(continued from part one)
“You killed Vincent Rapaport – Parka,” Silver Striker says. “And I want to know why.”
“Hey, take it easy. I didn’t murder the guy or anything, it was an accident.”
I give him the Reader’s Digest version of that night in the E.C. fighting Parka, how he was going to kill those two cops, how he zapped me with his cold/blizzard whammy, and most importantly, how in the heat of battle I threw a car at Parka, crushing him.
“My goggles wer fogged up; I couldn't see real well,” I said. "And I didn't think it would kill the guy. I mean, Parka’s an A-List villain, I figured he could take having a car thrown at him. It wasn’t even a big car. It was a Scion.”
Thor is listening to this whole exchange as he cleans behind the bar, unfazed.
Steve – I mean Silver Striker – takes a pull off his beer. “Yeah, he had been having problems with his powers lately; they were becoming more and more unstable. It was affecting his mind, his decision making. Used to be Parka would freeze himself, make his skin diamond hard. I’m guessing he underestimated you, didn’t think he’d need to armor up. Vincent always was overconfident to a fault.”
He sounds sort of wistful, like he’s talking about a dead college buddy or something.
“Well, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry he’s dead,” I say. How broken up am I supposed to be about this? “But I gotta say, if I hadn’t thrown that car, those two cops he froze would be dead now. I can’t think of what I would have done differently…”
“I understand,” Silver Striker says. He seems a little sad. “It’s just that I had hoped we could cure his condition.”
What is this guy so worked up about a fucking supervillain for? I had heard that Silver Striker and his rogue's gallery, The Malefactors, had a mutual respect for each other, but jeez. I hear Moonbug sends Silver Striker a Christmas card every year. Seriously.
"Yeah, well... shit happens, I guess," I say, lamely.
Silver Striker sighs and takes another drink. Maybe he's bummed out because some bush-leaguer took Parka out - something he could never manage, except on a temporary basis.
"Okay, thanks for filling me in, Marauder," he says. "I just wanted to hear what happened from you. What are you going to do now?"
"Me? I don't know, I thought I'd rent a car and head down the coast for a few days..."
"No, I mean when are you going back to Evergreen City?" Silver Striker says.
"Gosh, I hadn't really thought that far ahead," I say, signaling Thor for a fresh Corona.
"You can't hide down here forever, son," he says. I'm starting to hate it when he calls me "son." I mean, I know the guy's as old as my grandpa, but he looks my age. It's patronizing.
"I'm not hiding. Who's hiding? I get five weeks of vacation a year. What, I can't take a break? Superheroes don't get down time?"
"You're worried about The Malefactors," Silver Striker says.
"The thought had crossed my mind, but that's not why I'm here. I'm not hiding, all right?"
"Uh-huh," he says disbelievingly.
"Listen, I'd be looking over my shoulder, too," he says. "But at some point you've got to push that fear aside and get on with your job. People are relying on you to protect them, Marauder."
"There is no fear, okay?" I'm raising my voice. "No fear. And Evergreen City was doing fine before I came along. I check the news; it hasn't burned down in my absence."
"No, but what if you weren't there to stop Baron von Blitzkrieg? Or Yiff? Or the ghouls you fought with Hydrangea last Halloween?"
"You heard about that, the zombie thing?" I ask.
"We keep tabs on things at Striker Mountain. Listen, we need you up there in the Northwest."
"Oh for God's sake," I yell. "So that's it, that's the idea? Give me a little pep talk and then hang me out to dry, send me back so I can get killed by your villains? I like fighting crime and shit, and jumping around, but I don't have a fucking death wish!"
"Listen, I understand your fears --" he begins.
"They're not fears!" I'm still yelling. I sound shrill. "They're valid concerns based on objective facts!"
Silver Striker laughs. Silver Striker fucking laughs at me.
"It's not fucking funny!"
"I'm sorry," he says, laughing. "It kind of is."
"Great. That's great. Silver Striker's mocking me."
Chuckling, he takes a cell phone out of a pocket in his cargo shorts. "Okay, take it easy. Nobody's going to hang you out to dry. Take this."
It's a Nokia switchblade phone. "What's it do?"
"It's called a transat. It's a trans-satellite comlink with GPS, wireless internet, radiation detector, the works. You have any problems with The Malefactors or anything else you think we should take a look at, just contact us."
I flip open the phone. It beeps. "How do I do that?"
Silver Striker smiles. "Just dial 911."
"Cute," I say. I'm feeling calmer now. "So what's the story, do you have emergency operators at Striker Mountain or something?"
"Yes, we have a call center. Normally we only give the transat to Strike Force affiliates, but under the circumstances, I think it's best. If this works out we may consider giving you affiliate status in the future."
Strike Force affiliates are local superheroes spread throughout the world who have a loose relationship with Silver Striker, Inc. It's kind of like being a member of the superhero AAA or something. In addition to emergency services, I hear affiliates get a monthly stipend and access to Striker Mountain's research and surveillance resources. Of course, you have to drop everything and come running if Silver Striker needs to assemble a superhero army to face whatever cosmic crisis threatens earth, so that can be a problem. Still, it'd be nice to be an affiliate...
"What do you say? Striker Mountain will back you up if things get out of control."
"I don't know..." I say, staring at the Nokia.
"Your city needs you, Marauder."
Man, what do you say when somebody lays that on you? "Okay," I say. I don't think this is going to end very well for me, but what the hell. I came this far. "Okay, you're right. Thanks, Silver Striker."
"Thank you, son." He hoists his beer and gives me a grin. He looks like a Tucson real estate agent who just closed a big deal.
I sit next to Silver Striker in that little bar in Costa Rica, drinking a beer and watching dark clouds scudding over the ocean in the distance. We just sit there for a few minutes, two guys drinking beer.
That's it, then. I'm going back to Evergreen City.
I'm doomed, aren't I?