Spring was on its way. It wasn’t here yet though, and the bitter winds stung my lungs. It was my day off. And I made the commitment to fitness. I wanted to catch Speed Demon. I know that I would never run as fast as her. I’m not delusional. But if I collapse from running down the street, I can’t exactly get to where she might be. Trying to get to Times Square when Lady Monster attacked was beyond me. I needed to exercise if I wanted to pursue this article. There was no doubt about it. I jogged through the bustling sidewalks of Hell’s Kitchen. I walked more than I ran, but I ran longer than I did yesterday. And tomorrow would be better.
My lungs started to catch fire before my legs quivered to a halt. The winter did nothing to stop the sweat from raining from me and soaking my clothes. I stood there catching my breath as people moved around me. The overcast glowed from the sun’s attempt to thaw the city. I hated spring, and summer for that matter, in New York. The smell of garbage floated about no matter where you were. Speed Demon had once cleaned the entire city, but that lustrous state didn’t last long. Within a year, the city was back to its aromatic normal.
My breath froze in the air as I looked around. Everyone seemed to break out from the shell of indifference. In the distance, I heard cheers and huzzahs.
Then I saw an eruption of sparkles in the distance. The crowds parted and traffic stopped as Kaptain Ka-BOOM stood in the middle of the street blocking rush hour. His smirk seemed so satisfied with the roars from the passersby.
I never noticed how much Kaptain Ka-BOOM’s explosions looked like fireworks. He made sure that attention was solely on him with another signature boom. It was impressive due to New Yorker’s ability to tune life out when dodging through the bustling streets. The sparkling lights of the explosion brought cheers and applause that drowned out the honking of angry drivers. Kaptain Ka-BOOM stood in the middle of the street striking a pose befitting a blockbuster movie poster. Everyone pulled out their phones to capture this moment. The colorful blasts took over the air around us as his showboating escalated from awe-inspiring to obnoxious.
Why is he trying to make such a scene?
“Jack Oliver Harts,” my mother was the only one to say my full name and only when I was in trouble, “how dare you spread your slanderous lies about Madame Sunshine,” The Sentinel exclaimed forcing everyone’s attention on him with more blasts. “This man is tarnishing the good name of Madame Sunshine!” With those words, I felt thousands of heated eyes burning through me. Whispers bounced back and forth in the gathering crowd.
Thanks for that, Kaptain.
Kaptain Ka-BOOM wore a black suit that covered him like a body glove—too tight. On his chest was a cartoony explosion with the letters KK at the center. It matched the emblem on his mask. As he strode over, I could hear his super suit riding up in all the wrong places.
Why is it so tight? It doesn’t need to be so tight. Are all super suits like that? I dug through my memories, but everything before meeting Madame Sunshine a month ago was soaked in honey. I guess I lost my rose-colored glasses after the interview.
“What do you have to say for yourself?” Kaptain Ka-BOOM spit, inches from my face. We were the same height which made me feel good for some reason, and he was also a Sentinel which meant he wouldn’t harm me, right?
That didn’t stop Madame Sunshine, my memories reminded me. While there was no pain, I did have a hideous scar on my shoulder.
“I just—I…,” I couldn’t think of what to say. Everyone was staring. Traffic resumed when Kaptain Ka-BOOM got out of the street, but everyone else was staring at me. Stage fright had nothing on how I felt. Sweat double timed over my body. I could smell my fear.
“Do you have anything to say?” Kaptain Ka-BOOM hollered. He made an appeal to the crowd.
I didn’t really know what to say, or what he expected me to say. The only thing that came to mind was, “I only wrote the truth. If anyone is to blame for Madame Sunshine looking bad, it is her.”
Kaptain Ka-BOOM grabbed hold of my jacket, shouting and shaking, “She is a goddess! Without her we would have starving children, wars, and we would lose ourselves to the chaos and destruction at the hands of the Sinisters! She is our saving grace, our beautiful ray of hope! Madame Sunshine has no comparison!”
It was an odd declaration to make. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see everyone eating it up. They nodded at each other accepting the statement as fact. But the world still has hunger, wars, and other horrible things. It was rather surprising to see that a Sentinel sees her like everyone does, like I once had. This is when I hatched a brilliant idea. I threw my hands up in the air—surrendering. I didn’t want a Sentinel to think I wanted a fight. He was no Madame Sunshine, but Kaptain Ka-BOOM could still make me cry uncle all the way to jail.
