Earth's Hero (17,474 words) Prologue I fall a short distance out of the air into a crowd of dumbstruck bystanders. As I hit the gritty asphalt, I hear the behemoth airship scream through the sky as it plummets uncontrollably toward Tucson's mountains. Bobby lies on the street next to me. He appears knocked out but still alive. “Hey!” yells one of the bystanders. “It's the Harper brothers!” An echoing gasp reverberates around me, and someone in the crowd starts to clap. Within seconds it's a deafening roar of applause and cheers. People are crying tears of joy and shaking my hand. Two men help me stand up. I see the airship that has plagued us for so long head right into the Santa Catalina mountain range and crash. I hardly have a chance to take a breath, much less check on Bobby, when suddenly I am surrounded by microphones from ten different news channels. “Jesse Harper, we are hearing from around the globe that all the airships are crashing. The threat is over! How does it feel to have your brother and you be Earth's heroes?” I swallow hard and try not to look at them. If they only knew the truth. Chapter 1 It all started three long months ago when the gigantic airships came through holes in the sky. The first one showed up over Berlin, and the film of it looked so unreal. So unreal that it looked like some film editing trick. The footage was originally shot by a casual filmmaker who was recording clouds to be used with some soothing music for a hospice ward. He was one of the first to see a pulsating colorless hole suddenly appear in the sky over the city and the sharp nose of an airship poke through into our world. The nose was followed by what looked like a massive, metallic, and incredibly sturdy zeppelin that meant business. The airship was covered with protrusions like a sea anemone. Everybody's gut feeling was that the protrusions were weapons. Weapons that were meant to be used on us. The news of the Berlin airship spread like wildfire, but it was only the first of many. It was only a matter of days before every major city in the world had a scary-looking airship over its skyline. Needless to say, the number of insomniacs on the globe dramatically increased. “Maybe they're friendly!” was an often quoted hope that bounced around the world. Some people were ecstatic about the airships. It was said that the people at SETI threw a party that was “out of this world”. But I think most people were like me: scared about these blimps because they were something unknown. Perhaps the scariest thing about them was that they seemed to embrace their unknown identity and unknown purpose. Every communication to them came back silent, every airplane that got near them was ignored, and every one of the ships hung over their cities like a gigantic silent bomb ready to explode. The only good thing about them is that they seemed to unite the world. Every leader promised support and cooperation with whatever these airships brought. But after a month of everyone's best optimism, the fear of them crept in like water during a flood. Homes were being filled to the rafters with it, and everyone was drowning in fear. Well, almost everyone. Today started like every other fear-filled day as of late, but as usual my little brother Bobby woke up this morning without fear. Honestly, I think Bobby doesn't know when to be afraid. He instead woke up this morning overflowing with optimism like an idiot. The whole human race could be wiped out with only him remaining, and he would still wake up with a smile on his face. Optimism and hope, especially unfounded, coupled perfectly with a dose of unwarranted confidence is Bobby's mode of operation. What does that look like? Let me describe his typical morning: He starts by singing. He sings praises and nonsense while jumping up and down on his airplane shaped bed. Then he races down our family's hallway to the bathroom. He always runs too fast, misses the door, tries to change direction, and falls flat on his face. Every. Single. Day. Oh, you say, that's normal for a nine-year old boy. That's my point. Bobby's sixteen. Did I mention he always wears a cape with footed pajamas? Yeah, one with a big duct-taped “B” on the cape too. He always gets tangled in it when he falls, and it takes him five minutes to stand again. But falling on his face never fazes Bobby one bit, heck, like I said, he does it every day. Stupid idiot. After falling and untangling, he springs up like some infernal happy frog and bounds into the bathroom to brush his teeth. And floss. Oh my God, does he floss. Every day Bobby spends half an hour flossing his teeth. Somehow, he still gets cavities. Does that stop Bobby from smiling all the time? If only. After brushing and flossing, Bobby spends twenty minutes flexing his muscles. Sure, who doesn't flex a bicep now and then in front of the mirror? But I implore you to ask yourself, who ever makes it a point to flex every single one of his muscles every day? Take it from me, it looks weird to flex your chin muscle. Not to mention Bobby hardly has any muscle to flex. If a stick bug got run over by a steamroller, you would have something that would not look too unlike Bobby if you stuck some blond curly hair to it. I've told Bobby several times to shut the door when he gets ready in the morning, but he just smiles. That is really all Bobby does. He's quite likely the friendliest guy you will ever meet, and, more often than not, I find that fact incredibly annoying. Once his muscle show finishes, Bobby goes into his daily posing routine. Donning his trademark pristine Chicago Cubs baseball hat, put on backward like somebody who thinks the back of his neck is more important to protect than his face, he spends a half hour spinning around with ridiculous poses. Thumbs-up, winking, bursting into laughter, the ol' “oh I didn't see you there”, etc. . . . It's always painful to watch. Then after that, after all of that, he finally slides down the banister of our two-story house to greet the world. Bobby does that routine every day without fail. Even three months ago when the spaceships appeared I would still hear him thudding on his face and the five minute self struggle that ensued. His routine is important, so he claims, as it's Bobby's way to prepare himself to defeat evil and deliver justice. “All you need to defeat evil is to be fair, just, and smile like crazy!” is his overused motto. Apparently to defeat evil you also have to look like a complete idiot. I know it's hard to believe, but sometimes I get embarrassed by Bobby. Actually, that's only true if by “sometimes”, I mean, “all the time”. I was sitting at the breakfast table eating cereal this morning as I watched Bobby slide down the banister to the front door. Still in his cape and footed pajamas, he threw open the front door and stepped outside. I saw him through the window open his arms open wide as if he was going to hug existence. As always, Bobby took in an obnoxious amount of air through his nostrils. “Good morning world!” he declared with a dazzling smile into the crisp January air as our menacing airship hung over downtown Tucson in the distance. “I'm Bobby Harper, and I'm going to save you today!” This is what he had said everyday for the past year. And everyday, the world had ignored him. Little did we know this morning, Bobby was right, and I had to stop him. Chapter 2 Bobby's red cape blew in the wind as he raced back into our house with a scintillating smile. “Come on Jesse! Where's your smile?” he said. “It's a beautiful day, so much to see and do!” His optimism over the years had somehow made me cynical. I called it a defense mechanism. I grunted and shoveled another spoon of cereal into my mouth. I glanced outside and shuddered. Miles away the giant metallic airship still hung in the sky. I failed to see the beauty in it. Growing up, even before his superhero phase, Bobby had weird written all over him. I was only one year older than Bobby, but it seemed like we had centuries of differences between us. I hoped, even prayed, that we really weren't related. I wished that one day Bobby's real family would come by and pick him up. About five years ago my hopes were at an all time high. Most of the world became involved in what was called the Genetic Census. Officials all over the world took DNA samples from practically everybody for cataloging and analyzing that would hopefully lead to a cure for cancer and other genetic-linked diseases. I begged my parents to sign the waiver, and Bobby and I had our DNA analyzed as well. I sat at the mailbox for a month hoping for the report that proved that Bobby and I were not related. It never came. “I would much rather work on our invasion shelter, thank you very much,” I replied with my mouth full of cereal. I was in the business of staying alive. I mean, we all were. Everyone I knew was building a bunker-like shelter in their backyard just in case swarms of aliens emerged from the airships and infected us with gaping holes in our bodies. I watched the news often, and ever since the airships arrived it was just nonstop talk about them. Helicopters had gotten close enough to analyze their material a few weeks ago. They were made of a new hyper-dense alloy never before seen. A few days after that, the President had told the nation that their armor was so dense that even depleted-uranium shells wouldn't be able to pierce it. He told us scientists predicted our only hopeful weapon against such a ship was a nuclear strike. “Let us continue to pray that the residents of the ships are peaceful. There is nothing else we can do at this point. It is their move,” the President had said with an anxious look. Lately the news had been slow. Nothing new was being learned about the ships, and everything else seemed too trivial to report. But just in case of something new, I sat down this morning on our living room couch with my bowl of cereal and turned on the television, which turned out to be a huge mistake. “ . . . so if any of the public is interested in being a superhero,” the anchor on the morning news said, “please contact the nearest public health office.” “Whaaaaaa?” yelled Bobby as he, I'm pretty sure literally, flew into the living room. His cape smacked me in the face and knocked over my bowl of cereal as he rushed forward to press his face against the television screen. He grabbed the remote with shaky hands and fumbled with the rewind button. “Thank God I record all the news!” exclaimed Bobby. “I want to be a superhero!” His exclamation was an understatement. Even his ridiculous costume was an understatement compared to his passion to be a superhero. He wanted superpowers; possibly more than anyone else in the world. The passion started small about a year and a half ago when Bobby got into his head that he needed to help people. That idea mutated into a weird desire to be a hero. From there, he started smiling a lot. A lot. I was pretty sure he was on drugs. Nope. He just had a death grip on this crazy dream of his. He was in full superhero swing for a good year before the airships arrived. I rolled my eyes at his remark and tried to hold back my sarcasm. Living with Bobby gave me a lot of opportunities to be sarcastic. So many opportunities, in fact, that my sarcasm muscle was starting to feel tired. But being the awesome big brother that I was, I pulled together enough sarcasm to respond. “Really Bobby? I hadn't noticed.” “It's true Jesse! I want to be a superhero! I'm pretty sure you knew that. Gosh, your memory isn't too good, is