By Richard Frantz Jr. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: February 2003
Summary: Imagine Clark at age 188. He's retired, he's living in a retirement home for superheroes, and he's still Superman even if he has hung up his cape. But are capes really hung up for good, or just to keep them from wrinkling?
Comments appreciated at email@example.com
[Disclaimer: Clark Kent, etc, are not my property and are used solely for noncommercial purposes.]
Background: I've seen a scan of the cover of an old Superman comic book (Action Comics 386) that shows Superman as an old man sitting with four other old heroes. One was the last green lantern and one of the others was a superhero from some other planet. It wasn't clear if they were considered too old to still be credible superheroes or if all the villains had been defeated but they were sitting around reminiscing about the good old days and how they could still do the job if they needed to. I don't know exactly what the plot was but here's my take on what it's like
Clark heard the sound, which no one else would have noticed, took a few relaxing breaths, and then rolled out of bed and put his feet on the floor. He glanced at the clock, which read 7:58:23. Then his eyes went to the wedding picture next to the clock, as they did every morning. The picture showed him, young, black haired and handsome in his tux next to Lois, young and particularly beautiful in her white wedding dress.
Clark entered the bathroom and turned on the shower. While he waited for the water to start flowing properly, he shaved by staring in the mirror and brushed his teeth, with an actual tooth brush, though that was merely because he liked the taste of the toothpaste rather than because he needed to clean his teeth. Then he entered the shower stall and washed, first his hair, (lather with shampoo, rinse and repeat- is that just to sell more shampoo?) and then his body.
Drying off with a large blue towel he dressed and reentered the bedroom, again glancing at the clock. 7:58:43. Gee, 5 seconds longer than when he was first married to Lois. Being 188 was definitely beginning to slow him down.
He opened the door to the hall and stepped out, ready to start a new day with a good breakfast. One of the advantages of the 'home' was that it always had a good breakfast on hand. And then he stood in the hall for a second, waiting…
Across the hall in room 111, Lisa finished getting ready for the new day. Putting on the lipstick she always wore, even to breakfast, she stepped out into the hall.
"Good morning, Clark," she greeted him with enthusiastic affection.
"Good morning," he greeted the attractive brunette, also with enthusiasm. One of the things he really liked about her was how she could be so chipper early in the morning. All too many of the people he met were definitely not morning people, and when you needed as little sleep as he did, that was important in choosing friends.
"We keep meeting in the hall for breakfast, don't we?"
"Yes," he agreed, "ever since you moved in, five years ago. Well, I think we missed each other occasionally for the first week but it's been pretty steady since then."
She looked at him, hard. "That's quite a coincidence, isn't it?"
Clark looked back, and remembered something important. Before she'd retired from the hero trade, she'd been one of the best active-telepaths in the business, and he'd promised himself never to make the mistake of lying to her. "Not exactly coincidence. The last thing you do before going to breakfast is put on your lipstick, and that takes you thirty seconds. So I just wait in bed until I hear you start to put on your lipstick. Then I get out, shower, shave, brush my teeth, open the door, and…'tadah'…perfect timing. Friday. French toast day. Shall we head for breakfast?" he asked, offering his arm.
Lisa stared at him with an unreadable look for several seconds then put her arm through his and headed down the hall towards the cafeteria.
But Clark noticed a certain tightness around her eyes, and that worried him. Unable to read her mind, he resorted to the old method: he asked. "Does that bother you?"
"Hmmm? That you time starting your day so we meet on the way to breakfast? No, that doesn't bother me…that you can shower, shave AND brush your teeth in thirty seconds? While it takes me almost an hour? Well that's a little irritating."
"… actually, I shower, shave and brush my teeth in twenty seconds. I like to lie awake in bed for a little while before getting up." Just then there was a flash of light from the half open door ahead, and a whiff of ozone. Clark glanced at Lisa, who looked back and then he very carefully looked in the door. There was Sean shaving at a mirror with an electric razor. That wasn't strange. What was strange was that the cord from the electric razor, rather than being plugged into wall, was held in his left hand by the prongs. "Hi, Sean," greeted Clark.