“Then prove it to me. Maybe I was wrong to write what I did. It could have been bitterness. After all, I am just a man without any powers. Maybe I was just envious of her strength and virtue. How about this, I will interview you about her and you give me the real story. I mean you know her better than anyone, right?”
“Well, I suppose that I do,” Kaptain Ka-BOOM said. I think he has wanted to hear those words for a long time.
“Then let’s go get a coffee, and you can help me write a retraction and a new article, sound good?” This wasn’t ideal. My voice recorder was at home. I suppose I could download an app. I needed something to back my words. Otherwise, Brent would probably think I am saying shit for the shock value or because I have nothing.
I stared into his cartoony googles. I couldn’t see his eyes, and he kept a straight face as he considered my offer. I hoped he would take the bait. Again, I wanted to interview Speed Demon. It would have been like Christmas for me to bump into her on the street, defending Madame Sunshine’s honor. I wanted to believe that she was different. Kaptain Ka-BOOM was not doing himself any favors. But Speed Demon had to be different. My deadline, however, was unforgiving in what I wanted. I was happy to take any opportunity, and If I could interview him, I would have plenty of time to pursue my next. I would use that time to even chase down Speed Demon. As I thought about her, something in me wanted her to remain a mystery. A mystery can’t disappoint you, and after meeting my second Sentinel up close, disappointment was seeming more likely…
“I just want to know the real Madame Sunshine,” I lied to him. I already knew. She was a bitch, and there was nothing another fan could say to change that.
“Fine,” Kaptain Ka-BOOM hissed at me, “I will educate the ignorant this day.”
I was released and the passersby cheered. All the excitement faded as the two of us walked in silence down the street searching for a coffee shop. It was obvious that he was proud of himself. The way he strode with his head held so high looking down his nose was all he could do.
The squeaking of his outfit matched his steps. How is he not freezing in that? It looked too thin. And the details it revealed were borderline pornographic. I pulled my jacket around me while Kaptain Ka-BOOM strolled unfazed.
I wonder if he was pining after Madame Sunshine. Is he defending her honor? I mean why else would he go out of his way to bully me? Everyone—even super powered heroes—do stupid things for love. Fortunately for me, his plan was about to backfire.
We finally came across a poor excuse for a coffee shop. It was one that specialized in milkshakes with espresso hidden in an avalanche of sugar. Inside, preteens and children went wild upon seeing a Sentinel. In the streets he had stopped and shook hands, posed for photos, and signed autographs, but inside Starbucks, the sugar high invigorated the thrill. I took the time to search for a voice recorder app on my phone. Too many of them popped up, so I picked the first free one.
“One Double Fudge Brownie and Chocolate Chip Crème Frappuccino with whip-cream and chocolate drizzle,” stated Kaptain Ka-BOOM when he finally made his way up to the counter. His words carried all the bravado needed for a man to order that with confidence.
“…just a coffee for me…no room…,” my words trailed away as I looked at the Sentinel who tried too hard.
I opened up the app, made sure it was recording, and asked, “Can I record this?”
“And your name?” When Kaptain Ka-BOOM gave me a weird, offended look, I said, “…for the recording. So they know it is truly you.”
“I am Kaptain Ka-BOOM!” He cried with another explosion.
I waited for his newfound fans to calm down before starting, “So are you and Madame Sunshine—.”
“An item? That is the question that everyone is asking!” He cried heroically. I was going to ask if they were partners in the sense that he was her sidekick. I guess he sees himself as a bit more. Kaptain Ka-BOOM was a high ranking Sentinel, but not one of the Virtuous Seven. Perhaps, he hates being second best.
“So are you?” I was now curious.
“Chivalrous men don’t kiss and tell.” He told me while I thought, but have you kissed at all? I decided that this wasn’t worth pursuing.
“So tell me about Madame Sunshine—.”
“She is the most perfect being to ever grace us! If not for her, humanity would have fallen to the Ant-men from Mars, the things from the nether dimension, the anti-Sentinels from Earth Alpha and Gama, the alternative timeline disaster of 2008, the…,” as Kaptain Ka-BOOM mentioned the countless cataclysms, I began to tune him out. Have we really been invaded that many times?
