In Hero Years… I’m Dead… Chapter Three
For your reading pleasure, here is Chapter Three of the Digital Original novel, In Hero Years… I’m Dead.
Her lips curled into a snarl. “You’re a bastard.”
“Not me.” I pulled my bandana down. Blood. Great. “My parents were married.”
Fury flashed through her green eyes. So like her mother.
She went to kick me. I scissored my legs, but she nimbly jumped over them. I flicked the last bit of the broomstick underfoot. Her feet flew and she landed hard on her tailbone.
Pain tightened her features.
My guts twisted. A daughter! She was mine. No doubting it but shouldn’t I have known? Shouldn’t I have felt it somehow? The weight of the years pressed in on me. So much I don’t know.
I came up on one knee. She pushed off to try to slide back, but her hands skidded in soap. Flat on her back, she pounded a fist against the floor. “Darn it!”
I extended a hand. “How bad?”
“Stay away from me. You’re not my father. You’re not. You’re a… a sperm donor.” Her head came up. “Don’t pretend you didn’t know.”
“I didn’t know.”
“It was big news when I went public. Nets were full of Vixen’s being Scarlet Fox’s daughter.”
“Never got the press release.” I shook my head. “So you’re Vixen?”
She sneered. “And you’re Jerkface.”
“Pleased to meet you, too.” I stood and offered her my hand again. “I guess we’re going to have a conversation about things at some point.”
“Don’t flatter yourself that I care.”
Oh yeah, daddy’s little girl.
“Not here or now, but we will. Agreed? You decide not to show at that time, or come and beat the crap out of me, that’s fine. I’m guessing you’re not here for a family reunion.”
She took my hand and let me pull her upright. “I work alone. Don’t get in my way, Jerkface.”
“Fine. I’ll distract them, you deal with them.” I tied the bandana back in place. I stripped the tasers from the three we’d downed and dragged the Twisters to the utility closet. “From what I saw on the Murdoch, there’s a dozen in the lobby. Was a dozen.”
“There’s another dozen in the street, along with Twistron, their leader. The guys inside are juniors, seniors are outside. Twistron the Twisterian is fairly minor league, but he’s got a following.”
I frowned. “So we’re going through twenty minions and a villain, just the two of us?”
“Are you nuts?” Vixen gave me a quizzical look. “I just bid on the interior. Others are handling the outside.”
I heard her words, but they didn’t make any sense. Jetlag. Had to be.
She turned to go, but I grabbed her wrist. “One second. Your mother?”
“Like you care.”
She pulled her wrist free. “If that’s true she would’ve heard from you in the last twenty freaking years.”
“Just because no messages got through doesn’t mean there weren’t any.”
Vixen posted fists on her slender hips―so like her mother. “It doesn’t mean there were.”
I cocked my head. “You know your mother. Do you think I wouldn’t have at least tried?”
Vixen gave me a hard stare, then her eyes disappeared behind polarized lenses again. “She never heard anything.”
“Dammit.” I snapped an electrode packet into my taser.
“No other stupid questions?”
“I’m good for now, thanks.”
“Don’t think this is father-daughter bonding, Jerkface.”
“Perish the thought.”
“Done.” She spun and we waded into battle.
We burst into the lobby and the hostages’ eyes widened. Penny pointed. “It’s Vixen.”
“And some old dude,” someone else added.
The situation really called for snappy patter―something light. Rhyming couplets would have been nice, but I never inherited the knack. Redhawk had been a natural. He could tear off a cheesy line while being fed into a wood-chipper. Or Graviton, he was great at bold and pithy statements of truth and justice―usually Biblical in origin and mostly Old Testament.
Me, I always went for grim and nasty. Those remarks are best whispered in an ear right before you break an arm. They stick with the guys while they’re in the hospital. Better yet, when you track them down later and squeeze them for information, the line’s encore works wonders. If it doesn’t actually scare the piss out of them, it guarantees they won’t be sleeping for at least the next week.
And they always sing like a drunken canary on karaoke night.
But as we boiled into the lobby, I had nothing.
Vixen leaped onto a writing table and cracked her whip. “Wrong place. Wrong time.”
Edgy voice. Dramatic delivery. I smiled. Daddy’s girl, definitely.
Her whip whistled and cracked again, scattering Twisters like gaudy autumn leaves. I triggered two tasers. Missed with one. Hit solid with the other. The Twister danced like water on a hot griddle, then collapsed. The guy I’d missed leveled a blunderbuss at me. Vixen’s whip hit the muzzle, but not before he pulled the trigger.
