Because Kari wanted to catch me up on her observations, we decided to go over the footage at my house since I needed to get home in case someone decided to drop by. You see no one had seen me leave my house and my neighborhood, including my super family and I’m sure The Squad, notices EVERYTHING!
So I used the shadows to reenter my house, quickly changed out of my costume and into some comfortable sweats. Also I made sure my hair and eyes were the right color. As I entered my living room, which doubles as my studio as that is where the light is the best, I stopped and looked at my latest canvas. I make my living as an illustrator, but I still go to art school as well, and right now I'm experimenting with oils and portraits.
My latest project was a picture of my family in their superhero identities. Dad on his motorcycle and Mom and Isabel flying in pursuit some evildoer as a team, as it should be but which The Squad does not allow. I almost wished I could put myself in the canvas as well so we could be in the family business together if only in my imagination.
Yeah, why don’t I just take out an ad on the internet? It just stinks that even with superpowers I still end up being an outsider, and still end up being better off than my family.
Just then my doorbell rang and I answered it to see Kari on my doorstep. She's holding a salad bowl which was all very usual as she comes over all the time so we can share lunch. We outsiders got to stick together.
“Hey kiddo,” she said, obviously for the benefit of anyone who may be watching, and you could bet they were watching even if they couldn’t see inside, “You got the chicken ready?”
“Sure Kari,” I played along, “Your favorite, lemon chicken.”
“Yum," she said walking inside, "I can’t make it at home because Teddy can’t stand lemons…”
As the door closed behind her she asked, “Do you really have lemon chicken?”
“Sure, I picked it up from the deli last night. Just have to heat it up.”
“Kiddo you are favorite mentee.”
“I am you’re only mentee.”
“Beside the point. You ready for your debriefing?”
No, I thought to myself, and asked, “Can we eat first? Battling family and friends always gives me an appetite.”
We started towards the kitchen, but Kari came over to the canvas and noted, “This is good. Are you going to give it to your parents?”
“No I don’t think Mom and Dad would like it. The Squad has kind of taken all of the fun out of being a superhero for them. I’ll hang it on the wall when I’m done.”
“Ted loved the one you did of me and him as our younger alter egos. Dang we would have made cute couple back in the day. ”
“You are a cute couple now, and weren’t you two on opposite sides and hating each at the time?”
“Well there was that,” she admitted cheerfully.
“The Squad would hate both of those pictures. I'm sure they would feel it would justify their position of me being a security risk somehow.”
“They think everyone is a security risk," she said as we began to walk towards the kitchen, "Paranoia is the lot tyrants. You making steady money now from that publishing company?”
“Actually yes, they’re small so they desperately need illustrators. I’m not getting rich, but it does pay the bills, and makes my time more flexible which will come in handy.”
“You’re lucky. In my day it was almost impossible to hold down a job and be a superhero. I mean how can you have a day job and save the world? One of the reasons The Squad started sharing resources. That was a mistake," she said with a shake of her head as she placed the salad bowl on the kitchen table.
I took out the chicken and began to heat it up in the microwave and pointed out, “Only because the new management took everything over.”
“Yeah, but we made it easy for them.”
We quickly put our lunch together and sat down to healthy meal making small talk. Still, something made me suspect that I was going to need an extra-large hot fudge sundae once my debriefing was over.
After we cleaned up I realized that I could not put it off any longer so I asked, “What did I do that was new and disturbing?”
“Several things,” Kari answered taking out her laptop computer from her courier bag, “First off, you have shields.”
“I kind of figured that Kari when The Platoon couldn’t blast or hit me.”
“But it’s what your shield is that’s interesting. Take a look.”
She brought up a site on the internet and brought up a video which showed me ducking into the alcove or whatever. Then the camera moved to where it could see me full on. How do these guys get these pictures anyway?
Just as Protostar blasted me my shadow grew up behind me and came over me like a huge dome.
It took me a minute to digest this bit of news before I said, “That is creepy.”
Kari objected, “No it isn’t it's cool, but there’s more to it. Did you notice your shadow when you were running just before this?”
“No, I was kind of trying not to get blasted again.”
Kari then went back in the footage which showed me running and Protostar aiming her shots.
“What?” I asked, “She aimed wide to keep me going forward into an ambush, I knew that.”
Kari played it back and ran it slower saying, “It took me a minute to see it too. Watch your shadow.”
I did as she advised, but again it took a few seconds before I saw my shadow change its position independently to slowly climb up the wall and turn its head, my head I guess, to look up at Protostar.
Okay, I was freaked out before. Now I am REALLY freaked out!
“What do you mean calm down?" I demanded, "My shadow is possessed!”
“No it isn’t,” she assured me.