it?” Bobby said with some concern in his voice. I was pretty sure Bobby didn't know a thing about sarcasm. As he rewound the news story, I watched the television report in reverse. The anchor had a worried look on his face, and the headlines made it seem like the airships finally made a move. Something had happened, and it did not seem like good news. I wished our mom and dad were around. They were both at a lawyer retreat in Hawaii and had been for several weeks. Many companies had encouraged their employees to hold off on travel, but our parents' firm encouraged it. Something about traveling in dangerous situations created more opportunities to sue. So I was the head of the household during a potential apocalypse. Thanks a lot mom and dad! Bobby found the start of the newscast and pressed play. Dave Hawthorne, our trusted anchorman for many years, had a concerned look on his face. His gray hair had seemed to take over his entire head in a matter of just the last three months. “Good morning Tucson, today we have a life-changing history-making news report. As many of you already know, it was discovered early this morning that all of the airships around the world had turned on a gigantic spotlight pointed onto the ground beneath them. Then just minutes ago a simple message in English was submitted across the radio waves: “Citizens of Earth. You have until the end of the day to move all residents inside the light to receive what you deserve. Anyone found outside the lighted area by the end of the day will be terminated to make way. Please send a message over the radio if you need the lighted area to be bigger. Thank you.” Dave Hawthorne paused and cleared his throat. “Well, at least they're accommodating.” He then broke down into tears. A ripple of fear coursed through my body. The message was surprisingly friendly sounding, but it was the scariest thing they could have sent. We were all waiting for a clear answer why the airships were here, and now the answer we received was incredibly vague and threatening. “That's the Dave I know!” declared Bobby, unfazed. “Always looking at the bright side! Boy! I can't wait to get what we deserve! It must be something good!” “I don't think it's something good Bobby,” I whispered solemnly. Bobby twisted his face into a rare frown. “Why not Jesse? If the other option is death, what we deserve must be good!” Bobby had a point, but there were things worse than death. “Maybe we deserve torture,” I muttered. “Humans aren't that bad!” stated Bobby. “It has to be something good! Like cake!” I was about to continue our fruitless argument when Dave composed himself and continued: “The President has classified this message as hostile and has announced the unveiling of a secret government project called Human Plus. Scientists have been secretly using the Genetic Census for the past five years to develop a serum that mutates the human genome to create superpowers. It hasn't been tested on humans yet, but in this time of potential apocalypse, the President welcomes anybody who would be willing to risk their life in service to the world. Here to talk a little about the serum is Dr. Peters, the head of research for project Human Plus.” A fifty year old bespectacled man with jet black hair and beard appeared on the television. I had seen him before on the cover of Forbes magazine. He was mostly known for his massive wealth and also for being one of the top scientists of the Genetic Census. Dr. Peters had a grave look on his face as he spoke: “Hello, I am Dr. Peters. I am the head of project Human Plus, which is my baby. It has always been my dream for humans to have superpowers. However, I figured it would be a few years from now when we started human testing.” Dr. Peters frowned and continued. “Lately we have been testing on mice. In mice the serum takes about three hours to take effect, and it has caused a multitude of effects. Well, technically it has not caused any superpowers at all yet. Not to mention it has caused cancer, a sudden dislike of cheese, and death. But seeing how by the end of the day we will all be dead or 'getting what we deserve', this may be the most reasonable thing to do. I have reason to believe that it will either work on humans or have no effect at all. Since the serum is based on human DNA and not mice DNA, I doubt humans will have any of the negative effects the mice showed. This may be humanity's only hope! Please consider taking my serum.” The TV cut back to Dave Hawthorne. “Thank you Dr. Peters,” he said. “The government has anticipated something like this so there is plenty of serum for any brave soul who wants it. So if any of the public is interested in being a superhero please go to your nearest public health office.” Dave signed off and the news story started to repeat. Bobby turned around from the television with the biggest grin I had ever seen. “Did you hear that!” yelled Bobby. He sprung up and started doing lunges around the room in his footed pajamas. Doing lunges was one of his victory dances. “I am going to be a superhero!” I groaned and held my head in my hands. Bobby was never going to shut up about being a superhero now. His annoying superhero phase just got kicked up several notches. I wished the aliens or whoever they were would just give me what I deserved already because I certainly didn't deserve this. Chapter 3 I couldn't let Bobby get the serum. I just couldn't. These were the thoughts running through my head as Bobby did the worm around the living room, which was another one of his victory dances. For starters, my parents would kill me. As one could already surmise, our parents were quite lassiez-faire with their parenting style, but one of my conversations with my mom stood out in my mind: “So Jesse,” my mom had said while she was texting on her phone. “Yeah?” I replied. I stopped what I was doing and looked at her. “Listen to me, will ya?” “I am listening.” “Stop what you're doing and listen to me!” My mom's thumbs continued to fly across her phone's screen. “Look mom, I am patiently waiting for you to talk to me. Look!” I sat down and stared at her. “Don't forget to put the green beans in some water to thaw them out for dinner, and don't ever let your brother do something to hurt himself .” Her eyes never left her phone's screen, but, for some reason, I remember her telling me to keep Bobby away from harm. Considering the fact that the superhero serum was untested on humans, it was certainly in the potentially harmful category. We had a better chance “getting what we deserve” and going with the masses. There was safety in numbers. But I also knew for certain that I had to let Bobby do it. Being a hero is all he talked about for the past year. It was the spark in his eyes, the gleam in his smile, and his unflappable hope how I knew it would break his heart if I stopped him from going through with it. He was going to try to be a superhero no matter what I did. Bobby started doing the macarena. He almost knocked over a lamp, and I decided to stop him before it got any uglier. “Hey Bobby.” “Yeah?” “You know mom wouldn't want you risk your life with this serum, right?” Bobby stood still. The smile vanished from his face. He knew I was right, and I knew I had him. He sat down on the couch and took off his cap. His curly blond hair was matted in his trademark hat hair style. “It's not fair,” he said after a minute. He looked at me. “All I ever wanted to do was help people in extraordinary ways, and this is like the opportunity is falling into my lap. The world could be about to end! What do we have to lose? Come on Jesse, we have to try! Don't you want superpowers?” My mind went blank. I honestly didn't know how to answer that. My mind was focused so much all the time on how Bobby wanted powers I never even considered if I would ever want them. “Think of it Jesse! Super strength! Being able to fly! Being able to shoot lightning out of your hands!” Bobby's face could hardly contain his smile. “How do we know what superpowers we would get Bobby?” I retorted. “For all we know, we could get a power that causes people to get constipated whenever we touch them. Or more importantly, we could die! The serum has barely been tested!” “But it could be an amazing power!” sang out Bobby. “As the person in charge here, I'm saying no.” We argued for a while, and Bobby finally sulked into his bedroom, but I seriously doubted our discussion was over. I fell down on the couch, turned the television off, and tried to relax. I almost drifted off to sleep when I heard the dull scrape of a window being slid open in the distance. I opened my eyes just in time to see Bobby running across our front yard. Great. I jumped off the couch, threw the front door open, and started chasing Bobby through our suburban neighborhood. “Bobby!” I yelled. He was easy to spot in the street. He still had his pajama cape combo on. “I have to go Jesse!” he yelled back. “It's my destiny!” I groaned and rolled my eyes. I started to sprint. Bobby was many things, but he was hardly a good runner. Within a minute I had caught up to him, and I tackled him to the ground on a neighbor's lawn. He was lucky he wasn't by one of our numerous neighbors who had gravel yards. “Let go!” yelled Bobby, as he pathetically tried to get out from the pin I put him in. I was only a year older but about twice Bobby's size. “If I got the serum, you wouldn't be able to pin me down like this!” “We're not getting the serum Bobby! We're just going to go into the light like everybody else. We're just going to get what we deserve.” Go into the light? I thought to myself as my words echoed in my head. Maybe Bobby was smart in resisting it. “Everybody should get what they deserve! It's justice! And what I deserve is to be a superhero!” exclaimed Bobby. I didn't want to argue with Bobby. Let someone else be the hero, I thought. I had to keep my brother and me safe. As Bobby squirmed underneath me, it was clear I would have to chain him down or let him get the serum. I needed a plan. As I threw him over my shoulder and carried him back to the house kicking and screaming, a plan formed in my mind. Sure, it involved tricking Bobby, but at least it would keep us safe for the time being. Well, at least that's what I thought at first. The truth was that I couldn't have been more horribly wrong. Chapter 4 Once we got back home Bobby sulked into his room and locked the door. I went into the kitchen and got out my phone. My plan relied on my buddy Daniel who worked at the public health office. If I could bring Bobby there and get Daniel to give him and me a fake shot, a placebo, that would probably be enough to shut Bobby up. Bobby would soon realize he didn't get any powers and be willing to go with me and everybody else into the spotlight. I sighed as I started to dial Daniel's number. Or knowing Bobby, I thought, he would probably start to exaggerate his normal abilities into quasi-superhero status. Sure, he would be more annoying, but at least he wouldn't try anything stupid. Or so I hoped. I finished dialing Daniel's number. “Hey Jesse,” he answered. “Hey, how's business? Are there lots of people signing up to be a superhero?” “Dude, there's a line around the block. Half of them are nut jobs, but the others are normal people. Are you going to join in on the fun?” “Is it safe?” “Shoot, no one has died yet. But again, no one has shown any superpowers yet. We still have about an hour or so until the first testers reach the three hour mark.” “Hey, I was wondering if you could do me a