Too Many Heroes – Chapter One: Didn’t See That One Coming…
Too Many Heroes
Didn’t See That One Coming…
by Rob Richardson
I don’t like queuing in these kinds of places, never have done.
Usually, after a nights drinking, Prissie and I would’ve just gone back to the flat, spent the night in bed, I would’ve pretended I was an Adonis, she would’ve pretended to enjoy it and then we’d have both woken up with a hangover.
That was a fortnight ago.
Now I was stood waiting for a dirty, greasy, probably cold kebab, with Carl – bearer of a ridiculously cheerful grin and an innocence that didn’t belong on the street on a Saturday night – in a sweaty, grimy take away in Terracefield town centre.
“This food sounds delightful!” Carl remarked, showing far too many pearly whites. “I’ve never eaten a cheese burger before. Do I like cheese?”
Carl was being far too loud. If the other regular people in here – crammed in and almost spilling into the kitchen – heard him we’d be lynched, beaten and thrown into the street. Neither of use were Flyers so we’d have to drag ourselves to a taxi and get back to my flat. And that’d be if the driver would pick us up.
“Yes Carl. You love cheese.” I answered and shook my head. I loved Prissie. But I wouldn’t find her in a kebab house.
We were nudged further towards the counter as a man in a red checked shirt climbed one of the filthy, tangerine plastic tables to turn on the portable TV that was desperately clinging to the bolts that held it to the ceiling for dear life.
The man, wiping ketchup on the sleeve of his shirt, turned up the volume and we craned our necks to see the image of a super hero, dressed completely in white, with a flowing cape, drop from the sky and pass a creature with the head of an insect and the body of, what appeared to be an English country gent, into the arms of the waiting police. A gorgeous, female news reporter turned to the camera and ran over to the super hero who stood, hands on hips, teeth gleaming, waiting to be interviewed.
“Excalibur,” she asked, batting her eyelids in adoration, “Is everything ok?”
“For now.” Excalibur commanded, flicking his brunette locks and flexing his pec’s – a caricature of a man. “But while ever I’m around they’ll always be someone to battle evil doers like the Earl of Cockroach.”
“For god’s sake.” I muttered and rubbed my head. How did he get away with it? Carl looked over my head in awe as I turned and waited for my food. I was the only one in the restaurant – take away, shit hole, whatever you wanted to call it – that wasn’t looking on in wonder.
The crowd suddenly applauded as the interview ended and the TV was switched off, or possibly fell from the roof.
“Arthur,” Carl nudged me. “Excalibur’s just flown off with that woman. Where have they gone?”
“His name’s not really Excalibur, Carl, it’s…” And I stopped myself as I turned and saw a heavy-set man with a knife raise it up to his girl friends throat.
The couple were standing directly behind us. He was massive, pumped and ripped beyond belief. She was tiny, petit and quite stunning in that girl-about-town-on-a-Saturday way. I wouldn’t have liked to see her without make up on – I was becoming distracted.
“Someone call the police!” Another woman shouted as the crowd in the kebab house began to crunch and contract. Carl and I seemed to pop out of the crowd and land in front of the couple, like a ridiculous double act. Him; all gaunt and skinny, and me; well, just average.
That was the problem. We were both just average. Hardly hero material.
“I’ll slash her boys.” The hulk said and he pushed the knife into the flesh of her throat. The girl began to cry. Obviously her ‘loving’ boyfriend had been on more than just alcohol tonight, probably crack, which had pushed him over the edge. The tell-tale white moustache gave him away.
A small trickle of blood began to run from her throat.
“Arthur,” Carl whispered, in the way that only someone who cannot whisper could do. “I believe the police may be too slow.”
“Shut the fuck up Carl and let’s get on with it.” I sighed.
I ran at the huge man and the kebab house began to fill with light as Carl removed his hooded shirt. As I jumped on him I pushed his girlfriend away and into one of the tangerine tables, which I heard go over probably sending her and a few others with it. Carl was mouthing off and I’m sure I heard the phrase “Razzler-Dazzler” at one point but couldn’t be sure – I was too busy being repeatedly stabbed in the face…
After the police had arrived and taken down our names, Carl and I had to make our way home through a series of back alleys across town. The police had advised us to be discreet. The damage that we’d caused at the kebab house had upset the owners and injured seven people – luckily they all had Cape Insurance so that would cover the cost of any suffering incurred.
Obviously the gentlemen who’d tried to stab his partner in throat was now being comforted by said partner in the back of an ambulance and was pleading that it was all a misunderstanding.
Due to my power, the ability to absorb injuries on close impact, it meant the knife had instantly shattered on touching my skin and there was no evidence of it being there – apart from the lacerations on three people where shards had shot across the take away and cut them.
Three, including the girlfriend, had sustained bruising from falling into a bright orange table which they had been unable to see because they been blinded when trying to avoid it by Carl’s unusually bright, flare powered skin – something that came from his alien ancestry – which was an almost chameleonic mechanism.
“Have no fear; Shatterproof and The Razzler-Dazzler are at your aid?” I mocked him as I narrowly dodged a broken sewer pipe. “Razzler-Dazzler?”
“I like it. It’s catchy and it explains my abilities.” Carl replied, defensively.
“Love it how one minute they’re love Excalibur and then the next they’re trying to lynch us for helping a girl get stabbed.” I shrugged and kicked a can down the alley.
“Yes, I do not understand this Arthur.” Carl look genuinely hurt. “Nobody appreciates our help.”
“It’s because we’re not in his league.” I explained. “It’s alright if you’re catching super villains and foiling plots all the time but if you’re just trying to do your best with what you’ve got… Well it’s not enough mate…”
I patted him on the back and thought on Prissie. She would’ve got it too. We never tried crime fighting because it was too messy unless you were a proper Cape, unless you’d made it big. The Cleaners sorted everything when you were a hero. There were that many of us now with powers that we were just considered a nuisance. And people resented us.
We’d been lucky at the take-away. I might suggest to Carl that we start sticking to our own and hanging out at the Cape-only districts.
But then that got me angry. Why should we have to be separate from everyone? Plus Carl wasn’t even from this planet! Why should he be abandoned here and have to suffer this segregation. Some of theCapesdidn’t look human, he was lucky he did – although he sounded like a five-year old.
We rounded a corner and reached a dead-end. A couple of rats ran at us, a drain ran slurry into the street, a skip full of rubbish sat at the end of the alley.
A skip containing a dead super hero in a white cape trailed over his face.
“Shit.” I ran over, closely followed by Carl. We looked at each other, knowing what we were going to find when we lifted the material, but too afraid to say it.
Plus there was a massive sword embroidered across the back of it.
It was Excalibur. Face down in the skip. His throat slit, the body of the news reporter next to him, her eyes wide with shock.
Carl turned to face me. He was having difficulty processing the information, I could tell.
“Yes Carl, he’s dead.” I took my phone out of my pocket and began to dial the police.
“No Cleaners.” Carl said. He was looking about the walls, the path behind and the roof tops. “No Cleaners.”
The Cleaners were a race of beings who followed Capes around during the epic battles they had. They fixed things such as buildings and roadways during times of huge battles between heroes and super villains.
There were none here tonight. Which meant…
“He wasn’t killed in a battle, Carl.” I looked over at my friend and put my phone back in my pocket. “Someone murdered a Cape.”