“So have you guys thought of a team name yet?” Shay asked.
“Why do you and Carter feel we need a name so badly?”
We were riding down the street on our motorcycles, so to hear each other we were both talking very loudly.
“All of the great super hero teams have had names. Of course I’m sure you know the Guardianship, but just for example, there was also Network H, The Power Posse, heck, there was even a team of sidekicks called the Adolescent Adventurers.”
“Yeeeeeeeeeeah,” I said, stretching out the word. “Those all sound really stupid.”
“Heh,” she said, chuckling. “Maybe some of them are kind of outdated, but a team name serves the same role as a hero name. It gives people someone, or in this case, someones to look up to.”
Continuing the route Shay had plotted out for patrolling, we made a sharp right turn on Bach Street. The area was still somewhat damaged from Carter and Raina’s fight with Raina’s team of super villains.
“You might remember I didn’t pick to have a hero name either,” I said. “Raina just sprang that on me.”
“You could have done a lot worse for a hero name than Decker. She could have called you Righty.”
Naturally, she was staring at my arm.
“Very funny,” I grumbled.
I didn’t even care about my arm that much. That day I’d fought Smog, he took someone away from me. For that, he would pay.
“Hm,” Shay mumbled.
“What is it?”
“Nothing. Just appreciating your bike. It’s pretty sick.”
“Yeah it is!” I said excitedly, sticking out my tongue. “It’s actually what got Eve to notice me in the first place. If it wasn’t for this bike, I never would have gotten involved with any of you.”
Even though I was still smiling, it suddenly dawned on me that if I’d never come to Bluejay, Erica would still be alive.
“Well I can certainly see why it interested her. A custom 1970 Fierce Scrambler isn’t anything to sneeze at. But…”
Did she have a problem with my bike? No one had a problem with my bike.
Shay shook her head.
“Nothing, just a dumb thought.” Thinking anything bad about my bike is indeed a dumb thought indeed. “Say, where did you get that thing anyway?”
Going without a hand on the handlebar for a moment, I scratched my head.
“Dunno. When I woke up 14 years ago without my memories, all I had with me was this bike.” Grabbing the handlebar, I stared down. “We’ve been through a lot together.”
Shay mouthed something that I couldn’t quite make out. If she wasn’t speaking it, it wasn’t my business, so I decided to ignore it.
“What about your bike?” I asked. “Most motorcycles don’t come looking like a panda.”
“When I got it, it was nothing special. But, a few modifications to the engine and a kick ass paint job later, and it was ready to be the new Pandacycle.”
She’d really put a lot of work into this thing. The white and black pattern on the bike matched that of a panda pretty well, and the eyes she’d painted on the front, while really silly, still looked realistic. Plus who knows what she did to the engine.
“Carter never told me you were an artist,” I said.
“I’m sure there’s a lot about me you don’t know. Then again, I’m sure that runs both ways.”
She wasn’t wrong.
“Alright, what’s something…”
“Hold that thought,” Shay said, interrupting me, stopping her bike short.
I followed suit, and noticed what she had seen.
In an alleyway, two muggers had cornered a bespectacled young man with a pile of books in his hands.
“I’ll blow their kneecaps out, and you get the kid to safety. Sound good?” I asked.
“Negative,” she responded. “Bullet wounds could lead to continuous medical treatment, which, once they’re in prison, might be paid for with taxpayer money.”
Shay definitely shared her brother’s desire to help everyone out in any little way she could. But she had something he didn’t. Brains.
“So what’s your plan?” I asked.
“I’ll take them down. You stand by in case they have any friends on look out who try to get the drop on me.”
Not even bothering to wait to see if I was okay with the plan, which I was, Shay got off her bike and ran towards the alley.
Eve had told me Shay was a great fighter. Time to see for myself if that was true.
“Come on guy, just give us what we want,” I could hear one of the criminals say.
Even from a distance, I could see the kid’s face lighten up.
“What are you smiling about?” the other mugger asked.
As if to answer the question, Shay whistled.
The two muggers turned around, and stepped back in fear upon seeing Panda.
“I know times are tough, but mugging someone is still wrong. You haven’t hurt anyone, so if you leave now, no one will get hurt.”
