It was a pleasant enough morning on the Liberty League Satellite as Solar Man stood in the LL training room waiting for both his teammates and a few members of Youth Power to arrive for the scheduled session. He began projecting practice beams of heated plasmic energies from his ocular nerves towards a large block of steel laying atop a metallic table before him, working on gaining further mastery of the precision and level of heat which he could project at any given time. It was his goal at this moment to work on heating the steel block until it glowed red hot, but without actually melting it, which would further help him to use his solar vision to induce severe pain without also inflicting severe injuries upon non-metahuman foes he encountered, such as everyday criminals. However, that solo training session was interrupted as the red-clad hero heard a pleasantly high-pitched female voice address him from behind.
"Wow, if you only knew how knackered I get from casting a probability spell precise enough to insure that the rest of our fellow scheduled trainees arrived much later than we did," stated Mystik, who had just walked into the training room.
"Oh, hi, Mystik," Solar Man said in salutation to the dark-costumed adolescent mistress of magick standing before him. "But why would you want to delay the arrival of the others, especially when all of us have rather tight schedules…?"
"Because I need to talk to you," she said in a somewhat more serious tone. "About our mutual friend, Ultra Girl."
The solar energy absorbing champion felt every single muscle in his nigh-invulnerable body tense up upon hearing that code name. "Um, what about her? Do you think I am working her too hard in training, or…?"
"Oh no, it's nothing as minor as that, dude. I'm going to give it to you straight, without beating around the bushie. I think she has a crush on you. A very big one. And it's preventing her from interacting with her peers properly. I think you should cut back on training her, at least until her crush runs its course and she accepts the fact that you and her could never be together."
Solar Man glared at the young heroine before him with a highly uncomfortable look on his face, as one would expect someone to have if they were suddenly caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar.
"Well, um, if that is the case, I think she will get over it soon. I mean, she's an intelligent young woman, and I think we can all trust her to remain entirely professional and not expect anything of a…special nature to come out of her sessions with me."
The look on Mystik's lovely facial features suddenly grew even more serious. "Uh, Solar Man, please don't take this the wrong way, but as you know, I have highly developed psychic faculties, and I often keep them 'locked' down much as an ethical telepath does so I don't intrude on anyone's privacy, but this time I wasn't suppressing them, and, well…I can tell when someone is lying or not, because their aura 'blinks' just so when they do. And forgive me for this invasion of your privacy, but I know you just lied to me. I think I should maybe leave now, as I suddenly don't feel much like training."
"Wait, Mystik, there is an explanation, and…"
Just then, the two were interrupted by another young, pleasantly high-pitched female voice.
"Babe, you don't have to lie for me, and if you do, Mystik will be able to tell, anyway."
Solar Man and Mystik turned around to see the scowling-faced figure of Ultra Girl standing in the doorway. She hit a touch pad near the large steel reinforced door to close it and activate a digital "Training In Session" sign on its outer side to ensure privacy.
Both of Ultra Girl's fellow heroes looked at her with an expression of total surprise, neither knowing what to say, until several awkward seconds later, Mystik finally forced herself to speak.
"Ultra, are you telling me that…that you, and…and Solar Man…?"
The azure-garbed young heroine's eyes slanted with extreme emotion in a manner that was visible even under her mask. "Yea, that is what I am telling you, Mystik. And can you tell me why that should be a problem? Are you and I not youth liberationists who believe in treating people our age as if they had our full civil rights? Or do we make exceptions in just a few areas that may happen to make the polite peeps out there get their ignorant lil' sensibilities offended?"
Unnerved beyond description, Solar Man attempted to say something, admiring his young lover's determination to stand up for her rights and the legitimacy of their love while simultaneously concerned that "all hell" may be about to break loose.
Mystik stood there not knowing what to say, but realized that she had to respond out of some measure of respect for her friend and teammate. "Um, look, girlfriend, don't the two of you think that…maybe this is taking the notion of youth rights a bit too far?"
"Yanno, Mystik, maybe you're right. Maybe we should only honor the rights that people-both young and old-are comfy with. Yea, that's where we should draw the line, right? Competency and love mean nothing if people are offended enough. But as a youth libber, you don't have the luxury of falling back on the 'she doesn't know what she is doing' or 'she is too easy to manipulate because she is just a baby' bullshit, now can you? You don't have that goddamned luxury! So don't you dare judge us!"
Solar Man realized that he finally had to intervene. He slowly approached Mystik, who was wearing an expression that made it clear she was taken very much aback by her friend's words, and held out his hands.
"Mystik, none of this was Ultra Girl's fault. I am solely to blame here. I shouldn't have let it come to this…"
Ultra Girl then stepped forth and raised her voice again. "No, sweetheart, don't you dare start that guilt business! I am not going to let you go there. You know damn well that I wanted the whole thing as much as you did, and I was the one who got the marbles rolling. Neither of us owes anyone an apology! Mystik knows that she has no justification for being ignorant about this, because she is supposed to stand behind certain principles, and those principles don't just end when they breach the comfort zone of the society that she is supposed to be fighting to change. Right, Mystik?"
The teen sorceress was looking downwards, fighting to give a response, one that was genuinely fair and balanced. She well knew the price that could come from letting emotion overwhelm her reasoning abilities.
Finally, after nearly 30 seconds of silence, and with a pained expression painted on her face, the girl mage spoke. "I'm…I'm not going to judge the two of you. Clearly, the whole thing is…bigger than that. Ultra, you are my friend, and I don't want to see you hurt. That was the only reason I…"
Ultra Girl pointed at the scarlet-clad hero towering almost majestically before the two of them, his larger-than-life reputation quick to spread awe even amongst the ranks of his fellow super-heroes.
"Do you see this man as being corrupt, Mystik? Is this not Solar Man we are talking about here? Do you seriously believe that the stereotype you are concerned about is so damn universal that not even the Solar dude himself can rise above it? And what do those stereotypes say about us? If we can't handle relationships with adults, then maybe we can't handle any of the other social and political positions among adults that we youth libbers like to claim we so totally deserve? Or is it all just lip service that we look the other way from as soon as one of us exercises a right that makes somebody a bit too uncomfortable?"
Mystik threw her arms into the air. "Okay, okay, I get it, girlfriend. I'm sold. I mean…okay, look, I am not going to pretend to understand this, but you two do what you gotta do, okay? I am gonna go to the infirmy to get some aspirin and then head down to the commissary for some chow."
With that said, Mystik strode out of the room after opening the steel reinforced sliding door with another touch of the fist-sized button to its right.
"And to think she always brags about using meditation to effectively stop pain instead of relying on man-made pharmaceuticals-bleh!" Ultra Girl quipped.
Solar Man glared at the love of his life without saying a word.
