New Rourke Unmasked
...But What We Got Were Interesting Times
Portents and Pancakes | Super in the City | Truths We Tell, Secrets We Keep
Gabriel Docket groggily rolled over, checked the time, and cursed whoever invented doors. He rolled back over and tried to return to the blissful ease of sleep, but after a solid ten minutes of knocking at repeated intervals it was clearly evident that the day had started. He pulled on his jeans, knocked over a beer bottle from last night onto the imported rug, and silently mourned the loss of good beer.
”Damn it, I’m coming already!” he shouted as he stomped to the door.
The visitor rapped out “Shave and a Haircut”, but before they could finish off with “Two Bits”, Gabriel swung open the door and glared hard at the broadly smiling woman in the hallway outside the apartment.
She was a handsome woman in her late thirties, with slightly bronze skin courtesy of her Cheyenne heritage, and a raccoon tail coming down from some fixture in her shoulder-length, curly, black, hair. She wore a navy blue t-shirt and khaki pants along with a hefty, leather, rucksack slung over one shoulder. Gabriel would have called her cute if not for the odd way that she was smiling at his chest despite them being roughly the same height. This sort of response wasn’t uncommon for him when he was half naked. His five-foot-ten, just-thirty, frame was the beneficiary of good genetics coming from a stew of European stock. Coupled with regular, if not always planned for, exercise, he had often been described as having leading man appeal but with the personal hygiene of an itinerant rounder. Still, there was just something about her gaze that unsettled him.
”What?” he asked.
”Hi, cousin.” she said, slipping under his arm into the apartment. There she unfolded a white cane and began tapping around the room. As she circled around, Gabriel noticed that what he originally had thought were grey eyes were actually those clouded by thick cataracts.
”I don’t have any cousins.” he said closing the door. “Especially not any blind ones.”
She shrugged in response. ”Maybe not by blood, but certainly by circumstance.” She sniffed. “Got any of that pizza left?”
”Okay, Pocahontas, who are you?”
”I’m your good luck charm. Name’s Summer.” she replied, then muttered under her breath “Vé'ho'e.”
“I don’t need a good luck charm.”
”That’s right.” she said with a knowing grin. “Luck just seems to find you.”
Gabriel peered at her for a moment, then clenched his jaw as elements of the conversation came together in his head; Native American, circumstance, luck.
”That fucking curse.” he growled.
”Curse?” Summer tilted her head to the side. “You’re the luckiest man in the world.”
”But only when I’m not trying to be.” Gabriel sneered. “Like now.”
”The mark of the trickster will do that.” she shrugged again. “Besides, the way I hear it, you brought this on yourself.”
”So what’s your deal?”
”I ran from my heritage. Got slapped in the face with it.” She made a waving motion in front of her face and smirked.
”I get told things. I see things.”
”I thought you were blind.”
”I am, but I can see the magic streaming off you. That’s why I was able to duck around you.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes. “I don’t believe in magic.”
”That’s stupid.” Summer said incredulously in his general direction. “Especially since, I've been traveling for the last sixteen hours on the most disgusting busses, just so I can meet your ungrateful ass.”
”Because things are going to change for you soon.”
Gabriel crossed his arms. ”What things?”
”…Important things.” she floundered.
”Right.” Gabriel grabbed Summer by the arm and began pulling her to the door.
”Hey! Hand’s off the merchandise!” Summer struggled to hold her ground, but Gabriel overpowered her. His determined march across the hardwood floor resulted in Summer maintaining a stumbling trudge just to stay upright.
”I don’t know who you are, or what you are after, but I know when I’m getting played.”
”Come on, let me stay. I’ve don’t have anywhere to go. And I need to pee real bad!”
”I don’t give two shits where you go. But you aren’t staying here.”
”It’s not even your place!”
Gabriel clamped harder on her forearm as he opened the door. “How do you know that?”
”Like I said, I get told things.”
”You read it in that newspaper article about me.”
”Geez, you are really good at deduction.”
”Let’s see how good you are, blind girl.” he said shoving her through the doorway. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
”I can see a vague manish blur, but from your tone of voice I’m guessing one.”
”Congratulations! You win the door prize.” Gabriel slammed the door hard.
“I’ve got a message for you!” Summer shouted through the door.
”I don’t care!” he shouted back.
”I’ll just slip it under the door, okay?”
There was a complicated fumbling sound from the hallway, and then a folded piece of paper was pushed under the door. Despite himself, Gabriel picked it up. It was a square napkin with the words “TEMPORA MEANS TIME IN LATIN” written on it in painstakingly scrawled block-letters.
Gabriel opened the door. Summer was still there, kneeling on the floor.
"What does this mean?" he demanded.
Summer shrugged. "I didn't say I got told everything."
Gabriel slammed the door again.
