Panopolis is a rough place to be an average Joe. I came here looking for adventure and excitement, but nobody cares about one more normal guy in a city filled with super-powered heroes. The closest I’ve come to glory is working in a bank that villains often rob.
But then I maybe accidentally-on-purpose helped a villain escape the hero who was trying to save the day. Imagine my shock when, a week later, that villain asked me out for coffee. One date turned into more, and now I’m head over heels in love with Raul.
Falling in love with the guy dubbed the Mad Bombardier isn’t without its downsides, though. I’ve had to deal with near-death encounters with other villains, awkwardly flirtatious heroes who won’t take no for an answer, and a lover I’m not sure I can trust. It’s getting to the point where I know I’ll have to make a choice: side with the heroes, or stand fast by my villain.
Either way, I think my days as a normal guy are over.
I’m no Hero.
In fact, I’d never even met a Hero, despite living in downtown Panopolis, where there tended to be the most sightings. Before I moved here I thought that Heroes were practically part of the welcoming committee, they showed up in the news so often. Even if you didn’t live in Panopolis, you heard about it. I was addicted to the anonymous reporter SuperTruther’s blog, which was all about Heroes and Villains and Panopolis politics. For me it became a siren call, one that I eventually gave in to. My folks thought I was crazy to move to the City of Heroes, away from safe and boring suburban Kansas, where the only thing people get excited about on a regular basis are college sports and the fall harvest.
But it seemed that Heroes had better things to do than go around shaking hands with out-of-towners. Apart from some distant sightings at the mall or stadium, I was hardly any closer to meeting a Hero living in Panopolis than before my arrival. I shouldn’t have worried, though. Heroes went after Villains, and Villains? Well, they went after money, and it just so happened that I worked at a bank.
At two in the afternoon almost one month after I arrived, during the bank’s slowest traffic time of the day, a sudden fizzing spray of sparks erupted at each of the front doors, fusing them cherry red down the midline. The overhead lights flickered, and I heard the teller next to me frantically pushing his panic button. I should have been doing the same, should also have ducked down behind the counter with the rest of my coworkers like I’d been shown in my first week during our “robbery and mock holdup” seminar. But I was too stiff with fear to move. The customers cowered, and our security guards reached for their guns only to find them stuck in their holsters.
The lights went out completely for a moment, throwing everything into shadow, and when they came back on he was there, standing in the middle of the lobby. He was wearing all black, from the buckles on his boots to the trench coat that hung heavy around him all the way up to the mask covering his face. The only spot of color on him was a red digital readout on his forehead—a long string of blinking numbers I couldn’t make out from where I sat behind the booth.
The Mad Bombardier.
That was the press’s stupid name for him; he’d never bothered to announce one for himself. Most Villains, and all Heroes, gave themselves larger-than-life monikers meant to inspire awe, fear, or both. The Bombardier was different. He was . . . well, subtle wasn’t exactly the right word, not for a Villain, because none of them did subtle very well. He wasn’t much of a grandstander, but he’d pulled off some huge jobs, and that made him interesting enough to not dismiss out of hand. Plus, the name might be dumb but it fit: he was a bomber, and he was definitely more than a little crazy.
He saw me before I could duck. “You.” His voice sounded like an echo of itself somehow, hollow and deep. “Fill this.” He threw a small canvas bag over the counter at me. “You have two minutes.”
Cari Z was a bookworm as a child and remains one to this day. In an effort to combat her antisocial reading behavior, she did all sorts of crazy things, from competitive gymnastics to alligator wresting (who even knew that was legal!) to finally joining the Peace Corps, which promptly sent her and her husband to the wilds of West Africa, stuck them in a hut, and said, “See ya!” She also started writing, because some things she just thought she could do better. She’s still climbing that ladder, but can’t stop herself from writing, or from sharing what she creates.