before, they can do just fine without them now.”
I laughed outright at his words.
“Apologize to your father!”
“No. You don’t realize just how much we depend on them, do you?” I asked. “Do you know how many government agents are supers? Do you know how many times a day a super stops some crazy plot against America? Do you know how many times a super has saved your government? No, you don’t.”
Oliver’s mom was surprisingly the first to respond to me. “But, even with those who claim to want to use their special abilities for the common good, there are far more who don’t. Superpowers gives these kids the idea that they are powerful. You can’t trust a millennial with the idea that they are powerful. These powers gives people the wrong mindset.
“I think we can all agree that kind of power should be in the hands of no one, let alone a millennial. These supers are unnatural. These supers are unconventional. These supers are twisted.”
Mr. Hunter nodded his head in agreement. “I think you’re totally right, Sharon. Power like that is too much for anyone to have.”
I was outraged. “What if they didn’t want that power in the first place?”
He shrugged. “Well, they’re still freaks of nature, right? They still have unnatural powers. They’re dangerous. No matter if they want those powers, and especially if they never did, they should be kept away from society, or at least kept track of. I mean – half these so called ‘supers’ don’t even know how to control their abilities.”
“But that should be why they’re helped, not harmed.” I argued.
My father scoffed. “Elise, why would we help these dangerous creatures?”
“They’re not creatures!” I burst. “Supers are just like you and me. So what if they have powers? So what if some of them are bad? People are generally bad in my experience anyways, and they don’t have to have powers to be considered villains.”
Oliver’s mom giggled. “Oh, I’m sorry, Alan, but it seems your daughter isn’t educated enough on the subject.” She addressed my father. “It’s not her fault that she’s embarrassing her legacy with her misinformation.”
“Yes,” he glared at me, “it isn’t her fault.”
I was so close to bursting again that my hand was shaking. I could even see a tiny bit of purple smoke seeping through my feet. I had to calm down before my powers went out of control.
Olly reached under the table and grabbed my hand. He gave me a sorrowful look, and I knew he understood what I was going through. Heck, he was a super far longer than I have been. He’s had to endure so much more of adults talking bad about him because of his status saving the city. Heck, he’s even had to deal with authority figures looking down on him because of his social class. I wonder sometimes how he’s able to keep that movie-star smile still on his face.
I’m able to grimace through the rest of dinner, which floated around the safe topics of the news and some old singer that recently died.
It’s at the end of the dinner, after the plates are put away, when Olly’s watch begins to vibrate. It’s a sound I’ve gotten accustomed to – the sound that means someone needs saving somewhere.
“What’s that sound?” My mother questions.
Olly pulls out his phone and sighs, fainting perfect nonchalance. “It’s Ian Thompson. He’s probably calling to ask about the pre-calculus homework we have for over the break. I better answer this.”
The name drop was perfect. My parents knew exactly who the Thompsons were. Besides Mary being my best friend, they were a powerful political family. Ian’s grandfather was the vice president at one time, and now his mother was the Secretary of the State.
“Oh, well, you should answer it, honey.” Oliver’s mom assured him. “We adults can entertain ourselves while you help your best friend out with his homework.”
My parents’ eyes widen. Oliver’s mom was smarter than I thought. She was implying about the friendship between her son and the son of an aristocrat. She was practically doing the same thing as Oliver was.
“So, how does your son know the Thompsons?” I hear my father ask as I leave the room, following Oliver.
I wasn’t sure what to think about Oliver’s mom after the dinner. He normally described her as a soft soul who was very very overprotective. I hadn’t expected her to be so harsh against the supers, but, then again, it could just be Mr. Hunter influencing her, like Oliver thought. Before today I thought he was just being wary of his mother’s new boyfriend because he felt like he was replacing his dead father, but now I knew his suspicions were true. Mr. Hunter seemed like as much of a diehard conservative as my own parents, but so did his mom. You couldn’t be that assured in your own beliefs after only one person telling you that. Despite what Olly thought, his mom must’ve already believed at least half of all the anti-super crap before meeting Mr. Hunter.
We went to my room, one of the only safe places in the house. Oliver immediately dialed a number on his phone to answer Eric, his guy at the Man Cave who told them about any impending disasters.
When I first met Oliver as White Lightning, I was dressed as Delinquent. My voice modulator had been faulty, seeing as I bought it off of an untraceable cheap website at the library so my parents wouldn’t know I was trying to become one of the supers they oh so hated.
White Lightning had shown up so unexpectedly that I had spontaneously teleported to the roof of the building behind him. I was panicking. A hero was probably trying to arrest me. I hadn’t exactly been following the law since I put on the mask.
At that point, my teleporting abilities were still developing. The smoke that surrounded me when I teleported was still a dark black color, not the purple it was now. I wasn’t totally used to the feeling of teleportation yet, and it took a couple of tries before I landed behind White Lightning with the tip of a kitchen knife held to his throat. I figured finding out how this hero had found me would help me hide from him and his boss in the future.
He offered to fix my voice modulator for me after assuring he wouldn’t turn me in to the police for multiple counts of vandalism. We talked for a while about being supers before he answered a call from Captain Impossible. I only heard one side of the conversation and assumed he was talking about handing me in. I knocked him out and then zip tied him to a metal beam. I considered unmasking him, like a true villain would, but I was a bit too scared. What if he woke up while I was taking it off? Besides, I didn’t think I would know him in real life. When he awoke and assured me that he was not talking about me when on the phone with his boss, we talked for a bit longer about our lives as supers. I found that I like him a lot as a person.
And then I’d kissed him. I felt like a totally different person under the mask. I was fearless, unstoppable. I kissed a superhero and then left him zip tied to that roof.
He’d given me clues to his identity that night. He was school-age and his father had most likely died in some sort of accident that he himself was also involved in. Later, when he visited me as myself at my home after saving Mary and me from a robbery, I should have also been clued in. He wouldn’t check in on me unless he actually knew me in real life.
I already knew about Oliver’s dad, who died in a robbery on the night in which he brought Olly along. It was storming outside and he ran out, only to get miraculously hit by lightning that landed him in the hospital for days.
The answer had been staring right at me, but I had been too blind to see it. I couldn’t believe that Oliver was a superhero.
“Eric says that the silent alarm at some politician’s office was tripped. I can be there and back before our parent’s notice I’m missing.” He tells me, already pulling his White Lightning costume out of is bag.
I went to my closet and pulled my own costume out.
“What are you doing?
I put my hands on my hips. “Well, if you’re going, so am I. I can teleport us both there and back much faster than you can travel on foot.”
He sighed, but didn’t argue. “Fine, but we don’t spend more than twenty minutes checking things out before coming back, deal?”
We both turn to my door and see Luke, my little brother, standing there, mouth open and eyes wide.
He had barely talked during dinner, entertaining himself with his food and wandering imagination. I had forgotten that he was here, and could possibly walk in on both Olly and I with our super spandex in his full view.
I quickly closed the door and ushered Luke in before a parent came upstairs and saw too. Luke was still looking from our costumes to our faces in shock.
“Are you guy’s supers?” He asks, astounded.
There was no way to explain ourselves, even to a seven year old.
Oliver bent down and smiled at him. “Your sister and I have something to go do. We’d really appreciate it if you stood guard outside the door for us, alright?”
He nodded vigorously, somehow accepting what was laid out in front of him with no more questions.
“Alright, let’s go save some people.”