After the Ride into the Sunset
Welcome back, fellow fanboys and girls, to another exciting clash between the forces of good and evil! I know you’ve been waiting on tenterhooks for the latest installment in the Superkid series. No, of course it isn’t the new Divergent book, you joker! Who’d wait around for that?
I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is this isn’t a Superkid adventure. The good news is it’s the adventure of SuperKC, which is a lot like a Superkid adventure except in a different setting with different allies and different villains. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same.
You remember SuperKC, right? The clone of the original Superkid created accidentally by the nefarious Doctor Red--fought the real hero, thinking it was the real hero who was the clone when all along he was the clone fighting the real hero until something made him realize he was the actual clone and it wasn’t the real hero who was the clone, and made it up to him by helping him take down the evil doctor responsible for creating the clone, and after that... well, he drifted off in search of his own purpose in life--not as a clone, but as someone with his own unique identity that sort of borrowed from somebody else but then tweaked things here and there... er, yeah, he drifted off. And what he did after that... well, that’s what we’re here to find out!
Now hang on to your seats, ladies and gents, because we’re going to go for a ride like you’ve never been on before! Although I’d suggest you let go of your pal there because it looks like he’s turning blue.
A. E. Lucky is proud (so much so that his bladder burst with excitement... excuse me) to present... SuperKC and the Evil Procrastinator!
Chapter 1: After the Ride into the Sunset
When we last saw the duplicate of our original hero, he was drifting slowly into the sunset on his balloon-cape. It was in an ending to rival that of old western shows, with all the emotions that were usually packed in there: bittersweet, melancholy, grand, epic, that lead ball that settles somewhere near your pancreas...
But nobody ever tells you what happens after that bit. Oh sure, they make sequels that bring back the old heroes a few years after the incident, but I’m talking about immediately after that sad farewell part. What it’s like to trudge off into the big, red sun for an hour or so.
It’s hot. And thirsty. Both courtesy of that sun parking its big, red butt on the mountain range to watch while the poor soul wanders through the desert, trying to find a drink of water. Trust me, I’ve been there. Though I’ve never done it for three days, which is how long the hero duplicate drifted through the desert in his quest to find his purpose in life. The sun, of course, didn’t stick around that long, oh no, he had other people to torment, though he did come around from time to time to make sure SuperKC was baking just right. And after three long days, the kid was practically dying of thirst. His eyes were gummed up, and his costume was stiff after he had sweated in it and had it dried by the sun (isn’t that sun just a sweetie?). He was also in a state of hallucination.
So it’s understandable when he spotted the water sprinklers through his gummy eyes that he immediately yanked the cord that released the air from his balloon-cape and dropped on top of it like a panther from the trees. He didn’t mean to scare the living daylights out of four kids, but that was precisely what he did.
Here’s how it happened...
“It’s a beautiful day today, Tony,” his mother, Mrs. Ippi, said as she turned the bacon over in the frying pan.
Which Tony knew was the subtle hint that his mom wanted him outside today.
“It’s a great day for you to go outside today,” she added.
Which was the not-so-subtle hint that she wanted him outside today.
“So I don’t want you to sit inside playing computer games all day.”
That being the guilt-inducing hint that she wanted him outside today.
“Instead, I want you to go out there and get active--work off all that baby fat you’ve got.”
And that was the blatantly offensive hint that she wanted him outside today.
“But Mom,” Tony said in a plaintive voice he had practiced for over three days. It was the voice his younger brother and sister used to get their way, and it almost always worked. Tony, who almost never got his way, decided to try this technique of theirs and he felt he was doing a pretty good job. “Every time I go outside, Arwen picks on me. He calls me names like Blubber Boy, Pork Rind, Roly Poly, and even Son of a Whale!”
Normally, a tragic tale like this told in the masterfully woeful voice of his younger siblings would instantly pierce her tender heart, causing her to break down, bring them close and offer them a platter of soft sugar cookies with butterscotch chips (their favorite), followed by bold promises to protect her children, which led to furious phone-number dialing and ending with a shouting match between her and the offender’s mother (the victors varied, keeping the matches interesting). In this case, though, Tony’s attempt was more like him flinging a bunch of cheap suction-cup darts at a tank, meaning that his mom responded without missing a beat, “He wouldn’t have reason to call you any of those names if you’d just go outside and exercise.” Before Tony could recover from this harsh return-fire, she continued, “But if he bothers you all that much, why don’t you have Jeremy beat him up for you?”
Ah, Jeremy. he’s quite an interesting character. But I’ll tell you more about him when we meet him.
Tony tried another tactic. “But there’s nothing to do outside except dodging cars.”