No, she wasn’t seriously going to let these guys go, was she?
“Hey, wait a second,” one of the muggers said. “I recognize that costume. She’s the new Panda or whatever.” He smirked. “She don’t got any powers.”
The other mugger matched his partner’s smirk, and they both pulled out knives.
“Well this sucks. Now I have to hurt you.”
The two men charged at Panda, slashing at her with their knives. In one fluid motion, Shay ducked under the knife slashes, punched both of the crooks in the stomach, and jumped up, kneeing one of the guys in the face.
“Fuckin bitch,” the guy who hadn’t gotten hit by her knee said, pulling out a gun.
“Shit,” I said, getting ready to move in.
Before I could do anything, he fired at Panda at almost point blank range.
I thought she was dead.
But no. She dodged the bullet, just tilting her head out of the way. Without any powers.
“The fuck?” I asked myself.
Shay whipped out a baton, using it to knock the gun out of the man’s hand before he could fire again. She punched him in the neck with her empty hand, and with him off balance, she swept his legs, sending him to the ground.
“Wow. She is good,” I said.
“Hey hoar!” the man who’d gotten kneed said. I hadn’t noticed before since I’d been focused on Shay, but he’d gotten over the kid in the glasses and put his knife to his throat. “Beat it now, or I kill him.”
She’d said she wanted to handle this on her own. I was worried about the kid, but I was going to let this play out.
Slowly, Panda paced back, not making any sudden movements.
The asshole with the knife, continuing to hold it against the boy’s throat, started making his way out of the alley. He nodded.
And I saw where the nod was directed at.
There was a burgundy car parked across the street from me, right by the alley. And there was someone in the driver’s seat.
“Not a chance,” I said, pulling out Lillian.
Um, is something happening?I was sleeping.
Quickly taking aim, I shot at the window of the car I’d deduced a getaway driver was in. I could have blown out his tires, but I was itching for a good chase.
“Where did that gun shot come from?” the asshole asked, freaking out, momentarily moving his knife hand away from the kid’s neck.”
“Seize the moment, Shay,” I said to myself, revving up my bike.
In what was frankly an unexpected move, Panda took her baton and thrust it at the bastard’s dick. The guy dropped his knife and fell the ground. I had to give her props. Most people consider going for the cock a cheap shot. These people are dumbasses. In a fight, all that matters is winning, and a good shot to the dick will de-power most men.
The burgundy car started to drive off, which meant it was finally time to get some action for myself.
Driving after him, Lillian asked, You wanna tell me what’s going on here?
“Just some punks,” I answered. “You should know I don’t make a habit of dealing with small fry like this. It’s the big bad’s and super villains I concern myself with usually. Like that bastard Esteban you used to be with.”
When are we gonna kill him, anyway?
“I’m working on tracking him down.” My bike could go upwards of 200 mph, but I wasn’t in a rush. Even so, I kind of wanted to make sure Shay was alright, so I decided to take the driver down. “Alright, let’s do this.”
I drove up next to him, matching his car’s speed, and aimed Lillian at his head.
“Oh shit!” he shouted, ducking down and driving faster.
“Come on bitch,” I said, shooting out all of his windows.
“Since when do super heroes use guns?” he asked in a panicked voice.
“When are people gonna get it through their skulls that I’m not a fucking super hero?”
Shay probably wouldn’t like it if I killed this guy, so I decided to take him down non-lethally. Besides, without Erica, I had no way of telling whether or not he’d actually done anything wrong yet.
I drove up really close to the car, being careful not to scratch up my bike’s paint job, and started shooting at everything in the car except for the driver.
“Ahh,” he shouted. “Please stop!”
The driver stopped short, and because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, he sent himself flying to the back of the car.
He wasn’t going anywhere, so I took the time to park my bike before going back over to him.
As I entered the car, I heard him shout, “Please don’t kill me! I surrender!”
“I know,” I said, knocking him out with Lillian’s butt.
That feel good?
“The chase was short but sweet. Really made me wanna take on another speedster,” I said, walking back over to my bike.
How the Hell did you ever fight a speedster?
“I’m just that good.”
When I returned to the alley way, I saw Panda beating one guy’s head against a brick wall.
“Decker, you got the getaway driver?” Shay asked, dropping the criminal and walking over to me.
