Warrick Kaine, AKA Alloy, had never been to Portland. By extension, Isp and Osp didn’t either.
Back home in Mayfield, the sapient metal tendrils who usually made their home wrapped around his upper arms had learned how to be gentle with the local architecture: wrapping solid protrusions and railing, melting and anchoring in nooks and seams. Most of the downtown was composed of the hyper-efficient tower designs most buildings circa the last twenty years—20-50 all that way up to 2076, but new places made them insecure, and when they were insecure…
He felt it in his metal sense as Isp harpooned the concrete underside of a balcony and expanded its liquid metal form to anchor into the new hole.
…They felt the need to secure themselves in an all-too literal way.
Alloy groaned and tried to send them calming feelings through the bond he shared with them but did not understand. It wouldn’t work of course, and Seattle was going to be in for some unfortunate piercings. That was going to be one aspect of the mission going on The Descendants’ tab and not the partners they were coordinating with.
Isp flexed, the tension in its metal body causing the suit of shining steel armor Alloy was wearing to creek where it was wrapped around his arm. Only Alloy’s metal control powers kept the steel from buckling under the incredible forces and his own body suspended within. At maximum tension, the tentacle whipped around and launched Alloy through the air, throwing him like a star pitcher fires on over the plate. In the same instant, its leading edge melted in the anchor hole and slid free.
For a long, weightless moment, Alloy was flying—or the next best thing. Normally, he got a good three to five seconds of hang time, but normally, his armor was aluminum reinforced with his powers rather than heavy and impressive steel. In less than a second, gravity noticed what he was trying to get away with and tried to collect.
Alloy knew that feeling well: the belly-flipping that signified a change of momentum. He hadn’t panicked over in years. Instead, he trusted the tentacles, his eternally-loyal friend, to keep him alive. While Isp reeled itself in, Osp was already in motion. Its leading edge formed into a claw not unlike the kind found in carnival crane games and stretched over fifteen feet to lock around a sturdy gargoyle.
This time, the launch was more of a sidearm throw and it sent Alloy hurtling through the air in the direction of a trestle supporting a length of commuter pod track that spanned across a wide avenue.
Trust or not, Alloy hated when the twins decided to hotdog and found himself squeezing his eyes shut. In his metal sense, he could feel (metal sense was more like smell, but that was too hard for him to explain to most people) the trestle as the pair shot out and wrapped two crossbeams. He felt the crushing force Isp and Osp applied as they made sure they had a nice, tight grip.
In the next moment, the trestle was coming at him faster than he could run. He tensed, bracing for impact, but the twins would never let him come to harm if they could help it. He passed through the triangle formed by the crossbeams, then through the one on the other side and was once more flying free until Isp whipped out to find purchase for another throw.
They were close now. The adrenaline from the trestle crossing was mixing with his already good mood and he shouted for joy into the clear air. Considering the poor acoustics of his helmet, it probably sounded terrifying instead of happy to anyone nearby, but he didn’t care. Every once n a while, he drew a mission that was nothing but positives—no angry people vowing revenge, no morally ambiguous people going to jail when he wasn’t sure they should, no hidden horrors or threats of death.
Not that he hated being a bonafide superhero (prelate if one asked the media)–he loved it—but some times missions weight heavily.
This one would not be one of those missions.
A few more throws and a few more future bills for concrete patches, and the building he was looking for appeared before him. It was a hotel with a sizable deck jutting out between the seventeenth and twentieth floor. Normally, it would be full of guests enjoying to pool area. Today, it had been rented out for his very special mission.
“Alright boys, there it is. Let’s make it look good.” He didn’t need to speak to them out loud, but it helped sometimes. He also sent them strong images of what he wanted to do.
They sent back trepidation. As much as they liked to show off, they hated when he did the hard drops. It might have been because not shattering his legs performing them required more skill and timing on his part than theirs. He prodded them to do it at least once a week because nothing made drug dealers fill their drawers or adoring fans go wild like a guy in full medieval-esque armor hitting the ground hard enough for them to feel the vibration.
It spoke of power. It spoke of action. It spoke of awesome. And that was what he needed to be today: awesome.
One more throw from the nearest building had him flying in an arc toward the figures arrayed on the roof. It was slow and lazy, so he had enough time to make out two men, two women and a kid of about seven holding one of the women’s hand.
The top of the arc was thirty feet above the deck. IF he wans’t who he was, it could have very easily put him in traction—if not a morgue. Good thing he listened to his Saturday morning cartoons and believed in himself and his friends.
Isp and Osp coiled around him and dropped their sinuous bodies down past his feet to form a soft spring. He added his own power to the equation, forcing his power into the greaves and boots of his armor, reinforcing the suspension around his legs while softening the structure to absorb and distribute impact.
The deck rushed up. The people on the deck all looked on in awe. All that was left to do was land gracefully—and awesomely.
As Alloy both expected and feared, the landing was soft enough for him inside his armor, but not for the deck. He struck the concrete and instantly dropped into the classic three-point crouch with one fist on the ground to absorb just a little more energy and of course because of course they wanted to see him do that.
A puff of dust and an unpleasant crunching sound told him another concrete patch was going on his teams’ tab. All for a good cause, but it would have been nice of the universe to randomly make decree the deck be composed of military grade, reinforced concrete.