“Oh, I’m sure there’s more out there to do than that,” replied Mrs. Ippi. Truth be told, she wasn’t all that concerned about what her son would do outside for fun. She had simply hoped that, once outside, his imagination would take over and he would be on his way to becoming a prodigy of some sort. Television and video games rotted the brain, so it stood to reason that fresh air and exercise did the opposite. But in an effort to meet him halfway, she suggested, “Why don’t you and your brother and sister set up that swimming pool that’s in our garage?”
Which was a doomed-to-fail suggestion. Even as she finished, she could see his pained expression.
“Really, Mom? Do you know how hard it is to blow that thing up? It’s got two separate parts! And besides, it has a hole in it.”
“What do you mean it has a hole in it?” she demanded in that rhetorical way mothers tend to be when they’re feeling hawkish.
Tony was ready this time, so he fired back, “It happened last year at Ceddie’s birthday party.” Ceddie’s his younger brother, whose real name is Cedric. And while I’m at it, we can get his little sister, Amanda, out of the way, too.
But it wasn’t for nothing that a good general looks to the good mother for inspiration when pressed under the assault of the enemy. She returned fire, “You can still have a water fight.”
Yet the enemy would not relent. “We don’t have water guns.” Seeing an opening in his mother’s defenses, he covertly sidled up to the stove, his eyes on the bacon in the pan.
She scooted the pan away and raked the bacon onto a plate waiting with a paper towel over it to soak up the excess grease, denying him the spoils he sought. She placed the pan back onto the stove and started cracking eggs into it. “Use cups if you have to.”
It was an intense battle of wits, both sides giving their all for the chance of personal victory. Then something happened that distracted them.
Jeremy came into the kitchen.
“Hey, I might have a couple of water guns...” he began. Then he stumbled over the slight step leading into the kitchen from the hall. He tried to stop himself by grabbing a chair but he ended up bringing it to the floor with him and with a loud crash. Tony and his mom winced. She asked, “Are you all right, Jeremy?”
Jeremy groaned a bit and rolled over slowly. Then he grunted, “I’m okay.”
Despite his reassurance, he wasn’t moving to get to his feet, so while we wait for him to stop whining long enough to get up, I’ll describe him to you. He is a twelve-year-old kid, who is fairly bulky for his age, somewhat similar to Tony. But unlike Tony, whose bulk was mostly blub, Tony’s bulk came from muscle. This made him the strongest kid in his grade, as well as the fastest. You would expect that this would make him the first pick for every sport, but unfortunately, he had another trait that discouraged his classmates from that: he was also the clumsiest.
Which did nothing to abate his enthusiasm for sports, to his friend’s disappointment. Tony appreciated that Jeremy was willing to look out for him like an older brother, but hanging out with him was, well, to be honest, kind of exhausting.
By now, you’ve probably concluded that Tony and Jeremy are friends but not brothers, and now you’re wondering what Jeremy was doing in Tony’s house at breakfast time. If you guessed he had been there for a sleepover, you’d be partly right. If you guessed that Jeremy was pretty much like family to Tony, his mom, and his siblings, you’d be partly right again. And if you guessed he was that annoying neighbor that came by hoping to get invited to stay for breakfast, I’d say you have some issues to work out. Just ask him to help cook. That should scare him off. Worked for me.
But no, the reason Jeremy was at Tony’s house was because his parents were on vacation in the Bahamas. Of course, they could have waited another month for school to get out for the summer and then Jeremy could have gone with them, but on that bizarre and quite expensive whim that parents tend to have, they instead opted to complicate things by making arrangements for Jeremy to stay at his best friend’s house while letting the school know that Mr. and Mrs. Ippi were Jeremy’s temporary guardians, as well as scheduling plane tickets to the sunny islands. But everything must have worked out because now they were gone, and Jeremy was here - you know, still sprawled on the floor while Tony’s mom asked him repeatedly if he was all right. Tony managed to sneak two strips of bacon from the plate while she was distracted.
“I’m all right, Mrs. Ippi,” Jeremy assured her as he finally got to his feet. “I’m sorry about the chair.”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” she said, tipping it back on its feet.
“Let me make it up to you,” he insisted. He turned to the plates visible through the cupboard’s glass. “I’ll set the table if you want.”
Mrs. Ippi said hastily, for the plates were made of glass, “No, no! You’re all right, Jeremy. I think you’d better just sit; you may have a concussion. You took quite a fall, after all.”
“But I didn’t hit my head,” Jeremy tried to protest.
“Still, you can’t be too careful.” She told him sweetly. She hurried back to the stove and slapped Tony’s hand as he reached for another bacon.
It took a while but somehow Mrs. Ippi managed to convince the klutzy but kindhearted boy not to touch the glass plates. She almost made the mistake of asking Tony to set them on the table until she remembered that Tony did nothing without Jeremy jumping in to help. And so, though it pained her to do it, she asked Ceddie and Amanda to do it instead when they trooped into the kitchen.