* * *
He decided he was hungry, and finding out that he was indeed out of pizza, got dressed in what he’d assert were “clean enough” clothes and headed down to the local deli.
The early morning fog was just rolling away, leaving the city with a slick of moisture that made the stone and metal frames of all the aged buildings shine as if freshly polished. Gabriel liked the mornings just after rush hour, especially in this part of the city. The Fabre district was full of ornate towers and grand mansions covered in decorative statuary of granite, marble, brass, and steel. A hundred years ago the whole city was like this; Gothic and Victorian aesthetics interplayed atop the unstoppable onrush of industrial progress. Elevated trains, ballroom-sized baloneys, airship landings, the lost art of making the extraordinary into everyday commonality. To this day, the most expensive house in the city was a two-story, three bedroom, two bathroom, brick and mortar with a manicured lawn and full-sized basement suspended on catwalks twelve stories above the intersection of Cressel Ave. and LeNova Street. It was a window into what the city looked like in its golden era before the war and the crash forced the dreamers of New Rourke to accept the realities of the world they lived in. Nowadays, much of what once was still stood but slowly was being gutted with remodeled “modern” interiors; factory colossi were torn down and transformed into office parks and manufacturers that focused on miniaturization, skyscrapers that had a character uniquely there own were being starved out by the weeds of monolithic rectangles that adhered to the philosophy of form follows function. But the affluent residents and owners of the Fabre district had managed to preserve their beloved, bizarre, buildings. If you wanted normal, you moved to the suburbs.
Gabriel had just finished a really good sandwich and was walking to the newsstand when a semi truck, going much too fast down the street, started blaring its horn at a jaywalking man. The man was pushing a baby stroller. The baby stroller was stuck in a manhole cover in the middle of the street.
Springing into action, Gabriel ran up to the man, said “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.”, and stood there, waiting.
”What are you doing?” the man shouted, franticly wrestling with the stroller’s harness, while the semi grew nearer accompanied by the sound of honking horn, protesting tires, and crying baby.
”I have no idea.” Gabriel answered.
The world around them slowed to a crawl. The sound of the horn spread out to a long thin moan. Pedestrians on the sidewalk seemed frozen in shock and horror.
The man blinked. ”Are you doing this?”
Gabriel shrugged. “Not directly.” he said, then shoved his hands in his pockets like everything had gone according to plan.
”I’m doing it.” said their actual savior.
Of the many things Gabriel expected to see when he turned to look, a five-foot-nothing, nineteen-year-old, Japanese girl in a long, brown, skirt, green sweater, fuchsia scarf, and ponytail was not among them.
“Don’t worry,” she said to the man, “you’re safe now.”
The man picked up his baby and rocked it to stop the crying. “Does this happen often?”
Gabriel shrugged again. “My life is a cartoon.”
The girl looked at Gabriel expectantly.
”What?” he asked.
”Do you expect me to do everything?” she said gesturing to the stroller.
Gabriel nodded and after a little work managed to dislodge the stroller’s wheel from the manhole cover. Then all four of them walked over to the sidewalk, and time resumed its normal flow. The truck skidded to a halt several feet past the manhole, but since there was no one in front of him, and he hadn't felt an impact, the driver continued on his way resolving to lay off the caffine pills.
”Thank you so much!” the man gushed. “How can I repay you?”
”Stick to the crosswalks next time, please.” the girl said. When the man had left, she turned to Gabriel and jabbed a finger into his chest. “What the hell did you think you were doing? You could have been killed!”
”I doubt it.” he said frowning at her. Being yelled at was nothing new to him, but being berated by someone whom he expected to have a bedroom adorned in Hello Kitty paraphernalia was a wholly novel experience. It was practically adorable.
”What?” she scolded. “Did you think running out into the street would somehow make everything turn out alright?”
”Pretty much, yeah. It’s a good thing I did, or you might not have shown up.”
She stared incredulously at him, while trying to attach words to this new form of lunacy when a spark of recognition occurred. “You’re Crapshoot!”
Gabriel sighed, “Yep.”
A few of the local superheroes had taken to (in some cases literally) throwing Gabriel at their opponents as his preternatural luck was an expedient problem solver. The nice ones called him “Theta” to his face, but mostly they had nicknamed him “Crapshoot”.
”Oh, sorry.” she said blushing slightly. “Gabriel Docket?”
”I read about you in the paper.”
”Of course you did.”
She held out a hand. “Akiva Shen.”
Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “God bless you?”
”It’s my name, sheygetz.” she said blankly.
”What? The whole thing?”
She stood there still holding out her hand until he caught on and shook.
”Well, now that I’ve saved your life, and we’ve been formally introduced, I think you owe me.”
Gabriel looked Akiva up and down before reluctantly asking, ”What do you want?”