I was graciously led back to my scooter and had a tag-a-long ride with me all the way back to my apartment. Wrath nearly pissed herself laughing when she saw my scooter. Said it was cute. When I asked her about wearing a helmet she said that she didn’t wear a helmet on her Harley and that wearing one on a scooter as it buzzed along seemed pointless. It was illegal, but I imagine she didn’t want to mess up the hours spent on her hair on top of selling her rebel look. Something she seemed to take very seriously. My tailbone screamed as we buzzed back to my apartment.
I thought today would have been the highlight of my life. Meeting Madame Sunshine and seeing the true reason that Times Square is in ruins was huge. But being cross-examined by Dark Shadow and Wrath was pretty big, and all because of an article.
I was blown away by the series of events these last couple weeks. So, I was both surprised and shocked to find a cowboy sitting at my new table with a cigarette, a cup of coffee and a pile of broken devices laid out in front of him. Devices that all looked like Dark Shadow’s symbol: a black circle surrounded by a dark purple circle.
“It’s great to finally meet you. I’m Tex.” The man looked straight out of an old western only not wearing a hat and being clean shaven. “You looked shocked… I sent you a postcard.”
“How in the fuck did you get in here?”
“I broke in,” the words casually rolled out of his mouth with a puff of smoke.
“To join in your crusade to bring down the Sentinels. It feel good to finally have someone else—.”
“So you broke into my— I’m calling the cops.”
Tex pulled out a revolver from under his duster with a wide smile. His eyes gleamed with a spark of calm insanity. The conversation from barely an hour ago was still fresh in my mind, and Dark Shadow had said Tex was a murderer. Worse than Grim. My blood ran cold.
“Sit down. Is that any way to act after I did this?” He gestured at the broken devices on the table. “Dark Shadow had this place so bugged that he could have heard you masturbating and even known how many strokes it took you to get off. You’re welcome, you ungrateful asshole. Now sit down.”
“Are you going to kill me?” My voice was trembling as I slowly moved over to the table to sit. My tailbone sent sparks of pain through my back as I tried to find any way to sit that would be comfortable. Nothing was. “Please. I don’t want—.”
“I’m not going to kill you. Just here to talk is all, and hopefully work with you. Like I said, I’ve come to join your crusade to bring down the Sentinels.”
“That isn’t want I am trying to do!”
“Well, according to the letter I sent Dark Shadow a few days back, it is. And he is a stubborn bastard. Getting that idea out of his head will be harder job that erasing the emotional scars of his parents’ death. The guy has problems,” Tex said as he took another sip of coffee. I had trouble keeping my eyes off the gun he whipped around as he spoke.
“That look on your face, that one right there.” Tex gestured at me with his revolver. “It looks like you’re regretting this.”
I was. The idea of writing these articles came out of a hopeful desire to get to know the super powered idols of the world, it quickly decayed, but now I wish I had never seen Lady Monster or spoken to Madame Sunshine. I wish that I had fallen to my death that day or just simply gave up my idea of writing about them as the whimsy of a fanboy instead of chasing it. Tex was completely right. I regretted it.
“Don’t. This world needs men like us. It needs to believe in itself once again. I mean with the Martian Treaty crumbling, Doom promising to return and destroy us, the Sinisters and the Sentinels warring with each other in our cities, the Sentinels on the verge of a civil war pissing contest, and more alien invasions, dimensional bullshit, and magical prophecies of death happening in the past fifteen years than in all of human history. The world needs people to wake it up, you know?” Tex’s face darkened. He appeared deeply bothered by everything and it showed in a black hatred that stained his lined face with a permanent scowl.
I was amazing just how many things were happening in the world. It bored into me with a sense of powerlessness. And I was falling into that chaos just because I wrote an article.
“Did you unleash Lady Monster on Times Square? Dark Shadow said that you only acted in front of a crowd, and that you—.”
“What? Released a skyscraper sized insect monster on a ton of innocent people just to save them from the devastation that I caused and be praised as a hero?” Tex leaned back in his chair, taking a drag of his cigarette and thinking it over, continuing after a long moment, “While it would be a great way to show the world that it can save itself, it’s not my style. I am a hero and I will save the world as one. I will never compromise that for an easy out. You have a dark mind. Thankfully I’m here to keep your morals in check.”