“Aww, but why?” Amanda whined. Ceddie was digging into his ear so he didn’t hear what his mom had asked.
“Just do it for Mommy, okay?” Mrs. Ippi pleaded.
“But the plates are too heavy for us!” Amanda argued. “And we’re too short to reach them.”
Tony snorted. His little brother and sister sure acted small and helpless when Mom was around, but when her back was turned they were like little devils - sneaking into the sugar snacks above the refrigerator, putting bugs into everyone’s drawers, dropping eggs from atop the roof... They never got in trouble, of course. Tony was the one who was supposed to be “responsible” for them, so he was the one who got hit with the book, and that meant cleaning out “the pantry” - a dark, little storage room under the back porch with walls coated in rotten fruit and crawling with hundreds of millipedes the size of your pinky. Hey, don’t laugh! Seriously! Hold your pinky up to your face and imagine it’s got a million little legs... not laughing anymore, are you?
Fortunately, though, Mrs. Ippi had one last trick up her sleeve. When asking nicely and pleading didn’t work, bribery got the job done. She told them, “If you help set the table, you can have an extra strip of bacon.”
Ceddie brightened. “We’re having bacon?”
Amanda frowned. “One bacon?”
“Hey,” Jeremy interrupted, “if I set the table, can I have an extra bacon?”
“No, no, Jeremy!” said Mrs. Ippi. “You’re our guest. You get an extra one just for that.”
“What about two extra...”
“Two extra pieces of bacon!” said Mrs. Ippi desperately, turning to Amanda and Ceddie.
Ceddie turned to Amanda. She bit her lip in thought. “Um...”
“And I’ll make your favorite butterscotch chip cookies,” she added as a final offer.
“Okay!” Amanda beamed angelically and scampered to the cupboard, with Ceddie chasing after her. Mrs. Ippi sighed and turned back to the eggs.
Tony asked, “Hey, Mom. Can I have two extra slices of bacon if I help set the table?”
His mom turned and flashed him a stern look. “You should just do the right thing without expecting a reward.”
Which was the exasperated hint that she wanted him outside today.
Tony was outside today. Not that he had much choice. After booting the four of them out, Mrs. Ippi promptly locked the door and then gestured through the front window to go play. With a defeated sigh, Tony turned to his siblings and asked, “All right, guys, what do you want to do today?”
“Go to the park!” they both shouted. That’s where the pirate ship was. Amanda and Ceddie loved to crawl through its tunnels and swing across its monkey bars and, best of all, turn the ship’s wheel.
“That’s a great idea,” said Jeremy, giving Tony a friendly punch on the shoulder. “And you and me can play catch with my dad’s football.”
“Will he mind?” Tony asked, dreading the answer.
Jeremy guffawed. “Of course not! Tells me every day that I can play with it whenever I want... as long as it’s outside and I put it back when I’m done.”
Which was exactly the answer Tony feared. True, Jeremy’s dad had been the star quarterback (or was it linebacker?) in high school and could throw a really mean ball, but he was an all-around nice guy with a great sense of humor. No, what Tony feared was that his friend looked up to his dad and was trying too hard to follow in his footsteps while dragging Tony behind him. All that dragging really chafed. Nevertheless, Jeremy quickly grabbed his dad’s old pigskin and the four of them were off to the park.
It was quite a walk... five blocks of it, in fact. If that wasn’t bad enough, good, old Mr. Sun was there turning up the thermostat. With the unholy combination of hot weather and exercise, by the time they made it to the park, the four of them were drowning in their own sweat, and their faces were steak red (beets are cliched, you understand), their legs fish limp, and their mouths beef jerky dry - well, now I’ve gone and made myself hungry. Someone fire up the grill! In the meantime, let’s get back to our hapless hero’s future comrades.
“I want a drink a water!” Ceddie wailed.
“Me too!” cried Amanda.
“I want to sit down,” Tony puffed.
“I think there’s some drinking fountains somewhere in the park,” said Jeremy, wiping his forehead. He gestured vaguely in a direction. “Somewhere over there. Come on, guys.”
They started in the vaguely gestured direction. After a few minutes, Ceddie squealed without warning, “Sprinklers!” and began running.
“Wait, Ceddie! Wait for me!” Amanda cried and tore after her brother.
Oh great, thought Tony, if they break that sprinkler, it’s going to be my fault. He called, “Hey, guys! Don’t touch that sprinkler!” and he chased after them.
“Last one there is a rotten egg!” Jeremy crowed as he broke into a run.