favor.” “Sure, just hurry up a bit, people are waiting here.” “I'm going to get the serum, and I'm going to bring Bobby,” “Bobby? Oh God. Not him.” “But here's the thing,” I continued, “I want you to give him and me a placebo. He really wants the serum, but my parents would kill me if he died on my watch. It's way too risky, but he is about to have a nervous breakdown because I'm not letting him get it. I think a placebo would calm him down.” “Sure, I'll just give you guys a little saline,” he paused. “Hey you! Stop trying to rip the sink from the counter! Hey listen, I gotta go.” I didn't even get a chance to say bye before he hung up. I walked over to Bobby's door. I could hear Bobby sobbing in his room. I knocked on his door. “Go away you coward!” he yelled through the door. “Why am I a coward?” I replied. His words stung. “Cause you're afraid of what I have to do! What I have to be!” He started bawling like an infant. I never considered keeping my brother safe a cowardly thing to do. “I'm afraid of losing you!” The words flew out of my mouth, and they surprised me. I had always hoped Bobby and I weren't related, but I guess the truth was part of me enjoyed our relationship. Probably a very small part, I lied to myself as I waited for a reply. Bobby opened his door. His eyes were red and his face was wet from tears. “I understand Jesse, I would hate to lose you as well. You're my only friend. The other kids in school won't even look at me without laughing. But this is the fate of the world we're talking about! We need to be heroes! We need to be willing to sacrifice!” I hesitated. This was the most down to Earth conversation I had ever had with my brother. I had no idea he had that sort of seriousness under that smile. I also don't think I had ever realized that I was his only friend. I felt a sudden tug of guilt for how much I wished he wasn't my brother. I also knew everything he said about somebody needing to be a hero was true, but the truth was that I did not want either him or me have to make that sacrifice. Let somebody else do it. I swallowed hard and drew the courage to continue with my plan to be a coward. “Bobby, I changed my mind. If you want to go get the serum, let's go.” “Really Jesse?” Bobby eyed me warily. “Just an hour ago you tackled me to stop me.” He rubbed his elbow. “Really Bobby,” I said with the most earnest look I could muster. “I can tell it means a lot to you.” I had hardly finished the last syllable and Bobby's face underwent a transformation. His red-eyed wet sorrow turned into a clear-eyed, dry-faced ecstatic joy. He had a huge grin on his face and not even a single tear was present on his skin. “Weren't you crying?” I asked. “Well, what are you waiting for?” yelled Bobby with a sparkling grin. “Onward!” His cape smacked me as he ran out to the car. I followed him. I wondered if my brother was bipolar. As we drove to the public health office, I was amazed by the number of cars on the I-10 freeway. Ever since the airships, the highway and streets had looked like a ghost town. People had come out usually when they had no other choice. Today there was a lot of traffic headed downtown in the direction of the spotlight under the airship. We joined the smaller group of traffic headed toward the public health office. We arrived at the public health office, and true to Daniel's word, there was a line of people around the single-story building. There was a slow steady stream of people exiting, and it was obvious who had just gotten the serum. People were jumping in the air, flapping their arms, and trying to sprint down the street. I saw a guy try to lift his car. No one was succeeding in doing anything extraordinary besides looking extraordinarily ridiculous. “Look at them,” said Bobby in awe. “Soon I will be just like them!” I bit my tongue. Bobby acted like those people most days. I pulled into a parking spot, and we approached a series of fold-out tables in the parking lot where people were registering. I signed my name next to a serial number. The middle-aged lady behind the table pulled out a metallic gun-looking device with a needle on the end. “Give me your forearm,” she said. “Why?” I demanded. I wasn't expecting to get poked twice! “We are implanting microchips in everyone getting the serum. They track where you are and also if you die or not. This way we can tell who the serum might have worked on.” “Die? How frequent is that happening?” I asked. I was glad we weren't getting the actual serum! I felt a small pinch as the lady inserted the needle into my forearm. “Enough that we are monitoring it,” said the lady. She motioned to me to get into the line that was around the building. Bobby gleefully accepted the microchip. “I'm a cyborg now!” he shouted as we arrived at our place in line. We were behind a couple in their seventies. The man turned around and gave Bobby the usual weird look he received from strangers and friends alike. “What's wrong with him?” he snapped. “What isn't?” I replied as usual. “But as you can tell, my brother here is going to be a superhero!” Bobby gave one of his gigantic grins. “So trying to be somebody huh?” the man asked us. “My wife and I are here in case the serum works on back pain! Might as well have one day pain free before I die!” His wife leaned over with a smirk on her face, “to tell the truth, I wouldn't mind if I ended up being a superhero also. Do you always dress up like a superhero?” “Sure do, ma’am! That way I'm ready to be a hero at any moment!” replied Bobby. It was sadly true. Bobby wore his outfit whenever he could. Thankfully our high school's dress code forbade him to wear it at school. Unfortunately too many kids saw Bobby outside of school to save me from any embarrassment. “And how about you?” the man grunted at me. “Are you going to be his sidekick?” I heard Bobby gasp. “I never thought of that!” declared Bobby. “You are getting the serum, right Jesse?” His eyes sparkled with the hope of a thousand puppies. “Of course I am,” I lied. “Brothers have to stick together. If the serum kills people, then we both go down. If it gives us superpowers, then we will save the Earth together.” Bobby gasped again. “I'm sorry,” said Bobby with tears in his eyes. “The possibility of us both being superheroes surprises me every time someone says it! For me to have superpowers, sure, I've been wanting them for so long. But honestly Jesse, I'm half expecting you to change your mind and drag me back home! You always thought my superhero identity was stupid!” I turned away and stared at the building. He was right. I thought the idea was incredibly stupid. To make it worse, I pretty much was dragging him home without the serum; he just didn't know it. “And this means so much Jesse!” continued Bobby. “I sometimes question myself about this whole desire to be a hero, but I always know you're there to be my friend! But now we're both going to be superheroes! It's like you're not only tolerating my identity, but joining to it! Soon you will be just like me! A superhero!” He gave me a huge hug. “I knew this day would come!” He turned toward the elderly couple. “When we save the world later, you can thank my good-guy, awesome brother!” My heart felt sick. “We sure will,” said the man as he eyed me with the same weird look he gave Bobby earlier. The man and his wife got called into the building. “Good luck, heroes,” said his wife as they walked inside. We were next, and Bobby was literally shaking from the excitement. “A superhero brother team!” he whispered excitedly to himself. Maybe we should just get the real serum, I thought. At least Bobby would die happy knowing that he tried, and I would stop feeling like a cowardly clump of dirt for tricking my brother. And who knew? Maybe the serum worked! Just then I saw my buddy Daniel walk out of the public health clinic with a megaphone. His buzz cut blonde hair washed away in the sunlight. He addressed the crowd: “Attention everyone! It is my duty to inform you that several of the first testers have been found dead. None of them achieved any superpower before their death. Right now the mortality rate is about 20% and climbing. The President is aware, and he states that the serum is still available to those willing to take the risk. It is a genetic serum so it will have different effects with each person. Obviously we are hoping it will cause some effect on somebody other than death. Thank you. Please make an informed decision.” He somberly lowered the megaphone and walked back inside. There was a heavy murmuring among the crowd, and the line quickly began to thin out. The line behind the registry table grew with people wanting to unregister their microchip. I looked back down the line. Where it once stretched around the building and down the street, only about thirty people remained behind us. I was about to talk to Bobby about leaving when he jumped out of line. “Come on everybody!” he yelled at those leaving. “We need heroes! Come back!” The majority of the crowd continued to walk away. “I can't believe it,” said Bobby as he walked back into line. “People will give up when faced with death!” “Who knew?” I said sarcastically. “Listen Bobby, are you sure you still want the serum?” “More than ever!” replied Bobby. “If no one else will step up in the face of death, we sure will! Right Jesse?” He looked at me. I looked back at him. Was I willing to face death? Wait, I realized I didn't have to. I was just going to get some saline! “That's right!” I replied. “Let's do this!” Bobby laughed out loud. “What's so funny?” I asked. “Mom and dad would kill us if they knew!” he replied between guffaws. I started to laugh as well. That was certainly true. “But,” he continued after our laughter died down, “they would be proud of how brave we are.” I thought of the highly lethal serum Bobby thought he was agreeing to, and then I thought of the placebo shot I knew was agreeing to and realized how much of a coward I was. “Speak for yourself,” I sadly whispered to myself. Chapter 5 “Watch out! I might rip the door from its hinges!” yelled a girl in her twenties on the other side of the glass door that went into the public health building. She yanked the door open with so much force it smacked the wall behind her. The handle fit nicely into the hole that was already in the wall. The girl exited the building flapping her arms like a dim-witted bird. Daniel stepped out of the door as well. “It can take about three hours for results!” he yelled after her. “Or more likely, death,” he said softly. He shook his head and motioned for us to step inside. “Sorry about that, people today aren't listening. Our wall has endured more abuse today than ever. So you guys still want the serum, huh?” He gave me a quick wink. “We sure do!” sang out Bobby with a smile. “We're going to be a superhero team and save the world!” “Alright, well come inside, and I will hook you guys up,” Daniel led us into a room with a counter full of boxes and a couple of chairs. “I have a feeling we now have way too much serum,” commented Daniel as he motioned to the boxes. He led us to the chairs and motioned for us to sit. He had a metal tray next to them with a line of syringes and alcohol swabs. There were two syringes with a small black dot on them. Daniel saw me eying the marked syringes and gave me a quick nod. “Alright you guys,” he said as he grabbed the two marked syringes, “roll up your sleeves.” We rolled up our sleeves, and Daniel gave us each an injection in the upper arm. “So Bobby,” Daniel said as he jabbed the