New Rourke Unmasked
...But What We Got Were Interesting Times
Portents and Pancakes | Super in the City | Truths We Tell, Secrets We Keep
When Elisabeth Raleigh wasn’t working as a freelance clothing designer and seamstress in order to pay off her student loans, she liked to put on a bright pink and yellow costume and beat up criminals while calling herself Springer. She’d made the costume herself; it was a full bodysuit with Kevlar weave segments, shock absorption pads, and matching shoes and glows. All the jujutsu training and gymnastics had given her a body that she was quite pleased with, but she figured that if she was making something so form fitting, she might as well put in some extra padding in certain areas; all of it functional…honest. The motorcycle helmet with built-in Bluetooth and PA speakers she had to buy, but it helped to have connections with tech-heads.
She was sitting on a building ledge, three stories up, in an alley behind a bookstore, when her phone rang. She pressed the recessed button under the lip of her helmet and answered, “Talk to me.”.
”Springer, this is Akiva Shen. I need your help.”
Springer only knew Akiva by reputation; she was practically a legend in New Rourke. Akiva had been doing the cape and mask bit since before Springer’s mother was born. While never matronly or an open spokesperson, Akiva’s track record was a beacon of female empowerment that predated the Women’s Liberation Movement. And though she had officially retired from the life, Akiva was still a powerhouse force to be reckoned with.
Springer was a fan.
”What can I do for you, ma’am?”
”Oh, please.” Akiva replied, with a tint of pleading in her voice. “Don’t call me that.”
”Sorry. But I honestly don’t know what you’d need my help with.”
”Given the situation, I think you are the best person for the job.”
”Do you need me right now? I’m kinda in the middle of something.”
”Sooner would be better than later.”
”Alright, where do you need me?”
”Door Five. Got it. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
”Thank you.” Akiva said and hung up.
Springer gave an uncharacteristic slouch then scanned the alley again. “Dude, where are you? I can’t sit around here all day.”
Two minutes later, as she was franticly rapping her fingers on the ledge’s stonework, a man with a body builder physique, known as Grinder Griswald, rounded the corner and sprinted down the alley with a duffel bag over one shoulder.
”Finally! Come to mamma.”
Springer gauged for distance and speed then launched herself from the ledge, with an accompanying sound like a racquetball ricocheting around the court, to land on Griswald’s shoulders. Once she had her hands on him, she used her repulsion blast powers again to flip herself back into the air, and Griswald face-first onto the concrete. She stuck the landing, giving herself a 5.2 for technique and a 5.5 for style.
Griswald shook his head and climbed to his feet. “That was a mistake, Pink Ranger.”
”The name’s Spinger, and I’m not the one who just smashed up a bank.”
”Well, now I’m gonna smash you!”
If Griswald could have seen how hard her eyes were rolling behind her visor, he would have been embarrassed.
He charged at her with a wild haymaker, which she easily dodged by diving to his left and then responded with a double-footed donkey kick to his shoulder. It wasn’t enough to knock him over, but more than enough to send him into an unbalanced stumble. When he sloppily swung the duffle bag down at her, she rolled away, got her hands and feet underneath herself, and went skyward again. This time Springer landed behind Griswald and instigated a quarter-nelson. He responded by repeatedly hitting her in the face with the duffle bag.
”Seriously?” Springer said in between smacks from the flimsy bag. “That’s not doing anything.”
”Okay.” Griswald said, letting go of the bag.
Springer managed a half-hearted, “Oh, crap!” as Griswald intentionally fell backwards crunching her underneath his bulk.
Right. she thought, the air pressed out of her lungs. The butt is fine. Next time, more padding in the shoulder blades.
Griswald, grabbed a hold of her wrists, flipped over, and pinned her arms above her head with his right hand. She tried to squirm free but he pressed a knee onto her pelvis and punched her hard in the stomach with his left.