"Was that 'what?' of yours supposed to be rhetorical, Alexa?"
Now it was the pretty girl in blue's time to throw her arms in the air. "Look, lover-man, someone on one of our teams was bound to find out sooner or later, and my teammates are all supposed to be youth libbers, and 'cause of that, they should know better than to throw ageist bigotry at our relationship."
"Yes, I understand that, but do you realize the potential can of worms you may have just opened? How can we be certain that Mystik won't panic and send out an official 'red alert' about our relationship to the entire Liberty League?"
"Why, man of mine? Because I trust her, as she is a good friend of mine who simply needed to be reminded of the principles she is supposed to love more than a fat kid loves cake once the knee-jerk emotional reaction wore off. Not only that, she happens to be Italian, and lot's of them have a strong moral aversion to snitching. Comes from their proud heritage with the Mafia."
Ultra Girl grinned at her sarcasm, but her overall demeanor made it clear that she stood behind her words.
Solar Man sighed audibly. "Hon, you know I love your sense of humor, but is now the time to…?"
"Oh, shut up and stop taking life-even what just happened-too seriously, and just be young forever! Isn't that what a flaming hebephile like yourself is supposed to be about, my fave pervert in all the world?" Her smile and large blue eyes radiated a degree of warmth that was unmatchable by all the solar power the crimson-clad hero standing before her could project on his most optimal day. He squeezed her hand gently and reassuringly when she grabbed his own.
"Listen to me, Sime. Everything will be gravy, don't worry. And ya gotta admit, forbidden love makes me feel like I'm doing something naughty, and a lil' naughtiness between two lovers is hardly a bad thing, right?"
She then smiled that indescribably beautiful smile again, and upon seeing it, the man revered as the greatest hero in the world could do nothing other than embrace the girl he loved more than his own life with a degree of tenderness that entirely belied the amazing degree of superhuman strength his musculature possessed. They greatly regretted having to cut the embrace short due to the fact that their various teammates may be arriving for the scheduled training session at any moment and wonder why the door is shut.
Roughly an hour later, Mystik sat in the satellite commissary munching on one of the low calorie salads she was noted for being fond of. She clearly endeavored to retain the beautiful figure she was proud of, as being a youthful super-hero, she was effectively a celebrity as popular as any actress to the world around her. The subject of whether or not super-heroes should be physically attractive in order to be "acceptable" to the general public whose lives they routinely protect rather than simply entertain and titillate--as is the case with actors, singers, professional athletes, and professional models--is a subject that she plans to address in a future essay she has been wanting since forever to compose. But for now, she had other things on her mind that prevented her from entirely focusing upon the philosophical issue she was trying to expound about in their place. Her well known psychic faculties suddenly made her aware of a bearing presence in her midst, and she looked up from her salad to see the imposing figure of Solar Man standing above her near the table where she sat alone.
"Is it okay if I sit for a minute?" the crimson garbed hero asked with a degree of hesitation.
Mystik kept looking down at her salad. "It's a free commissary," she replied.
"Thank you." With that said, Solar Man took a seat across from the girl wizard in ebony attire.
The two sat without speaking to each other for close to a minute, as Solar Man struggled to find the proper words to address the young lady whom his girlfriend often referred to as her "BFF" [Best Friend Forever, for those not in the know of popular online teen girl abbreviations]. He knew she must have concerns, all of which he respected, including one that was only partially connected to the forbidden relationship whose knowledge she was now privy to. Finally, for better or worse, the Man of the Sun broke the awkward silence, as he knew he must.
"Mystik, I just wanted to tell you that I am very sorry that you are now burdened with keeping Ultra Girl's-Alexa's-secret. And I wanted to tell you how much we both appreciate that. But I also wanted to tell you a few other things that I hope will allay any of the understandable concerns you must have."
The young mistress of the arcane arts took a sip of her cranberry juice through a bendy straw. "I trust my friend's judgment of your character and intentions. No worries, dude."
However, based on her tone of voice and lack of eye contact while making the statement, Solar Man wasn't entirely sure that she was indeed bereft of all worries.
Solar Man then made an effort to lower the tone of his voice to a mellifluous level, in a manner that the general public is well aware of via his several impromptu television interviews, where he radiates a sense of sincere reassurance as readily as his physical form radiates formidable solar energies.
"I just want you to know that despite the nature of my attraction to Alexa, I am still the same man that you have always known, and whom the general public believes they know. I care no less for the entire human race now than I always have, and you can rest assured I will give my life to counter any threat to innocent people or the world itself that may rear its head. There is nothing else different about me, just as the fact that you are bisexual has no bearing on your personal character and integrity, nor the level of your genuine concern for your fellow humanity and the well-being of the people in your personal life whom you care about. And we both care about Alexa very much."
Fiddling with one of the tomatoes in her salad via the fork in her hand, Mystik quietly replied, "Thank you for telling me this."
Solar Man smiled with a degree of reassurance that mirrored the tone of his voice. "You're very welcome, and I appreciate your being such a good and stalwart friend to the young woman I love more than anything in this universe-the young woman whom we both love…"
Just then, Solar Man's enhanced musculature again tensed involuntarily as the coal gray, metal-taloned glove of the dour costumed vigilante Eagle Hawk suddenly came to rest on his shoulder.
"Solar Man, I came to discuss the increasing significance of the metahuman jihad problem," the dark crimefighter said in his usual gravelly voice. "But based on what I just overheard, I should first mention that I had no idea that you were in love with some woman, or that you and young Mystik here both had 'love' for this woman in common. The detective in me finds this most…intriguing. Care to explain?"
Solar Man struggled within himself to break the tension and come up with an answer. Mystik tensed in unison with the Sol-charged hero, and dropped a cucumber from her fork.
Finally, he spoke. "Well, Eagle Hawk, you are aware that in my civilian identity I have begun dating a woman named Evelyn Monroe, correct?"
"You failed to share this info with me prior to this moment," he replied gruffly. "In the several years we have been partnered together in the Liberty League, I never before heard you mention a romantic liaison, and I was beginning to…wonder."
Mystik sprang up at that point. "Are you saying that you show an overly great concern for someone's orientation, Mr. Eagle Hawk? When you and everyone else knows that I'm bi?"
"Watch the tongue there, girl," the vigilante retorted with a simultaneously quiet but severe monotone. "All aspects of someone's personal lifestyle outside of the costume can have an effect on how they act while in the costume, and considering what a potential threat all metahumans can be to common humanity, you can bet that it's my job to know these things."
"Oh rly?" the junior mage of might responded with a somewhat demonic pitch. "So what, exactly, does my bisexuality tell you about some sinister things I may be doing in my private life that the great detective--with apologies to the memory of Sherlock Holmes--needs to uncover?"