needle into Bobby, “are they going to let the Cubs stay in the Major Leagues again this year?” “Of course they are,” said Bobby, slightly annoyed. He straightened his Cubs hat on his head reflexively. “You shouldn't underestimate the Cubs. Lots of people do, but you shouldn't.” “I don't know Bobby,” I joined in, “the Cubs might actually win if they went to the Minor Leagues.” Daniel and I frequently harassed Bobby about his dedication to the Cubs. It almost felt like any other day, which gave me a quick escape from the looming doomsday airship that hung outside. “Guys!” Bobby whined. “Stop it! The Cubs will surprise you all, just watch!” “There!” said Daniel as he discarded the syringes. “You guys are superheroes!” Bobby's eyes widened, and he started shaking like a volcano about to erupt. “Woohoo!” yelled Bobby as he gleefully rocketed up from his chair. “I am a superhero!” he screamed. He started to run around the room and jump up and down. “This is amazing! No wait! I am amazing!” he declared. His cape swung around and started knocking over books and boxes. He didn't see the metal tray full of supplies and knocked that over too. He then kicked over the chairs we had sat in. “I am unstoppable!” he yelled. I quickly put him in an arm lock before he made more of a mess. “Bobby! Calm down! Look at the mess you're making!” I said to him. The euphoria of being a superhero faded from his eyes, and he saw the chairs, books, and syringes all over the floor. He calmed down quickly and looked sheepishly at Daniel. “Sorry Daniel, I guess I don't know my own strength yet,” he said. “Here! I will help you clean up! Cleanup Man away!” Daniel looked at me with sympathy as Bobby sped around the room cleaning up the mess. He ended up knocking things back over with his cape right after he picked them up. “You know what Bobby? I got this,” said Daniel. “You have to go save the world. I can clean this up.” “Oh my gosh! You're right!” exclaimed Bobby. “What are we waiting for Jesse! We need to go home and form a plan to destroy the airships! By then I bet our superpowers will have kicked in!” He ran out of the door before I could say anything. “Good luck with that,” said Daniel as motioned at Bobby. “I'll see you tonight when we all get what we deserve. Hopefully it's not an eternity with Bobby.” “He's not that bad,” I commented. The bravery that Bobby had shown today gave me a new respect for him. “Watch out world! You will get what you deserve! Because I am going to save you!” yelled Bobby outside through the megaphone. I rolled my eyes. “I'll get your megaphone back for you,” I promised Daniel. Hopefully Bobby wouldn't lose that respect as quickly as he gained it. Chapter 6 On the car ride home I could barely contain Bobby. “I think I have telescopic vision!” said Bobby as he squinted down the road. “I'm going to try to set that stop sign on fire!” “Bobby, let's try to not damage public property,” I replied. “And I think that would be heat vision, not telescopic.” I had a feeling this was how the entire morning was going to be. “Maybe I have both!” exclaimed Bobby. I was starting to notice several cars that had veered off the side of the road. Many of them had run into trees and buildings. We passed a car that had run into a stop sign. The driver was still in the driver's seat but was slumped over. “Bobby, I think these stopped cars are all people who got the serum,” I said. I knew my brother and I were safe, but it was scary to see all these people dead. These were the people who were supposed to give humanity hope. “We need to help those people!” exclaimed Bobby. He pushed open his car door. “Bobby!” I yelled; I was going twenty miles an hour. I slammed on my brakes. My car stopped just in time for Bobby to tuck and roll on the ground unnecessarily. “Thanks Jesse!” yelled Bobby as he ran to a car that had smashed into a tree. I sighed; there was almost no point running after him. I turned on the radio in hope for answers. “ . . . the mortality rate of people who have received the serum is quickly approaching 100%,” the radio show host said sorrowfully. “The President is now suggesting for people to not get the serum. The government is looking for anybody still alive who got it. The President is currently in talks with the Department of Defense about a nuclear strike as a last resort.” I glanced at Bobby. He had dragged a middle-aged man out of the car to the ground, and he was doing CPR on him. “Dial 911!” Bobby called out. I dialed 911 on my phone, and all I got was a busy tone. I had felt lots of fear lately. The mysterious and menacing airships had brought a lot of new levels of fear into my life, but this was the first time I felt helpless. No superheroes were coming and our regular heroes were gone as well. It was everybody for themselves. Bobby slowly walked up to the car. Tears were falling from his face. “How long do I have?” he sobbed. “For what?” I replied; he had a lot longer than many people out there. “Until I become a superhero.” I glanced behind him. The man's body lay lifeless. “Any minute now,” I said. “Hey Bobby, come sit in the car and let's go home.” “We're not going to die from the serum Jesse!” declared Bobby between sobs as he buckled his seat belt. “We will be superheroes!” Bobby sounded like his optimism was fading. “We will be ok,” I replied. I drove toward home. We needed to get some supplies before we headed for the spotlight to get what we deserved. We drove past hundreds of crashed cars on our way home. I saw more dead bodies than I ever cared to see. Bobby and I were silent during the drive. The reality of the circumstances was starting to become tangible, and they weighed down on my mind. We arrived home, and I started packing some bags for us to take to the airship. Nobody knew what was going to happen to us. Bobby, instead of packing, tried everything he could think of to see if he had superpowers. He tried frying an egg with his mind, jumping over the house, and teleporting to India. Nothing worked, and it started to show in his countenance. After two hours of trying out various superpowers, he walked back inside the house exhausted. He flopped on the couch in dismay. “Are you sure we got the serum Jesse?” he asked from the couch. “The only difference is that my arm hurts a little, and I hardly call that a superpower!”” I buried my eyes inside the duffel I was packing some canned food in. “Of course we got the serum! They wouldn't have gone to all that trouble with the microchip if we hadn't!” I couldn't tell Bobby the truth. It would break his heart. “But what about all those people who died? If we don't have superpowers, shouldn't we at least be dead? I don't even feel a little dead!” Bobby whined. Before I could answer, I received a text on my phone. It was a message from Daniel. “Hey Jesse,” it read, “turn your TV or radio on! They're about to nuke the aliens!” “Bobby!” I said excitedly. “Guess what? We might not need superpowers after all!” I hurried over to the couch and turned the TV on. Dave Hawthorne was still at his post. They had distant live footage of the airship that hung over Anchorage, Alaska. “For those just joining us the President has announced that the military is going to fire a nuclear missile at the airship in Anchorage. The President has coordinated with the other nuclear capable countries in the world to aim their missiles at their nearby airships in preparation for a mass attack if this experimental strike is effective. I am hearing that the missile is being launched as we speak.” Bobby and I watched the TV's live footage of the airship. We saw a small speck in the air approach it from a distance. “Why are they doing this!” complained Bobby. “This won't save the world!” “Shh!” I said. I hoped to God that this worked. The small speck got larger and soon we could see the exhaust from the missile as it approached the airship. My heart raced. I knew everybody on Earth was watching this moment. Then something happened. It happened in a moment so fast that I couldn't remember it at all until later. The only thing I knew was one second there was a missile, then a hole opened in the sky in the path of the missile, and then I didn't even remember why we were watching TV. Dave Hawthorne was still on TV, now without the live footage, and he appeared confused and fazed. “What were we talking about?” he said. He looked down at the papers on his desk. “It looks like I was talking about the government searching for survivors from the serum to battle the airships.” He continued with the story, but the confused look lingered on his face. “What are we doing Bobby?” I said, puzzled. Bobby also had a confused look on his face. “We're seeing what the latest is about the airships,” said Bobby uncertainly. “But for some reason, the accidental 1944 nuclear destruction of Los Alamos is coming to mind.” I frowned. For some reason, the tragic event that taught the world that nuclear fission would never be safe to attempt was fresh in my mind and for no reason at all. We learned about it in school, but it was one of those historic footnotes that was quickly forgot about. Some people said a so-called nuclear bomb would have ended the second world war before 1950, but most historians dismissed such speculation. Dave Hawthorne seemed to notice it as well. “For some reason, I'd like to take a moment during this time of crisis to remember the foolhardy scientists of the 1944 Los Alamos lab who tested outside their ability and created a catastrophe. I feel that we may have done the same thing with the serum with even worse results. Out of the five million people who received the serum, there are only fifty survivors left, and that number is dropping as we speak.” “Only fifty?” whispered Bobby. He looked at his hands and then over to me. “We don't have superpowers yet. Who will save the world?” “I don't think anybody can,” I commented. I put my arm around Bobby. “Come on, we need to finish getting our supplies together and join everybody at the airship.” “We have to save the world!” yelled Bobby. He sprung up off the couch and reached inside his pajama pocket. He pulled out a syringe. “Maybe I need a double dose!” “Bobby!” I yelled and leaped at him. He already had the cap off the needle, and he swung it downward to his leg. I managed to grab his arm and redirect the needle into the air. “Let go!” yelled Bobby. He struggled against my grasp. “We need to save the world!” My muscles strained against Bobby wriggling around. He was putting all of his strength into trying to inject himself. “You'll die Bobby!” I said while trying to disarm him. Bobby still had a death drip on the syringe, and the needle was dangerously moving through the air in the struggle. “I haven't died yet from the first dose! Maybe I just need more!” Bobby then dropped to his knees in an attempt to break free. My hand was still firm on his wrist. Instead of breaking free, his sudden drop swung his hand into my right leg. I felt a sudden sharp pain and burning in my leg. I let go of Bobby and staggered back. There, stuck in my thigh, was the now empty syringe. Chapter 7 I yanked out the syringe and threw it across the room. The reality of what just happened was still trying to compute inside my head. I sat back down on the couch. “So unfair!” yelled Bobby furiously. “It's so unfair that you get a double dose!” “Where did you get that syringe Bobby?” I asked softly. I felt the blood drain out of my head in fear. I was pretty sure I knew the answer, but I had to make sure. “I picked it up off