”That work for you, sweetcakes?” Griswald said, grinning at her coughing fit. “Not so smart when you can’t get your hands on me. Let’s see how you like it.”
Springer muttered something in between coughs, but it was muffled by her helmet.
”What’s that?” Griswald said in a sing song voice, leaning close. “I can’t hear you.”
”Do you know what tactile telekinesis is?”
”Blink and you’ll miss it.”
Griswald’s right arm windmilled around so fast that his shoulder dislocated. His left leg flung out to the side hard enough that walking would prove difficult from there on. With her hands now free, Springer could focus her power in directed blasts. She slapped both palms on Griswald's chest then sent him tumbling upward. Granted the pressure usually generated to fling a hundred-forty-pound woman between buildings is greatly diminished when applied to something almost twice that weight. She didn’t send him high enough that the fall would kill him, but the momentary sight of Grinder Griswald flailing in the air, screaming his head off, brought a little smile to her somewhat bruised ego…and definitely bruised stomach. He landed on his side, curled into a ball, clutching his shoulder.
She walked over to alley the wall where the duffle bag had fallen and picked it up. Unzipping it, she found the thick bundles of money she was told would be there. After a quick count, she closed the bag then dialed her phone. “He’s down.” she said. “It’s all here.”
Five cops, and one plain clothes detective, came out of the back door of the bookstore.
”All yours, Jerry.” she said handing over the duffle bag.
”Thanks, Springer. Good job.”
”You know it.” she said snapping her fingers at him. “Why do they call him Grinder Griswald anyway?”
”Oh. You mind if I skip on the paper work, I’ve got somewhere I need to be.”
"What paperwork? You left before we got here.”
"You're the best, Jerry."
* * *
Ricocheting her way through the mess of towers and obstacles that was everything above street level in New Rourke, Springer eventually arrived at an unassuming alcove next to a pet store where Akiva was idly playing with a pack of bewildered puppies inside a large plastic tub.
”Sorry, that took so long.” Springer said. “What’s the sitch?”
”We’ll talk inside.” Akiva replied.
Inside the alcove was a door. It was a plain wooden door, worn with age, baring a studiously maintained layer of drab green paint. There was no official address for the door, and it bore no markings. There were no ornamentations whatsoever on the door beyond the understated brass latch, not even a visible lock; it didn’t even connect to the building it was attached to. The superhero community of New Rourke simply called it Door Five. It was one of nine doors which led to a three-hundred-thirty-three-cubic-yard pocket dimension that essentially served as a superhero clubhouse known as Candlebrook Tavern. But while many people knew these doors existed, the only way for a person to open one was if they had been inside before.
The main bar was empty at this hour. The ever-present aroma of polished wood and stale beer lingered below the stagecoach wheel chandeliers which recently, amongst a great deal of debate over nostalgia versus safety and efficiency, had the old oil lanterns replaced with electrical facsimiles.
”I’m getting a drink.” Akiva announced a bit more loudly than she had originally intended. “Would you like anything?”
”Didn’t you need my help with something?”
”Yes…but I think a drink would help also.”
”Well, what are you having?”
Elisabeth paused. By this point, it was clear that Akiva had already downed a few. “I think I’ll have a Gingersnap.”
Akiva gestured at one of the better stocked chemistry sets in town. “The bar is open.”
”Rick let’s you have the run of the place?”
”I’ve been living here since that robot blew up my house. He’s the one who gave me your number…And he told me your real identity. I hope that isn’t a problem.”
”No, no, it’s fine. I trust you.”
Springer removed her helmet and shook out her short-cut auburn hair. Even with some matting and helmet marks, Akiva still felt a itch of jealousy at Elisabeth’s classical French features and additional nine inches of height.
After getting their drinks, they sat down at a corner booth which already had four empty bottles on it. Akiva moved her dead soldiers to the side of the table, and Elisabeth diplomatically didn’t notice.
”Are you alright?”