Not used to being spoken to in such a manner by anyone while in costume, not even his adolescent crimefighting partner/sidekick Scarlet Eagle, the charcoal-clad fighter of crime shoved the bowl containing Mystik's salad onto the floor, causing it to make a crashing sound that got the attention of the few staff members of the satellite also dining in the commissary at that time-all of whom quietly but swiftly picked up their plates and exited the area.
The girl wizard said nothing in response but continued looking at the vigilante with a fiercely defiant expression on her lovely young face, and Eagle Hawk proceeded to thrust his pointing index finger a few inches away from her visage.
"Listen, you, I've been in this business since you were defecating in diapers, so don't you dare presume to tell me how to go about my methodology because it's been proven effective many times over!"
At this point, Solar Man knew he had best intervene and take full advantage of the fact that he was amongst the very few individuals on the planet, even amongst the ranks of those whom the media somewhat whimsically coined 'super-heroes,' who has earned Eagle Hawk's respect. He stood up and gently nudged the vigilante's finger away from Mystik's face, which retained a very evil glare aimed directly at the opaque white eyeholes of Eagle Hawk's fearsome-looking mask.
"Okay, there is no need for any of us to doubt the intentions and competencies of any of the rest of us, as we are all good at what we do, and we all do what we do for good reasons," Solar Man pleaded with a soothing mien. "Eagle Hawk, please forgive me for not discussing certain aspects of my life with you in the past, I just didn't think you were the type of person to have any interest in such trivial details of my personal life."
"I'm interested in every detail about everything," the dark detective glowered with a vile disposition.
"Granted," the hero in red replied in a comforting voice. "Which is something I should have considered, and which I will explain now. In my civilian life, I am dating a woman who happens to be my boss at THE DAILY VOICE, and I have since fallen in love with her, and I am concerned about her safety in regards to such a close involvement with someone from our line of work. This is why I have been reluctant to date in the past; I don't want any girlfriend of mine to become a target of the Metahuman Liberation Front, or any of the rest of my rogues gallery, should my secret identity ever be uncovered."
Eagle Hawk gritted his teeth. "Yeah, yeah…but what is this woman's connection to the girl wizard there?"
Doing his best to come up with a logical-sounding response, the Man of Sol began to stammer until Mystik suddenly stood up and offered a quickly formulated response.
"Solar Man's girlfriend Evelyn is a friend of my aunt, and is close enough to me that I consider her my aunt also. We found out about this connection a few days ago, and he wanted to relieve me of concern that my Aunt Evelyn's life may be in jeopardy for dating him. Okay?"
Eagle Hawk looked at the two heroes before him with an expression that could best be described as stilted. "Isn't it quite a coincidence that you both happened to have a connection with this same woman in a city the size of Metro? And it's interesting that this woman has been Solar Man's boss for years yet the two of you never before realized her familial connection with the wizard girl."
Mystik quickly spoke out again. "Maybe it's because the Solar dude doesn't get into lengthy convos with Aunt Evelyn about her nieces and nephews, let alone unrelated people she considers her nieces and nephews 'cause of their closeness to her heart, and he had no idea what my civie identity was until just recently, detective guy," Mystik snipped at him. "Does that strain your logic?"
A look of sheer insanity washed across Eagle Hawk's countenance, easily visible even through his mask, and he actually seemed to bare what looked like surprisingly sharp incisors for a non-metahuman. Once again, Solar Man knew he had to intervene, and he deftly moved in front of his dark vigilante ally.
"It is most def...I mean, most certainly...a remarkable coincidence, my friend, and it certainly astounded both of us," the red-attired hero quickly interjected in a calming manner. "It may be an act of synchronicity that we have yet to fully understand. You know the games those cosmic forces like to play with us mortals, even the more powerful among us, as we have dealt with them before."
"And I can attest to the unpredictable nature of those forces, as I regularly study them and draw power from them," Mystik noted with a sense of calm conviction.
Eagle Hawk then looked at the two again for a few moments without saying anything, as if studying them. After that, he glowered once more, slowly sat down, and turned to Solar Man.
"Sit down," the taloned knight said sternly. "There is still the matter of the original reason I came to talk to you. And that is the matter of some information about the proposed Metahuman Registration Act that I think we should discuss. If the girl would be so inclined to leave us?"
"Oh, sure," the goth-attired girl retorted with a highly sardonic intonation. "Things like that have no bearing on me whatsoever, so why discuss it with me, right? After all, I'm just a kid who doesn't understand things as complicated as that. By the way, Eagle Hawk, did your father happen to be a drunk? Because if so, I think we should know about it considering how the trauma of growing up with him might affect your performance in the costume."
Reacting with super-swift reflexes, Solar Man had one of his steely hands on Eagle Hawk's shoulder to prevent him from standing up, and he quickly spoke before the violent vigilante could react to Mystik's sarcasm.
"Ha ha, that was funny, Mystik. But it may be a good idea for you to leave, as Eagle Hawk may want to discuss other things in addition to this that he, being who he is, only trusts me to know about. No one who knows him well enough will take this personally. I'm sure that if it's a matter of significance for all of us, the info will soon be placed in the database that we share with Youth Power. Is that okay with you?"
She scowled for a moment, and then said, "Fine. But only because you asked me to. And don't expect me to clean up the food and dishes that the detective guy knocked on the floor. Let him do it." She then departed the scene in a huff.
After Mystik left, Eagle Hawk knocked a bottle of cranberry juice onto the floor. "These kids have no respect for those who have been in this business much longer than they have. How can we trust them to follow required orders if they treat us as friends instead of their bosses?"
"I think, Eagle my friend, you should refrain from knocking any more food or drink on the floor, as we don't pay the janitorial staff enough for that much work on their part," Solar Man shifted the subject in a good-humored way, not caring to argue about the merits of youth liberation at this moment. "In the meantime, what was the information on the registration act you wanted to tell me?"
"I did a bit of…poking around in some government databases, as well as talking to a few high-ranking politicians I know in my civilian identity. They are working on revising the act into an imperative that sensible metahumans like the LL will agree to support."
"I doubt the majority of us, or even any of us other than yourself, will support any version of that act. We need to find another way to make peace between normals and metas."
"Lotsa luck, sun man. You sometimes mistake naiveté for wisdom. Like it or not, man, the metahumans in the world need to be controlled. We aren't suggesting putting any who abide by the law under surveillance. We simply want to know who they are, and take whatever powers they may have into account in case we may one day have to neutralize them for the safety of the public."
"Eagle Hawk, as much as I always respect your opinions, I think you mistake cynicism for realism, and misguided measures for pragmatism. In fact, pragmatism has often been the excuse of the politician for supporting or initiating any number of ill-conceived acts, as well as for caving to the bully pulpit over supporting the civil rights that we are supposed to treasure above life itself. Our agreed upon purpose is to oppose the most powerful bullies in the world, not work in concert with their dictates."
