A New Hero
Like any good evil doer, it was my first instinct to fill the room with helium and make a break for it. I would have too, if it weren’t for my mom making a commotion as she went to open the door. The noise jostled me, and I managed to shake off the desire to start suffocating people. Looking out the window again, I both heard and saw my mom opening the door and rushing out, her face a muddled mess of emotion. I smiled, or tried to. Putting on my best relieved look, I made my way out, trying to match my mom, and not seem ridiculous while doing so.
“Ashley! You’re ok! Mom said that they sent you to the hospital! Are you ok?” I checked her up and down. Besides looking a bit nervous, I noticed nothing in particular, except for one thing that made me pause. Ashley was still in her hero getup. That was certainly odd, but cute. Definitely cute, “A-Are you wearing my pajamas? You stopped wearing those ages ago!”
She kind of flinched my questioning, and for a second I thought she recognized me, but felt relief as I saw the embarrassment on her face. My dad looked a bit worse for wear, probably spent most of his morning rushing around, and he didn’t look like he had taken a shower yet. A cough from my right reminded me of the elephant in the figurative room.
My mom’s attention latched onto the man instantly at his cough, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Thank you for saving my baby girl! I don’t know what I would have done if anything had happened to her.” She looked ready to hug him, but restraint managed to rear it’s head before that mental picture became a physical one.
Taking a step back, I took a good look at the imposing figure of Shift, a man who had the appearance of a 50s hippie with an axe to grind. The psychedelic bandanna that wrapped around his head and pulled back his hair really didn’t go with the wrinkles and frown on his face. His loose fitting maskless superhero outfit almost made me forget that this was one of the senior heroes in the game. I could easily imagine him as a younger 20 year old smiling as he had the time of his life.
I could hear my sister speak her first words, “Uh...Mom. A-About that.” I looked to my sister and noticed that even my father looked a bit tongue tied.
Mom glanced at them, “Yes Ashley? Did something happen?” I could already hear a bit of the pure worry in her voice back from the kitchen. With the arrival of Shift, I had almost forgotten a key question. Why was he even here?
I almost piece it together when Ashley managed to spit it out, “Mom, I’m a Super Mundane!” I stopped in place, not having to act out the shock that was on my face. For her to just out and say something like that, to reveal her identity, it was unexpected.
Mom sputtered a bit, laughing uneasily, before saying, “Wa-wait, honey. What do you mean you’re a Super Mundane?”
Ashley seemed to gain confidence at her mom being at odds with the conversation as much as she seemed to be, but was stopped by a simple gesture from Shift. He stepped up to the batter’s plate and spoke in a rather soft voice still managed to hold an edge, “Mrs. Pierrot, let’s talk about this inside. Your husband and I have discussed Ashley’s future, but I’d like to have the same discussion with you.”
Mom seemed to find her grip, her hands taking their signature places on her hip, blue eyes staring at this man, and glancing to her husband, “Future? My daughter was committed to the Hospital no less than 8 hours ago, I only knew about it less than that, and now you come here bringing up the future? Yes, we better have a good long discussion about some things.”
As they walked off, I kept my gaze on Ashley, not saying anything as I thought about what exactly was going on. She turned to meet my gaze, but only for a second. My silent gaze must have struck some sort of heartstring, for she looked down and hurried off. My father followed mom as she led the hero Shift into the house. It was only as I watched them all leave that I realized I was the only one outside now, on a chilly Saturday morning.
I headed inside after a while, just standing there about a minute or two. Opening the door, the atmosphere felt somber, tense. Making my way into the living room, I could see why. My sister was sitting down with Dad, his arms around her shoulders. Shift and my Mom however, were standing, and looking at each other with neither seeming to be willing to sit. Mom looked angry, indignant, but Shift looked calm, like he had seen this reaction many times over.
Shift broke the silence, “I know you think that your daughter isn’t ready, and it’s true, but the state of affairs in Stanlow and other cities around New York can’t get the right treatment it deserves if people like Ashley are held back by the worries of their parents,” Shift looked to Ashley, “At the hospital, you told me you wanted to be a hero, someone who made the world a better place, well, this is your chance.”
