The FBI arrived shortly in the form of unmarked vans and cars. I’d explained the connection between Red Lightning, the ring in the picture, and Magnus to Isaac over the phone. When the FBI arrived, I showed them where the room was, but they didn’t need me after that.

They took the man I’d fought away in an ambulance. I watched the lights flash while standing on the sidewalk where we’d fought.

I walked away from the house, barely able to see the stars in the sky thanks to all the trees. The streetlights didn’t help either.

Not paying any attention to my surroundings, I thought about the last hour’s work. If I took what I’d done at all seriously, I ought to be turning myself in.

Crimes committed? Breaking into Magnus’ house, tapping his phone lines, bugging his house, and hurting some guy who had threatened me (but who, to be honest, had no real way to hurt me).

Crimes prevented/criminals caught? None to speak of so far.

Amusingly, Isaac Lim, the only law enforcement official I knew, had simply told me “good job” and called in a crew to confiscate the evidence I wanted.

Whatever had prompted Dad’s rant about how corrosive being a hero could become, he had a point. I’d just been given positive reinforcement for breaking into somebody’s house on a hunch. It made me wonder how far I could go before they tried to reel me in. On the other hand, the FBI had to have a policy against allowing teenage supers to do anything they wanted.

I was probably overthinking things as usual.

An annoyed voice shook me out of my ruminations. “So you’re just going to leave?”

In front of me a man-shaped cloak appeared, transparent at first, but slowly becoming more solid. Once the cloak became opaque, I realized I could see the hint of a face in the shadow of the hood.

“Dark Cloak?” I asked. He fit the description I’d read on Double V’s website. Dark Cloak was one of Chicago’s independent heroes. From what I remembered, he specialized in gang activity, but he hadn’t been doing very much in the past two years.

His voice told me something Double V hadn’t, however. He sounded my age, maybe a little older.

Ignoring me, he continued, “Whatever they’ve said, they don’t really give a damn about you. If something happens and you stop, they’ll move on to the next guy.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I followed less than half of that.”

“They’re using you. What’s to follow?”

I started to say something, but stopped. Being used wasn’t a worry, and Isaac hadn’t promised me anything besides assistance… I was more worried about becoming dependent on the FBI for things we could be doing ourselves.

“Don’t believe me?” he said. “I worked with them for years and then they told me to quit. I can’t say they didn’t have reasons for that, but I’m back now and they still aren't talking to me. Where’s the gratitude? I gave them Death Mask when I was just sixteen and I'm better than I was then.”

“I remember Death Mask,” I said.

It had been a big deal at three years ago. National news. I remembered seeing him on Late Night with David Letterman. Or was it Jay Leno?

“Well,” I said, “I probably ought to go. Got to get back home before my parents miss me, you know.”

He seemed to stiffen, but then made a small step toward me. “Don’t believe me then,” he said.

“It’s not about belief,” I said. “I just don’t think we’re in the same situation.”

Then I shot myself into the night sky.

Flying home toward Grand Lake across Lake Michigan, I wondered if he’d been the client Dad had talked about.

For a moment, I wished I’d thought of it earlier, but decided it wouldn’t have made a difference. I couldn’t mention my dad without blowing my own secret identity, and he probably wouldn’t have taken the more general question, “Have you ever seen a psychologist?” particularly well.

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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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