"Hey, Clark. Hi, Lisa," he returned. Still working on his sideburns, occasional flashes of light coming from where his hand touched the metal of the plug.
"Sean, are you sure you should-" began Clark, "-you know. Remember how last week you blew every fuse in the building trying to do that."
"Clark? Do you still shave in the morning by staring in the mirror real hard?"
"Yes," admitted Clark.
"And does it still require you to replace the mirror every six months?"
Lisa nudged Clark and whispered, "Don't try. He used to teach philosophy, and I've never won an argument with him. Besides he rarely blows fuses, any more. Take care, Sean!" And she started walking towards the Cafeteria, giving Clark the choice of coming along or letting go of her arm. He decided he'd prefer to come along.
A minute later they reached the bright, open cafeteria. Alice, the combination nurse and support staff, was setting out French toast and eggs while waiting for the griddle to heat up and about to start on the fresh orange juice. Various members of the little community greeted them.
Suddenly all the lights brightened and then went out. The early morning light streaming in through the windows kept the room bright, but all the electrical appliances, including the griddle and the juicer went out. "Electro," muttered Alice, in a tone that would make people wilt. "Slight delay, everyone," she called and headed off to find Charlie, the maintenance man, so he could reset the electrical system.
"Oh, that's all right," said Clark, stepping up to the griddle and picking up the spatula. He looked at the French toast mix then turned and called "Steve?"
Steve, a thin hyperactive man with a very thin dark mustache, was standing across the room, near the door. A second later he had crossed the room and was standing next to Clark. "What can I do for you, Supes?"
"Could you get the cinnamon for me?"
"Why sure, good buddy," offered Steve, AKA Speedster. And a second later he was gone, his fast footsteps echoing down the hall.
Clark looked after him and muttered, "but the kitchen is that way" pointing in the opposite direction.
Lisa stepped up and grinned, "you knew he wouldn't go the short way."
Clark smiled back and winked.
Lisa looked at the empty pitcher for the orange juice, and the bowl of oranges. "My turn," she said softly. The pitcher started to levitate and the oranges began to orbit around Lisa. One at a time the orange split in half, as evenly as though cut with a knife, just from her thinking about them being sliced. Then each half hovered over the pitcher and squeezed as though an invisible hand had crushed it. Then the used oranges floated over the garbage and dropped in as the pitcher levitated over to Lisa who stood smiling.
Jesse, a short, heavy set but trim, black man with gray hair the texture of steel wool looked at the pitcher and complained, "That's got an awful lot of seeds in it, in fact, I don't think you missed one."
Lisa gave him a nasty grin, and all the seeds gathered out of the pitcher, levitated over the pitcher to allow the juice to drip off them and then flew directly at Jesse's face. Just before running into him they made a fast change of direction and flew past his left ear, missed it by about two inches, and landed in the garbage. "Missed it by that much," she said.
"Well," said Jesse, unfazed by the flying seeds, "that's a cool way to make orange juice. And at least you got all the seeds out but left the pulp. Pulp's good for you."
"Hmm," said Lisa, holding the pitcher by its base. "It's a 'cool' way to make O.J. but the pitcher is room temperature. Needs ice."
"No, it doesn't," corrected Jesse, taking the pitcher. "Just needs a little power."
"Easy! Easy!" cautioned Lisa. "Don't freeze it solid like you did last week."
Jesse smiled down at the pitcher which was now gaining a light frosting of condensation. "Now, now. That only happened last week because I wanted a Popsicle. It was on purpose. There, the juice is now nicely chilled, and sucking the heat out of it has given me a nice morning pick-me-up. Better than a cup of coffee."
Alice looked into the cafeteria. She had intended to announce that breakfast would be delayed. She turned and fled towards the basement to continue her hunt for the maintenance man.
Clark checked the heat of the griddle, gave it another quick sweep of heat vision and cracked eggs on to it. "Where's Speedster with that cinnamon for the French toast?"
"Right here, Supes old boy" he said, slowing down next to Clark and handing him the new box of cinnamon. "I also got today's datablock version of the Daily Planet for you while I was at the store." He put the credit card sized datablock on the table.
Clark looked over at today's edition of the Daily Planet and couldn't help smiling while he added a dash of cinnamon to the batter and stirred.