And so the race was on. Ceddie was in the lead, but Amanda was closing in on him fast. Tony had a head-start on Jeremy but Jeremy soon whooshed past him and started gaining a lead until he tripped on a dip in the field and went sprawling. Tony soon caught up to him, placing himself in a steady third place. He really had no hope of catching up to Ceddie and Amanda, though. Ceddie was pushing himself for all his worth but Amanda was gaining on him. Now they were neck in neck and then it was Amanda - no Ceddie! - wait, Amanda! - no, Ceddie again! - Amanda! - Ceddie! - Amanda! Ceddie! Amanda! Ceddie...
Wait, it’s all over, folks! In a shocking move that caused Ceddie and Amanda - as well as Tony and Jeremy - to scream and leap backwards, someone else flopped on top of the sprinklers from completely out of nowhere! What a shocker!
After all, it wasn’t every day that somebody fell out of the sky like an angel from heaven, who had gotten lost in the underworld and mauled half to death by a bunch of little, red imps with pitchforks. He must have been thirsty too because he grabbed that sprinkler by its ugly head and began guzzling down its water. The sprinkler put up a valiant fight, hissing, twisting, and jetting water into his eyes, but in the end this mysterious person from the sky had his fill and he allowed the sprinkler to return to its lawn-watering with as much dignity as it had remaining.
Slowly, he stood up. On his back, a cape unfurled, its colors the deep blue of a cloudless sky, pure, noble, untainted by the dark clouds of wickedness, marked only by two letter overlapping each other within a circle: KC.
He turned around and saw the four kids gaping at him. He pointed to the sprinkler. “That wasn’t yours, was it?”
Ceddie shook his head. The rest of them were speechless.
He continued, “Sorry if I scared you. Just hadn’t had a drink in a long time.”
“It’s okay,” Amanda finally said timidly. “We were thirsty, too...”
Then Ceddie burst out, “How’d you do that?! You just all of a sudden came from nowhere! Can you do it again?”
“Quiet, Ceddie,” said Tony, still staring.
Jeremy strode forward with his hand outstretched and shook hands with the stranger. “Well, hey, my name’s Jeremy. This here’s my pal, Tony, and his little brother, Ceddie, and little sister, Amanda.”
The stranger nodded. “Name’s SuperKC.”
Tony snorted. “SuperCasey?” Ceddie hopped and cried, “Wow! So you’re a real superhero?”
SuperKC shrugged. “Well, more like a costumed crusader.”
Tony asked, “What’s the difference?”
So the costumed crusader explained, “A hero is recognized by the people. A crusader is someone fighting for a cause, though that’s not always a good thing.”
“Is that why you’re wearing a cape?” cried Amanda, pointing. She was bouncing excitedly so her aim was constantly being thrown off though it wasn’t difficult to guess what she was pointing at.
“What’s your superpower?” asked Ceddie.
“My superpower?” SuperKC looked uncomfortable, shuffling his feet and rubbing the back of his neck. “Well, uh... you see, the only power I possess is to... control the temperature of my breath.” Seeing their stupefied expressions, he added brightly, “But hey, I can actually do some pretty cool stuff with it.”
“Like what?” murmured Tony. “Cool your soup?”
SuperKC grinned. “Watch this.” He grabbed the little hose dangling over his shoulder and puffed hard into it. Behind him, his cape suddenly ballooned and lifted above his head. Another puff later, the costumed crusader lifted into the sky. He was soon hovering five feet above their heads. He waved to the astonished group.
He puffed more air into the hose and then yanked it. From pocket vents in his back rushed the air from his balloon-cape, jetting him through the air for a good distance until he tumbled onto the ground and bounced onto his feet.
Amanda, Ceddie, and Jeremy burst into applause. “Awesome!” said Ceddie.
“So,” said Tony as SuperKC walked back to the four of them. “Where are you from?”
“I come from a planet called Poolington.”
“Really?” Jeremy’s eyes widened excitedly. “Did it blow up after your parents sent you to Earth, just like Superman?”
“He was joking, Jeremy,” said Tony in exasperation. “I’ve heard of Poolington. Some town to the east of us. All sorts of weird stuff happen there. I heard that there’s even a superhero that appears when it happens.”
“Superkid?” said SuperKC. “Yeah, that’s my clone - er, that is, I’m his clone. He’s got things handled over there so I’m kind of drifting around, looking for places that need my help...” He shrugged. “You wouldn’t happen to have bad guys here, would you?”
Jeremy snapped his fingers. “Hey, now that you mention it, there’s been some viral videos on the internet about a gang of criminals going around town and robbing places! Got some weird names, too, like Guvnuh, Gasbag, and Cache.”
“Really?” the youthful vigilante’s eyes twinkled mischievously. “Sounds like my kind of trouble.”
His trouble, actually, would come from a different source. Guvnuh, Gasbag, and Cache were merely appetizers for the big buffet of trouble that was to come.