Or Else Worlds Will Fall
“His name is ‘Clark’? Seriously?” The younger guy said, snatching at the sheath of papers in the older man’s hand as they walked.
“Generally, when I make a joke, it’s funny.” Came the reply, a deft hand stealing the documents back.
“HAH! What sort of parents…? I mean, come on… Their surname’s Kenton? Why would they do that to a kid?”
“People can be cruel.”
“Oh, god, and the amount of shit he would have taken at school… Kids can be really cruel!”
“What? What’s that look for?”
“I read your file, too, remember?”
“So I know about the puppies.”
“Hey!” The young man looked away. “That was just a couple of times.”
“It was closer to twenty.”
They walked in silence for a while, down yet another corridor.
“So, what..? What’s our Clark Kenton’s story?”
“The usual. Got bullied badly at school, despite being a key player on the football team. Slightly below average grades academically, but he did well enough at college, once he started using his middle name. Qualified as a teacher, but somehow one of his colleagues found out his real name, and before long, everyone in the school was throwing it at him.”
“Shit, man, even the kids?”
“Oh, yes. It’s not quite clear how it started – he was a likeable enough guy, and canvassing hasn’t thrown up any reasons why everyone would start on the bullying, but I guess once these things pick up momentum…”
“Wow. Yeah. Sucks to be him.” He paused, looked at a peeling poster on the corridor wall. “So why are we involved?”
“Well, see, it got to be too much. One morning, Kenton walks into the playground, and pulls out a gun. Kids are screaming, adults are trying to get them to safety, but you know, nobody knows what the hell to do. He’s between them and the gates, and most of the teachers are too worried about what might happen if they drag the kids inside – they’ve got heads full of all those other school shootings.
The police arrive, quickly followed by the negotiator and SWAT team. But nobody can get any sense out of Kenton – he just stands there in the middle of the playground, repeating over and over ‘I’m not Superman, I’m not Superman’.”
“Jesus, poor messed-up guy.”
“Yeah. And they aren’t at an impasse for too long when the negotiator tries to get his attention one time too many, and Kenton raises his gun, pointing it at the guy. Course, the cops drop him instantly. Two snipers, five rifles, and another eight standard issue unloading on him.”
“Still, I guess he was a dangerous bastard.”
“Well, now, that’s the thing. When they got to him, it became clear pretty quickly that the gun was a plastic toy, blackened up with a Sharpie. Up close, it didn’t even look real.
It seems he had some kind of breakdown. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, he just wanted to die himself. The whole thing with the gun was planned as a ‘fuck you’ to his tormentors. They couldn’t call him Superman any more if he got shot to pieces in front of them.
It was his way of getting back at the kids and adults at that school – final proof that he wasn’t bulletproof.”
“The punchline was that he is.”
“What?” Said the younger man, after a moment of shocked silence.
“When the first officers got up to Kenton, he was still breathing. After making sure he was no longer armed, medics came in, and they found that he didn’t have a scratch on him.”
“Are you shitting me?”
His companion shook his head tightly, an efficient and impatient motion.
“Clark Kenton was discovered to be utterly impervious to harm. Psych evaluation while he was in custody reveals that it’s very likely that he had no idea that this was the case.
He did have a breakdown, and he did intend to die on that day.”
“No way, that’s too much of a coincidence. You’re saying the name isn’t just…?”
“Oh, no. I mean, tests indicate that he’s impossible to hurt, but beyond that, nothing. No super-strength, no ability to fly, or even move much faster than any other out-of-shape ex-college football champ.”
As the two approached a reception area, the elder walked over to a desk. He spoke to the lady behind it, and wrote their names on the clipboard that she passed him. When he returned, he started walking briskly toward some solid looking double-doors, leaving the younger man to catch up to him.
“So… This guy Kenton. He’s why we’re here in the Bellevue nuthouse?” He said, once they were safely buzzed through.
“Nope. After six months in custody, Kenton was released to his sister’s care, out in New York. He’s our twelve-thirty. I mentioned him because you’re getting us there. It’s cross country. You up for it?”
“Hm. Sure.” The younger nodded. “So…?”
“So we’re here to meet a bike courier who claims to be the Ancient Greek god of delivering mail.”
“Well, because he’s really very fast.”
They reached a door with a very small window in it. The younger man looked through it, and took in the occupant – a short and stocky man whose hands were moving quickly under the bedsheets. Incredibly quickly.
He turned to the veteran standing beside him, and sighed.
“You do know that this is going to be the worst super-team ever, right?”
The older man shrugged, and nodded at the guard to open the door.
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