the floor when I knocked all the syringes over,” said Bobby. “I figured it would be good to have an extra dose in case we needed it. And now we do. And guess what? If anybody is going to be a superhero, it's going to be you!” He sat down and shook his head angrily. He paused, sighed, and put his hand on my arm. “Actually Jesse, I should be glad that you got the extra dose of the serum. I was really hoping that I was going to save the world. But if anybody but me saves the world, I'd rather have you save it.” As heartfelt as a message that was, my mind was racing. What was I going to do? He had picked up an actual syringe with actual serum. I had just received the serum. The same serum that had killed everybody but fifty people within three hours of getting it. Sure, we were all going to some uncertain fate by the end of the day, but now mine was pretty mapped out and final. I suddenly missed the fear of having an unknown future. As if he heard my thoughts, Dave Hawthorne's voice from the TV cut into the dead silence. “We just received the latest serum report. It has reached the three hour mark for the latest testers, and everybody but two people are dead. It might actually be possible that the serum has worked on these two people. The government is currently collecting these two brave souls to see if they can save us all.” My mind, with its new preoccupation with my certain death, struggled to comprehend the message on TV. Two people who got the serum were still alive, and I felt like I was missing something obvious and important. Before my mind reached the obvious conclusion, our front door got kicked in, and a group of heavily armed agents came into our living room. I finally realized that Dave Hawthorne must have been talking about Bobby and me. Obviously the serum was not causing me to have super intelligence! Was it possible I was dumber? “Are you two the Harper brothers?” asked one of the agents. “We sure are!” yelled Bobby with a smile. “And we're going to save the world!” “Do you two have superpowers?” the agent asked. I was about to protest Bobby's enthusiasm when Bobby cut me off. “Well, I don't yet, but I know I will! And my brother here just got a double dose of the serum, so he certainly will! He'll probably be twice as powerful!” Bobby seemed to love the attention we were suddenly getting. His doubts had seemed to disappear with it. The agent raised his eyebrow to another agent. “Twice as powerful huh? Well, guess what boys, the world needs you!” “But . . .,” I tried to say, but the agent just continued to talk over me. “Come with us, we need to test you guys quickly to see what you can do and come up with a plan!” “. . . placebo,” I tried to say under the agent's loud voice, but I was ignored. “You boys will be escorted in an armored car, and we're going to take a detour right under the airship, give the people waiting there a morale boost, eh? It's not everyday the Earth has superheroes!” The agent made a motion to the others. Before I could protest, the swarm of agents pushed us outside and into the back seat of an armored SUV. “Hooray!” yelled Bobby. “We're going to save the world!” He didn't seem to remember that neither of us had any superpowers. “Don't worry Jesse!” he said, as he noticed the worried look on my face, “we'll both get our powers soon enough! We have to! If we weren't going to get them, we would be dead by now!” As I settled into my seat, my leg continued to burn, and the burning sensation was starting to spread. There was certainly something going on in my leg, and I knew it wasn't good. I was the only one on Earth that knew the serum had an absolute 100% mortality rate, and I doubted I would be proving that wrong. I was going to surprise everyone when they realized that my superpower was going to be dying suddenly and unexpectedly within the next three hours. At this point, I just wanted to get Bobby somewhere safe before I died. Hopefully the government agents would take care of him once they realized he had no powers. We drove through Tucson, and we passed multiple abandoned cars and dead bodies. We were in the middle of a caravan of black SUVs, and the agent who was driving us turned the radio on. “The whole world is talking about you guys!” he said. Sure enough, the radio station was talking about the Harper brothers. The two survivors of the serum tests. The ones that held the fate of the world. I never had realized it much before, but ever since the airships arrived, I now knew how important a role hope had in the world. Without hope, people fell over with the slightest breeze. With hope, people had a rock to stand on to take on a hurricane. As we drove toward the airship for our morale boosting appearance, I realized that telling the agents the truth would not help anybody at that point. It would only kill hope and people's will to fight. I decided to play along for the time being and why not? I was going to be dead in three hours anyway no matter what I did. We arrived to the area under the airship, and the streets were packed with people. People had RVs, tents, and canopies set up. Some people were having what looked like the last party of their life. Others were huddled together and looking up with uncertainty at the looming airship. “Alright boys, you're on!” said our driver. He lowered the windows of the SUV. So much for being in an armored car, I thought. Bobby didn't hesitate for a second. He knelt on the seat and stuck his torso out of the window. “Hello world!” he called out. “We're going to save you all!” I smiled and politely waved from my seat inside the SUV. Everybody cheered as we slowly rolled through the crowd. People yelled our names and clapped. “Su-per-he-roes!” they chanted. Many people just stood off in the background and eyed us skeptically. I didn't blame them. Bobby fed the crowd the encouragement they wanted as we drove through. I simply tried not to feel like a fraud. While I was moping through my self-pity about dying soon, I realized that if I didn't get injected with the serum that Bobby would be the one with a death sentence instead. While the realization didn't solve anything, it made me feel better. Maybe I wasn't so much of a coward after all. I was able to put on a genuine smile as I waved to the crowd. It took about a half hour, but we made it through the crowd. “Alright boys, off to work!” said our driver. He rolled up our windows, and we picked up speed as we went back onto the I-10. Our ride then changed course dramatically. We were only a minute on the freeway when a pulsating colorless hole appeared in the air directly in front of our SUV. Before our driver could do anything, our SUV drove right into it. One second before we were on the road in the daylight, and the next second we were driving towards a black wall inside somewhere! Our driver slammed on the brakes. The SUV skidded towards the wall. I braced myself for the impact and shut my eyes. I felt a sudden jolt and heard the crunching of metal, the pop of the airbag, and the hiss of a punctured radiator. We were now stopped. “Is everybody ok?” asked our driver. I opened my eyes. The front end of our SUV was smashed up against the wall, but the cabin appeared intact. I glanced over at Bobby. He seemed a little fazed, but otherwise ok. Our driver was trying to deflate the airbag so he could get out of the SUV. “I'm fine,” I responded. Bobby turned around and looked out the rear window. “Wow,” he said. “Look at all those people!” I turned around as well. We were inside a massive dome, and our SUV was on a track that ran along the outside wall of the dome about two stories above the ground floor. On the ground floor of the dome were thousands of people. Very similar to the area underneath the airship in Tucson, there were small shelters in place. But they were made of materials I had never seen before, and everybody was wearing unfamiliar clothes. Even with our distance from the people, I could tell many of them didn't seem right. Several of them had a shuffling gait, some of their hair were in asymmetrical patches on their heads, and I was pretty sure I saw some extra or missing limbs on some of them. The ceiling of the dome was covered in video screens. The screens played a nonstop loop of sun and clouds. But as soon as I turned around that wasn't what caught my attention initially. What caught my attention was the view outside the gigantic window that took up the whole other side of the massive dome. Outside the window was an unobstructed, picturesque, and peaceful view of Earth. “We're in space,” I whispered to myself. My stomach sank in fear. I was about to die, my brother was helpless, and we were now stuck in space with no way of getting back to Earth. “Hooray!” yelled Bobby. “I'm a cyborg superhero astronaut!” Chapter 8 As was only natural, Bobby immediately jumped out of the SUV and started doing the macarena. “Bobby!” I hissed at him. “This isn't the time to be doing victory dances!” The burning sensation in my right leg had spread to my other leg. For me, my time was running short. We needed to figure out how to get back to Earth! Our agent driver had managed to get out of the car, and he approached Bobby. “Your brother's right, you need to get back in the car until I secure the area.” The rhythmic sound of heavy footsteps approached us. I looked in the direction of the footsteps and saw a dozen heavily armed men walking towards us on the track. They all had one-piece black armor, black helmets, and red capes on. They held rifle-like weapons in their hands. Several of them had either an extra arm or leg growing out of their torso. Their uniforms still fit perfectly around the extra limbs. Wherever these people were from, I thought, being a tailor must be a booming business. “Stand back!” yelled our driver. He pulled out a pistol and pointed it at the armored men. “We need to take your superheroes to our commander,” said one of the armored men who had a third arm sticking out of the center of his chest. “Who are you people? Are you with the airships?” asked our driver. His gun hand was shaking in nervousness. “Yes, those airships are ours, and we're here to save the world,” said the armored man. “How?” Our driver asked. He seemed now more relaxed. I knew I was. They were here to save us all along? I breathed a sigh of relief. “By getting rid of you,” was the armored man's reply. My stomach turned. Our driver grabbed Bobby and dove behind the SUV. I ducked down inside the car. Our driver shot several warning shots at the armored men. I could hear all the people below on the dome's floor start to panic. “Please don't do that!” said the armored man as he walked up to the SUV without hesitation. “You're frightening everybody below!” The armored man started to walk around the SUV. Our driver stood up and fired several shots point blank at the armored man. Right before the bullets hit the armored man, they vaporized into smoke with a buzzing sound. It reminded me of bugs hitting a bug zapper. The bullets must have hit some kind of energy shield around the man. “Don't worry, you will get what you deserve soon enough,” said the armored man. He pulled out a small sticker-like patch with his third arm, and, after a short struggle, stuck it on our driver's neck. Our driver instantly collapsed on the ground unconsciously. “We will get him back to Earth in a little while,” the armored man said. “But you superheroes need to come with us now. Our commander is waiting.” The man then went to the edge of the track and waved at all the panicking