”Yes, It’s just that…I…Whenever—How old are you anyway?” Akiva asked, shifting gears like a pro.
”Twenty-four.” Elisabeth answered, attempting to hide the questioning in her voice.
”Right.” Akiva nodded and looked away across the room, then at the sweating bottle in her hand.
”Oy gottenyu, this is stupid!” Akiva exclaimed, followed by a mumbled stream of colorful Yiddish which Elisabeth only managed to comprehend through subtext. “There’s a guy. I haven’t dated anyone in more than twenty years. Tell me how to flirt.”
Elisabeth’s eyes went wide. She was silent for a moment before saying, “Wow. Okay.”, and then rounded that off with some more silence coupled with being very grateful for having alcohol within reach.
”Why are you asking me?”
Akiva sighed. Apparently, her reasoning wasn’t obvious enough for Elisabeth. “Most of the people I know from when I was your age are either dead or in nursing homes. There are a few people I know through work, all of whom are married and I wouldn’t say we are close. There are a handful of powered women in the city under forty, but Carrie-anne is a shut-in understandably, the relationship I have with Calico Jones could best be described as dysfunctional, and honestly Chamelia gives me the creeps.”
Elisabeth nodded emphatically.
”You are the only one I know of who is in the dating pool.” Akiva took a long swig of her beer. “And like I said…”
”Twenty years.” Elisabeth filled in.
”Um…During this…dry spell, have you—?”
”Oh god, yes! I’d go crazy otherwise! Fortunately, I’ve had the better part of sixty years to get a handle on the libido of a nineteen-year-old body.”
”God, that must be nice.” Elisabeth said, then immediately wanted to avoid the incredulous look Akiva gave. “I mean not having to worry about aging. I do not look forward to seeing my bits go south.”
”Trust me.” Akiva said severely. “There are drawbacks.”
”Like hooking up with guys who chase after nineteen-year-olds?”
”For one, yes.”
Elisabeth made a face that said, “Ew.”
Akiva made a face that said, “Don’t judge me.”
”So why this guy?”
”He’s,” Akiva averted her eyes again, “different.”
”Just…” Akiva returned her gaze to her drink, “different.”
”…Is it Rick?”
”I got the impression that Rick was gay, but who can tell with shapeshifters?”
”Is it Axiom? I’ve always wanted to know what was under all that armor.”
”A very nice catholic boy…and I mentored him.”
Elisabeth grinned. “It’s Grey Vigil isn’t it?”
Akiva did a subtle and controlled—not explosive at all—spit take. “Oh god, no!”
After getting her laughter under control, Elisabeth asked, “Seriously, who is it?”
”You don’t need to know.” Akiva said wiping down the table. “Just advice. Me. Give.”
”It’s hard to say really.” Elisabeth shrugged. “I doubt much has really changed in—god, twenty years! Hey, did you ever date a guy named Hector Raleigh?”
”No, I did not have sex with your father.” Akiva said flatly.
”Good. I—waitaminute…” Elisabeth peered at Akiva trying to sort out if she had deflected the question before continuing. “Do you know if this guy likes you?”
”Not as yet.”
”Well…give him attention. Maybe casually touch his arm while you're talking. Some guys like it when we’re a little forward. I don’t know.”
Akiva frowned. “Is that all you’ve got?”
”Listen, the anatomy has not changed. Just be cool. Hang out. Drop a few hints that you’re into him, and I’m sure he’ll come around in no time.”
* * *
Akiva took some time to sober up and work up the courage to make a move before tracking Gabriel down. She wracked her brain trying to come up with some way to break the ice when, as she was driving through the Fabre district, she saw him run out into the street in front of an oncoming semi truck and stand there like an idiot. She created a bubble of sped-up time around Gabriel and the man with the baby stroller, and after saving both of them from becoming road pizza she demanded Gabriel buy her breakfast as a reward.
As good a start as any. she thought.
Thanks to my sisters and friend Sam for girlie advice input.