Meanwhile, Alice had located Charlie in the basement and was trying to get him to hurry about resetting the electrical system. "Charlie, they were starting to make breakfast when I left."
"How much can they do? There's no electricity until I reset things. And what if they do…worried they'll realize they don't need you that much and fire you? Fat chance, they all like you."
"The how is that they were using their powers! Clark was heating the grill by staring at it."
"Well, so? He's got LOTS of experience with his powers-"
"But the others were starting to join in, and they've been having slips since they got old. Remember two weeks ago?"
"You mean when…? Right! I'm on it. Two minutes, max, I promise" and he ran down the corridor towards the maintenance room. Alice looked after him for a few seconds and then decided to get back to her station and try to stall them long enough for Charlie to get the power back on.
Alice ran back to the cafeteria. Clark was serving up the second batch of French toast and scrambling some eggs. Lisa was finishing setting the table by telekinesis. Other short bursts of power were being used as the assembled retired heroes lent a hand, all smiling broadly. Alice was about to try and slow them down for safety sake when the lights came back on, accompanied by the disappointed groans of the heroes. Clark, looking sad, turned on the electric griddle to finish breakfast. Only Alice looked relieved.
Speedster zipped to the other side of the cafeteria and used his elbow to nudge Electro. "Hey, good buddy, do you suppose you could…you know…"
Electro grimaced, "Sorry, I don't think I could convince anyone it was an accident a second time in one day."
All the other heroes frowned slightly.
"I could try for a really -big- surge sometime soon, though," offered Sean.
That brightened up all the assembled retirees and frightened poor Alice so much she dropped the spatula. Spirits restored, the retired heroes lined up for breakfast. Alice took over the cooking, and Clark, noticing a visitor in the back of the room, went over to see him.
"Ernie, good to see you!" he greeted the younger man warmly.
"Hello, 'Great Grandfather' Clark," he replied, accenting the relation as a way to get back at Clark for using the short form of Ernest which he'd hoped he'd outgrown. But he gave Clark a warm hug anyway. "You're looking well, and I see you're keeping in practice."
"Oh yes, a little, now and then. So how's the family?"
"Oh, we're all happy. Sarah just got a new tooth. Samantha started High School, hates all her teachers and is going through a new boy friend of the week. My wife is working over time at the school board with budgets coming due."
"That's nice. How's your daughter Carol? I read about her going for the colorful costume when she joined the family business as a superhero."
"Ah, very cheerful," answered Ernie.
Clark straightened up. "Ernie, I know I've been retired for a while, but I ask you to remember that I was a highly respected journalist for many years, and I know when a source is hiding something."
"And when a source is lying."
"She's in the hospital."
"She has the Kryptonian genes; the only time I'd expect her to be in the hospital is if she is delivering a child. I think nine months would be long enough to tell me before the event…so what the heck is going on, Ernest?"
"We've got a problem. That's why I came here, for advice. You've got the most experience. You were a hero in the old days when it was wild and woolly. What do you do when you're losing?"
"The only time you come to me for advice is when you're losing? That's what I'm remembered as an expert in?" kidded Clark.
"Actually, you're remembered as the expert in coming back when you're down. You always overcame even seemingly insurmountable odds. We need that experience."
"My pleasure to give it. Ah…who's we?"
"Everybody. When we ran into trouble we assembled everybody in the family for an all out push. We figured upping our numbers in one locale would allow us to overwhelm the enemy. It didn't work."
"Darn. That was the first thing I would have suggested. Which villain are we talking about, and what about this one is giving you so much trouble?"
"It's a bunch of them working together. They call them selves the Evil League of Villains In Society. E-L-V-I-S."
"Elvis? They actually call themselves Elvis?"
"The first thing they did was blow up the law firm who represent the Elvis Presley estate before they could sue them. Since then no one wants to laugh about the name."
"Hmmm, I can see why. Poor Perry must be turning over in his grave. And they're giving you a lot of trouble?" Something stopped Clark, Ernie seemed a little pale and, unbelievably, to be sweating. "Ernest? You O.K.?"
