I could thank the fact that everyone else apparently had more of a social life than I did for HQ being empty Friday night. Normally Daniel and I might have done something, but he had something family related going. To hear him tell it, it didn’t sound fun.

I logged into the command console and found the files Isaac had sent me. It was all pictures and reports pulled from government databases that Isaac assured me we would soon be free to peruse ourselves. It included several hundred pages, including death certificates and photos.

I wasn’t going to finish all this tonight.

I walked to the kitchen and found more food than I’d expected—three-fourths of a large pepperoni pizza and a couple two liters of Coke (one of which was diet). Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have taken someone else’s food, but someone had written, “Eat me” on the pizza box and “Drink me” on the Coke in black marker. I poured some pop and warmed up a couple pieces of pizza in the microwave, hoping that taking the food would work out better for me than it had for Alice.

Then I walked back to the table and began to read.

For each number, they included basic personal information about the number’s owner, a criminal record if the person had one, and any relevant files that the government kept on them.

The one thing that most of the phone number’s owners had in common was being dead. Almost all of the dead people had died last weekend in Chicago during the massive dust-up between a few teams of supers and super powered gangs. From what the reports said, the people who had died weren’t gang members. They’d just died because they happened to be downtown during the fighting or because their apartment building happened to burn down that weekend.

I didn’t buy it and neither apparently did the FBI. The report pointed out each person who died worked directly or indirectly for Martin Magnus. I’d never heard of Magnus before, but according to the reports he invested in a lot of businesses and had a personal fortune of one hundred million dollars.

The FBI had investigated the connection between Magnus and the violence as far as they could. Magnus’ people didn’t have any obvious link to the violence outside of dying in it. They’d interviewed Magnus himself, but didn’t get anything worth including in their report.

I moved on, clicking through page after page of photos. Of all of them, one caught my interest. It showed an office in downtown Chicago. It was an insurance office owned by a person named Ron Hirschfield who had once been part of Martin Magnus’ personal staff.

The office had been ransacked. Files lay on the floor next to a dead man. His arms were outstretched in front of him. A golden ring inscribed with symbols glittered on his right hand. The FBI’s photographer must have thought it interesting too because the next photo showed a close up of the ring. The symbols were Egyptian hieroglyphics.

I’d seen those symbols before.

I got up and walked over to the cardboard boxes full of memorabilia. Reading the labels on the boxes, I found the ones from the destruction of Red Lightning’s lab, opening each individually. I dug through journals full of ranting and experimental chemistry, stoppered vials still containing colored liquids, and old tools that I didn't recognize.

I sorted through the boxes until I found Red Lightning’s uniforms. He had a lot. I suppose that's a necessity when you lead fanatic, drug addicted hordes.

The uniforms smelled like HQ--musty, but with a hint of cardboard. Like many costumes then as now, they were made from damage resistant material my grandfather had designed. The colors weren’t faded.

Gold, black and red, Red Lightning's costume had been designed in a pseudo-Egyptian style. A jagged bolt of red lightning ran through the middle of the chest under a gold arch decorated with Egyptian hieroglyphics. It was the same collection of symbols as on the ring.

Packed with the costume, of course, were Red Lightning’s crook and flail. I tried to remember what they could do, but it slipped my mind. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. Grandpa had undoubtedly left schematics and design notes somewhere.

I wondered if the FBI had made the connection with Red Lightning, but doubted it. The hieroglyphics on his chest were too small to be anything but blurry in photos.

So now, what was I supposed to do about it? It always seemed so much more obvious in stories.

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About the author


Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.

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