Sorry I’m late, Dr. Anton.
No worries. I had some reports to write up the rest of the afternoon, so I just started in on them. I was beginning to think about heading home for dinner, though. But I’m glad you made it.
Yeah, well, it wasn’t my fault, being late.
Well, it was my fault – but it wasn’t really my fault!
Why don’t you tell me about “it” and we can discuss it, or whether we should even be talking about “fault.”
Well, it wasn’t. Mine. My fault.
So I was in gym, Applied Heroics, and I’m usually teamed up with Roddy, which kinda sucks because, y’know, I’m fast, faster than I look, but he’s so slick, he’s never where I’m punching or anything like that, and it’s … kinda frustrating.
And he knows it, and he’s – well, not really a dick about it, but he gets that smile when ke knows he’s sooooo much better at something and it, well, just makes me want to hit him. Not too hard, just enough to even things up.
Hmmm. You said usually.
Yeah, so I get there and Roddy’s just skipping out the door like someone gave him a Willy Wonka golden ticket or something. I mean, you ever see someone actually click their heels?
Not often, no.
Only in movies, y’know? So he’s gone but Sarge, he’s not gonna let me just sit around, so I get paired up with Evan and Roy.
I mean, those two. Pretty boy and flannel boy. Both of 'em always going around, smiling at all the girls.
Do you feel there’s something wrong with that?
It’s the way they do it. Evan like he’s God’s gift to … well, everyone. I mean, I swear, his teeth glint when he grins. And Roy, he just smiles all the time, which is kind of creepy. He comes across as this nice guy, but … I dunno. He just smiles and smiles.
“… and be a villain.”
Sorry, A bit of Shakespeare. So what happened next?
Well, we’re doing a superhero challenge today, see who can get across the suspension bridge to this bus full of nuns without damaging the other cars and dealing with all sorts of extra bad stuff going on.
How do you like doing those kind of exercises?
When they go okay, pretty good. I mean, saving people, that’s fun. And it’s a competition, so if I can show I can do it faster, better than other people, use some of these skills, this strength I have, then that’s a good thing, right?
Today … well, it didn’t go so good.
In what way?
All right, so, damaged suspension bridge, bus of nuns, we’ve been doing this kind of thing a few weeks, I know there’s going to be a trick. Lots of cars stuck on the bridge in the way, and they’re actually cardboard, so if they damaged they’re cheap to replace, but also it’s easy to damage them, right? And Sarge lets you know what the repair bills come to because even with the CRASH Act1 and that, sometimes you end up footing the bill, and it looks bad regardless.
Right. So, you’re on the bridge …
Right, and I think, hey, these guys can’t fly, but if I try to get straight to the bus, I’m gonna smush some cars. So I do that thinking outside the box thing they try and teach? I start swinging along the bridge cables on left side, weaving along, so I’m passing all the cars, and making great time, better than the other two. I have to skip a cable or two here or there because the bridge is damaged, right? But no problem, I can make those leaps, and if the cables are holding the bridge, they should hold me.
Yeah, that’s what I thought, and then Sarge is yelling on the loudspeaker, saying the bridge is unstable and I’m making it worse, and I’m like, what? And then I grab this cable and comes loose below and now it’s swinging around, and Sarge has the bridge like swinging around, too, and these little speakers in each car with people screaming.
And he’s keeps telling me the bridge is unstable, dummy, and cars are sliding around, and the nuns are screaming and the kids are all up in the stands yelling and screaming and Roy and Evan are trying to catch cars to keep then from falling off and the bridge is really bouncing up and down and it’s like one little mistake and all this happens – And all I can hear are the stupid kids in the stupid bleachers laughing – laughing at me, laughing at the cars, and – they didn’t understand, dammit.
What didn’t they understand, Joey?
Those could be people hurt, people dying, and it would be my fault, but they just think it’s funny. And so I tell 'em, they think it’s funny? They think it’s so goddamn hysterical? If it was real, it would be horrible. And I try to show them just how horrible, and start pulling it all down.
You – pulled it –
I start yanking down on the cables there, hard, and pulling stuff down, and Sarge is yelling and, the kids are yelling, too, but they don’t think it’s so funny any more, and stuff is flying and bucking out of control and – and –
And she was there.
I didn’t know she’s in your gym class.
She’s not. She was just there. In front of the kids. Doing that gravity magic stuff she does, and protecting them, by making everything every heavy – the bridge, the cables, me. And there’s – there’s this explosion, but it’s like it’s heavy, too. And then –
Oh. Well, then, everything sort of stopped. And she was looking at me, and at Sarge, and at me, and the kids were all clapping and yelling her name and stuff. And I looked around and saw all the stuff I’d broken, and Evan and Roy are just staring at me, and Evan’s hair looks great and says he hopes they get a do-over, and Roy’s looking at Mette and smiling and – well, that was it.
That … was it?
Well, Sarge sent everyone off, locked down the gym, and handed me a broom. I spent the last four, five hours helping clean up. Clean up the mess I made.
I see. How do you –
How do I feel? Like shit. I mean, yeah, it was unfair, and the kids were being stupid, but I did it. I did the real damage. And that’s all they’re gonna talk about, and that’s all they should talk about.
I thought you said it wasn’t your fault.
It … well, it was. And it wasn’t. They didn’t make me do it, but – I just got so angry. So – yeah. She she –
Mette, she hustled out of there quickly, she doesn’t like applause, but she’s the real hero.
So … what did you learn from her?
Well, this was Applied Heroics, correct? If she was the hero, what did you learn?
She just – she got out there in front of folks, trying to protect them from danger, and made them safe, and then she split.
What were you trying to do during the exercise?
I – I was trying to get there first, beat Evan and Roy, make people see I was the hero.
So the hero thing – yeah, okay. Don’t need to bold-face it. I see.
You are a man of great passions, Joey. Apply those passions as you really want to, and you will go far.2
And let 'em mess me up, and I’ll tear the house down.
Melodramatically put, but not untrue. Which is a decision everyone faces, not just people in your line.
Maybe easier for some than for me.
Maybe. Or maybe you’re just more aware of the inside of your own head than the inside of others.
And with that, we’ll need to stop a little early. It is late, and I have to be going. And you probably have some homework to catch up on from the classes you had to miss.
Yeah, I – oh, uh, sorry – I bent the arms of the chair a bit. I’m sorry. I can – try and fix 'em.
No problem. I’ll ask Mr. Monopole to swing buy tomorrow morning to fix it.
Uh, okay. Thanks, Dr. Anton. Um. Have a good evening.
You, too, Joey.
1 The Capital Recovery After Super-Heroics Act, passed in 1978, and updated several times since then, updated the FEMA Act to provide federal loan guarantees, grants, and other interventions for damages caused by metahumans, with particular focus on making people good when super-heroes are involved in damage to property.
2 Take A Serious Blow doesn’t directly affect conditions or stats, even though Joey would likely carry multiple conditions from this escapade, or else Sarge might have (advertently or in-) shifted his stats during the clean-up process. Since that doesn’t / hasn’t happened, I tried to give the counselor an opportunity to neutralize it with some sage counsel. If we have ramifications next game that do have that impact, I’m wholly up for that, too.