"Yeah. Yeah. I'm fine. But can we sit down? My leg is bo…" he stopped suddenly, aware he'd admitted something he hadn't meant to.
Clark took the opportunity to X-ray Ernie's legs, and nearly gasped aloud when he saw the twin holes in Ernie's left calf, which were still oozing blood into the bandage he wore under his trousers. "What did that to you? Never mind that, what are you doing on it at all?" demanded Clark. "You belong in an infirmary."
"I am not infirm," protested Ernest. "Feral Nightmare did that, the leader of ELVIS."
"Come on, I'll help you to the infirmary, where they will make sure you aren't infirm, and will also make your leg feel better-"
"No! I can't rest now. Elvis is getting ready to attack the Metropolis City Dome. We know they are going to do it, they told us. We think they're trying to get us all there to defeat us at once. I've got to go and fight."
"You are going to rest. You can't go out and fight in this condition, no matter how much you want to. I know, I remember what it's like, but just as Lois would make me rest when necessary, I'm going to make you rest now! Or do you want to fight about it?"
Ernest considered, he was tough and strong. So was Clark. Clark was much older or equivalently Ernest was much younger; that didn't really help, it just meant Clark was much more experienced. Still, it would be a challenge worth bragging about if he could hold his own against-. His leg throbbed, painfully. Forget it, he'd have to fight Clark some other time. "No. I know I'm in no condition to take you on." Did Clark stand just a little taller after that admission?
"Good. You head to the infirmary and get that leg fixed up. While you're at it-I've got an idea!" Clark suddenly disappeared in a streak as he ran down the hall at superspeed. Ten seconds later he was back, in his famous blue uniform. He still made the ridiculous costume look good. And the gray in his hair added distinction, a look of experience rather than the swashbuckling appearance of his early career.
"Attention everyone, please," called Superman to the room, "I need volunteers for a hazardous mission involving a fight against a dangerous group of super villains who are threatening the Metropolis City Dome. Do I have any takers?"
Within seconds every retired hero in the room had raised his or her hand and started to move towards the legend. Some of them took a second to decide they were fit and ready to come out of retirement and fight again. Many of them immediately decided and raised their hands as soon as Superman had finished speaking.
Sean, who was never one to put off until the next second what can be done in this one, not only put up his hand but zipped forward to stand in front of Superman like a kindergartener trying to get the teachers attention. Waving his hand in the air so he almost had his armpit in Superman's face, eagerly calling "I volunteer, please."
"Yes, Sean, I see you," answered Superman calmly. "I want you all to know I appreciate your willingness to help. And that I'll understand if at some point you feel it necessary to withdraw." He looked across the assembled retired heroes who were slowly moving towards him. "Let's get organized. Cassandra! Could you put one of your healing whammies on Ernest's leg here? And then, Steve, please help him down to the infirmary so the wound can heal. Cyber, I need you to use your abilities to do some research: find out what you can about the Elvis… No not Elvis Presley, the Evil League of Villains In Society, E-L-V-I-S. Find out what you can about their powers and tactics, and their weaknesses. Everyone else please get into your old uniforms if you still have them. People on tasks can change later. Is there any one who doesn't have an appropriate uniform to wear?"
The assembled retirees glanced at each other and shrugged. Apparently every single one of the assembled retirees had kept their costumes as cherished keepsakes.
"That's your plan?" demanded Ernest.
"Yes. We're un-retiring. I've just gathered about a thousand hero-years of experience. Can you top that?" asked Clark.
Ernest shook his head and frowned, but was distracted as Cassandra came over to him. Cassandra, who had been a very attractive blond when younger, and who still had startlingly kind gray eyes, came up and put her hand over Ernest's wound, without ever being told which leg or where on it the injury was. A wonderful warmth flowed into Ernest's leg. Ernest sighed with relief and allowed Steve to lead him away.
The other heroes quickly and calmly filed down the hall to their rooms to change. Alice took the opportunity to come up and voice her objections. "Clark! What are you doing? These people are old. There are reasons they all retired. You can't possibly be thinking of taking them into a fight."
"Alice, we appreciate your concern, and we'll be careful. But there are some things that we have to do; it's just who and what we are."