"Spoken like a true high school idealist before he grew up and spent any degree of time in the real world, Solar. Has it ever occurred to you that the metahumans have the potential to easily eclipse the governments of the world so as to become the most powerful bully pulpit of them all? You seriously believe that they do not have to be watched for the first sign of totalitarian leanings and behavior?"
"And do you, my friend, seriously believe that we can counter any potential totalitarian activities by utilizing totalitarian methods ourselves? We have to serve as an example to others so as to prove that the methods of liberty work best, or we become the worst and most dangerous hypocrites of them all. We cannot throw aside our guiding principles when they are perceived as inconvenient to our goals."
"Spoken like a true utopian. We need to use methods that work, not methods that cater to sentimental values which give advantage to the enemy."
"I think we give more advantage to the enemy when we use the same methods they do, because then we validate their own rationalizations for using them. We need to have confidence in the principles we vow to uphold, otherwise the ethical distinction between us and our enemies will gradually diminish. When that happens, there will no longer be any heroes in the world, just two or more opposing factions in a war who are simply fighting for survival and dominance over the other factions, and not for any particular ideals or goals that stand above power and control."
Eagle Hawk proceeded to stare down Solar Man with an ominous expression. "You're quite annoying at times, boy scout."
Solar Man smiled in response to that. "As opposed to your charming personality, my friend? You're right, no comparison there."
Eagle Hawk's response was to sneer and involuntarily scratch the table with the artificial metallic claws in his right gauntlet again.
As Mystik strode out of the commissary, she was suddenly intercepted by Laze, who grasped her arm.
"Hey, hold up a minute there, homegirl! I saw you sitting with Solar Man in the commissary, and I figured you were having…the talk with him. So I left the room so that I didn't come off as being nosy. Did he agree to drop Alexa as his sidekick and regular training partner after you told him what was up?"
Mystik's mouth slipped open a bit, as she was having difficulty figuring out how to mis-explain the situation to her good friend with a crush on Ultra Girl.
"Oh, hi, Bobbie. Sorry, I didn't see you over there, or I would have approached you first. Anyhoo, the thing is, Solar Man and I came to the agreement that I will have a talk with Alexa to insure that she keep up a total degree of professionalism when working with him. His level of experience in this line of work makes him too valuable an asset to her training for him to just dump…um, drop her from his training regimen simply due to a silly little school girl crush that we all know she soon will get over."
"Well, okay…I guess we are all professionals here, so no harm, no foul. As for getting Alex over her school girl crush on the Solar guy…I can certainly help with that."
Mystik frowned. "Yea, well, here's the thing, Bobbie. I think our Alexa is kind of hopelessly immature for a real boyfriend right now, and I think you should move on to another girl. I mean, you are something of a celebrity, sort of like a version of Justin Bieber who saves lives rather than spewing out poorly written pop lyrics. Unlike him, you actually deserve the adulation you get for what you do. You'll find other girls, don't worry, dude."
"Sorry, but I g2g now, I have spell training with Dr. Kismet in a half hour. We'll go out later for some forbidden fluid in the clubs later."
With that said, a both nervous and relieved young mistress of conjuring reluctantly walked away from her good friend, wanting to be there for him in his moment of sadness but not knowing what else to say. Laze then simply put his head down and walked in the opposite direction, an unpleasant sensation assailing his stomach as he walked towards his dressing room.
The following morning was to prove a difficult one for Simon Teffler. He spent the previous night sharing a bed with Evelyn Monroe, a woman he respected but was unable to desire in the way he led her to believe. He did his best to go through the motions of lovemaking with her, doing his best to please her while pretending that it was someone else he was sharing this intimacy with. Specifically, someone much younger than her. He realized that Evelyn, and all women in her age group, had much to offer the right person, a man or woman whose predilections "swung" in that particular direction. But such "age appropriate" couplings are currently a societal norm that Western culture strongly tries to impose in a universal manner, as if choice about the matter was a luxury that everyone had in near-equal measure. But he knew better. He knew that what he was doing with Evelyn was tantamount to an act of deception of the worst kind to someone who deserved far better. Even worse, it was a form of deception that was well sanctioned by society at large. He was angry at himself for denying what he was to the point of catering to cultural expectations that he was individually incapable of living up to, and also more than a little angry at society for imposing such universal expectations on their fellow humans when they were well aware that diversity of desire is the rule of the human species. He felt that, in its own way, what he did to Evelyn was no better than what a legendary hebephile named Humbert did to an unfortunate lovestruck woman named Charlotte. Like that one, his was a cover relationship, a betrayal of trust that he went along with simply because the greater society would have approved of it every step of the way. But he was supposed to be a hero, an honorable man, though society often displayed conflicting and sometimes outright hypocritical notions of what constituted honorable behavior. As all of these thoughts flowed through his psyche with the force of a tsunami, he covered his face with his hands in shame. I can't do this anymore, he thought to himself. Not to anyone. And especially not to Evelyn.
As those tortured thoughts entered his mind, Evelyn turned in bed and wrapped her arms around Simon, clearly wanting to cuddle affectionately with him and perhaps to soon initiate something more. Which reminded him of his decision just a few moments ago that he couldn't do this anymore.
Simon gently broke from Evelyn's arms, slid out of bed, and began putting his clothes on. Evelyn was fully awakened by this strange action from her lover, and she sat up, looking at him through tired, half-closed eyes.
"Babe, what's wrong? Are you leaving now? Did I do something…?"
Simon turned as he slipped a tee shirt on; a despondent, guilt-ridden look was visibly etched on his face. "No, Eve, you didn't do anything wrong, hon. Not a thing. It was me. The problem was all me. And despite the cliché of that response, this time it applies sincerely."
"But…what is the problem?"
"Eve, I have to own up to this, as difficult as it is to do so. And I hope that one day, you will find it in your heart to forgive me. And I also insist that the Fates insure that I make this up to you in the future, either in this life or the next."
"Simon, I don't understand…"
He put his index finger to his lips to stifle the rest of her sentence. "Please listen, sweetheart. And have no doubt that I love and respect you immensely, and I have always been honored to have you as my boss and as my friend. But…but…I am not in love with you in any meaningful way. I can't give you what you need and what you deserve to have in your love life. I am more sorry than you can possibly imagine for this."
The look on Evelyn's still sleep-reddened eyes was one that Simon would never forget and never truly forgive himself for, even if she one day forgave him.
"You…you mean you never actually…never actually had any feelings for me at all?"