I glanced over to my door. Dark Shadow said that Tex avoided New York because of Speed Demon. Why is he here and how has she not come? My heart fluttered at the chance to meet her, and given how my day was going so far… It seemed very likely.
“No one is coming to save you,” Tex drawled, gesturing toward the door. “Supers are a cocky bunch that cause more problems than they solve. They dropped you off here thinking that these dark-bugs—or whatever he calls them—would be enough. No doubt he will return in a few days to find out why they are all offline and will probably reaffirm the idea of us working together. However, no one is going to come bursting through that door. Not even Speed Demon. That woman is the fastest thing in existence, but she isn’t omniscient.”
“So I am stuck here with you?” I asked afraid of the answer.
“No. You have a job and I have my own matters to clear up. Plus you need to write your new article. Who is it about?”
Tex laughed so hard I almost joined in. It was a genuine laugh that washed away the lines of hatred that scared his face. “I can’t wait to read that! Kaptain Ka-BOOM. Is that what you were out doing? When I tailed Dark Shadow here, I thought he had nabbed you already. Can I read it? A sneak peak, please?”
“I haven’t started it yet. He did by the way.”
“Wrath lured me to Dark Shadow, and they grilled me for information on you. I was just trying to get information on Kaptain Ka-BOOM,” I spit at him still being mindful of his revolver.
“What did he say?”
“You are a murderer trying to destroy the Sentinels.”
Tex nodded, finished off his cigarette, and said, “He isn’t wrong, but no doubt he has a warped view of my vision. All those fuckers do…even Madame Sunshine.”
And what vision could that possibly be? I thought the question, yet fear kept me from asking it.
“No worries. They will fall. One way or another I will save this world. Anyway, for now just write that article, and wait for me to get back in touch. I don’t want to be near you when Dark Shadow comes back around.” Tex grabbed up a piece of paper and pen and scribbled down a number and name—Tex. “Take this. Memorize it and then burn it. Call me after he comes back to check on why his dark-bugs got destroyed. He will probably assume that you had something to do with it, but you can just blame me. I think it’s best if we keep them guessing on whether or not we’re working together. And be careful of Madame Sunshine. She can read minds.”
“You told Dark Shadow we were.”
“Yes I did. That will get you close to them. They have been trying to catch me ever since I slipped away from Madame Sunshine a few years ago. Use that to your advantage and get to know them. Write more of your articles. Those articles will help us in the end. They will show that these super-powered people are nothing special. It will remove their divinity from the public eye.
When Dark Shadow comes, you will have a way in. After we tear down the Virtuous Seven we can begin my part of the plan. Together we can save this world. I will admit that my plan to pull you in was a bit brash, but I needed to make sure you have more articles to write. Anyone can write slander. That’s easy, just look at any presidential campaign. I need you to write the truth so that the masses start to think. People thinking is always the downfall of those in power.”
Text holstered his revolver on a belt teeming with bullets. He started out the door saying, “We will save this world, I promise you.”
“From what?” I asked. My mind swam with all that could happen and had happened to us: disasters, invasions, all-powerful monsters and evil people from here and space. He seemed to know something. Did it have something to do with Lady Monster?
Tex paused to say, “We will save the world by teaching it to save itself.”
Then he left. I sat alone in my apartment flabbergasted by the turn of events. This day had single-handedly bested the attack in Times Square and left me with more questions and curiosity that I wanted. A weight fell onto my shoulders as I realized that I had been dragged into something that I absolutely wanted no part of. I was being placed in the looming doom of whatever was happening…but I had no powers or skills. I am just a part time professor at a college, a former fanboy, and a man who wrote one article for the New York Times. The weight pushed against me so badly that I laid down for the day. I was too exhausted to write as Tex wanted, and the idea of teaching a class tomorrow felt unbearable. The only thing I wanted to do right now was sleep. I hoped that I would wake up from this nightmare as just another fanboy who is doing nothing save for drooling over the Sentinels.