Alice took one look in his eyes, remembered how eager the other retirees had been and resignedly surrendered.
Fifteen minutes later all the retirees had assembled, in uniform. Cyber walked up and presented Superman with the data he'd retrieved from the world-net about Elvis. "Do you want me to summarize for you?" offered Cyber.
"No thank you, Jimmy, I'll just read it." And shuffled through the pages using his super reading ability.
"Er, my name's Henry."
Superman was distracted by reading the data, and it took a few seconds before he replied, "Oh sorry, Hank, I was just remembering an old friend who used to dig up research for me this fast."
"You mean…<gulp>…Jimmy Olsen? Wow, I'm honored."
Superman was surprised Henry even knew who Jimmy had been, but as long as he was pleased by the compliment why apologize? He finished reading the data, thought for a few seconds, and then called out, "If you could all gather around, we'll have a little briefing. There is some distressing news. In addition to the known threat from Elvis there has been a development. Apparently no one is able to enter or exit the Metropolis Dome. Somehow Elvis has successfully interdicted the Dome."
"That was the bad news. Fortunately I've got an idea for a plan based on a movie, a movie so old I doubt any of you have ever seen it. And if you haven't seen it then I doubt the villains have. Alice, do we still have all the props and stuff from that play we did last year?"
Half an hour later, the formerly retired superheroes, now attired in baseball uniforms over their colorful uniforms, approached the Metropolis City Dome.
Steve, AKA Speedster, tugged at the collar of his not quite fitting baseball uniform. "So, Supes, what you're telling me is these guys-"
"Art Carney and Jackie Gleason," supplied Superman (or number 3 according to his baseball jersey).
"So these guys, who I never heard of, dressed up nine people, pretended to be the coaches, and used this as an excuse to get the drop on the bad guys, right?"
"That's about explains the scene we are about to steal."
"Did they have a backup plan?"
"Probably the same one I have."
"Great! …What's the backup plan?"
"Fight like heck."
"Oh. Good plan B."
"Yes. There's the Dome ahead. Everybody get into character and take formation. Where's Debra? Come up to the front. Ready?"
"Ready," confirmed the still attractive redhead, who was dressed as a cheerleader to go with Superman's Coach disguise and the other heroes' baseball player uniforms.
The assembled ex-retired heroes landed out of site of the dome lock and approached on foot, acting casually. The dome was set with many portals to allow people to enter and exit, as well as large portals for transportation services like the high-speed monorails. This particular one was a little distinctive in that it was an emergency exit so it couldn't be sealed and was one of the first built in the dome. Normally a small number of police and rescue works would have been stationed here, more to supply quick services in case of minor disaster than for crime suppression. Today there was, oddly, only a single rather large and surly looking guard. More ominous the dome flickered with a pale green fire, something it normally did not do.
Superman (coach #3) peaked out. "That him?" he whispered to Cyber (#22).
"Yeah, that's Barricade. A nasty ambusher according to the research," whispered back Henry. "According to the Daily Planet, electronic edition, he's pretty tough all the time, but if he braces himself he's incredible. And he has a pretty nasty offense to go with that hyper defense, he's just not very maneuverable. We'd need to take him completely by surprise, at our age, to take him out."
"That's why we're wearing these outfits and using the Carney/Gleason attack, a technique so old none of you has ever even heard of the stars."
"Actually, I have," reluctantly interjected Steve (wearing number 4, short stop).
"That is because you have insomnia and stay up all night watching old movies on channel 453," responded Clark.
"It's my metabolism," explained Steve, "And he's still a nasty ambusher."
"Let's see if we can turn the tables on him. Everybody forward and remember the important thing: smile!" Everybody began walking forward, effecting a gait of rapid hobbling. As they drew near the lone guard, Superman called out, "Hello there Sonny. Looks like a great day for a baseball game," he called affably.
"Go away Gramps. No one in or out of the city today."
"Oh, but we've got to go in. We're the Home Team. The Old Home Team! Got to play."
"No way. You can't play today."
"Why not? We're still here, we're still alive, we're still game. We've got our bats and balls and gloves. Why we even brought our cheerleader! Come here, Deb, show the young fellow how we used to cheer in the good old days."