people on the ground floor below with his extra arm. “Have no fear!” he called out. “We have everything under control! Our plan is almost complete!” The people stopped panicking and started to applaud. “Awesome! We're going to meet the leader!” said Bobby with a gigantic smile on his face as he jumped up and down. He almost jumped into the armored man's arms in excitement. Knowing I had no other choice, I got out of the SUV and joined them. My legs felt like they were on fire, and it felt like the burning was starting to extend to my pelvis. I had to stay alive long enough to get Bobby safely back home! Maybe I could make a deal with the leader for them to keep me and let Bobby go, I thought. At that point, it seemed like the best plan. “Please try to contain yourself,” said the armored man to Bobby. Bobby stopped jumping up and down. “Take us to your leader,” said Bobby in an alien impersonation. I rolled my eyes. Bobby was going to get us killed. “My name is Lawrence,” said the armored man as he began to lead us away from the SUV. “I am captain of security on our spaceship, and, as I said before, I am indeed taking you to our leader. And please, no superpowers on the ship.” “I will try my best,” I lied. “Really?” whispered Bobby to me. “I don't have any powers at all yet!” “Shh!” I replied. If these men thought we did, we might be able to bluff our way out of this mess. We started walking with the armored men to a door that led out of the gigantic dome. It didn't seem like they were going to kill Bobby or me. At least not right away, in any case, so I decided to try to get some information. Maybe Bobby could pass on the information and help the people back on Earth negotiate with these people. “So is this your mothership?” I asked. “We call it our control ship,” responded Lawrence. “We control all the airships on Earth with it. We have it up in space to help protect it.” “Who were those people back in the dome?” I asked as we continued down a white rounded hallway. The other eleven armored men still followed us closely behind. “They are waiting,” said Lawrence. “Just like the other hundreds of thousands of people waiting in the other fifty temporary residence domes we have here on the control ship.” “Waiting for what?” Bobby asked. We approached a spiral door. Lawrence paused and looked at us. “They are waiting for you. We all are,” said Lawrence as he looked at Bobby. “Without you, our plan could not be complete.” I was about to ask what he meant by that when the spiral door opened, and it opened into what looked like the bridge of the ship. The bridge had a massive window that looked out at Earth, and there was a single high-backed chair with its back towards us that faced the window. Whoever this leader is, I thought, he had a flair for extreme cliché. “Commander!” called out Lawrence. “They have arrived!” The chair started to spin around slowly. Really? I thought to myself. Half of me was scared witless of meeting with such a powerful leader, and half of me was rolling my eyes with how corny this was playing out. The first thing I saw of the leader was his one-piece black uniform and then his red cape. Then my mind plummeted into what seemed like a surreal dream. Because I then saw a Chicago Cubs hat on top of some very familiar looking stupid blond curly hair. Bobby, wait, no, not Bobby, some other Bobby, was looking at us from the commander chair with an incredibly stupid grin on his face. “Hooray!” yelled both Bobbys at the same time as they ran towards each other. My mind was still dumbstruck as I watched both Bobbys hug each other then jump up and down excitedly like two schoolgirls. The incredibly corny and cliché reveal now made perfect sense to me. Everything else made no sense at all. Chapter 9 I stood there frozen in a perpetual confounded pose as I watched both Bobbys start to do victory dances all over the bridge of the ship. Lawrence and the other armored men watched on like this happened everyday. Shoot, it probably did. “What? How? Why?” I kept on repeating like some broken record. Thankfully, I kept on saying it louder and louder. Within a minute, I was a hysterical mess shouting one-word questions. Commander Bobby finally stopped doing the worm with normal Bobby. “Alright Bobby, stop dancing, let's get down to saving the world.” He then made eye contact with me. There was a flicker of anger in his eyes. “Oh, it's you. Glad you could make it Jesse.” My confusion intensified. Did this Bobby just use sarcasm? And did he just tell Bobby to stop doing victory dances? I could tell right away this Bobby was quite different from the Bobby I knew. I glanced over at Bobby. He looked confused and slightly hurt from this new Bobby telling him to stop dancing. Commander Bobby saw our puzzled looks, and he instructed Bobby and me to sit down. Lawrence pulled up two chairs with his third arm, and Bobby and I sat in them. Commander Bobby sat in his commander chair. Bobby seemed to get over his initial hurt quickly as he could hardly contain himself now. “Look at him!” he squealed in excitement. “I mean, look at me! How cool is that outfit! And oh my gosh! We're about to save the world! Just like I said we were! I told you! I told everyone! I was right!” “It's true!” said Commander Bobby. “How awesome are us!” Bobby started to get up again to do some lunges. “No!” I yelled. “Bobby sit down right now! I need some answers!” I turned to Commander Bobby. “How . . . how on Earth did you get here? Why are there two of you?” “Alright, alright!” said Commander Bobby. “I figure both of you have questions, and it will be easier if you let me tell my story.” “Yay! Storytime” yelled Bobby. “Storytime!” yelled Commander Bobby in agreement. I groaned. This was going to be painful. Where was duplicate Jesse? I needed someone to sympathize with me. Thankfully without any further ado, Commander Bobby started his story: “So first off, I am not a duplicate of you Bobby. I am you. Two years in the future. Like you, I turned sixteen and wanted to be a superhero more than anything else. I looked into every nook and cranny for the possibility of becoming one. Thankfully the government had been working on project Human Plus for just that purpose. When I turned eighteen, I heard about the project. The serum was finally ready and safe for human testing, and they were looking for people to test it out.” “Wait a minute,” I interrupted. “Mom and dad let you be a government guinea pig? I let you?” “You know our parents,” said Commander Bobby with a dismissing flick of his wrist, “they probably don't even know where you are right now. And you moved away from home the second you turned eighteen Jesse. It seemed like you couldn't wait to get away. You moved to New York for school. I haven't seen you in over a year. You could call, you know. Some brother! Some friend!” “I haven't even moved away yet!” I protested. I wasn't expecting to be defending my future actions already! But I sympathized with future Jesse and understood why I moved so far away so quickly once I turned eighteen. Living with and practically having to parent Bobby was a tough and annoying job, but it seemed like I was going to leave too soon. Unsupervised Bobby running off to be a government test rat? Even if the result of it was him saving the world, it was a too dangerous way to go about it. “Anyway,” continued Commander Bobby, who genuinely seemed hurt that my future self had not called him, “hurt feelings aside, there were ten of us subjects in the first round of serum testing. We all received the serum, and we waited in the testing room for the results. They came on gradually, but we all received superpowers. You see, the serum works on a genetic level, so it has different effects on different people. One guy could make his foot fall asleep at will, another was immune to electric shocks, one girl could digest any toxin with no effect. The other six people had even less impressive powers. But it was enough for the government to want to expand the study, especially when they saw my power.” “Ooh! What power do we have?” interrupted Bobby. He practically fell out of his chair in anticipation. “Well, what I first thought was my power was only half of it,” responded Commander Bobby. “Within three hours of the serum shot, I suddenly knew where everything on Earth was. If somebody asked me where a gelato shop was in Italy, I could tell them directions to every single one.” “But we've never been to Italy!” Bobby exclaimed. “Exactly,” said Commander Bobby, “without even ever being there, I know instantly where everything and everyone is. I can't actually see it, but if I focus on something or someone, I somehow know where he, she, or it is. I'm practically omnipresent. The government people were very impressed. They had big plans of making me a spy. But I didn't want to be a super spy! I wanted to be a superhero!” “That's right!” yelled Bobby as he pumped his fist in the air. “So I went home that night and wondered how I was going to save the world with my new power. I was in bed and thought about all the gelato shops in Italy, and I realized I really wanted gelato. I'm still not sure how I did it at first, but I opened a wormhole with my mind that I knew led to a gelato shop in Italy. As the hole floated in front of me, I reached my hand in, and I pulled out a handful of some delicious coconut gelato! Fresh from Italy!” “Coconut! No fair! I want some!” complained Bobby. Commander Bobby then stared at the area in front of Bobby. A small colorless hole opened up in the air. I stared at it in awe. I was having a hard time processing that my future little brother could make wormholes. “Go ahead, reach in,” Commander Bobby told Bobby. Bobby had a Christmas morning smile on his face as he stuck his right arm inside the wormhole. “Oh! It's cold!” Bobby exclaimed. He pulled back out his hand, and it was full of coconut gelato. He then stuck his entire gelato-covered hand in his mouth. “Ihh soo gooh!” he exclaimed as he sucked and licked all the gelato off his hand. “And guess what Bobby?” Commander Bobby asked. He had a humongous smile on his face like he had an amazing secret. “What?” said Bobby as he finished cleaning off his hand. “That gelato was freshly made twenty-five years ago,” Commander Bobby started to laugh with glee. My mouth dropped open. Did that mean . . .? “Yes Jesse,” Commander Bobby continued as he saw my expression, “I soon discovered that my omnipresent knowledge and wormholes could not only transcend distance but also time. The serum made me a master of space and time!” “You're a master of space and time?” commented Bobby in awe. “No Bobby!” said Commander Bobby. “WE are master of space and time!” My jaw hit the floor. I should have guessed it. Otherwise how could Commander Bobby be from the future? Bobby sat there in shock for a minute. He shook his head in disbelief, and then he just started shaking in excitement. Bobby then rocketed out of the chair like a geyser and started doing victory dances. “WHOO HOO!” he screamed. Commander Bobby got up as well and joined him in his victory dance. This time I didn't stop them. I couldn't. My jaw was still on the floor. Chapter 10 Commander Bobby and Bobby finally sat back down, and I was starting to accept the reality that my future brother was the most powerful being in the universe with the exception of God. Maybe I should had let him get the serum! But somewhere in the back of my head warning bells were going off. Something was telling me that it was not a smart idea for