Mom stepped to the side, blocking his gaze from Ashley’s agreeing one, “Now you look here, mister, I won’t have you come and strongarm my daughter into a life of violence. I’ve seen what happens to people who try and become heroes. They get hurt, just like my daughter was last night.”
Shift shook his head, “No, she got hurt because of inexperience and bad luck. Whiteface has been a problem in Stanlow longer than any other, a weed we can’t seem to get a good grip on. With the training my organization can provide, your daughter would be a part of a team in Stanlow that knew what they were doing. Her friends have already been given this offer as well, and have accepted.”
Ashley looked surprised at that, “Really? They all said yes? Even Jessica?” Ah, so Sarah must have been the one in gymnast clothes. I wasn’t sure when she was born, but Ashley had always made a big deal about her BFF’s party being around April. Could very well be a Aries or a Taurus, but I was leaning towards Aries. Could very well have a specialty for clothing, which would be neat.
Shift nodded, “Yes, Ms. Newman was hesitant, but agreed readily once we explained the monetary gain from joining our organization.” He smiled as my Mom reacted to the mention of money, though it seemed bitter. Must have been acquainted with the effects money had on people.
My Mom asked him, “What do you mean by monetary gain? Are allowed to give children a legal salary for working?”
The hero shook his head, “No, direct legal compensation for a minor is prohibited. However, there isn’t a college out there who doesn’t like the idea of a registered hero attending their school. Scholarships are easy to come by.”
I actually broke the conversation, making my presence known, “What exactly are your plans for Stanlow?”
From the practiced way Shift spoke the words, it was obviously the question he been waiting for, “Your sister will be paired up with her other Super Mundane friends to create a rookie group to help out Stanlow and surrounding towns with Super Mundane issues that don’t get the coverage needed 24/7. Of course, we will provide a more experienced member of our organization to come every week and see how things are going and make sure they are getting good training and experience. I will be clearing out the problems in Stanlow tonight, and it will be the team’s job to keep it cleared out.”
Clean out all the problems? Did he mean me? Was Whiteface one of his targets? A senior member of the New York Hero Association?
Ashley asked my question for me, “Even Whiteface?”
Shift looked at her and said with a smile, “I won’t leave until she faces time in jail.”
I felt a shiver of something go down my back as the conversation went on without me, going over my head.
Later that day, after Shift had left, I felt raw. The day had rubbed away the dirt and grime of comfort that had gathered on my skin. I felt like I had only started my time as Whiteface. I was in my shared room with my sister now, listening as she told me about her first night out. I had shared some interest into how things went for her, to lighten the mood as well as to compare what she had seen to what I had.
Her pearly smile as she continued to chatter on and on, “So we were just walking along the alleyways, ready to show that drug dealer who was boss, when we were ambushed by Whiteface! Well, almost, J-uh, one of my friends managed to notice her up on the rooftops following us. She came down and told us to back off. I swear, her face looked so pristine, but that smile, ugh. I was never afraid of clowns until she came to town.”
I laughed a bit, saying, “Ashley, you don’t have to censor your friend’s name. You only have so many, and I’m sure I’ll see them around more often with this new set up.”
She gave me a shrug, not really saying anything for a while, before, “So, how was your day with all this madness?”
Honestly, I hadn’t been doing good. I was drained, very drained. Shift hadn’t left the entire day, managing to convince my Mom through sheer persistence. I was impressed as far as I was equally annoyed. He never spoke to me, I wasn’t important, but just the risk of him seeing me, finding me out. So I just had to play up the sister role and make sure to stay out of his way. Of course, as I looked to my sister, all I said was, “I’m just glad it’s over. It was exciting to see Shift, but he was here for so long, and frankly, he’s kind of intimidating.”
Ashley nodded a bit at that, and so I turned to my alarm clock, seeing it was getting pretty late, and said to Ashley, “Are you going to be ok?” One last question to wrap up what I had been feeling for the night.
She looked a bit conflicted, more than a bit exhausted, but that flare of heroism was in her eyes as she replied, “Of course I will!”
I smiled at her. Going to my closet to get my sleeping clothes, I was now clean of any responsibility as a sister for the time being. She was ok, I was ok, and now all I had to do was make sure that Whiteface would end up ok.