Deb, wearing a short skirt that revealed she still had a really nice set of legs, with her hair tied in a ponytail and her pom-poms in her hands, quickly came up. "We cheered like this: Go team go. Go team go." And then placing herself directly in front of the surly young man she added, "Go, Team, Go. GO!" (100 db, painful), "TEAM!!" (200 db, deafening) "GOOOOOO!!!" (299 db, 1 db less than lethal!).
Overwhelmed by the sonic shockwave generated by the until recently retired Debra 'Decibel' Sneider, the surly Barricade collapsed unconscious.
Superman spent a few seconds scanning with his x-ray vision. He was pleased to see there were no other elements of Elvis in the vicinity. Superman stepped up, took charge, and began stripping off his baseball jersey. "Cyber, see about getting us into the Dome. Cassie, please administer one of your classic anesthetic whammies to keep Barricade out. Everybody, shed your disguises. It's time to fight."
"You know, Superman, somehow having you refer to what I do as 'whammies' isn't very dignified for me."
"I'm sorry, Cassandra. What is the appropriate term for what you do?"
"…I have no idea. But I've got to think of a better term than 'whammy'."
"Well, when you think of it, let me know, and I'll use it. Cyber! How's it going with that force field?"
"I need about another two minutes," reported Cyber, busy with voltmeters and parts from the retirement home's microwave.
Thirty seconds ahead of the promised two minutes, Cyber gave a little cry of triumph and stood up from where he'd crouched next to the Dome. Nothing seemed to have changed, however, and the Dome still glowed with its strange green fire. "I've done better than I'd expected. Not only is the force field down, but it looks like it's still up. So ELVIS will believe they're trapped and won't even try to flee from us."
"Then it's just a matter of finding and defeating them," declared Superman.
"I did a little recon with the police surveillance cameras," said Cyber. "Elvis has congregated near Centennial Park. They're probably either going to announce their demands or collect hostages."
"O.K. You all know the plan. Fight smart. And let's hit 'em hard!" And the formerly retired heroes streamed into the dome. Elvis would never know quite what hit them.
The first encounter between the ex-retired heroes and Elvis occurred when Superman and Lisa encountered 'Shock'. Shock was dressed in an incredibly ratty costume, apparently seeking to shock with his attire as well as his powers. He saw Superman and put on a nasty grin. "So, old timer, ready to die?"
Superman pulled on a leather glove, made a fist to fit it comfortably to his right hand, and grinned back. "You have to ask yourself something, punk, am I?"
While Shock was confused by the quote, never having heard of Dirty Harry Callahan, Superman began his approach. Shock wasn't shocked enough by the quote not to fight back. He launched a major energy bolt that would have scorched even Superman. But just before he released the energy Superman suddenly jigged to the right, and the bolt went right past him. Superman continued to accelerate towards the now shocked Shock, who continued to fire back. But each time, just before Shock fired, before there was even anything to dodge or know to dodge, Superman moved sideways.
After dodging five of Shock's nasty bolts, Superman closed to arms length and slugged Shock in the jaw, being careful to pull the punch. Shock was surrounded by an aura of Foxfire-like electrical discharges, but the conductive inner layer of the leather glove Cyber had prepared for Superman deflected the energy. Shock flew back five feet before Superman grabbed him in the air, turned him around and slugged him again, tossing him so he landed at Lisa's feet.
Lisa reached into her purse, or utility bag as she preferred to call it when in costume, and pulled out several tranquilizer patches from the home. Two patches, applied to the skin, would put a normal person into a near stupor. Lisa slapped all of them onto exposed portions of Shock's skin; this would be plenty to keep him unconscious until he could be placed in prison. Superman landed next to Lisa just as she stood up from tranquilizing Shock. "You handled that very gracefully. I sometimes forget how fast you can dodge," she said.
"Thanks," he said, a tender look in his eyes. "Of course, it was a lot easier to dodge when I knew when and where he was going to 'shock'. Thanks for telepathically reading his mind and telepathically giving me warning." His smile enlarged.
"You're welcome. I guess we'd better fight now and…talk…later, hmmm?"