"Not of a romantic nature, no. I…am in love with someone else, and I can't do this to you anymore. I'm…I'm so sorry. I'm honestly sorry, I didn't mean to…"
Evelyn covered her face, but managed to use her well respected strength of will to hold back the inevitable flow of tears until Simon departed her home. "No, you didn't mean to, but you did it anyway, right? Sime, how could you do this to me? If you loved someone else, why didn't you just follow your goddamned heart and be with her? Why play this game with me? Why?"
"Eve, I swear, I wasn't playing games with you, I was honestly trying…trying to love you like…"
She again cut him off. "Trying to what? What justified what you did, Simon? What were you trying to do that could possibly have justified this mind fuck you played on me? What?"
Simon looked down, having nothing to say for himself, and desperately wanting to tell Evelyn the full truth…but realizing that he couldn't.
Evelyn then laid back on her pillow and closed her eyes. "Simon, please leave. Just leave. Don't say 'I'm sorry' again, just…just get the fuck out. You have always been a good and dependable employee of THE DAILY VOICE, so I promise you that this whole bullshit little game of yours won't affect our professional relationship or your standing there. But, as for any type of personal relationship…just get out."
Feeling more ashamed of himself than he ever had in his life before (save for one other incident that occurred very soon after he first gained his superhuman powers that he doesn't like to think about), Simon Teffler quietly walked out of Evelyn Monroe's home…and out of her personal life entirely, which he was now well aware that he had forsaken any right to be a part of. Such was the consequences of the deception he pulled off to assuage both society's expectations and his own denial, and he realized that Evelyn's broken heart and intense feeling of betrayal was the worst consequence of them all. And I'm supposed to be a hero, he thought to himself amidst an extremely heavy heart as he exited Evelyn's home for what was very likely the final time.
Solar Man soared through the afternoon sky as he often did, though on this occasion he wasn't on patrol or traveling to any one particular place, but was instead in deep contemplation. He believed he did the right thing by breaking up with Evelyn, but that didn't change the fact that a good person's heart was broken, and her trust and respect for him was shattered, possibly forever, as a result of this freakishly huge mistake on his part. He needed someone to talk to now, and the first two individuals to come into mind were Lilian and Seamus, both of whom he believed would understand the depth of his remorse and self-doubt of his own integrity for this particular reason. He also considered flying to the small but unusual town of Gimwinkle to talk to its resident mystic philosopher of great wisdom, the guru extraordinaire who called himself Chief Summerdays. Before he could decide either way, however, the micro-communicator in his unbreakable wristwatch designed by Dr. Isaacs chimed. Can I hope there is some type of villain-related trouble brewing, so I have the opportunity to really let off some steam? he thought to himself.
Answering the voice activated communications device, he was greeted by the transmitted voice of his teammate in the Liberty League known to the world at large as Mako Shark.
"This is Mako Shark calling all members of the LL who may be in range of the city of Baldur, Montana. There are three super-villains working in concert to abscond with the Brisingammen necklace as it was being picked up by an armored van from its usual place in the Valhalla Compound to transport it to some other location; possibly, these three have the intention of turning the necklace over to the Metahuman Liberation Front. I have tentatively identified these metahuman villains as Count Equilibrium, Steelmonger, and Thylacine. I will do my best to stop them, as that necklace must not fall into the wrong hands, but I am outnumbered and I am hoping that any of you within close enough range will come and provide me with assistance."
Responding to the alert, Solar Man said to his teammate, "I'm close enough that I can get there within 20 minutes, so there is no need to waste transporter energy in the satellite to Omega Beam one of us there. Just hold the fort, Mako, and I'll get there under my own power soon!" Hallelujah! he shouted silently to himself as he sped off to assist his teammate and friend with delivering the head-bashing that he so clearly needed to mete out to some poor deserving fool right now.
Meanwhile, in the city of Baldur, Mako Shark began sneaking up on the trio of metahuman villains before him, hoping to take them unawares and use his sea born strength to put at least one of them out of commission until the cavalry arrived. He knew that mystical necklace must be kept out of the hands of individuals such as them at any cost.
However, as he approached, the were-creature covered in a coat of striped fur known as Thylacine detected the sea lord's approach with his enhanced olfactory senses. The were-creature quickly turned, barring his extremely sharp teeth that resembled rows of small yellowish-white daggers, saliva pouring from his mouth in frothy anticipation of the coming feast.
"We are approached! The scent of a human saturated with ocean salt!"
Damn it! the hero of the deep silently exclaimed. I should have anticipated that I might be downwind to his enhanced sense of smell.
Turning to face his adversary, Thylacine promptly squatted into an attack ready position, both his claws and teeth showing like the deadly natural artifacts of mayhem that they were, his maw slavering with delight at the flesh he was about to taste…until his comrade-in-arms, the cybernetic malcontent known as Steelmonger, shouted an alternative.
"No, Thylacine, let Count Equilibrium handle that asshole! I need your help in tearing open this armored car. You can have what's left of that bastard after Equilibrium renders him helpless."
Growling in anger, as he wanted to fight for his meal, not feast upon a helpless prey, the remaining human part of Thylacine's psyche realized that he had to put a priority on acquiring the Brisingammen necklace. He would have to rein in his savage animalistic fury for another opponent, which he hoped would be the security guards sequestered inside the armored van, despite the fact that they would be much less of a challenge than a fellow metahuman like Mako Shark.
At that moment, Mako Shark realized that he would have to act as quickly as possible, or not only will an item of immense mystical power like that necklace end up in the hands of evil, but the lives of the security guards within the van will be forfeit. He couldn't afford to wait for Solar Man to arrive and switch the odds before he engaged the trio of foes.
Doing as Steelmonger bade, Count Equilibrium strutted towards his aquatic opponent, attempting to look as regal as one of his station should, his white military uniform reflecting sunlight in every direction and his green cape billowing in the wind.
"Step aside and leave the vicinity, or I will deal with you the hard way," Mako Shark commanded his princely foe in a very serious tone.
"My apologies to you, Charlie the Tuna, but I am afraid I am going to have to wreak some serious havoc upon your semi-circular canals," the malefic count decreed with a chuckle amidst a strong Hungarian accent.
As Mako Shark leapt forward, Count Equilibrium proved surprisingly fast to react as he raised his arms and projected waves of balance-disrupting psi-energies from his technologically augmented cranium. Caught in the waves of psionic energy mere inches before he reached his target, the world suddenly appeared to start spinning and turning topsy-turvy for the sultan of hydro. But the hero of the sea began exerting every iota of his willpower to remain on his feet. The Count noticed this and increased his concentration, determined to redouble his efforts to hit Mako Shark with waves of dizziness and nausea so severe that his brain would shut down and render him unconscious. Thinking clearly, as he slunk down to his knees, no longer able to maintain any sense of visual perspective about him, it suddenly occurred to Mako Shark to shut his eyes and focus on the resulting darkness, thus rendering all of the skewed visual sensations induced by the master of equilibrium disruption ineffective. As his closed eyes shielded him from the worst of the psi-assault released against his senses, with another great focus of will the oceanic hero swung one of his muscular, superhumanly strong arms directly in front of himself and swatted the count in the face, cracking his jaw and cheek bone, and sending him to the ground insensate.
