Metal and Mettle

Recently, Cyn and our (non-hero) friends Kay and Lisa have been indoctrinating her into the ways of make-up. It’s gone surprisingly well, considering Cyn is a shapeshifter and by all rights, shouldn’t need make-up. I have no idea what they taught her, but there’s a difference around her eyes and lips that I don’t dislike.

Around this time, I realize I’m staring like an idiot and smile back. She understands. She always understands.

Then she starts talking about the new innovations made in that robot in the window. I can only partly follow; she’s smarter than me by about the same distance that she’d taller. Engineering also isn’t my subject, though I’ve picked up enough not to be a complete moron just from dating her.

She’s bemoaning not being able to afford one, because she very much wants to take it apart. Nothing stays in one piece around her and a screwdriver. I make a note of this for gift purposes later. It might not sound heroic, but I’ve been using my powers to make display versions of medieval armor and weapons online. People pay an obscene amount for that kind of stuff, enough to nicely supplement my college fund. So I can afford a nice gift now and then, even one that’s going to end up strewn across Tink’s garage.

Whatever she builds out of the parts will be way better than the robot anyway. Tink’s a virtuoso with tech. She built a her own car, fully flight capable, in a junkyard. And on two separate occasions she’s alternately kicked and saved my ass with things she put together on the fly.

Sometimes I wonder if she’s got powers like us. I’ve seen technopaths in action before though, and she doesn’t fit the MO. Not that that’s saying much. New descendants are showing up all the time and no one’s wonky genetics seem to be content with simple strength or speed.

After our slight detour, and a stop at the video store to see what the new flat format releases were, we were once again on our way to the store that was doing Tink’s dress. My mind wandered back to prom and what I needed to plan out to make it special.

More special. Wow, her mention of the hotel sure raised the bar.

It’s probably best not to fixate on that one aspect. I don’t want her thinking I’m some hormone case, even if I am one. Right? Probably.

I wonder if other guys have these same thoughts. I tend to assume they don’t just by virtue of not being me. And by that, I’m not talking about Alloy, but plain old Warrick Kaine. I wasn’t all that popular in my old school. I can’t say I never had a date before, but they were dates along the lines of ‘I’m not going to the dance alone and Kaine at least isn’t as bad as the kid who cries in public’. I don’t know why that was, and I guess anyone who’s ‘that kid’ never really knows, but being a skinny little twerp who nonetheless tries to smart off to the bullies probably helped.

Many, many cans of whoop-ass were opened on my in Freshman year and I never even managed to get a few licks in.

Tink did much the same thing to herself, minus the ass-whippings. She set her sites high: full ride to Cambridge high, and I’m not talking Massachusetts. She wanted to study in the same halls as Hawking and Newton and pretty much half the other big names in science and gave up a social life because of it.

She only agreed to go out with me in the first place to get me to shut up, buckle down, and work on a science project we were partnered on. I like to think I’ve grown on her sense. It helps that we don’t do many regular dates. We’re both big geek and do geek things. One of our best dates was to a conference on the future of electroactive polymers and their future integration into day to day life. Chemistry for me, engineering for her and we loved it.

Us dating didn’t hurt her GPA, fortunately. She got accepted into Cambridge and she’ll be going this fall. Not a full ride, but you don’t go international for college on a full ride. I don’t know how that’s going to work out. I mean, even if she went to school on the west coast, that’s only about a half-day by train. Planes still take around ten hours to cross the ‘pond’ as they say in England.

Ms. Brant, the lady that owns the place where we stay, offered to pay my way on orbital shots, which do the job about as fast as the train ride, but I hate taking money from my friends, and even though she’s a lot older than me (almost twenty-eight), I consider her a friend. She’s like the team mom, but she’s more like a cool big sister. I hope I’m half as cool a big brother to my real sister.

Maybe I’m over thinking things. But I have seen a future where things didn’t go too smooth for me and Tink. For a lot of us really. Sure, was married in that world, but to someone I’d never met; and sure we had united the heroes, but the bad guys all seemed to have upgrades.

It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, because the bad guy that kicked off the bad stuff between us showed up and failed at hurting her the way he did in the bad future. But just knowing that that future could have happened? It scares me. I try not to think about it, try not to talk about it, but it creeps in.

People might think it’s odd that even with mad scientists trying to steal my DNA, an evil sorceress on the loose, and the just massive amount of weirdness in my life that focusing on normal things is my big stomach churner. I think that’s because most people have never done what I do, or had to think about it.

I started doing this, even before I met the others, because I wanted to be like the people I admired, and they did what was right because it was right. But that’s not enough. I mean it’s enough for some people, I know that. But for me, I eventually figured out that if I ever want to have the things I want out of life: love, family, happiness; someone needs to stop the nasties of the world; Project TOME, Morganna, the demons from faerie.

And more importantly, I’ve seen normal people, but those with and without powers, but normal all the same, who would have lost all those things if it wasn’t for me. They were depending on me, a geek who lucked spinning the genetic roulette wheel, to save their lives, their loved ones and their livelihood. And what would have happened if I had decided to be like them?

That’s not going to be me. I’m not going to wait for a hero when I’ve got the power to do it my own self. I’ll make my own happy ending. And not just a happy ending, but a happy middle to.

Like now. We’ve finally reached the dress store. Not the kind of place either of us would normally go into. The salesgirl is looking at us like a ganger spotting opposing colors. I link my arm in Tink’s and give the girl a smile. She doesn’t get to make us feel unwelcome anymore than TOME gets to make me feel hunted. We’re here and this is the first step toward great things.

Not perfect, I’m not a fan of perfect. But we can do great.

That probably applies to bigger things in prom too.

End Metal and Mettle.

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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  1. I’ve been reading your writing for quite a while. I gotta wonder: you’ve got a world where global warming scaremongers, environmental extremists and gun-grabbers damnear run the world, and yet somehow they have robot maids, flying cars, and miraculously low crime rates. Cognitive dissonance much?

    • I like the fancy words, and the political implications.

      This is a superhero story. Realism and impressively possible worldbuilding is not the goal.

  2. Aw, what a little cutie! Such a cute little troll, yes you are, yes you are! Coochi choochi coo! Don’t you look manly, using those big ol grownup words to tear down someone else’s creative efforts? Sooooooo cute!

    Does someone have a little weinerdog outfit to put on our cute wittle troll? He wants attention so bad!

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