"Yes, once more into the breach," replied Superman, dramatically raising his hand. Lisa looked confused. "You don't know that quote either, do you?" he asked, disappointed.
"No. But I'm sure you'll teach me." And they headed off to find more villains to fight.
Jesse, in his trademark black uniform with the cube design on it, had gotten separated from the others and was the next to encounter members of Elvis. Flamer, a nasty energy projector with a lame reputation, spotted Jesse and took in his outfit. "Who are you supposed to be, pops?" he demanded.
"I'm supposed to be taking you into custody," responded Jesse.
"Fat chance. The only thing you're going to be taking is FIRE," answered Flamer.
"No," screamed Flamer's partner, the technovillain Shard.
Flamer didn't listen. He cut loose with a wave of fire that covered Jesse from head to foot. There was a smell of smoke and a crackle that promised 3rd degree burns.
"Don't do that," protested Shard.
"Why not? Who is he to you? Your grandfather?"
"No," wailed Shard. "That's Black Ice! Didn't you ever hear of him he's a-"
Flamer never got a chance to hear the finish because Jesse, suddenly looking much more muscular, stepped out of the flame and tagged Flamer's chin with a very big black fist. "Thanks, kid, absorbing that flame was just what I needed to take you out."
Shard wasn't very good at changing gears while showing off his knowledge and just stood there finishing his sentence while Black Ice moved towards him. "He's an energy absorber and redirector. He absorbs ambient energy, like fire, and channels it into increasing his muscular strength. Which is why you don't- ugggh." He finally stopped as Black Ice slugged him with the strength of a redirecting energy absorber who's just been blasted by a fire projector.
Jesse made sure both were down, slapped on some tranquilizer patches to keep them that way. Then he called for someone to pick up his subjects and moved on looking for more Elvis members to remind of the old hero 'Black Ice'.
One of the most troubling members of Elvis was the super fast racer 'Lightning'. Although the various assembled heroes had had great success tackling most of the members of Elvis, Lightning had continued to evade them with his great speed.
The assembled heroes considered and finally decided the only way to end this was to send Steve, AKA Speedster, after him. Speedster caught up with Lightning, and Lisa, who was an observer, decided it wasn't pretty. Both their names fit too well. Speedster was an incredibly fast human, but Lightning moved like his namesake. Lightning managed to land the first blows and get out of Speedsters range. Speedster was already slightly winded, which wouldn't have happened in his prime, but that was 30 years ago.
"Speedster," called Lisa, "Maybe I can-"
"No. I'm going to do this personally. This isn't just a fight, this is-"
"Yeah, yeah. I know this is 'personal'" filled in Lisa.
"No! I was going to say 'this is fun'! I'm going to beat him for three good reasons. For old time sake. To teach him a lesson. And because, although he is faster at top speed and can get up to speed faster than I can, there is ONE thing I can do better than he can."
"Yeah, lady, stay out of this," interjected Lightning. "This is between us. Racers have to settle this and… Hey! What is the one thing that you can do better than I can?" demanded Lightning.
"Now that would be telling," answered Speedster, starting to run in a direction tangent to Lightning, daring him to come along.
Lightning sped up and not only caught up with Speedster but started to pass him. At which point Speedster stopped suddenly and stuck out his foot tripping lightning. Lightning was fast but going at 300 MPH he was unable to recover and proceeded to skid along the street bouncing until he slammed into the wall of a building.
"Yes!" crowed Speedster as the formerly smug Lightning lay in a heap, moaning. "The one thing I can do better than you is stand still!" He zipped over to Lisa, got a few more of the tranquilizer patches, zipped over to Lightning's fallen form, applied several of the patches and zipped back to stand next to Lisa, puffing slightly. Lisa politely pretended not to notice the panting. "Being able to stop when traveling at high speed is a very useful skill," Speedster explained.
The ex-retired heroes gathered and compared notes. According to their count they had captured all of the E-L- V-I-S members, all except one, the most dangerous of them all: Feral Nightmare. For this one they decided to stick together and try to track him down as a group. They quickly developed an efficient tracking method. Speedster scouted the ground at great speed. Superman and the other flying heroes took to low altitude to scan from above. Lisa used her telepathic ability to scan for his mind. It only took a quarter of an hour to track down Feral to a corner of Centennial Park near where they had started the fight.
