08 October 2010


By Curtis C. Chen

"So what's your superpower?"

Nathan turned to the man standing behind him in line. The stranger was wearing a green jumpsuit with yellow trim, and a green balaclava that covered his entire head except for his eyes. It must have been hot as hell under there.

"I don't have any powers," Nathan said.

"Well, aren't you kind of in the wrong line, then?" The green man chuckled as he spoke, as if he were telling a joke and expected Nathan to also find it humorous.

"The receptionist downstairs told me to come up to 4-B."

"Let me see your paperwork," the green man said, holding out one hand.

Nathan didn't feel like arguing, and he didn't want to find out what might happen if he refused. Most costumed avengers weren't the most psychologically stable people in the world. He handed over his forms and watched as the green man squinted at them.

The clerk called for the next in line, and they all edged closer to the window.

"Wow. Sorry, man. I didn't know." The green man handed the forms back to Nathan.

"It's okay." Nathan folded up the paper and stuck it inside his jacket. "At least I survived."

The green man inched closer. "I hope I'm not prying, but—if you don't mind talking about it—what did it feel like? To lose your powers, I mean?"

"I was unconscious," Nathan lied. "I just woke up, and they were gone."

The green man nodded as if he understood, even though he couldn't possibly understand what Nathan was going through. "Harsh, man."

The clerk called out, and the man in front of Nathan walked up to the window, a shiny blue cape fluttering behind him.

"So listen," the green man said, "I'm kind of in a situation myself, here. I used to be part of this organization, but lately we've been having, you know, creative differences. You know how it goes."

Nathan nodded and avoided eye contact.

"Anyway," the green man continued, "I've been thinking about hanging out my own shingle for a while. But—" he lowered his voice, as if divulging a secret— "I can't fly, so I can't really go solo."

"Why are you telling me this?" Nathan said.

"Have you ever considered being a sidekick?"

The clerk called for the next in line. "I can't fly, either," Nathan said. "As you know."

"Well, not right now, obviously, but the gem's effects aren't permanent." The green man leaned close to Nathan and whispered, "If it makes a difference, I do swing both ways."

He winked, and Nathan controlled his urge to punch someone in the nose. "I gotta go."

"Think about it!"

The clerk at the processing window was a surprisingly attractive young woman. Nathan wondered, as he handed over his paperwork, if this was really the best job she could get.

"Thank you," she said, filling in her part of the form with a red pen. "So, what's your superpower?"

Nathan gritted his teeth. "I'm a people person."


Photo: Cory Doctorow @ eTech, March, 2007