Fighting off the last effects of the induced vertigo upon opening his eyes again, Mako Shark quickly recovered his sense of balance and faced his two remaining adversaries.
"Next!" he shouted defiantly.
Howling in a combined fit of bloodlust and ecstasy--the two being one and the same to him--the savage half-human creature called Thylacine leapt at Mako Shark, a leap that took the tan-colored were-beast over 20 feet in a single bound. The creature managed to deliver a vicious slash to Mako Shark's arm, cutting through both his scaly yellow wetsuit and the flesh beneath it, causing four streams of blood to rush forth from the wounds. Barely acting as if he even noticed the injury, Mako Shark proved himself a warrior born by pummeling the beast in the facial area with the full level of superhuman strength that is a natural byproduct of a humanoid physiology designed for withstanding the crushing force that is extant many fathoms below the ocean depths. Stunned and sent backwards to the ground by the force of Mako Shark's mighty haymaker, Thylacine spit out a wad of viscous blood and howled in fury as he allowed the already dominant animal side to his once fully human persona to completely take over his consciousness, turning him into nothing more than a slavering animalistic killing machine. As the enraged beast man instinctively lunged for Mako Shark's throat, the sea master managed to avoid a grievous injury by quickly putting his arm before his neck, so that the were-creature sunk his razor sharp canines deep into the flesh of Mako Shark's limb instead. Blood poured out of the multiple puncture wounds adorning the greatly muscled arm, but again Mako Shark appeared to completely ignore this as he grasped his bestial adversary by the plume of fur sticking out from the scruff of his neck to help hold him in position, and then began relentlessly slamming his furry opponent into the concrete side of the nearby Valhalla Compound. Though Thylacine was fiercely determined to stay latched onto his opponent's arm while ripping through the back of his wetsuit and into his flesh with his claws, hoping to cause the sea lord to become nauseous and finally faint from loss of blood, Mako Shark never wavered in continuing to beat his now entirely feral foe up against the side of the concrete wall. Thylacine still held fast for an indeterminate length of time that appeared to last for an eternity, but Mako Shark realized his monstrous foe wouldn't last forever as he heard bones throughout the creature's body crack and break each time the beast was slammed up against the concrete wall. Both combatants were extremely resolute, neither willing to quit or give any quarter to the other, until finally, after what seemed like eons to them both, Mako Shark heard what appeared to be several of the were-beast's vertebrae break upon one of his impacts against the concrete wall. Hacking a torrent of bile and blood all over the front of Mako Shark's now partially tattered wetsuit, leaving large dull brown stains that dripped off of its low friction surface, the great man-beast called Thylacine finally fell and lay still. Determined to insure that he stayed that way for as long as possible, Mako Shark delivered a brutal kick with all of his sea-born might to the were-creature's head, making a horrible crunching sound as the anthro-beast's jaw was dislocated and four bloody teeth were dislodged from the muzzle.
Taking a quick breath but showing no other visible signs of stress, the slashed and bleeding Mako Shark then turned towards Steelmonger, his final adversary rounding out the triumvirate of terror now menacing the city of Baldur. He approached the knocked-over van in time to see the bio-metallic villain, standing nearly seven feet in height with chrome-colored gleaming artificial skin, holding the two hapless security guards in the air by the throats, one gripped in each hand, and shouting demands at them.
"Give me the necklace now, you little human pricks! Now!"
Just then, Steelmonger was interrupted by a loud clanging sound which originated from a large boulder having been hurled at the back of his steel skull. He slowly turned to see Mako Shark standing several feet behind him.
"Unhand those men and face me now…or can you only kill powerless humans?" was Mako Shark's bold challenge.
The metallic-organic villain cackled in response, and his ego successfully appealed to, he dropped the two security guards to the ground without finishing them off.
"You will not find me nearly as easy to defeat as my two accomplices, fish man. Do your worst." Steelmonger then waved his shiny metallic fingers on both hands towards himself, taunting the sea lord into making his move.
With a battle cry of pure undiluted fury, Mako Shark charged at the malicious synthoid being before him and struck him in the side of his metallic skull with all of his redoubtable might. Steelmonger's head swung to one side with the impact, but he remained on his feet, his ocular sensors shifting from a yellowish to purplish glow as they re-focused on the cyborg's opponent.
"Very impressive," Steelmonger commended. "But not impressive enough. My bio-metallic skin and skeletal structure are pure carbon steel, and can resist the explosive force of many tons of TNT. Your ass is mine, scale face."
Refusing to back down, Mako Shark simply redoubled his efforts, striking Steelmonger's gleaming metal face twice more, once on each artificial cheek bone, again causing his head to swing to the side upon impact, this time once in each respective direction. But still the cyborg remained on his feet, his large and powerful form barely trembling from the impact of being struck by Mako Shark's superhumanly strong fists.
His glowing ocular lenses focusing on the wearying aquatic hero again, Steelmonger once more let loose with his malevolent, nearly inhuman cackle. "Now, fish man, it's my turn."
Swinging his steel-encased fist, Steelmonger struck Mako Shark across the left side of his face, sending him hurling over ten feet into the air, landing hard on the ground several yards distant. His entire body shaking for long moments after hitting the ground, Mako Shark utilized a Herculean effort of will to push himself up on his hands and knees, spit a stream of blood onto the ground, and then forced himself back on his feet, managing to stand erect despite the fact that his legs appeared to buckle under the effort. Blood continued to dribble out of the side of his mouth and both of his nostrils as he once again stood to face his foe.
"Still haven't had enough, eh, you human-loving dick?" Steelmonger queried rhetorically. "Then I will be more than happy to kill you as a traitor to the metahuman race, especially since the feeling I get from killing is the closest I can come to having an orgasm since getting this bio-metallic makeover--but the power it gave me was more than worth the sacrifice, of course. Now c'mon, I haven't got all day, I still have a necklace to retrieve. So come and get me, asshole."
Undaunted by the humbling blow he had just received, and determined like the true warrior he was to hold off Steelmonger for as long as he could until his backup arrived, Mako Shark again charged the synthoid being before him, determined to keep pounding on him until something broke, only to have his throat caught in the vice-like grasp of his opponent's steel-coated left hand, much as the two security guards were several minutes ago. Mako Shark was then effortlessly lifted into the air. He frantically gagged and choked as his larynx was subjected to what was crushing force of a magnitude that was too much for even him to bear. Though he desperately tried to pull the steel fingers from his neck, his far from inconsiderable strength nevertheless proved inadequate to the task.