“Uh, yeah,” I said, a little confused. “Hey I thought you were against killing,” I said, looking over into the alley at the two battered, beaten, bloody, unconscious bodies.
“I am,” she responded. “I wasn’t using enough force to kill them.”
“Oh,” I nodded. “So how did you…”
“Hold that thought,” Shay cut me off, putting away her baton, and taking out her cell phone.
“Captain Troyan, this is Panda,” Shay said to her ex boss over the phone in a deep, gravely voice. “There are three unconscious criminals who I’ve left for you along Saxon Ave. I found them committing armed robbery. Best of luck with them.”
With that, she hung up.
“Your old boss really can’t recognize your voice?” I asked.
“Honestly, he probably can, but considering how much he hates you, Raina, and Carter, I think he’s just glad an ex-cop is out here helping people.”
“And he hates us why?” I asked, rubbing my eye.
“Different reasons. He doesn’t trust Lightning Bee because there’s always collateral damage in his fights, he doesn’t like Fencer because she “killed” Queen, and you he just doesn’t know anything about.”
“Got it,” I said, the two of us going over to our respective vehicles.
We started driving, not in any particular direction, just enjoying the ride.
“So you were kicking ass back there,” I said.
“Thanks. Would have been cool if one of them had a power though. Ever since I lost against Olivia, I’ve been wanting another shot at a Demigod.”
“Wow,” I said in surprise. “You fought Olivia, and she didn’t kill you?”
“Only because Raina, who was in her psycho phase, told her not to, If she hadn’t, Carter and I would have been dead.”
“Shit.” Just then, I remembered what I’d wanted to say before. “So if you don’t mind me asking, how the flying fuck did you dodge a bullet?! I mean the gun was right by you!”
“Oh boy. Um, that’s a long story.”
“I’ve got nothing but time.”
Well, time and anger management issues, but that was irrelevant.
“Alright, I’ll tell you, but let’s park somewhere first.”
After driving around for a few more minutes, we ended up close to the city border at some big ass fountain. The water looked kinda nice, but it was all made a little goofy by the fact that the water was coming out of a statue of some old water based hero. Shay could probably tell me the guy’s entire history.
“So spill,” I said as we sat down on a bench in front of the fountain. “How does a woman without any powers dodge a bullet?”
Before she started talking, Shay brushed her long brown hair back.
“You know how most girls have sweet 16’s? Well, I didn’t. I asked my parents if I could use the money they’d been saving up for it to get a test to see if I’d ever develop powers.”
“Weren’t those tests proven to be complete hoaxes a few years back?” I asked.
“Yeah. But I thought they were legit back then. So, I got the test, and the doctors told me I was never gonna get any powers. Who knows if that’s true now, but back then, I was heartbroken. I just wanted to be a hero, you know? The next few weeks I started going through all my super hero merch, really thinking about what I was going to do. It all became clear to me though when I found some old tapes which featured Panda in action. The way he was able to keep up with the rest of the Guardianship; it inspired me.”
“So you started taking self defense classes?” I asked.
“Not quite. I, um, started watching all the tapes of Panda I could get my hands on, and I began teaching myself all of the moves I saw him use. I also started tinkering around, since what would Panda be without gadgets, right? I haven’t had too much success, but right now, I’ve got wrist mounted mace blasters I whipped up, on.”
“That’s pretty sick, but you still haven’t told me how you dodge bullets.”
“I was just about to get to that,” she responded. “I knew if I was really going to be a hero without any powers, especially without a team, I was gonna have to be better than human. I knew I’d have to train myself in ways no sane person would.”
“Soooooo?” I asked, getting really curious now.
“So, I took my dad’s gun from his draw every night, loaded it with rubber bullets, and…”
“Holy shit!” I shouted. “You shot yourself?!”
“Why do you think my nose is so big?” she asked rhetorically. “It got hit by so many bullets, it became permanently big and swollen.”
“God damn,” I muttered.
“It was pretty intense. But after doing that for five years, I eventually picked up the ability to dodge bullets, and for the most part, any projectile.”
“God damn!” I shouted this time. “And all this time I thought you were the sane one!”
