Prometheus Thy Name is Captain
Author's note: I'm an avid reader of comic books and I've always wanted to do a superhero story. I wanted it to... Show full author's note »
A Beautiful AccidentThe mineral was just as he remembered it. Cool to the touch whilst radiating power. He placed the full of his hand on the object to run his fingers along it. He pressed his hand against the rock to feel it crack under his strength. In the beginning he’d been happy with power, proud of it. Now he just wanted to be cleansed of it. But this wasn’t why he was there.
He rubbed his thumb and forefinger around the heart shaped locket that hung around his neck. Inside was all that remained
“Captain?” an intern jumped off the top of the small hill. He then dramatically landed on one knee with his fist touching the ground. These days everyone landed like that, it was corny to begin with, but now it’d become a cliché.
“You can stand up now, son,” he winced recognizing the title he had once given to anyone younger than him. Old habits died hard. “I’m just taking a look at this. And just call me Dr. Falkman. I haven’t been The Captain in over a year and I intend to keep it that way.” He gestured at the large hill of tifarium protruding out of the ground. “Is this the smallest of the meteors?”
“It is, we call it Site 23C. Only meteor in Kansas,” the boy put his white gloved hand on the mineral, wonder in his eyes. “Why? Is there anything I can do for you?”
“I have it covered, thanks,” he shooed the intern away. He didn’t bother to watch the boy leap through the air. He’d had enough of that.
Instead, he placed the one hundred and twenty ninth electrode on the meteor and flipped a switch on the control panel in his hands. If everything went as he expected it would no one would even realize how close they were to-
“Eric!” his whole body tensed when the voice came from the sky. Dropping down graceful as a butterfly, Ray landed in the grass next to him. He was dressed in a suit and tie, his face made almost entirely of a grin. “It’s great to see you again. It’s been over a year.” He pulled him in for a tight hug. Eric stood stoic. “I couldn’t believe it when they told me you were here, I just had to see it for myself.”
“Flying, Ray?” Eric asked toying with the device in his hands. “I thought you didn’t have that.”
“Yet,” Ray smiled and slapped his brother on the shoulder, “I said I didn’t have it ‘yet’. But science has really improved since you left. Tifarium has opened a whole new world for us. The impossible became ‘give me a few minutes’ practically overnight. And it all started with you.” He looked at the electrode on the meteor. “Speaking of impossible, what lured you out of the observatory? I’ve been calling for months.”
“An experiment,” he turned several dials on the control panel in numerical order. The red button in the center glowed a deep crimson hue, staring back at him like an angry eye.
“You should’ve called me, I might’ve been able to lend a hand.”
“No, Ray. Wouldn’t want you to kill someone else’s wife.”
“That’s a low blow,” he crossed his arms over his broad chest, “you know it’s not my fault.”
“Do I really? Because I told you to destroy all the research of human trials with tifarium. Then you up and designed the whole damn process. Every few months I see an advertisement for advancement in human flight or a way to increase strength. These aren’t heroes anymore, they’re bipedal iPod’s.”
“How can you say that?” Ray asked, looking like a wounded puppy. “This has all been to make people more like you.”
Eric’s eyebrows rose, “I thought it was for making people understand what it’s like to be me.”
“That was until you retired and then locked yourself with a telescope,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean you’re forgotten. Your fan club is still popular. People are begging for your return more than the Rolling Stone reunion. They’d love it if you showed up for the unveiling of the new Tifarium Museum. They have a whole wing devoted just to us, the wax figures are amazing.”
“Yeah sure, maybe I can wear a t-shirt that says ‘Ray for Senator’ and sing the national anthem out of my butt,” Eric muttered.
“I know this is a hard time for you Eric but it would mean a lot to me,” Ray rested his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “People are looking up to me the same way they looked up to you. I was awarded Scientist of the Year three times in a row, people keep expecting new things from me. I can produce, but I want to do more. I want to lead people, like you did.”
“I didn’t lead, I was Ronald McDonald for the United States of Corny-Copia.”
“Eric. You were The Captain! You saved the world while doing so with style. You are the hero of every child in America. I can understand bitterness, but you’re saying that means nothing? A god doesn’t throw away power; he revels in it. He revels in it because he can do so much good.”
“You think I’m a god?” Eric asked. “Well then that means you’re a god then too, right?”
“Eric, what are you getting at?”
“How does it feel to have the power of a god?” he asked. “Does it feel good? And not just physical, mind you. You’re going for governmental power now right?”
“To help people,” Ray added, “I’m doing it to help people in ways physical power can’t.”
“That’s all this has been about,” Eric said in a chuckle. “Power, isn’t it? A god isn’t love or kindness or wisdom to you, is it? A god is just power. That’s why you think people can be them.”
“So what if I do?” Ray threw up his arms, “Is that wrong? This…” he placed his hand on the meteor, “this is power. But we were the ones that turned it into something useful. Isn’t it odd that God didn’t give us these powers from the beginning? If he wanted his creation modeled after him, then why didn’t he make us gods?”