“Kaptain Ka-BOOM!” Shouted a barista.
Fireworks rained from the Sentinel’s fingers as he exclaimed, “At last!”
Everyone applauded. Everyone but me.
“Seems that we would have been driven to extinction without her,” I told him after it seemed that there was no end to the invaders from everywhere that wanted to start a war with us.
“And you dared to utter those lies against her!” Kaptain Ka-BOOM’s shout was contrasted by his sucking down of his coffee-sugarshake. I pictured him with a crazy-straw, and had to fight off a chuckle. “Madame Sunshine holds us together as a society, and you dare to cast stones!”
“I told you that this is why I needed you to set me straight.” I lied.
“And I shall. She and I have battled Sinisters together many of times, and none know her better than me! I remember the time that we fought off the sea invasion that threatened New York City, Speed Demon was evacuating the city while we stood strong on the frontlines.” He began the tale of their heroics while I once again zoned out.
“Well,” I interrupted, “…what are her opinions on us normal people?”
“She and I are Sentinels, the protectors of Earth, the unbiased defenders of justice, what do you think our opinions are?” He seemed to like to lump himself and Madame Sunshine together. He also never seemed to have a solid stance on things. He talked in riddles that would paint him in a fantastic light without being outright lies. I began to smile when I thought about his article. It was a smile that felt wrong. A depression settled onto my shoulders. The idea that superheroes seemed like only smoke and mirrors of valor and virtue. I hope I am wrong…
I thought of all the other Sentinels I could interview. Wondered if any of them would be any different. Maybe Gilgamesh? I wondered if the ancient king had transcended the ages with the regal greatness you would expect the years to grant an immortal man. He could also be the sexist monster of a tyrant that most kings were. He could be just as awful as Madame Sunshine—a fellow immortal. Is it wrong of me to hope just because I love the story? Does that make me biased? My mind trailed off to Speed Demon, which made my heart flutter a bit. The few pictures out there of her standing still have been enough to capture my interest. If I had a favorite, it would definitely be her. It was the reason my subconscious was telling me not to chase after her.
I noticed that Kaptain Ka-BOOM was standing and shouting with everyone cheering so I decided to return to listening, “… and with a well-placed explosion from yours truly, Madame Sunshine was able to destroy those barbaric invaders!”
A standing ovation took over the Starbucks while I sipped on my drink, quietly.
“Now, Jack Oliver Harts, how can you believe Madame Sunshine to be anything but mankind’s sacred savior?” It was a rhetorical question, but I decided to answer it with, “…you are the one spreading lies.”
“What was that?” Kaptain Ka-BOOM said through clenched teeth.
I thought about my shoulder, the shattered table, and the words of godly entitlement. She only agreed to the interview so I would lie about Lady Monster. They reminded me that I was out of my league. An argument could turn nasty, and it would only be nasty for me.
“You certainly put things into perspective,” I corrected myself. “I was wrong. Also, I never realized how great you are, Kaptain Ka-BOOM. I would love to write about you, if I may.”
He smirked while slurping up his sugary coffee concoction.
“I have told you plenty about me.”
“You have,” I looked at my phone. I had recorded over fifteen minutes. “But I would love to interview you under better circumstances. I was grossly unprepared for this meeting. I owe it to you to set the record straight, and keep me from allowing my embarrassment to go unchanged.”
Kaptain Ka-BOOM cocked his head. I could tell he was suspicious of me until I said, “you have proved to me that you are just as remarkable as Madame Sunshine. The world deserves to know it.”
Another smirk and slurp from Kaptain Ka-BOOM before he said, “I think I owe it to my fans.”
“Shall we meet here tomorrow? To discuss things further?” I smiled. We have different definitions of remarkable, Kaptain Ka-Boom.
“Tomorrow is no good. I am doing a book signing for my memoir. Explosive.”
Of course you are.
“In fact, you can pick up a copy at any bookstore in the city,” Kaptain Ka-BOOM said as he pulled out a business card from somewhere. I was hesitant to touch it. “Contact me after you read it. If that book doesn’t answer your questions, I will fill in the gaps.”