In our ongoing lessons on story development, I give you part 9 of “Wanted, A Superhero to Save the World.”
In this excerpt, Eddie and Sam prepare to set out on an initial journey, hoping to gather what Eddie needs to fulfill Damocles’s mission for them. We learn more about Eddie’s character. He is driven by duty. He is also pragmatic in the way he handles his lovable but quirky sister. As in last week’s excerpt, a bit more back story comes to light–their mother’s work schedule and medication, which gives readers more reason to be concerned for the two young heroes.
Repeated lessons: Back story revelations need to come out naturally, character traits are revealed in early scenes, vulnerabilities are brought to light, and characters are impelled to make some kind of journey.
If you have any questions or comments, please post them.
How Can You Keep a Secret from a Sister Who Has Super Hearing?
Something bounced on my bed. “Get up, lazybones!”
I groaned. Sam’s voice. Perky. Annoying. The chirping of a songbird that needed to be strangled.
I half opened an eye. Rays of dawn peeked through our window. Since it was mid-July, it couldn’t be later than six. “Go back to bed.”
“But I’m not sleepy. And I’m hungry.”
I glanced at her arms—just as pumped as before. Her metabolism was still working overtime. “Then get a bowl of cereal. And don’t wake Mom up. It’s Saturday.”
Sam hopped off the bed and dashed out of the room, already dressed in jeans, T-shirt, and … I blinked. A red cape?
Sighing, I rolled out of bed and turned the computer on. An email message popped up—Jack from Electronics Depot.
Hey, Eddie. Got ten surplus solar cells you can have on the cheap. They’ll cost you just two hours of play time with your VR helmet. But you have to unlock all the beta weapons. I want to try the atomic cannon against the glowbots. Let me know.
I closed the message. No time to barter with Jack. I plugged my hologram projector’s interface cable into the computer and copied the digitized image of Damocles from the thumb drive to the main unit. It took longer than usual. Probably a high-resolution image.
When it finished, I dialed up the image, pointed the projector at the bedroom floor, and pressed the button. In the usual flash of light, Damocles appeared, clear and life-size, once again wearing his cowl and weapons belt. Yet, he was motionless, standing at attention as if waiting for a command.
A voice came from my computer. “Does your projector have an AI processor?”
I looked back at the computer. On the screen, Damocles stood next to the lab table, a magazine spread out over his hands. He flipped a page as if casually browsing ads for mad-scientist gear.
I shook my head. “It’s just a projector, like a dumb terminal.”
“Then you’ll have to use mine.” Damocles looked up from the magazine and touched his waist. “You’ll find it on my belt.”
I grabbed the belt from the floor and searched the various pouches until I came across a gun-like device that resembled my own projector. I pulled it out and squeezed the trigger. It buzzed, and a flicker of light emanated. Then it smoked and sizzled and grew scalding hot. I dropped it and blew on my hand. “I think the net fried it.”
Damocles nodded. “The Internet has many viruses. They can cause computer programs to malfunction.”
“Not the Internet. The electrified net that fell on you. It cooked the projector.”
“Ah! Then try mine. You’ll find it on my belt.”
“Stupid, buggy program.” I leaned closer and spoke slowly. “Listen carefully. The hologram projector that you had on your belt is malfunctioning. I don’t have access to a projector that has artificial intelligence capabilities.”
“Then you will have to get a new one.” Damocles flipped through the magazine and stopped on a page. He ripped it out and threw it at the screen. An Internet ad from Electronics Depot appeared showing a handheld computer that included a 360-degree camera and life-tech speakers, the exact device I had dreamed of getting for weeks.
“I saw your email,” Damocles said. “So I found this ad. Make Jack an offer for it. Then you’ll be able to animate the hologram so it can respond to its surroundings.”
“I don’t have anything worth that much. I just trade for parts and build stuff myself.”
Damocles let out an exaggerated sigh. “Then Mephisto will find out that I’m dead. He will unleash a storm of crime on Nirvana that will destroy homes, families, and … and whatever else gets destroyed in crime storms.”
“Don’t try the guilt trip. I’m not gullible. I just don’t have anything—”
“You have the VR helmet. Offer it to Jack, and he can atomic blast virtual-reality glowbots forever.”