Bobby to have ridiculous amounts of power. “So, where was I?” asked Commander Bobby. “Yes, so that night while eating gelato on my bed, I also realized I could also get gelato from any time! I found out that anything or anyone I was specifically thinking about I could know exactly when and where they were at any point of time! And I could make a wormhole to get to anyplace or anytime!” “Ooh!” exclaimed Bobby. “Did you think about going to Mars?” “Well,” replied Commander Bobby. “That seemed to be one limit of my awesome power. I was stuck on Earth. I tried to go to Pluto to see if it was really a planet, but I couldn't!” “But where did you go? This is so exciting! I would go to Australia and find a platypus!” Bobby was almost falling out of his chair. Commander Bobby just looked at him with a smile. As I looked at Commander Bobby, more and more my mind was confirming my feeling that there was something different about him compared to the Bobby I knew. He was only Bobby two years in the future, but he seemed more mature, serious, and more contained. I wondered what happened to him. “As I knew I wanted to be a superhero,” said Commander Bobby, “and I now knew I had a fantastic power, I figured I should use my power to save the human race. The only problem was I didn't know what to save it from. But then I realized, I could just open up a wormhole to the future and jump in and see what eventually was going to make mankind go extinct!” “Wow!” said Bobby in awe. “I never would have thought of that!” I rolled my eyes and held my tongue. “So at first I borrowed a spacesuit from NASA, just in case Earth disappeared in the future, and jumped ten thousand years in the future, and sure enough, Earth wasn't even around anymore!. Then five thousand years. Nope, no humans or Earth there either. Five hundred years, one hundred, then finally at fifty years from now I finally found the end of humanity,” Commander Bobby said while shaking his head. I shook my head in disbelief as well. Within my lifetime, humanity would end. “So what killed us?” I asked. “An asteroid?” “Superheroes! If you can believe that!” said Commander Bobby. “Or rather, a couple superheroes who didn't know how to be a hero! It turned out that over fifty years the government had expanded project Human Plus, and there were several hundred people with superpowers running around.” “That sounds amazing!” commented Bobby. “It almost was!” replied Commander Bobby with a grin that quickly turned into a frown. “There were two brothers, Paul and Trevor Clemens, who both got the superhero serum. They both got the power of breaking molecular bonds with their minds! They could go up to a skyscraper and make it vaporize! One second it would be there! The next, poof!” “I bet they got hired by a demolition company!” said Bobby. I somehow doubted that. “If only!” said Commander Bobby. “They got greedy, and they started to threaten people for money. They were not very nice. The other heroes tried to stop them, but they would just get vaporized by the brothers.” “Not nice at all!” Bobby chimed in. “But Paul started to feel bad about bullying people around, and he tried to stop Trevor,” continued Commander Bobby, “but he couldn't bring himself to vaporize Trevor. Trevor felt betrayed by Paul and one day it tipped him over the breaking point. He ended up going insane and vaporizing the entire Earth! I thankfully made a wormhole to get out of there just in time!” “Wow!” exclaimed Bobby. “So how are all these airships going to stop them?” “They aren't,” said Bobby. “I already defeated the Clemens brothers. You see, after I saw the end result of the Human Plus serum, I made a wormhole to go back in time to three years ago when the serum was still being developed. I talked to Dr. Peters, and I brought him to the future for a short visit. He saw how the serum would create the Clemens brothers and ultimately the destruction of Earth!” “So you got him to destroy the serum,” I said. “Heavens no!” exclaimed Commander Bobby. “If he destroyed the serum, I would never have gotten my power!” “Wait, what?” I was confused. Without the serum, none of this would have happened! It would all be fixed! Why did Commander Bobby not do that? “I convinced him to alter the serum so it would only work for my DNA!” exclaimed Commander Bobby. “He practically insisted on it! He couldn't bear to see his life's work thrown away completely! He was very impressed by me.” “Who wouldn't be?” echoed Bobby in awe. “So after I gathered some ancient jewels and gold for him, he altered the serum,” Commander Bobby continued. “Wait, what?” I asked. I was starting to question how good Commander Bobby was! And Dr. Peters allowed the government to give millions of people the serum knowing only it would only work on Bobby! Maybe he didn't know it would kill everyone, but at the very least he falsely gave the whole world hope! We could have put our resources somewhere else! I shook my head in anger. I grimaced. The burning had spread to my stomach and chest. I was running out of time. Maybe Commander Bobby could make a wormhole to save me from the serum. “I did him a favor because he was doing me a favor!” said Commander Bobby angrily. “And it was harmless! I got my superpower so I could save the world, and it would have absolutely no effect on everybody else!” “Everybody else who has gotten the serum has died,” I said bluntly. Commander Bobby looked at me in shock. “No, no, that can't be right,” he said, his face suddenly fallen. “I'll have to go back and change it, but . . . no, it doesn't matter now.” “Come on Bobby!” said Bobby. “Cheer up! We can fix it!” “Wait, what do you mean it doesn't matter?” I demanded. “It was millions of people!” “It doesn't matter,” said Commander Bobby matter-of-factually, “because we have to get rid of this generation anyway.” “What?” I was shocked. “Why?” “To save the world from the next apocalypse,” Commander Bobby said calmly. Chapter 11 Commander Bobby continued his story: “So after I convinced Dr. Peters to alter the serum, I traveled back to when Trevor Clemens was about to destroy it, about fifty years from now. I found the Earth doing well and still standing. After a little research, I found that project Human Plus was shut down after the initial testing. They said it didn't go well. I didn't know what they meant by that, but I was just glad that the Clemens brothers weren't able to destroy the world! So for a little while I helped people. You know, created wormholes to get kittens out of trees and made sure Christmas packages arrived on time.” “That's what I would have done first!” declared Bobby. “But after a little while of helping out people and knowing that I had saved the world, I started to wonder what was going to destroy Earth now that Trevor Clemens wasn't going to!” said Commander Bobby. As he said it, I saw a gleam in his eyes that I had seen in Bobby's eyes before. It was the gleam of immovable passion; the same gleam that told me he was going to be a superhero no matter what I did. I felt like Commander Bobby was going to save the world over and over from every new threat that popped up. I felt a small chill as I realized that no one could physically stop him from mucking about in space-time to his heart's content. “So I jumped ahead again,” he continued. “This time I pinpointed humanity's demise about 2200 years from now. When I entered that time, it looked horrible! There wasn't a single tree or bush around! The oceans were solid with trash, and only synthetic materials could be found! The sky was darkened with soot, and the only drinkable water was underground where people lived! The pollution that had built up over the years had finally ground Earth's ecosystem to a halt! I couldn't even find a platypus!” “No!” exclaimed Bobby. “The last generation had pretty advanced technology, and it was the only thing that had kept them alive for the previous 1000 years. We are in a ship that they created, and they are the people you saw in the dome. As you can see around you, they have developed really advanced weapons and ships, but that hasn't changed the effect years and years of pollution has had on their DNA, which corrupted it to the point of barely being able to function. Their DNA has become so mutated from the pollution that even their DNA-altering technology has no effect, and their generation is about to go extinct because everybody in their generation was born sterile! They would clone themselves, but their DNA has become so corrupted that even cloning can't replicate it!” “Well, it's their own fault the pollution got so bad,” I commented. It seemed like a natural way for humanity to die off. Not ideal, certainly, but natural. “NO!” screamed Commander Bobby. I jumped in my chair at his outburst. “It is not their fault! Humanity had been trying it's best to clean up the Earth for the previous thousand years before their generation, but the poison was already too far in Earth's ecosystem. How I saw the last generation's Earth was a slight improvement to what it was a thousand years before! This last generation is the most Earth-friendly bunch I have ever met. They are masters of recycle, reduce, and reuse! It is not their fault! They were simply born into it! I saw that there was a vast injustice done to them!” “Uh oh,” I whispered to myself. I suddenly had an inkling why the airships were here, and what “getting what we deserve” meant. “So our generation is at fault?” I asked. “I hate to say it Jesse,” said Commander Bobby, “but our generation sends Earth's ecosystem into a downward spiral that it never recovers from. I'm here to stop us!” “So you brought the last generation here?” I asked. “To teach us how to save the Earth?” “Yes,” said Commander Bobby. “But they are here to replace our irresponsible generation with a responsible generation who knows first hand the end result of pollution! It will give them a chance to live on the beautiful Earth they are entitled to!” “And our generation gets sent to the future?” I asked. “Exactly,” replied Commander Bobby. “Because it's exactly what our generation deserves. They will live in the consequences of their actions. No more out of sight, out of mind!” “But the last generation is sterile, you're dooming mankind!” I protested. “They will have no offspring to extend humanity to the time you're sending our generation to!” “Jesse!” Commander Bobby looked hurt. “I am just and fair. It is our generation who initiated the downward spiral. If our generation has children in the bleak future, they will no doubt be raised up to value the Earth. I hope so, anyway.” Commander Bobby had a skeptical look on his face. Bobby skeptical? That was a first. This Bobby was much different indeed. “But if our generation's children can prove they can value the Earth like the last generation,” Commander Bobby continued, “I will send them back to this time. But don't worry, I have a backup plan just in case our generation doesn't learn from its mistakes.” “Kill us all?” I asked sarcastically. I was starting to get an unsettling feeling in my stomach about how much Commander Bobby thought he was God. “No!” exclaimed Commander Bobby. “The last generation has cloning technology, and we have plenty of good genetic material from the Genetic Census. If no one is worthy, we will make viable clones for the last generation to raise as their own!” “So you would be making them their own step-grandpa,” I said. Something else he said bugged me. “Wait! What do you mean 'if no one is worthy?'