"Now, scaly man, I have something particularly nasty in store for you."
With that chilling declaration made, Steelmonger raised his right arm, and his metallic hand automatically rose upwards, revealing a large orifice where the wrist would be--and what appeared to be an ominous looking mini-cannon. Upon seeing this, Mako Shark increased the severity of his struggle to free himself, but still found himself no match for the might of the being he was now at the mercy of.
Steelmonger couldn't resist boasting before delivering the fatal blow. "This hand cannon of mine shoots a variety of deadly weapons, but the nastiest one of all in my not-so-humble opinion is the acid hose. It spurts a flowing stream of the nastiest, most corrosive acid the American military ever managed to brew up in those black-ops chemistry labs of theirs. It will rapidly melt the skin from your skull, and your eyes will sizzle away like eggs on a grill. And it's going to happen right now!"
As the lethal cyborg positioned the cannon directly in front of the struggling hero, Mako Shark could hear the loud gurgle of the acid advancing up the tube inside the hand cannon, and within a few seconds it would spew over his face like liquid fire…
But just then, Steelmonger cocked his head slightly as his ultra-keen audio receptors picked up an escalating whooshing sound from behind him. "Eh…?"
Suddenly, Mako Shark was released from the evil synthoid's grip and fell to the ground with a loud thud as an aerial object moving so fast that it appeared only as a crimson-hued streak slammed into Steelmonger, carrying him straight off the ground and many yards away.
Getting to his knees and coughing and gasping as his hands moved over his terribly bruised throat, Mako Shark thought to himself, It's about damn time he got here…I almost got a face full of fucking acid.
Many yards away, a very loud crashing sound was heard up to a half mile distant as Steelmonger's metallic body was hurled with incredible force into the concrete side of the Valhalla Compound, smashing him clear through the two inch thick wall. His steel hard form wracked with sympathetic pain the likes of which he never felt before, Steelmonger forced himself to sit up…only to shudder as his ocular sensors focused upon the image of a very angry looking Solar Man standing before him.
"That was my friend you were about to waste, mister," the crimson clad hero said with a huge amount of vitriol in his voice. "And you couldn't possibly have picked a worse day to piss me off."
Painfully rising from the rubble, Steelmonger then pointed his hand cannon directly at his new opponent. "You think I picked the wrong day to fuck with you? You are going to find out the opposite is true when I give you exactly what I was going to deliver to your fishy friend over there!"
The anger implicit in Solar Man's countenance was palpable. "Do your worst," was all he had to say to his cybernetic foe.
The awful gurgling sound was once again heard from within Steelmonger's hand cannon, and two seconds later a torrent of mega-corrosive acid spewed out of the makeshift hose and thoroughly doused more than half of Solar Man's body, sizzling as it dripped down his costume.
"Die, asshole!" the metal man bellowed as the acid continued to flow.
After the 15 second deluge was over, Steelmonger gasped audibly-despite no longer having functioning lungs-when he noticed Solar Man standing before him completely unaffected by the acid bath, his angry expression still burning hotter than the deadly corrosive fluid itself.
"Okay, so maybe you're fucking acid-proof, but that ain't the only trick I got up this cannon. I just switched over to the mini-gun, and it's gonna spray you with enough lead to turn you into hamburger!"
A second later, true to Steelmonger's word, the mini-gun inside his hand cannon whirled around, spitting a fusillade of deadly bullets directly at Solar Man…only to have each of the multitude of high speed metal projectiles bounce harmlessly off of his ultra-hard skin. The cybernetic fiend continued the onslaught of hot lead on his foe until his ammo ran out. And still the crimson garbed hero stood unscathed.
"You, my esteemed opponent, have a lot to learn, don't you?"
Rushing forward, Solar Man grasped the synthoid's still extended arm where the hand cannon was mounted, and brutally crushed the entire arm as if it were tinfoil, destroying the cannon and causing streams of greenish ichor to flow out of it. Screaming in agony, Steelmonger retaliated by striking Solar Man in the side of his face with his remaining metallic fist, putting as much force as his steel-augmented musculature could muster into that blow. The sun-absorbing hero's head moved to one side upon impact, yet he remained on his feet, and the frightening and very atypical look of anger returned to his countenance.
"You made a mistake simply by waking up this morning," the hero said curtly. "Assuming that a bio-mechanical freak like you even sleeps anymore!"
Solar Man then threw a punch of his own, which impacted upon the synthoid's face with a loud clanging sound, causing the steel-augmented villain to fly back over 50 feet, impacting upon the other wall on the far side of the building.
Racing over to his terribly stunned foe in a flash of crimson, Solar Man grabbed the cyborg by the throat in a vice-like grip of his own and slammed his opponent onto the ground with such impact that he created a several inch deep, humanoid-shaped indentation on the earth, fraying much of the circuitry in the cyborg's body. Then, a look of fury still on his visage, Solar Man raised his right fist, and brought it down hard against the right side of Steelmonger's face, causing a dent in the shape of his knuckles to form in the metal skin. Letting out a sound akin to a cough, the cyborg gagged out a stream of the green-colored fluid that passed for blood in his synthetic body's answer to a circulatory system.
Then, Solar Man raised the same fist a second time, and brought it down on Steelmonger's face again, this time practically caving in the right side of the synthoid's gleaming metal cheek, and causing him to hack out more of the green ichor. Solar Man then raised his fist a third time…but in this instance, he didn't bring it down, instead stopping and walking away from his fallen foe, having gotten a lot of built up emotion out of his system, yet still not feeling very good about himself, including what he just did.
A battered Mako Shark met Solar Man as he walked out of the building, a look of concern being very evident on the former's pale, blood-stained features.
"Well, that was…unusual for you, to say the least. This may sound a bit odd considering how easily you thrashed Steelmonger, but…are you all right?"
Observing Mako Shark's physical condition, Solar Man responded, "You need medical attention. I am going to radio the satellite and give them the priority code for emergency usage of the Omega Beams so they can transport you to it, and have you escorted to the infirmary."
"I'll be okay, I've had worse, and I heal much faster than a normal human being. I wanted to thank you for saving my life back there."
"No need to thank me, Mako Shark, considering how many lives you have saved in the past. Sometimes the karmic 'what goes around, comes around' force operates in a positive manner. Now, prepare to be Omega-Beamed up to the satellite for medical treatment of your wounds. No argument!"
Mako Shark looked at his long-time ally with more than a modicum of surprise. "Okay. Will do. But though I expect the type of attitude you displayed since you arrived in Baldur from Eagle Hawk on a 24/7 basis, it's…disconcerting to see it coming from you even on rare occasions. Once I get treated, please know that my shoulder is available to you for whatever is bothering you, because whatever it is, it's certainly not a small thing. And, I think…well, never mind."
