As it begins to kick in Polly is fascinated with how the water moves over her hands quite separate from her skin; she feels she could peel it away in one clean sheet and hold it up to the light like a piece of paper. The faint impression of a pencil across the pad, words of warning sliding across the back of her hands and into the drain.

It’s a strange feeling. She soliloquizes:

What is this wonder,
This inexpressible strangeness?

Voices come into the outer room, singing. She recognizes the tune, but the words are distorted and alien.


When it is fully upon her like a pale rider she slips the window open and leans far out into the dry air of October. Far to the north sparks are leaping up from the bonfire and she can just make out, with her augmented vision, tiny figures dancing in front of it. She leans farther forward and lets the air carry her upward.

Flying is wonderful, but she has business to tend to, and the vitamins distort her time sense. How long has passed, how long does she have? She soliloquizes:

What need has the world
Of speed of lightning,
or roar of thunder?

Low Profile

for Simon and Stephen

The good doctor was evasive about where he’d gotten the armor. “It’s spidersilk, that’s all you need to know. Lighter than regular silk, stronger than kevlar; it stops bullets, knives, breathes like it’s not there, won’t burn, keeps you warm at night, etcetera, etcetera.”

“I dunno, Doc,” said Dan, “sounds like science fiction to me. I thought nobody could get enough spidersilk together to make a washcloth, nevermind a whole set of long underwear.” He scratched the back of his neck where the hair tapered off. Wouldn’t the heat ever break?

The doctor laughed and wouldn’t look him in the eye. He was a shifty sort, but he’d saved Dan’s life, so he felt like he owed the old coot something. “Listen, my boy, don’t you worry about any of that. It’s my little secret. Hrm, yes! A special kind of new vitamin, makes the little darlings pump out silk a mile a minute. But no one will believe me, not after… after…” He trailed off and muttered into his patchy beard, slobbering at the fringe around his mouth. “Anyway, you’re going to be my proof. You’re going to be my living legend!”

“Well, maybe,” said Dan. “Doesn’t sound too bad. And the punks in this town have been getting out of hand. I’m not going to wear your longjohns and nothing else, though. That’s out. I’ve got an old army duster that I could use. If anyone asks, though, I’ll let ’em know about my magic underwear.”

The doctor capered in delight, and Dan dripped sweat and cursed the old monkey and the city equally. Wouldn’t this heat wave ever break?

Reclaimed Lands

Team One keeps the golf course in order. Really good order. You don’t mess with Team One. Take a cart off the trails, refuse to let people play through, and they’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks. They’re the first foursome off the tees in the morning, and the last one back in the evening. On the front nine they discuss policy, and on the back nine industry tittle tattle.

“Big changes on the Board,” said Mr. Eagle, on number 12 — a par 3 over a water trap.

“Oh?” said Falcon, leaning on his bag. Team One doesn’t believe in caddies — it’s not like they get tired. They take a different one out every day, though, and tip exceedingly well; it doesn’t pay to have your staff resent you. “I haven’t been following it much lately. What’s the news?”

“Fresh blood, isn’t it?” Blind Justice has the worst handicap of the four — almost twenty strokes! — but he’s held the top spot on the Board for years. “Seems I heard something about that.”

“The Biker’s taken a protege.” Mr. Eagle, true to his name, aces the hole. “Word’s going round that there might be a new team forming.”

Falcon snorted. “The Biker, phoo. No class. No style. Where’s the glitz?” Falcon’s a snob.

“Show some respect, Falcon.” The Ombudsman doesn’t play, but he likes the walk. “Team One’s a job, not a legacy. You could be replaced.”

“You can’t replace me,” screeched Falcon. “My legions of black magic zombies…!”

“Can and will,” said Mr. Eagle. “What have you done for the city lately?”

James Cardigan

James Cardigan was a tiny, tiny boy but he had muscles like rope. He never took his shirt off so no one knew. He saw the athletes walk down the hallways of Tahoma High School, all neck and shoulders and he smiled to himself. He’d have a hard time of it except he was good at things, quick up the rope and more or less competent at football and basketball so he was pretty much invisible.

Of course he couldn’t keep that sort of thing up for long. Sooner or later you get found out, and James Cardigan got outed on a balmy May day when one of the hovercrafts climbed up the canal wall and landed atop an entire class of eighth graders come to look at the school they were doomed to attend next year. He didn’t have much use for eighth graders having been one himself until recently, but on the other hand death by hovercraft seemed a little excessive. So out he went and sank his fingers into the black flap of the skirt and hauled the thing back to the canal.

Well, after that they wouldn’t leave him alone. He was just about to drop out of school when the Biker showed up on his doorstep, hair stiff with glue, and said, “Come on.”

The Biker Wears a Mohawk

The Biker didn’t get a whole lot of respect from either the law-abiding townspeople or the other superheroes, but that was because none of them ever looked at the scoreboard Omsbudsman Morris had set up. His record was the best in the city after Blind Justice. Everyone saw him pedalling around town like a madman, terry-cloth cape belled out behind him like the wings of Nemesis, cheap polarized sunglasses covering his eyes, and just saw the seventeen year old punk underneath. Maybe if his bike had been nicer, instead of the cheap six-speed road bike that it was; maybe if he’d done more with the bike, fought with it, did tricks, or something. He didn’t — that wasn’t his style — but then he didn’t worry too much about respect, either. He didn’t follow the scoreboard, either, though he knew in a general way where he stood.

Mostly he just ran down criminals and kept the streets safe between 18th and 35th; between Hewitt and Rucker. In those 391 blocks he was uncontested, and not a little feared. The little kids loved him, and ran after his bike when he went zipping past, shouting his name. The older kids used to hassle him, throw rocks and worse things, but he ran a couple of them down and after that they left him alone. Nights, thugs and bullyboys trembled at the zizz of wheels on concrete; they didn’t run, though. They knew.