There was a noise in the middle of the night. I jumped from my couch expecting to see Dark Shadow, but I was left wanting. I had fallen asleep with the kitchen light on. My apartment looked no different from any other day. Outside it was snowing. I guess there was still some winter left in the season. It took me a moment to fully wake up. I tried and failed to lay back down and sleep. I couldn’t shake the talk with Tex or my dealings with Dark Shadow and Wrath. Tex’s willingness to draw a gun on me was more frightening than Kaptain Ka-BOOM, Dark Shadow, Wrath, or even Madame Sunshine. Despite them threatening me, they were still heroes. They never killed anyone, not even the Sinisters. They would simply beat them into oblivion and lock them up and throw away the key. However, they never murdered. On the other hand, Tex seemed to have no problem with this concept. I could see the delusional workings of his mind as he expressed his desire to bring down the Sentinels. And now I was wrapped up in that plan… Whatever it was.
I moved over to my table. One of the devices was wiggling and moving. At least it was trying to. Tex had smashed them up rather badly. I was surprised that they could do anything. I glimpsed a broken coffee mug on the ground. The same mug Tex had been using. I looked over the number he left on the table.
I looked at the time. I had two days until April. Two days until I had to turn in an article. Maybe I should not write anymore. Just get out of this before it goes too far. Remembering the gun pointed in my face the other day made it easier to swallow. Easier. I still struggled against it. I wanted to write more. Yes, this has taken my life down a crazy path in such a short amount of time, but I felt just as excited as I was freaked out. This was the first thing I have done in my life that was out of the ordinary. I was an oddly exhilarating feeling. I wonder if the Sentinels feel this way whenever they face a new challenge.
Now I’m comparing myself to them, I thought plopping down at the table. Don’t write the article and Tex might shoot me for failing him. Write the article and Tex will think that we are working together which will land me into a heap of trouble with the Sentinels…
To be honest, Tex scared me more. I knew nothing about him other than what Dark Shadow had said, and the fact that he found out where I lived and broke in without issue. That alone bothered me. If I pissed him off, what would stop him from breaking in and shooting me in my sleep? Nothing…
I grabbed my laptop, and started writing:
Shell of a Man
By: Jack O. Harts
Have you ever had a friend that everyone knew, everyone liked and was always around? This friend seems to be tied into most every story and it was hard to remember an adventure without him, yet despite these reasons, you never took the time needed to get to know him.
Kaptain Ka-BOOM is the Sentinel that seems tied in with Madame Sunshine and the other Virtuous Seven in most respects. He has been on the front lines of numerous calamities, disasters and chaos that has found us normal people without much hope and delivered us from destruction. With all of this in mind, it is easy to paint a glorious man with everything going for him: looks, personality, etc. However, this is not the case. An interview with Kaptain Ka-BOOM will show such a two-dimensional person that he can only be described as a parasite that leeches onto the personality of whoever he is near.
Reading his book Explosive only further illustrates the fact. Unleashing lines such as, “Never forget what hurt you, for it taught you” and “There is no recipe for success that excludes hard work, courage, and perseverance” Kaptain Ka-BOOM shows himself as a man who knows how to steal famous quotes and rework them. After reading this book and speaking with the man behind the mask, I learned that he is as deep as a puddle.
We give him all the greatness he doesn’t have because we want him to have it. We fail to see that he is only a shell that has nothing to offer except the greatest supporting role that actors should aspire to. He perfectly complements those he is near because it appears to be his only reason for being. He walks the walk, but hasn’t quite learned how to talk.
Once I finished I compiled the recording of our conversation and a reference for the lines I pulled from his book. I read it over, seeing the same thing that I found in Madame Sunshine. The Sentinels are only as great as we have made them, and while I was only two superheroes in, I had a feeling that this trend wasn’t going to change. I emailed everything to Brent, and decided that I wanted a beer. I scraped all the broken dark-bugs into the trash, grabbed a beer, and sat down to watch some TV.
Time to wait for Dark Shadow… What in the hell have I gotten dragged into… I thought as I channel surfed.