“But it took me two months to build that helmet. It’s my main way of getting the parts I need.”
“Suit yourself.” Damocles rolled the magazine into a tube. “I’m dead, so Mephisto’s cruel oppressions won’t affect me, but you have your injured sister to consider.”
“She’s not injured. Her name is Hertz. And I told you to stop the guilt trip.”
“It’s in my programming. If guilt doesn’t work, shame is next. I plan to talk about how it seems that I chose the wrong person, that I died thinking a courageous young man would step into my shoes and—”
“All right. All right. I’ll make the offer.” I glared at the screen. Damocles said to ignore the AI unit’s attitude. The real Damocles would never be so manipulative. Anyone who would remember so much about my art entry had to have a heart of gold.
I stepped into my closet and grabbed the VR helmet from the floor. While I was in there, the black-widow switch caught my attention. The generator had been recharging for several hours. Maybe it would work on me this time. I flipped the switch up. The light flashed on. Again, tingles crawled along my skin.
When the light turned off, I stepped out of the closet and flexed my biceps—defined and wiry, but no bigger. Time would tell if it worked.
I got dressed in jeans and a Nirvana University polo shirt, the one with the boxing pig on the front. Jack was a big fan of the Fighting Warthogs. He always worked on Saturday, and since they opened at nine, I had plenty of time to get there.
After using the bathroom, I hurried to our eat-in kitchen. Sam sat at the three-person table on the near side, shoveling a big spoon from a huge salad bowl. “There’s enough cereal for you,” she said as soggy Cheerios spilled from her mouth, “but we’re out of milk.”
“I’m not surprised. The way you’re eating, I think we’ll need to rent a cow.”
She swallowed her mouthful and stared at me. “Why that shirt? You going somewhere?”
“Yeah. To Electronics Depot.” I looked at her arms. They were slightly smaller than before, but maybe because she was relaxing them. Still, I needed to keep an eye on her. Since Milligan seemed to be a night crawler, Mom would be safe this time of day. “Want to come with me?”
“Sure!” She stood on her chair and leaped to the floor, making her cape billow.
I touched the red towel’s frayed edge. “You have to leave your cape here.”
“But I’m a superhero now.”
I nodded. The best way to convince her might be to play along. “Listen, Sam. Every superhero has a secret identity. If you go around with a cape, everyone will know that Samantha Hertz and …” I searched my memory. That crazy name was in my brain somewhere. “Princess Queenie Unicorn Iris Ponyrider Buttercup Olive Lover Rosey Is Posey are one and the same person.”
“You got it wrong.”
“The name? No, I’m sure you said—”
She shook her head hard. “You got it wrong. I’m Princess Queenie Unicorn Alice Rosey Posey Buttercup Iris Tassels.”
“Stop it!” She crossed her arms tightly. “Say it right, or I’m wearing the cape to Electronics Depot.”
“Okay, okay.” I looked her in the eye. “You’re Princess Queenie Unicorn Alice Rosey Posey Buttercup Iris Tassels.”
“Perfect.” She detached the cape and hung it over her chair. “Are we taking the bus?”
“I wish.” I suppressed a frown. “We have to walk there. I have just enough bus fare to get downtown and back tonight, but maybe I can squeeze some money out of Jack, and we can ride home.”
“And a snow cone?”
“We’ll see.” I combed my fingers through her unruly locks. “If you brush your hair and put a pink ribbon in it, maybe that’ll help our cause.”
“Goody.” She skipped to the bathroom and disappeared inside.
I grabbed pen and paper and wrote a quick note for Mom. Since she worked till eleven last night, she would probably sleep past seven. No use waking her.
With note in hand, I tiptoed to her bedroom. The door was ajar. I peeked in. She lay asleep, curled on her side. Again on tiptoes, I sneaked in and laid the note on her night table. A pill bottle sat next to the lamp. Unusual. I hadn’t heard her say anything about being sick.
I leaned close and read the bottle’s label—Nexium. It sounded familiar. Something for ulcers, maybe? I could look it up later.
Categories: Story Development