“Maybe there was a reason for it. To make sure we don’t destroy ourselves.”
“Or maybe it’s because there is no God,” Ray said eyebrows cocked. “You ever think of that? Just think, if there was a God he would’ve given us these gifts. And even if he didn’t want us to have them, we have them anyway. Why doesn’t he destroy us?”
“He’s doing what I’m doing,” Eric put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “He’s giving you a final chance. Give up on this; this quest for power. I can see it in your eyes, Ray. What I never wanted to become. Take a step back and look at this world. You’ve unleashed power that we were never meant to have. People are dying, like my family. Ordinary people, caught in the crossfire of super people.”
“If you’re referring to the fight between the Copper Bullet and Venomite, it’s being dealt with. Venomite is already in prison and a memorial is being held for the humans who died.” Seeing his brother’s wide eyes he elaborated, “I announced free procedures for everyone who wanted power. Those people said no and suffered for it. I can’t help it if they wanted to stay human.”
“We’re both human,” Eric pleaded, “we’re not gods. We are people. We have flaws, dreams, desires, we make mistakes. I can tell the power is getting to you; you’re slipping. Ideas of grandeur. I mean, this isn’t even historically correct. Even Zeus had flaws.”
“The difference between me and Zeus is that I’m really powerful,” Ray turned away. “The world is changing, Eric. You’re still living in the past; you need to move forward. That’s where everything is going. We’re not human anymore. Accept it.”
“All I have left is my humanity,” Eric sighed. “I’ve lost everything else. I give that up and I’m nothing.”
“You still have me.”
“Then why do I feel like I lost you?” Eric asked. “Because from where I’m standing, you’re a god. And hard as I try I still can’t reach you.”
“I was wrong,” Ray snapped. “My campaign doesn’t need you. We’re living in the tomorrow now, your ideas just slow us down.”
“People who live in the past tend to see what’s coming. Could it be that you’re looking so far into the future you don’t see what happening now?”
“What do you mean?”
“Tifarium is dangerous. The more we use it, the closer we’re coming to the end,” Eric looked up at the stars.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Ray demanded. “What ‘end’? What aren’t you telling me?”
“I’m not even sure why I’m doing this?” Eric snickered looking at the electrode he placed on the rock. “The way things are headed I’m not sure we even deserve to live.” He closed his eyes but decided to give one last warning, “Ray, tifarium is magnetic. Not to metals, but to itself. This right here,” he rapped on the meteor, “Is positive. The negative is a asteroid belt short of Pluto.”
“There’s more of it?” Ray asked, eyes lighting up.
“Yes. But because we’re using it so much, radiating it at the rate we are will bring a chunk of tifarium the size of the moon crashing into Earth.”
“I’ll come up with a solution,” Ray began pacing. “Fight tifarium with tifarium. Simple. If we use up the amounts in North and South America I’ll be able to give people an even more concentrated dose. It’s like taking the training wheels off. With a few years of research we’ll be powerful enough to push the meteor into orbit with Mars, or maybe even Earth. A whole moon fit for mining.”
“Ray did you hear me? I said we need to stop using tifarium. Not more of it!”
“No, no, no, no, no Eric!” Ray laughed. “This is a chance for us to both be heroes. We can actually save the entire planet! I can give you even more power; you’ll be The Captain leading the charge. I can work with other scientists and diplomats to make you an even bigger symbol. This is your chance! To move back into the spotlight and be exactly how I see you. But this time, I can be right beside you.”
“I was right,” Eric murmured, “I did lose you.” He turned away, trying to hide a tear. He cleared his throat before saying, “I already have a solution. I’ve figured out a way to nullify the magnetic pull tifarium has. By doing so it will kill the radiation it gives off and otherwise leave it nothing more than a hunk of marble.”
With that, he pressed a blue button on the panel and waited. Ray was yelling something at him; he didn’t notice. He just stared at the mound of tifarium, hoping his math had been right. The electrode he placed before them glowed brightly from the power he’d connected to it from the nearby grid. Miles away from their deserted spot he saw the lights of the nearby city dim until they went black.
“There’s another way!” Ray reached out to pull off the electrode.
Slapping his brother’s hand away, Eric and Ray watched intently as the hill trembled. Little bits of tifarium trickled to the ground. Then sparks began shooting off of the hill, hitting Eric’s clothes making scorch marks.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” Eric muttered and pressed the button a second time to end the current. But the electricity continued to flow through it. The hill vibrated at a much faster rate now, a blur to the human eye. Ray grabbed Eric’s shoulder and pulled them backwards.
“What the hell did you do?!” Ray shouted as the hill cracked down the middle with a sound of lightning. “You’re killing it! Shut the damn thing off!” He slapped the control panel out of his brother’s hands. But it was already too late.
Then it burst into a flash of light. The second before Eric turned away he saw something in the flash. Something terrifying familiar. Something beautiful.
Then the hill disappeared, leaving a burn mark in the sand.