It was still a startling occurrence when Feral Nightmare stepped out of the shadow where his camouflage ability had effectively hidden him from sight. A horror out of a bad dream confronted them. Feral Nightmare fit his name as well as anything could. He had pointed canine teeth and was covered with dark fur. A nasty grin played on his lips. His wolf-like ears pointed towards the assembled heroes in anticipation.
"So," he drawled, "come for a little fight have you? Gooood, I can taste it already." He slowly licked his lips. "Which one of you wants to go down first?"
The heroes spread out in a semicircle centered on Feral Nightmare so they wouldn't hurt each other in a cross fire. Superman stepped to the front, "I think we'd all like to be first," he said, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Isn't that against the superhero code? Don't you have to face me one-on-one and take me down with just your own powers?" He didn't sound quite as confident.
"I think we'd rather all pound on you at once."
"Sure none of you want the distinction of being the one that took me down in single combat?" he taunted.
"Oh, maybe when we were young and inexperienced we'd have taken you up on it. But now, we're quite willing to all simultaneously attack you if you're willing to stand there and take it. Or are you offering to surrender?"
To either side of him the ex-retired heroes ready their attacks. Speedster took a step back to get a running start. Deb worked her throat and took a deep breath. There was a crackle of strange energies as heroes charged up for an attack. Jesse slammed his fist into his palm with a crack.
Feral Nightmare looked at the assembled heroes, counted them, mentally reviewed their storied careers and powers, and decided he didn't like the odds. Slowly he raised his hands above his head and slumped.
If he expected the heroes to drop there guards when he surrendered then he was thinking of younger superheroes. The assembled, experienced, heroes kept on their guards until the authorities had arrived with devices to hold even super villains like Feral Nightmare.
"Elvis has left the Dome," intoned Clark.
The ex-retired heroes had some time to talk before Ernest and some of the other young heroes arrived. None of them was eager to go back into retirement, but all were too honest to deny they were, frankly, too old to keep this up, day in and day out.
Ernest, with a bandage now showing through his trouser but much more chipper, made it a point to seek out Clark and thank him and the other heroes for coming. "Great- Grandfather…" he stopped. That didn't sound like the right way to start. "Clark…" no, that wasn't it either. Finally he settled on "Superman", which caused Clark to smile and stand up straighter. He then shook hands with each of the superheroes, calling them by the legendary names he had learned as he was growing up.
Back "Thank you all for coming to the rescue. I'm afraid to ask, but what are you planning to do now?"
Clark, as spokesman, answered, "Well, actually we're thinking of opening a school."
"uh, a school?" asked Ernest.
"Yes. A school for superheroes. Give us a chance to pass on what we've learned, meet the younger crowd, and keep our powers honed in case we ever need to un-retire again."
Ernest considered, "O.K. Put me down for your master class in superheroing. It will be an honor to learn from all the experienced heroes."
"Right, see you Monday morning, 9AM. Be on time," giving a little jab from an old family story.
Ernest walked away wondering what he had gotten himself into as a student at the new superhero high school. The other superheroes drifted away to head back to the home in small groups, leaving Clark and Lisa watching the new faculty leave.
Finally alone, Lisa turned to Clark and said, "You know today we did things I've been wanting to do since I retired five years ago." He smiled. "There is one other thing I've wanted to do for five years." He raised an eyebrow. She stood on her toes and kissed him firmly on the lips.
When they broke apart, he smiled at her and said, "When Lois died, I thought I'd never love again, but it's been a long time, and I think I'm ready. I love you, Lisa."
"I know," she said.
"Would you like to go to dinner with me?" he asked.
He quickly scooped her up in his arms; she didn't protest. "How about-" he began.
"Yes," she answered quickly.
"How can you answer before I can say Paris?"
"I'm a telepath. I knew what you were going to do."
He quickly kissed her. "Did you know I was going to do that?"
She giggled. "Yes."
He slowly left the ground, as they passed from sight there trailed back the sounds of: <kiss> "did you know I was going to do that?" <giggle> "Yes." <kiss> "Did you know…"