Solar Man looked away for a moment, as if wondering about something, before again speaking aloud. "I'll consider your offer, sea lord. Now prepare to be beamed up to the satellite, as I am going to radio the transporter crew now."
After contacting the LL satellite crew and giving them the exact coordinates of Mako Shark, a specially trained group of staff members began activating the transporter, an extraordinary device capable of moving beings and objects though a "hyper-fold" in the space/time continuum that Dr. Isaacs and his team of technocrats reverse engineered from some of the advanced technology left over from an invasion years ago by rogue members of an alien race of beings from another universe known as the Q'uarn; this transporter technology is possessed by the Liberty League alone. Within a minute, an orange nimbus of energy appeared to engulf Mako Shark as a fold between space/time opened up and the aquatic hero was transported painlessly through the tiny momentary wormhole to the satellite as per Solar Man's impassioned demand.
The mission accomplished, Solar Man radioed a mop-up crew to come and take the three injured metahumans into custody and for the communications department to send another e-mail of complaint to Dr. Isaacs regarding yet another villain somehow gaining unauthorized possession of the bio-technology he and his developed years ago. Once that was completed, the solar-charged hero flew off into the horizon to clear the emotions still running rampant through his head. It was going to be a long night, and he came to the realization that there was but one person on the entire planet who could offer him comfort while in his present state of mind. It was a much better alternative than beating the living hell out of his opponents, he noted to himself.
Later that evening, Alexa Zimmer sat quietly in her bedroom, located in a tenement building on Metro City's Lower West Side, reading a copy of a book called UNDER THE HOOD. She decided to retire for some relevant reading after turning off the TV after being sickened by hearing yet another one of Captain Emil Krueger's diatribes about the "special problem" that metahumans pose for the police department. As usual, her mother was working the midnight shift at the hospital, so the young blonde heroine was enjoying the solitude of the entire apartment. Suddenly, however, her reading reverie was interrupted by a tapping sound on her bedroom window. She knew exactly who it was, as it could be no one else at this hour, and she now became quite hypered up.
Running with a high degree of excitement to her window, she opened it, and the scarlet-uniformed personage of Solar Man casually stepped into the room. He stood proudly over her, a look of flagrant sadness on his face, almost as if he was struggling to hold back a flow of tears. Alexa looked up at her much taller man with an expression of great sympathy.
"So you told her?" she asked.
"I told her," he replied quietly.
"I guess she didn't take it well, then?"
"As well as can be expected, which is not well at all."
She gently took his hand, and he squeezed her much smaller fingers with tender affection. "You did what you had to do, man of mine. You couldn't keep going on like that. It was just too out of character for you, and…"
At that moment, the mighty Solar Man, renowned by many as the greatest super-hero on the planet and a staunch defender of the common person against the greatest threats the universe can possibly conceive…let out a sound that sounded like a sniffle, and he put his head down.
Alexa looked up at her man with her large, radiant blue eyes that mirrored the beauty of the planet Earth itself.
"Awwwwwh…" She then embraced her boyfriend warmly to comfort him, and he held her tightly in return.
A few days later, on one of their weekends off from work and school respectively, Simon Teffler and Alexa Zimmer sat cuddling with each other in front of a majestic fireplace in a ritzy vacation chalet located in Maine, listening to pleasant tunes together on one of the music stations available on their room's cable TV network. Both had a cup of warm cocoa in one of their hands, with their other arm around each other as they talked and watched the lava lamp on the room's mantle bubble and flow its soft kaleidoscope of shapes and colors.
"Are you feeling better now?" Alexa asked her heroic boyfriend.
"I'm getting there," Simon replied. "And being here in this beautiful chalet snuggling and sipping some nice cocoa with the even more beautiful girl of my dreams is no doubt a major remedy for sorrow."
Alexa giggled playfully and gave Simon a quick kiss on the lips. "I am so glad we can be together, and I can totally deal with having to do it on the sly, as much as I would love to be able to pop my fave finger at the world and proudly walk down the street with you holding your hand."
"And I'm sorry that things have to be this way, sweetheart. I am really hoping that things will be okay. It's frankly very hard knowing that most of the world would consider me a vile pervert for loving you in the way I do."
"Hey, look at it this way, man of mine. You may be a pervert, but you're my pervert, and that is the best type of pervert to be. Never forget that."
Simon smiled upon hearing that, and kissed his lovely young girlfriend on the cheek, laying his face down upon her head as they continued to snuggle in front of the crackling fireplace. He found her sense of optimism and unrestrained creativity to be the greatest joy he ever experienced, and he found her way of expressing all of this so incredibly cute that he gave the following name to the holographic video scrapbook he was creating to preserve her most adorable moments for posterity: Qtns2di4. On his worst days in the future, he will relieve his melancholy by looking at the recorded images and videos generated by the scrapbook's hard drive to make him realize that no matter how seemingly unbearable the world becomes, the fact that it's inhabited by lovely young girls like his Alexa means that the world will always glimmer like gold.
"I just wish I knew what the future holds for us, babe. Your friend Mystik found out about us, both Eagle Hawk and Mako Shark appear to have their suspicions, and you said that you have been getting 'vibes' from Scarlet Eagle ever since our relationship started. Someone else is going to find out sooner or later, and I have no idea who it might be. And when they do…"
Alexa quickly cut off her boyfriend's intended spiel. "And when they do, lover, we will deal with it. And we will deal with it together. Much of the world will be against us if they found out, and many may even want your neck on the end of a rope no matter how much you have done for this world, but let's not forget how that stupid little tramp Pandora managed to prevent just one thing--hope--from escaping from that box she opened. And that means as bad as things may ever get, either for us or the whole damn world, there will always be hope. And one day that much better and more tolerant world--yanno, the one that you continue to annoy that crotchety-assed Eagle Hawk with by insisting it will one day come into being--well, one day it will become real, and this new world will no longer condemn anyone for who they choose to love."
Simon tenderly rubbed Alexa's shoulder a few times in response to that. "I truly hope you are right, sweetie. Again, I have no idea what the future holds for us, but your belief in the possibility of a better world despite all the cynics out there insisting that we are doomed to live as we do today forever…well, let's just say that it inspires me to continue fighting the good fight, and to believe my faith and love for humanity is entirely justified. Your youthful idealism that so many older people disparage young people for having is actually one of this world's most powerful and valuable assets, much more so than all the super-heroes in the world combined."
Alexa smiled again and cuddled up closer to the man she loves. "Well, yanno, my sexy lovable pervert, I think the late, great John Lennon said it best: 'I may be a dreamer, but I'm not the only one…'"
The next and final six chapter story chronicling the saga of Solar Man--HERO UNDER FIRE--will be written one chapter at a time in the future, as both my schedule permits and depending upon the level of reader requests.