“Kari, it moved all by itself! That's possessed!”
“No, we do need to test it, but I’m pretty sure you were in control of it on a subconscious level.”
“You’re pretty sure?’
“That's what you get for coming late to party kiddo. It’s like everything else you’ve done. Right now it seems like you’re not in control, but that's because your powers are coming out on a subconscious level as needed."
I sighed and put my head in my hands asking, "Am I ever going to be in control on a conscious level?"
"Sure," she answered, "Eventually, you just need practice. Like when you move in the shadows. You control that pretty well now."
"Pretty well," I said in disgust.
"Quit being so impatient, it takes time to master this stuff, and you got a late start. By the way, did you feel anything unusual when your sister was chasing you?”
I looked up at her and asked, “What? Besides getting over just being blasted you mean?”
“You keep saying that. When did she blast you?” she asked.
“You need to look at the bank recordings just after I rescued the hostage. That’s when she hit me from behind and I started running. I was too rattled to try and escape through the shadows. I still have to concentrate on that.”
“Remember Annie, patience. Okay so Protostar blasted you, and you started running. Did you feel anything unusual?”
I could have told her it all felt unusual, but I decided to answer her question instead.
“Well kind of. I had this weird…I don’t know, but it was like I could see what she was doing. Oh my gosh, do you mean I have eyes in the back of my head?”
I almost reached behind to feel back there, but Kari took my hands in hers and assured me, “No eyes, just a shadow that apparently works like eyes in the back of your head.”
“Kari, this is creeping me out.”
“Hey you think you got it bad? Try hearing voices in your head all of the time.”
That did sound worse.
“Well mostly I tune them out, but when I was younger it was a real pain. You wouldn’t believe how much noise goes on in people’s noggins.”
Just then my cell phone rang and I checked the display. To my surprise it was my mother. A surprise because I had just been at her house the day before.
"Hi Mom," I answered.
“Hi sweetie how are you doing?” she asked cheerfully.Good old Mom, not even slavery gets her down.
“I’m fine Mom, but are you okay?” I asked.
“Why wouldn’t I be okay?” she countered.
“Well I was just over there yesterday, and you usually don’t call the next day to see how I am.”
Fortunately, my mother is honest to a fault.
“Well, that is a point,” she admitted, “Okay, Annie I was wondering if you are available tonight?”
“Tonight? Well yes I guess. Why?"
Mom explained, “Isabel and her friends are coming over and I thought it might be nice if you came by and kept them company. They had a hard day and sort of need cheering up.”
I just bet they do, I thought.
“Sure Mom, what time do you want me?”
“Well they should be here around six. Oh and if you could bring over pizza and some sodas. You just place the order and I’ll reimburse you.”
You thought I was kidding about that pizza and soda thing didn’t you?
“Mom I can buy the pizza.”
“Dear you need your money for other things. I’ll handle it,” she insisted in her best MOM voice.
I hear that voice and I still get get intimidated. What is it about Moms that can make you feel like you're five again? Anyway we end the call and I find Kari looking at me with interest.
“What’s up?” Kari asked.
“Mom wants me to come over and cheer up Isabel and her boys.”
“Poor kids probably got raked over the coals,” Kari theorized, “Must hurt when it's not your fault and you don't know what you've gotten yourself into yet. I suggest you keep your ears open, you might be able to pick up some information on The Squad's plans.”
“Kari I can’t spy on my sister and her friends,” I object.
“Who’s asking you to spy? Just make conversation. But watch yourself, you never know who’s listening.”
I am immediately appalled at the thought. I know The Squad keeps my parents under super surveillance but they wouldn't...Would they?
“Oh you don’t really think so do you?”
She gave a shrug and answered, “I hope not, but I wouldn't put anything past them, even bugging your parents' bedroom. Go, eat pizza, and snoop. In other words be a big sister.”
Mystery and adventure writer C.L. Ragsdale is the author of The Reboot Files a Christian Cozy Mystery Series, and a superhero story called Chasing Lady Midnight. A California native, she loves to "surf" the web to research plot details for her fun, quirky stories. She has a degree in Theatre Arts which greatly influenced her writing style. Working in various fields as a secretary has allowed her to both master her writing skills and acquire valuable technical knowledge which she uses liberally in her plots. A big secret from her past, which is not so secret anymore, is that she used to a major comic book geek. Nowadays she loves to crochet, but she is still a big fan of the old Scooby Doo cartoons.
Cindy posts on her own blog called Short Mysteries and Tall Tales at http://shortmysteriesandtalltales.blogspot.com as well as The Cozy Mystery Magazine on http://cozymysterymagazine.blogspot.com
Her Facebook Authors Page is located at http://www.facebook.com/pages/CL-Ragsdale/219184744858421