The Dreamlanders

This is my origin story.

It's weird to think about it in those terms. Maybe I'm still not really used to it, even after all this time. That's a little ludicrous, I know.

There was no vat of chemicals, no radioactive spider, no government super-soldier experiment gone horribly awry. I just hit puberty and boom: strength, speed, healing, the whole thing.

No flying, though. And believe me, I jumped off a mess of roofs before I was sure I didn't get flying. I really wanted flying.

At first I just used it all to be the quarterback and get laid a lot. I was a teenager, all right? Leave me alone. There was no 'oh shit' moment, no epiphany. My parents didn't get murdered or hit by a car or anything. I just sort of grew up and decided to do good deeds.

It took me a week to find one. You'd think a superhero wouldn't have trouble finding someone in distress or a bank robbery or something. I suppose if I'd had a police scanner, it would've been simpler.

My first turned out to be a girl trapped in a burning car after rolling it on the highway out by the fairgrounds. I actually heard the crash while checking the mailbox. I didn't have a costume or a disguise made yet, so I hurriedly searched the hall closet until I found an old Halloween mask: Yoda.

Turns out those things melt when exposed to actual fire. Bad idea. But, healing, so, fine.

I got there before the cops, before fire-rescue, before everybody. Three miles in about eighteen seconds. It would've been less, but I had to keep it slow to go around stuff like buildings and thick stands of trees.

Again, I really wanted flying.

She wasn't burning yet, but she was choking on the smoke and cut up pretty bad. I ripped the top off the car and tore the seatbelt off the girl and lifted her out. Now I know about spinal injuries and not moving people and all that, but then, hey, I was just a kid myself. And I didn't paralyze her, so don't worry.

By the time I got her to the other side of the road and laid her in the grass comfortably, the mask was half-melted to my face and I could barely see, so I just took it off. The girl had been awake the whole time, had seen what I did, and had now seen my face.

That's Mandy, by the way.

She spent three days in the hospital, mostly for tests. My burns healed before fire-rescue even got to the scene. We told them I'd just been walking along the road and saw the accident happen. We told them the roof had been ripped open in the accident. We told them the seatbelt had failed on its own and Mandy had been ejected.

They told us she was one lucky young lady.

We started seeing each other. She swore to keep my secret. She asked a lot of questions, and I answered all the ones I could and we tried to figure out the answers to the others together. She gave me an old scanner that had been her uncle's. It got the police bands and the fire-rescue bands and maritime and everything; it was sweet.

My second was a guy who'd been trying to change a tire and gotten himself pinned under his car. I wore the half-melted Yoda mask to that one too. The guy was Spanish-speaking, and I have no idea what he said to me but it sounded understandably incredulous.

My third was a guy who tried to get his pickup across the tracks before the train came and failed. There was nothing I could do for him. I'd thrown the mask away by then but no one living saw me at the scene so it didn't matter.

So the first three were all cars. It's still mostly stuff with cars. People really need to be more careful in cars.

Mandy knew how to use a sewing machine and set to work making me a costume. I wanted red and yellow, which were our high school colors, but she overruled me as chair of the Costume Committee and make it black and silver.

I've gotta admit, it looks pretty cool. It's been ten years now and we haven't really changed it that much. It's now made of a space-age flame-retardant and bullet-resistant fabric that we get from our contact at the D.O.D., but it looks basically the same.

The move to the city was a tough one. Mandy was supposed to go to College in New York, and I was supposed to go to work at the plant, but by then we were a team. Only we couldn't tell anyone that. So we eloped.

Not as a cover story: we really did elope. It was also our cover story.

She did end up going to college, just for criminal justice instead of journalism. She didn't apply to the force when she graduated, although we talked about that: it might have been an advantage having her on the inside. This was before we hooked up with (then Sergeant) McLeary. This was before the other capes started showing up in 'news of the weird' pieces in the paper and on TV. This was before we were recruited by Project Dreamland.

We tried to get pregnant for a while, but I shoot blanks. Maybe it's a side-effect of whatever it is that makes me a Cape, maybe not. Anyhow, it simplifies things.

So we have an apartment downtown. It's nice. The Department of Defense pays the rent, and we keep up appearances: my landlord thinks I'm a trust-fund baby with a gold-digger first wife. We don't throw parties or have loud arguments and nobody bothers us until it's time to tip the super.

The other capes don't know our real names. McLeary doesn't even know. I think Dreamland One knows, has them in its files somewhere, but we're safe on that front: D1 will never have a drunken moment of weakness. It'll wipe itself baby-clean before it gives up a byte of the Dreamland files. And for that to be a necessity, the bad guys would first have to discover that D1 exists.

I'm not that worried about it.

About a week ago, the Speaker picked up a Ford Focus and threw it at me, down on 7th street in front of that really good deli, to cover his escape. There were a couple teenagers in it — the Ford Focus, not the deli — probably on a date. I caught the car, set it down gently, and asked if they were all right.

They were all right. They'd both wet themselves. It's not uncommon. Having your car used as projectile and diversion in a fight between your evolutionary successors can be traumatizing.

Anyway, it got me thinking about Mandy, and that road by the fairgrounds, and how much our lives have changed in ten years. I wondered if it's all been worth it.

Mostly, the answer is probably yes. I've done a lot of good. Mandy's helped enormously. I took down the Game Player, and Panix, and sent the Krivindi crawling back into their portal with their tails between their legs. The Speaker got away, but I'll get him next time. And those kids got to go on their date instead of to the hospital or the morgue. I assume they changed their pants.


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