Monday, September 11, 2006

Homemade Heroes, Face Two: Captain Swell

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

"Jesus, Captain Swell is a junkie!"

Carter and Margie had cut away the collapsed hero's uniform to discover a leopard skin of tracks and skin popping scars that no heroin user should have lived long enough to earn.

"The Plain Blue Corsicans are trashing the hospital as we speak," Captain Swell whispered from his stretcher.

"You bastard! My kids look up to you!" Margie said.

"Hell, I look up to you!" Carter said. "And all these years, you were just some spastic drug addict."

"You don't understand," Captain Swell said, "These are my powers. Somebody had to destroy himself so that the people could be saved."

There were screams from beyond the door.

"They're here," the Captain said weakly.

"The doors are dead bolted," Carter said. "Three inches of steel."

"Don't you people read comic books?" the Captain groaned. "They'll rip through that without a second thought." He reached for his belt. Margie tore his hand away.

"Look at you," she said. "You can't even fight me off!"

"I can, with the belt."

"No, you can't. They've already beaten you senseless and you've destroyed yourself from the inside. You're a walking corpse. Except you can't walk!"

The pounding on the doors nearly made Carter wet himself.

"They're going to kill us," Captain Swell said.

"They're not going to kill us!" Margie said. "We're two nurses and a mummy. We don't pose a threat."

"We're they're favorite kinds of murders. Helpless. Save yourselves then. Take my belt, it can inject directly into your abdomen. That one's super-strength," the Captain said, pointing at the first button. "There's super speed and invulnerability "

"Shut up!" Margie said. "You're gonna risk our lives to save your sorry ass! What kind of hero is that?"

"No, look at me. I'm practically dead as it is. If my life was all they wanted, I'd have given it to them already. But after I'm gone they'll want him and they'll want you. They won't ever stop.

"I'll put on the belt" Carter said.

"Are you nuts? Your career is history if you do that!"

"We're going to die if I don't. Do you understand that?"

A human body smashed against the doors, causing them to buckle.

"He's got to take the belt," Captain Swell said, "Not because I want to live, but because they need to be --"

"What? They need to be what? He's dying! Help me, Carter."

"Too late," Carter said. He cinched the belt about his waist as the doors blew open. Margie screamed. Through the door walked four tall, lanky, psychotic men in plain blue suits.

"God's almighty billy goats!" shouted Ghjuvani Blade, the most vicious of the group. "Captain Swell is dead! Tonight's party has just begun!"

Carter thought an instant prayer and slammed all the buttons on the belt at once. He felt more incredible than he had ever thought possible.

"You're right, boys," Carter said. "It's time to have some fun. Behold: Captain Sweller!"

"Uh-oh," Ghjuvani said.

Carter stepped forward into history.

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