It’s Monday, which is usually a terrible thing, but on this Monday you get to enjoy Chapter Three of DarkLight Redemption!
I know what you must be thinking: Hey, I thought this was just a guy in over his head. But here he is, taking briefcases full of cash from criminal masterminds. What gives?
So allow me to offer some context. Post-Humans (often referred to by the public at large as Posties, though I can never tell if that’s meant as a slur) first appeared a little less than twenty years ago, which means that I’ve never really known a world where super beings didn’t exist.
No one really know the why or how. Maybe the stars were properly aligned. Maybe the mad scientists of the world unleashed something. Or maybe it was just time for the world to change.
It was strange because people who had been ordinary their entire lives suddenly began exhibiting these powers. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it — it just happened.
There are two theories that I think hold some validity. The first is that Earth had its first encounter with extraterrestrial beings at around that time. And the second is that Charles Porter made a breakthrough in his work with dimensional barriers.
I can’t prove a connection to either event, and I wouldn’t even know how to start explaining Charles’ work since he’s a world-renowned physicist, and I never even finished my second semester of community college.
Instead I’ll focus on my personal history. It was all pretty boring. My dad’s worked in construction for thirty years, and my mom’s a veterinarian. My sister, Maggie, just graduated college with a degree in sociology, which I have no doubt my parents will use to try and guilt-trip me into going back to school.
When I was a kid, I loved reading all about the superheroes. Half the comic books on the shelves were non-fiction, if you can imagine that. All the action seemed to be in the major cities, so growing up in the quiet suburbs, I always longed to visit a big city and see a super fight in person.
When I got old enough to travel to Manhattan myself, I would take the train in every weekend just hoping to come across a Post-Human showdown. It was stupid and morbid and dangerous, but if you can’t do dangerously stupid morbidity when you’re fifteen, then when can you?
One day, I got my wish — and it nearly killed me.
I was in midtown when the wall of a bank evaporated. It didn’t explode; it just sort of went away. A Postie named Moleculon was robbing it. He has the power to manipulate any physical matter that he’s touching. And yes, that’s as terrifying as it sounds.
In this case, he touched the wall and transformed it into a gaseous state. Again, not a physicist, so I have no idea how one turns brick into gas. But Moleculon did it nonetheless. He was making a break for it when MasterBlaster arrived on the scene.
MB and The Paradigm became the faces of the superhero movement about fifteen years ago when they were both in their early thirties. Not P.H.A.T.E.’s government-sponsored version of the movement, mind you, but the real one.
The Paradigm was your classic all-star quarterback type: all brawn and media-friendly smiles. MB came across as more of a thinking man’s hero. His insightful brown eyes expressed a great intelligence, but his square jutting chin showed that he could take a punch. MB is a pretty big guy in his own right, so you know he can throw a punch as well.
Seeing him in person was just as awesome as I’d imagined it would be. MB flew down from the sky, glowing blue and wearing the red and gray costume that I’d seen in photos and drawings for years. Here was the heroic masked man swooping in to save the day! Classic.
Moleculon turned some cars to gas, blew them toward MB and then resolidified them. MB took a pounding, but his force field deflected most of the impact. The whole fight only lasted a few minutes, but it felt like an hour while I was watching it.
But losing track of time was less of a problem than losing track of where I was. And so I ended up too close to the action, and Moleculon grabbed me.
He held me in front of him like a human shield as MasterBlaster set down on the ground. There was yelling back and forth — I don’t really remember details, but it was your typical chest-beating stuff.
What I do remember is that my entire body began to feel lighter. I felt like I was disappearing — and in fact, I was. Moleculon was threatening to turn me into smoke if MB didn’t let him escape.
Not surprisingly, I was getting the sense that would happen anyway. Moleculon had killed before, and I didn’t doubt he would again. MasterBlaster must’ve felt the same way since he quick-drew a narrow energy blast, which shot through Moleculon’s shoulder.
At the same moment that he fell, my body seemed to come alight, and I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I was in a laboratory. MB was unmasked and running some tests on a machine. He introduced himself as Charles Porter and told me that I’d been changed on a cellular level.
When Moleculon had a hold on every atom in my body and Charles blasted him, my cells became infused with the same kind of power that Charles’s had.
I, of course, thought that was awesome. But Charles warned me of the dangers of carrying that sort of power without any understanding or training. I agreed on the spot to join up as his sidekick, LightBlast. I came up with the name myself.
I say “agreed” to become his sidekick, when “forced myself into the job” might be more accurate. Either way, Charles took me under his wing, and we got our superhero on together. For five years, I partnered with Charles, even starting my own superteam with other teenaged Post-Humans.
There was no adult hero equivalent, as most team-ups ended up being temporary. Egos and such always end up getting in the way. But my team, Varsity Squad, stuck together. I came up with that name as well, and I’m not sure if I’m more embarrassed by that one or LightBlast.
At any rate, I was living the dream. Beating up bad guys, fighting off alien invasions, and just enjoying all that comes with having superpowers. I felt invincible, like nothing could touch me. And then Maggie got sick.
She got hit with something new, rare and nasty. Fast, too — in fact, most cases ran their course from first symptoms to death in less than a month. I had no options and little time to find some.
There was no widely known treatment at the time, and to get Maggie enrolled in the experimental testing would have required pulling a number of strings that my family simply did not have access to.
I went to Charles first, hoping that he might know something I didn’t. He called his friends, mostly other Post-Humans, but nothing came of it.
That’s when I had to make a hard choice. There was one person I knew of that had the sort of resources I needed to save my sister. So I went to Drake Weston and made a deal with the devil.
As it turned out, he had the inside track on a treatment for the disease. He’d run a few tests of his own, and each one was a success. The only reason he hadn’t cashed it in yet with the world medical community was because he was still waiting to see if the cure would last.
I didn’t have time to wait and see whether the treatment would kill Maggie, as the sickness would take her long before then. So I agreed to work for Weston, and he agreed to get my sister enrolled in his own private treatment study.
Five years later, my sister is alive, and I’m finally done paying off my debt to Weston. It took betraying all my friends and most of my principles, but I would do it again in a heartbeat if it meant keeping Maggie’s heart beating.
But what about the money? you may still be asking.
Well, Weston could have had me doing his bidding for free if he wanted. But, always one to take preemptive action to avoid future complications, Weston made sure that all his employees were well-compensated.
I did try to refuse the first few payments, but I eventually caved and accepted. Say what you will about my wobbly moral compass, but the money helped me buy my pub. And having that will allow me to walk away from LightBlast, DarkLight and my whole messy past once and for all.