Who says everything has to be done the same way our parents did it?
Sure enough, the headlines all featured a story about our relationship to The Guardians Society. None of them mentioned any names. Either mystery man decided to leave those details out, or reporters were holding on to them for a follow-up story.
I was the first one to get up. Ingot and Dragonette slept in a different area of the barracks. Jason was still snoring in the bunk above me when I rose to look out the main windows. It was seven and the sun was just coming up on the other side of the city.
The tile is cool on my bare feet, but not cold. I make a cup of tea and sit on the floor in front of the window. A few people are up and out early. Some of them might be heading home after working a night shift, or getting to work early for a meeting. I’ll probably never know what it feels like to be woken up by an alarm clock for an early meeting with a client in China or some other far-flung place on the map. The rest of my life will be dedicated to watching over everyone.
My tea is almost cold on the first sip. I must’ve lost track of the time.
“Dude, have you seen the papers?” Jason asks. I turn and get up to reheat my tea. “He wasn’t kidding about giving stuff to the press.”
I just shake my head and pace back to the window. Chase and Janice are up too.
“Can we issue our own news story?” Janice asks.
“Sure,” Chase replies. He goes over to the command console and accesses a direct connection to the prominent media outlets of the area.
“Who would’ve thought Sam would be the last person up,” Jason says.
“Not everyone has a superhuman body,” Janice replies.
“Bow chicka wow wow,” Chase adds. She groans in response.
Chase types away with a swift deftness while the rest of us watch in silence, his foot tapping all the while. He crafts a very diplomatic response to all of the articles. The stories weren’t scathing assaults on our character or ability to uphold our responsibility.
“One last thing guys. What do we call ourselves? We need to establish an identity,” he says.
“The Mighty Defenders?” Jason says. He sounds less than confident in his suggestion.
“Sounds like we sold out to a fast food chain.”
“There’s bound to be copyright infringements in there somewhere.”
“Alright, shut up, shut up, it’s done,” Chase says. He’d already submitted it to all the papers in the city.
“Wait, you called us Hi-Five? What’s that even mean? You know how many drug use jokes are going to spring from that?” Janice says.
“Eh, it’s fine I guess.”
I don’t say anything. It’s not like a label is going to change the task at hand. Within minutes, the press blogs and websites are covered with our response to the mystery source. Now we’ve got our foot in the door.
“Alright team, breakfast and then we storm the castle,” Chase says.
“Do you think our parents ever did anything normal, like as a group?” Jason asks.
“What, do you want to go bowling or something?” Janice replies.
“I mean anything. Do you think they ever just turned off the hero switch for a night and went out to dinner or something?”
“My dad went to a bar with Captain Crypt once. He said it was kind of like getting a beer with a character Stephen King scrapped from one of his novels. But he still had fun, I think,” Chase says.
“Yeah, stuff like that. We should be doing things other than just beating people up and chasing down stolen art.”
As much as I hate to admit it, he has a point. We’re still kids. Everyone else in our age group is going to spend this summer in an inebriated stupor of aspirations and alcohol. We might be battling a giant mech holding the stock market hostage. Who says everything has to be done the same way our parents did it?
Chase sprays his milk over the front of the fridge.
“Dude, Des what’d you just say?”
“You’re right. We don’t have to do everything the way our parents did; we don’t have to pretend to be adults. We should be swearing and getting drunk and beating the shit out of robots in some underground Swedish lair.”
They’re silent for a few moments. Chase cleans the milk off of the fridge. Then Janice speaks up.
“How do you expect to use your powers if you can’t think straight?”
“I’m not saying that, I mean we should be able to be ourselves on top of being heroes. There are just different ways of being heroes.”
“Hell yeah, I’m down. We save the world, party, rinse, and repeat.”
“Whatever, let’s just eat and get going,” Janice says. Samantha walks over into the kitchen and yawns.
“What’s going on?”
“Boys,” Janice says with a roll of the eyes. Sam makes a bowl of cereal and goes to sit beside her.
We suit up and pinpoint the first location for Progenitor Labs. The name sounds damn nefarious. Our mystery guy must think he’s pretty slick. His attitude was condescending and full of arrogance in his thirty second video.
Our destination is Miami, Florida. Nine o’clock on a Thursday in downtown Miami. The streets pulse with heavy bass and drunken catcalls. Neon lights flood the air with harsh hues harkening back to a once revered golden age.
“Well, at least we sort of blend in,” Mach says.
“Why would some creep have a medical facility in downtown Miami?” Dragonette asks.
We walk down three blocks to the address listed for Progenitor Labs.
“Hold the fucking phone,” Jason says.
As it turns out, Progenitor Labs is a chain of nightclubs. We stand and stare at the squat black pyramid which shimmers under the surrounding neon signs. People are streaming in and out of the front doors. There’s a bouncer.
“Shit, I didn’t bring an ID,” Mach says.
“None of us did. I didn’t think it’d be a damn nightclub,” Ingot says, “well Gemini, or whatever your name is, you’re getting your wish.”
“Des, can’t you just make him think we’re 21 or something?”
Here’s where telepathic domination gets tricky. Jason’s idea really is a good one, but it isn’t as simple as he makes it out to be.
“Well, when I change someone’s memory I have to take out the thought and replace it with an altered copy. But I have to hang onto the original. It’s kind of like the matter cannot be created nor destroyed principle.”
“So where do you put the thoughts?” Dragonette asks.
“Uh, I kind of have to keep them. It’s actually really creepy because my memories start to branch out and integrate them into existing thoughts. I don’t do it often.”
“But you’ll have this memory anyway,” Jason says.
We walk up to the bouncer and he asks for our IDs. I cross into his thoughts with ease. Each new idea vibrates to the front of his head like an electronic bassline. I take his thought that we’re clearly underage and not allowed inside and replace it with the opposite. The original is tucked into the back of my mind.
“Welcome to Pro Labs,” he says.