The Ember King was tying up the last of Evil Enchanter’s henchmen. EE had escaped. The coward always ducked out while his minions distracted his opponents. Snow was drifting down through the fresh hole in the warehouse’s roof. Flakes dissolved into steam whenever they landed on the Ember King.

His eyes happened to fall on the henchman’s watch, and he nearly swore. Hastily finishing up the knots, he took off. Normally he’d have called the police, but they were surely on their way already, and he was in a hurry.

An orange burst streaked across the sky, disappearing into the clouds.

He came down with significantly less fanfare, landing behind a large manor house on the outskirts of town. Heading quickly for the ballroom, he hoped no one would notice him coming in.

He wasn’t terribly surprised that he failed.

“I had hoped becoming the Ember King might make you a little more punctual,” Lucinda said, a smile hidden behind her stern voice, for anyone who knew her. Two dozen superheroes turned to watch him enter the room.

“Go easy on the boy,” the Hammer said, laughing loudly. “Is like saying. Crime does not take vacation, no?”

“I’m sure the world can spin a few hours without us,” Captain Soldier said.

Lucinda shook her head. “It still sends a chill down my spine to see you two so friendly.”

The Russian waved his hand. “Do not be silly, Phoenix Queen. We fought together before we fought against each other.”

“Really?” the Ember King said, before Lucinda could derail the conversation by insisting she was no longer the Phoenix Queen. “I thought you two met during the cold war.”

“D-Day,” Captain Soldier said. “Hammer, Royal Force, and I were all there to stop whatever supersoldiers the Thule Society had cooked up. The Hammer saved my life that day.” He paused thinking. “Or did I save his?”

“Was Royal Force,” Hammer corrected. “He saved both our lives from Herr Panzer. Good man,” he said, nodding his head, but then quickly adding. “Royal Force, that is. Not Herr Panzer.”

Everyone was silent for a moment, in memory to the fallen British superhero.

Captain Soldier poured himself a brandy, and sipped at it pensively. “Things were simpler back then. Us versus the Nazis. And the three of us were unstoppable. I don’t think any of us would have believed you if you told us we’d be fighting each other for the next thirty years.”

“We were young and stupid,” Hammer said. “They were stuffing our heads full of propaganda, and we let them. We listened to their lies instead of our hearts and saw enemies where our friends were.” He turned to the Ember King. “Do not be listening to politicians. Do what you know is right, and if the idiots in Washington do not like it, tell them they can be hanging themselves.”

Captain Soldier laughed. “If only somebody could have told us that sixty years ago.”

Lucinda made a disgusted noise. “I hate it when you remind me that you’re older than I am.”

Captain Soldier raised his glass in her direction. “To the Thule Society’s failed experiments. Never did find out what that thing was supposed to do. I’m pretty sure they didn’t intend any of this to happen. Anyway, not too old to accept wisdom from a young woman. You’re the one who taught me to question things a bit more.”

“Took a while for that to sink in, though,” she said, wryly, eliciting a hearty laugh from the Hammer.

“I think being a little thick-headed is a requirement for a superhero. But I came around eventually. And I never made fun of your costume.”

“I had forgotten about that ridiculous thing,” she said with a snort. “I must have been high when I designed that. Of course, after people started criticizing it, well… I couldn’t change without looking like I was backing down.”

“Like I said, a requirement.” Captain Soldier said with a grin.

“I suppose you’re right. I certainly never would have taken on Jeremy as a side-kick if the boy was willing to take ‘no’ for an answer.”

“Been almost a year since you took the crown, hasn’t it?” Raven asked. “How’s it feel to be calling the shots for yourself now?”

The Ember King looked around at the gathered superheroes. Men and women recognized all across the world, who had each saved the planet more than once.

“I think it will be a while before I stop feeling like a side-kick.”

Advertisements