. Who decides that? You?” Commander Bobby seemed annoyed I asked that question. He looked off in the distance. “Did I hear something? It must be a gust of wind from New York. Where my long-lost brother must finally care!” Commander Bobby was obviously not letting go what future Jesse did. “Listen future Bobby, I apologize for what I will do. If I can prevent it, I will.” I looked earnestly at Commander Bobby. He stared back at me. “It's too late for apologies Jesse, and what can you do if I want to play God? I have to! It's my destiny!” He stood up angrily and made a wormhole float in the air in front of him. “And who else has the power to stop me?” he said. Bobby, who had stayed silently in awe for a lot of Commander Bobby's narrative, seemed to not notice the tension, and started to applaud. “That plan is amazing!” he said. “We're going to save the world again! But, what if our generation changes its ways? I say we give them a second chance! I like second chances! Have the last generation teach them the right way! Then we don't have to send them to the icky future!” Commander Bobby shook his head and made the wormhole disappear. “Bobby, you have much to learn. In fact, that is why I have you here. You need to use your power to travel 2200 years from now and merge your timeline with mine! Then everything will come together so we can save the world! The only thing stopping us is if you never travel to the future and start the process!” My attention to the Bobbys' argument was suddenly sidetracked as I felt the burning that had moved to my chest extend down both arms and up to my neck. I had a feeling once it got to my head it would be the end of me. I needed to stay alive! I couldn't let Commander Bobby keep on interfering with space-time! If I could only get him to destroy the serum in its infancy, everything would be fine! Well, it would be fine for 2200 years anyway. My mind hesitated. I realized that despite his madness that Commander Bobby was saving the world. With his plan, humanity would live more than 2200 years. But where would Commander Bobby end with his space-time interfering? “But why do we need to teach our generation a lesson?” asked Bobby. I could tell by his face he was noticing that Commander Bobby was different than him. “If they don't learn, we could always send them just a little farther in the future, not to the end of the Earth! Then the last generation can still get the Earth back on track!” “No!” yelled Commander Bobby. He stormed around the bridge. “Justice must be served! Trust me Bobby, I am you. Once you see the future 2200 years from now, you will change your tune! I know! Because the same thing happened to me! I once thought people in general were good! But the one person who gave me the most hope proved me wrong! And seeing the abused Earth in the future just proved that everyone was the same! It showed people don't care!” He eyed me furiously. I was shocked by the intensity of the glare. Was future Jesse why Commander Bobby was so different? “People don't change without punishment and seeing the consequences of their action!” continued Commander Bobby. “That was why I made a wormhole take that nuclear missile to 1944 Los Alamos to forever destroy the nuclear program!” he stood over Bobby. My mind that had forgotten about the nuclear missile suddenly remembered the one that was fired at the Anchorage airship. “But Jesse changed!” Bobby protested as he pointed to me. “He thought getting the serum was stupid at first! But he changed his mind, and he let me get the serum, and he even got it too! He even got a double dose!” Commander Bobby eyed me skeptically. “Really Jesse? You got a dose? Same with Bobby? It only works for me, and you look plenty alive. And Bobby here doesn't seem to even know where the nearest restroom is!” I stayed silent and tried not to look at Bobby. “Jesse?” asked Bobby. “We did get the serum right?” “See that face he has Bobby? That hasn't changed. We know that face!” Commander Bobby said. “It's the same face he had the last time I saw him. When he said he would keep in touch! And tell me Bobby, where is a gelato shop in Tennessee? You should be able to say at least one with your superpower. I know where all of them are!” “I . . . I don't know,” said Bobby. I glanced over at him. He was staring at me with tears in his eyes. “I was trying to protect you, protect us,” I said. The confirmation of my betrayal struck Bobby like a punch to his face. “I knew it! I knew it!” cried Bobby. “I really wanted to trust you Jesse! I really wanted to! I had a feeling Daniel was up to something. That's why he winked at you! That was partly why I grabbed that extra syringe!” He stopped crying for a second as a look of realization hit his face. “But that means you got the actual serum! The serum that has killed everybody else who got it!” I nodded. “And I don't think I have much time. It feels like the serum is about to overtake my whole body!” “Jesse, no!” yelled Bobby. He looked at Commander Bobby. “You have to save him! Go back to when we were fighting and take the syringe from me!” I could tell Commander Bobby was struggling. It was his turn to turn his head away. “He's just getting what he deserves for his betrayal. It is just and fair.” “No it isn't! He's our brother! He's our friend!” Bobby cried. “YES! Yes he was!” yelled Commander Bobby, suddenly in tears. “He was our only friend, and what did he do? He left us! He moved all the way to New York never to be heard from! He left us alone! Completely alone! Guess how many people laughed at us then! No one was there to support us like a brother should! No one was there to care! He betrayed us more than once Bobby!” “I can't believe you won't give him another chance! You won't even give an entire generation a second chance! You meanie! I will never become you!” Bobby used his cape to wipe his eyes. He looked at me with tears streaming from his eyes. “Even . . . even if it means I can't have the power to save you Jesse.” “Well, how noble,” said Commander Bobby with resolve in his voice. “I remember when I was naïve as well. But at this point Bobby, there's nothing you can do to stop me from merging our timelines. All we've ever wanted to do was save the world, and now we will!” He created a wormhole in the air, and he reached in. His hand came back with a syringe. “This is just some serum from a box; not from your fight. Sorry Jesse, but justice must be served.” He advanced toward Bobby with the syringe. “I will inject you Bobby, and then we will both go to the future. You will see the injustice then. You will change just like me.” I sprung from my chair to stop Commander Bobby, but the burning in my body suddenly advanced to my head and overwhelmed it. I fell on the floor of the bridge and clutched my head. I had to fight it. I had to stop Commander Bobby . . . I saw Bobby jump from his chair and try to run. “Lawrence!” called out Commander Bobby. “Hold him for me!” I heard a quick scuffle and Bobby cry out. “No! I don't want to be you! You don't smile like I do! You probably don't even do a morning routine!” he cried out. He squirmed around in the guards grasp. “You're right, I ended that childish routine a while ago,” Commander Bobby said. Bobby gasped in horror. “You monster!” he screamed. “You will be me! You will save the world!” screamed Commander Bobby. He backhanded Bobby. Bobby went limp. He took the cap off of the syringe. As I lay on the bridge's floor holding my head, the burning sensation suddenly exploded all over my body. I felt weak, and my vision started to fade. Commander Bobby was pushing the extra air out of the syringe. A squirt of serum hit the floor. I couldn't believe it was going to end this way. For once in my life, I didn't want to say good-bye to Bobby. We were supposed to survive this somehow and be closer after this ordeal. There were so many brother things we never got to do because I was too stupid to value Bobby as my brother! I needed more time! Death was not supposed to be sour and bitter like this. I had always imagined it to be sweet. Like the gelato from the shop on Meridian Boulevard in Nashville, Tennessee. My eyes shot open with a sudden burst of energy. I had never been to Tennessee. Commander Bobby injected Bobby with the serum as energy spread all over my body. It wasn't until after I opened a wormhole directly under Commander Bobby that I felt the power. It was an incredible feeling. I knew where everything was, and I also knew when everything was. I was so quick with the wormhole that Commander Bobby didn't have time to react or say anything. He simply fell into it with a very surprised look on his face. And just like that, he was gone. I rose to my feet and looked around the bridge. Lawrence and the guards were looking at me in awe and maybe a little fear. Bobby lay on the floor, and he was moving around a little. I had never been so glad in my life that my DNA was so similar to his. I needed to fix everything before the serum took effect in him and turned him into Commander Bobby. “Jesse,” Bobby moaned. I rushed over to him. Lawrence stepped in my way. I opened up a wormhole in the floor right beneath him. Lawrence yelled and fell through the wormhole. “Anybody else want a first class ticket to the center of the Earth?” I asked the other guards. I opened up a dozen wormholes behind me. The guards scattered. They must have realized I was not as hesitant as Paul Clemens to do what needed to be done. I knelt down beside Bobby. “Hey buddy.” “Jesse,” he said softly. “You need to stop me. I want to save the world, but not as him.” “Don't worry, I'll fix everything.” Epilogue Now I'm standing in front of ten different microphones from ten different news channels. I don't have time for them. They think I'm a hero because I sent the control ship back to 2200 years in the future where it belongs with all of the last generation, and it caused all the airships to crash. It's kind of unfair to the last generation, but it would be unfair to us if they took our place. The news channels also don't know that the real threat is lying right in front of them in a Chicago Cubs hat and pajamas. They also don't know that by destroying the airships I am sentencing humanity to a slow and painful demise 2200 years from now. Commander Bobby was going to save the world, but he also was somebody that my brother never would want to be. I can't let Bobby turn into him, and by doing so, I am dooming the world. Sorry humanity. A man has to draw the line somewhere. I pick up my brother from the ground and ignore all the questions being thrown at me. We have something important to do. I know a Dr. Peters and some other Genetic Census founders that are going to be visiting the center of the Earth about five years ago. Superheroes aren't good for humanity. It turns us into somebody we're not supposed to be. Me throwing my future brother and others to certain death in wormholes is proof of that. I'm already not myself. The sooner I can be back to normal the better. I open up a wormhole in front of Bobby and me. The crowd gasps. “Wow, superheroes!” I hear the crowd exclaim. It's true, we are superheroes, and I will be able to remember this story for as long as we are. But in a few moments, we will no longer be superheroes, and this story will never have happened. I only hope I can remember to be nicer to Bobby. We will go back to living how we used to before the airships, and we will pass along our consequences to the next generation. Whether it is just or not, I don't know, but I do know it is normal.