I heard the shot a half-second before I felt it. It hit me on the left side, whipping me around like scrap paper in a tornado. My back slammed against a teller’s cage. I flopped to the floor. My left side, from shoulder to hip, ached like I’d been sideswiped by a freight train. No blood. No holes in the coveralls. Near as I could tell I hadn’t been hit with anything, but my body wasn’t buying that.
The Twister snapped open the blunderbuss, feeding another shell into it. He flipped the weapon closed, then leveled it at me, ready to shoot from the hip. I stared into the gun’s black maw.
Then the window behind him shattered. Cracks ran up through tinted glass. A curtain of shards rained down and poured like sand up to his ankles. He turned, looking for a target. The chaos outside denied him a clear shot.
The thing that had broken the window spun to a stop against my right thigh. A silver cylinder as long as my forearm, it had been lathed out of a single piece of metal. One end had been textured for gripping. It filled my hand perfectly, as if it had been made for me.
Which it had.
I glanced at the butt-cap. A capital “C” edged it. A metal “K” had been soldered in place over it.
Outside a dozen Twisters―all looking a bit older and bulkier than their counterparts in the lobby―squared off against two heroes. One, a well-muscled Asian kid dressed in a blue Ninja outfit, flowed through them, laying about with a sword that crackled with electricity.
Beyond him another young man fought. He wore a sleeveless brown uniform with a tan breast and equipment belt. His cowl covered him from upper lip to hairline, revealing thick brown hair. The same C and K logo appeared in the middle of his chest, on his belt buckle, and the cuffs of his brown gloves. He slid another cylinder from a sheath on his left thigh and hurled it. It caromed off a Twister’s chest. The man jerked and went down.
My Twister brought his gun back around. “Ha! Kid Coyote missed. I won’t.”
Kid Coyote? I raised the baton. “Match you…”
He smiled. “Give it your best shot, old man.”
Hubris. Okay, so at least one thing hadn’t changed completely in twenty years.
I backhanded the rod at him. The throw went wide and low. He started laughing. He watched as the cylinder skipped off the floor, turning to follow its flight. The rod bounced off a pillar and came up. Fast. His eyes widened.
He tried to duck. Too late. It caught him in the chin, snapping his head back. He hit the ground before his gun did.
I reloaded the tasers, but it was no longer a target-rich environment. A half-dozen Twisters lay scattered about, unconscious or moaning like they wished they were. Two had footprints on their faces. Vixen’d shot a couple more with her pistol. No blood. Anesthetic bullets of some sort, I had to figure. One guy looked like he’d be whipped into a wall, and another hung from the teller’s cage like a scarecrow. The last two cowered while her whip cracked above them, allowing Baker to grab a blunderbuss and play hero.
The battle outside was dying, too. A huge figure in power armor as brilliantly colored as the Twisters’ togs, crashed into the street. The impact cracked more windows. Twistron, I assumed. Some other hero―green-skinned, yellow hair, with a yellow and blue uniform featuring a swordfish logo—floated down and delivered a punch that put Twistron out for the count.
Hostages started cheering and congratulating themselves. They produced their uTiliPods and posed for pictures with Vixen or with their feet on Twisters, as if they’d bagged them on some safari. One guy gathered up spent shells and another was trying to get a half-conscious Twister to sign an autograph.
I might have been out of the game for a while, but I knew an exit cue.
I limped off to the examination room and locked myself in. The coveralls and captured weaponry went into the false ceiling. I combed my hair back into place and sat down to wait.
It took him an hour, but Mr. Baker himself came to let me out. “Mister Smith, we are so sorry. Are you okay?”
I smiled and stretched, as if I’d been sleeping. It hurt a bit―I’d stiffened up. I even tossed in a yawn, and then pointed at the Murdoch. “I saw it all. I am so glad they didn’t come in here. Does this happen often?”
“No more so than to any other bank, sir.” The Ingratiator tried on his best smile. “We take every precaution to make sure that our customers and their money remains safe in these situations. We have regular drills and, on days when an event is going to take place, we push to have trained staff on hand.”
“You knew you were going to be robbed?”
“Of course, sir, of course.” He laughed. “That’s how it’s done here now. That’s the only way to maximize media coverage. We’re committed to making sure it’s the best robbery experience for everyone involved.”
In Hero Years… I’m Dead comes in two editions. The basic edition costs $5 and contains just the novel. the Deluxe Edition includes a long essay about the process of the writing and the genesis of the ideas. These two links will take you to my store where you can buy the epub format which works on Sony readers, the iPad and the Nook.