Shay, still smiling, asked, “And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“It’s just that Raina and I are a whole mess of mental issues, Olivia and Eve are basically sociopaths, and Carter’s…Carter. I thought you were boring, but you’re just as nuts as the rest of us!” I don’t know why, but I sounded really happy.
Shay not so lightly punched my shoulder.
“I admit it wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but I think it was worth it.” Shay bit her lip and stared at me. “So what did Carter do that gave it away?”
“Gave what away?” I asked.
“I think I first realized it when he shot me with lightning,” I answered in a jovial tone, really not sure what she was talking about.
“No, I mean, about his condition.”
“His what now?”
“You know, he’s…oh shit you didn’t know.” Shay’s face fell into her hands.
“What are you talking about?”
“Damn. Really should have kept my mouth shut.” She resumed staring at me. “Promise you won’t tell Carter what I’m about to tell you?”
“Okay,” Shay started. “Carter’s not just a little dim. He has PDD.”
“PD, what now?”
“This is a bit of a gross simplification, but it basically means he has mild Autism.”
“That explains way too much,” I said.
Shay punched me a lot harder than she had before.
“Don’t talk about my brother like that.”
“But you just said…”
“Forget it,” Shay said, standing up. She pulled out her phone and said, “It’s 2AM. You wanna go home, or do you wanna get changed and see the most awesome place in the city?”
“You even have to ask?”
As I got back onto my bike, I was left curious as to what Shay viewed as super awesome.
“I swear if we’re going to the super hero museum…”
“This is most certainly not the super hero museum,” I said as we walked into the last place I thought a Myers would find fun.
Eve and I went to bars all the time, but this was one we’d never gone to. I knew for a fact that I’d never been here because I’d never been to a bar where there was a giant cage in the center where people fought each other.
“Pretty cool, huh?” Shay asked me.
“Yeah,” I said, a bit confused. “You come here to watch fights?”
“Fuck no,” she answered.
“Oh. So the food’s…”
“I come here to fight.”
As she walked over to the bat, I said, “I really have to stop underestimating this girl.”
“So how exactly does this work?” I asked, catching up to Shay, marching through the crowd.
“It’s not really complex. You sign up, and after all the people on the list in front of you get beaten down, you enter. Also, people place bets, but I don’t really care about that. Not like I make enough from this to pay the bills.”
“Sounds fun,” I said. “You got a good record?”
“Fucking grats,” I said, putting up my hand for a high five.”
Shay put on a type of a smile I usually only saw on Raina and Eve: an evil one.
“I wouldn’t be too excited,” she said. “Hey Morty,” she said, turning to the bartender. “It alright if after this match you let me go a round with the geezer.”
“For our top money maker, sure,” he answered, writing Shay’s name at the top of a list of names. “What’s your name?” he asked me.
“Malcolm,” I answered immediately. “Huh,” I mumbled to myself.”
I’d originally just come up with the name Malcolm on the fly so Eve didn’t think I was a weirdo. As far as I was concerned, I was still Bang. But all my friends called me Malcolm. And the public called me Decker. I just called myself Malcolm instinctively. Even my sisters had been calling me Malcolm.
Who was I?
Looking at the cage fight, I saw a ginger in a black tank top create a blinding light from his hands, and while his opponent shielded his eyes, he roundhouse kicked him in the side, sending him to the floor.
The crowd cheered, and after a few seconds, it was clear the guy wasn’t getting back up.
“And the winner of his sixth consecutive match is Zane Warent!” Morty shouted into a microphone sitting on the bar. “Alright Champ, you two are up.”
Shay walked towards the cage, and I followed her.
“Why exactly do you want to fight?” I asked.
“You’re the one teaching my baby brother how to defend himself. I just want to check your qualifications.”
“Alright everybody,” Morty started, “We’re gonna let Zane take a short brake, and in his place, stepping into the ring are Shay Myers, an unpowered, but undefeated fighter here at Morty’s, and Malcolm, a one armed, old man, who guess what, I’m putting 50 to 1 odds against! So come and place your bets!”
Everyone cheered again, as the two of us stepped into the cage.
With both arms, I have no doubt I could take down Shay. Only having one was going to make this a bit trickier. Sure it was a friendly fight, but I still didn’t like to lose.