Someone was clapping—little hands, so he could guess who. The others were exclaiming almost wordlessly. Even thought they knew he was coming, that was in entrance they didn’t expect.
Alloy smiled to himself and worked his control over the armor, working it like a puppet to allow him to stand up in a smooth, stoic manner. As an extra touch, he stressed the joint sections, making the metal groan and scream dramatically was he straightened up.
Now he had a much better look at the people before him. There was an older white man with thinning, salt-and-pepper hair wearing a suit and looking very official. The mayor, he presumed. The hint of gunmetal near the doors to the deck told Alloy exactly where his security detail was. Next to the mayor was a young Middle-Eastern woman in a smart business suit. Alloy had met her before when her organization first contacted The Descendants, Miss Quadi, if he remembered correctly.
The other three stood together. A tall, blocky white guy with reddish hair down to his shoulders, a black woman with her hair in a bun—both aorund the same age, which wasn’t far from Alloy’s own, and a little boy of seven whose tan features favored both of them. Troy and Christie Applegate and their son, Allan.
Allan was suited up for his special day, wearing a t-shirt with a painted team-shot of the Descendants on it, and an adorable gloves, boots and cape ensemble. He even had a set of goggles resting atop his head.
There was a little hitch in the breath Alloy took next. Allan was adorable. There was no other way to say it. But he was also very sick. Kidney transplants were done mostly by installing sockets for artificial kidneys. That didn’t work on children or anyone who was still growing, so Allan needed a donor—and there hadn’t been any yet. Drugs and treatment helped—the best 2076 could bring to bear, but no one knew how much more time they would buy him.
And when he was asked what he wanted to do most in the world, all Allan wanted was to spend the day with his favorite superhero: Alloy.
A lot of things had happened to Alloy in the few short years since he had takne up the mantle of Alloy, but none was as humbling as getting that call, or seeing Allan, dressed in his hero togs, looking up at him like his armor was made of candy and videogames.
He took another breath. There was a script he needed to stick to, all formulated to make the day the best Allan ever had.
“Thank goodness I found you, Allan.” he said, stepping forward with a small nod to the Applegates. The little boy’s eyes widened upon realizing his hero knew his name. Alloy continued, dropping to one knee like he was injured. “A new villain, Captain Nightmare, has defeated my friends. I only barely escaped to find help.”
Allan sort of knew what the day was going to be—he knew he was going to get t meet Alloy. The city-spanning adventure had been a secret. “Me?” He asked meekly.
“There’s only one kid I know that can help me take down Captain Nightmare and save the Descendants.” Alloy held out his gauntleted hand. “Will you help me, Allan?”
Stars danced in the boy’s eyes. He jumped up in down, excited. “Yeah!” he managed to breathlessly exclaim.
“Great.” said Alloy, putting his all into his deeper ‘hero’ voice. “But first, there’s something you need to have.” From his belt, he produced a small bar of iron, which he then worked his power on. Sparks leapt and danced on the metal as it reshaped and was transformed on an atomic level. In moments, there was a red, stylized, metal ‘D’ in his palm, which he carefully affized over Allan’s cape clasp.
“There. Now you’re an honorary member of the team.”
If there was such a thing was joy overload, Allan was experiencing it. “I—really? For real?”
“For real.” Alloy smiled behind his visor.
“Mommy!” Allan rounded on his mother, tilting the D-icon up so she could see it. “Look, I’m a real prelate now!”
Christie Applegate’s eyes brimmed with tears and she knelt down to her son’s level. “Yes you are sweetie. I told you, didn’t I?”
Her husband was right there almost immediately. “That’s right, champ. Didn’t we tell you you could be anything you wanted to be?” He wasn’t far from crying himself.
Alloy kept quiet, feeling like he was intruding. Looking over, he caught Ms. Quadi’s eye. She smiled at him and offered a nod.
There was still a lot planned though and that wasn’t lost on Christie. She gave her son one more smile, then looked up at Alloy, her gratitude practically pouring from her eyes. “You said that you need my son’t help with a villain.”
“A serious threat, ma’am.” said Alloy, not breaking character. “but I’m sure he’ll be home in time for dinner.”
Allan turned big, doe eyes on his mother. “Can I go Mommy?”
“It sounds like the city and the Descendants need you, sweetie. I think you’ve better hurry.”
“Yes!” Allan said, then turned back to Alloy. “Are we going to do that ting where you fly by grabbing buildings?”
Alloy had been practicing for three weeks to figure out a save carrying harness for his kind of travel. He and the twins had the softer routine down pat just for such an occasion. “Sure thing, Allan. Anything you wish.”
This story is dedicated to the memory of Robin Williams, who passed away a few weeks before this posting. As he was to many people, Mr. Williams was a source of joy and inspiration to me throughout my entire life. While he was active with numerous charities, I discovered the Make-A-Wish-Foundation back in the 90’s after seeing a special about it that did a short interview with him. It always struck me how many emotions must be involved it is to take time to personally visit someone who is terminally ill whose wish out of anything else they could have asked for—was to spend time with you. By all accounts, Mr. Williams did so many times and I salute him for tha tin addition to all the other ways he’s made the world a better place.
If you can, please take the time to visit the Make-A-Wish-Foundation at wish.org.
Thank you for your time.