While the bar’s patrons placed their bets, I observed Shay’s stance. It was a basic forward stance, so she wasn’t giving me any tell as to what her fighting style was. Sure I’d seen her fight in the alley, but that was from a distance, and she was fighting people who were armed.
“Alright!” Morty shouted. “All bets are in! The fight will begin in 3. 2. 1! Begin!”
There was no way I was gonna let Shay get an early edge, so I dashed at Shay as soon as the fight started and threw a right hook at her face.
Just as she’d done against the muggers, she effortlessly dodged my strike, ducking under my arm, and before I could move, she punched my elbow joint with heavy force.
“Ahh,” I groaned. My arm was simultaneously in numb and in pain. “What the Hell did you do?”
“Come at me again, and you might just figure it out,” she answered, bouncing around on her feet like a boxer.
“Fine,” I said.
Yeah she was goading me, but I had to attack anyway.
My arm was pretty much disabled, so I decided to try and sweep her legs.
She was just too fast though, jumping over my leg, and going directly into a spinning jump back kick. The kick nailed me right in the stomach, knocking me back a bit, and almost as if without thinking, she raised her light leg and kicked my right knee, sending me to the floor.
While down there, I realized how she fought.
All the time she’d spent dodging bullets, she didn’t just become really good at dodging projectiles. Her reaction speed for everything became inhuman. Even with all my years of fighting assholes, I still thought about each move I made. She didn’t have to.
I then had a second realization.
She was fighting with SCARS.
Special Combat Aggressive Reactionary System was a fighting style invented in the 80s. It’s a style all about acting and reacting, and disabling the opponent. No defense whatsoever. Perfect for someone with unnatural movement speed like Shay.
Wait. Why the fuck did I know any of that?
Before I could get back up, Shay put her foot in my face, keeping me on the floor.
A few seconds passed before Morty shouted, “No surprise here! The winner is our still undefeated champ, Shay Myers! Winners, come collect your bets. Zane, get back in the ring for your next match.”
Shay gave me a hand up and said, “Well that was disappointing.”
“I underestimated you, okay?” I said as we exited the cage.
“Yeah right,” she responded, going over to the bar to collect her winnings. “Are you sure I should trust you with training Carter?”
“Believe me, you can. What you did to yourself isn’t really teachable. He’ll never be as good as you. But I can sure as Hell try to teach him what I know.”
“I knew you couldn’t beat me. I just needed to make sure you wouldn’t throw in the towel after getting your ass kicked,” she explained, picking up what looked like 50 bucks from the bar.
“Well, I’m glad I passed,” I said smiling.
I’d now been beaten by and befriended by both of the Myers. They really weren’t like anyone else out there.
“Hey Shay, can we talk outside?” I asked.
“Sure,” she answered as we exited the bar.
“Alright, so here’s the thing,” I said, pulling out Lillian.
“Wow,” Shay said, stepping back. “Are you really gonna test me to see if I can dodge bullets.”
“What? Oh, no.” I said, understanding why she was confused. “It’s just that, well, um…”
“Say hi Lillian.”
She jumped back even further.
“Did that gun just fucking talk?” Shay asked, seriously freaked out.
“You can hear her?!” I asked with joy. “Eve wasn’t lying.”
“What are you talking about,” Shay asked. “And why is that gun talking?”
I have a name you know.
“Basically, all of my guns are alive. And they’re all like my little sisters. People used to call me crazy, but Carter talked to them, and then Eve told me everyone could hear them. I guess she was right.”
Shay just kept nodding for a few seconds, even after I was finished speaking.
“Alright, I’m good,” she said.
“Yeah. I figure we live in a world where people can do all sorts of weird shit. What’s so odd about living guns?”
Without thinking, I wrapped my arms around her.
“I think we’re gonna be great friends.”
“Yeah, big guy,” she said, hugging me back. “I think so too.”
Shay let go of me, and said, “Now lets head back inside. I think you could use a drink after the whooping I gave you.”
Shay went inside, but I stayed outside a little longer.
Eve was my best friend, but Shay was something else. She was cool, but she was also seriously tough. She had a good sense of humor, and…and…
I felt something in my pants.
“Oh shit, “ I said. “Carter’s gonna kill me.”