Posted: December 14, 2010 in Single-run ("One off") Stories

“I’m tellin’ ya, Stevie is a trans—he’s one’a them heroes,” Gus said quietly, following his words with a bite of an apple fritter and then sipping from his thermos of coffee.

“How are you figuring that?” Mark asked him, taking a bite of one of the McGriddle breakfast sandwiches he had bought on the way to the worksite this morning.

“Look, you ‘member that day ‘bout three months back he was all ‘I got the runs’ and rushes off, then acts like he can’t get the Porta-Potty door open, then rushes off lookin’ for a bathroom at a diner or somethin’?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Five minutes later, who comes leapin’ over a building? Greenguard, that’s who. Twenty minutes after that, Stevie is wanderin’ back onto the site actin’ all refreshed and askin’ what we were all excited about.”

“He didn’t jump over a building,” Mark said.

“What? Sure he did.”

“Greenguard jumped over the foreman’s trailer, Gus.”

“Shee-it! OK, the trailer then. Can you jump over a 10-foot high trailer?”

“Point taken. Doesn’t prove anything, though.”

“What about a couple months after that? Sirens all blazin’ a block or two away, and Stevie’s suddenly just fuckin’ gone. Supposed to be mixin’ cement, and he’s gone,” Gus said. “Then what do we hear on the news that night and talk about during coffee break the next mornin’? Hardcase had busted up some gangbangers with automatic rifles for the cops.”

“See? There you go? Two different heroes. Couldn’t both be Steve.”

“Two heroes with the same powers. Stevie’s just tryin’ to keep people off the scent, ya know.”

“Greenguard and Hardcase have almost the same powers,” Mark noted.

“He just plays his powers up different. Underplays stuff or overplays it. I’m tellin’ ya, Stevie’s a supe. One of the white hats,” Gus declared.

“Seems a stretch, Gus,” Mark said, munching on his breakfast sandwich while he spoke. “Isn’t Greenguard tall and lean, and Harcase is kind of average height and really bulky?”

“He’s got some trick, then. Maybe a Morph on top’a bein’ a Tank.”

“Greenguard’s a plain Brute—Hardcase is a Tank,” Mark pointed out after washing down the last of his initial McGriddle with some coffee.

“Ain’t ya listenin’ to me? He plays it up different. He just doesn’t use his strength as obvious when he’s doin’ the Greenguard bit.”

Mark shook his head. “Coincidence, I say. Steve is about as laid back as a guy can get. Shy, even. If I had to pick one guy on the crew I was pretty sure hadn’t got laid in the past year and maybe never, it would be Steve. Good worker, but mild-mannered as all get out.”

“Yeah. Mild-mannered. Put some glasses on him and stick him in a newsroom and he’d be Clark Kent doin’ the Superman thing, just like in them comics.”

“Steve already wears glasses, dumb-ass.”

“There ya go,” Gus said, downing some more coffee and dropping the uneaten half of his apple fritter back in his lunchbox. “Probably not even real prescription ones. And I tell ya what I’m gonna do. Next time I see Stevie, I’m gonna call him out on this. I’m gonna tell him I know he’s Greenguard.”

“And Hardcase,” Mark added with a smirk.

“Yeah, and Hardcase. You watch.”

They sat in silence for a while, Gus lighting up a cigarette in place of his abandoned apple fritter, and Mark waving the smoke away while he finished his second breakfast sandwich. Gravel crunched behind them, and they heard a familiar voice.

“Hey guys, what’s shakin’?”

“Hey, Steve,” Mark said, saluting him with his paper coffee cup. “What’s up?”

“Heya, Stevie!” Gus said. “Nice day, huh? Man. Yeah. Well, I better get back to those support beams.”

Steve slapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t sweat it. I already started on it. Take another five or ten and we’ll get on it together then.”

“Sure, sure, Stevie. Seeya.” Gus said.

When Steve had wandered off, Mark snickered. “Yeah, that’s telling him, Gus. Way to confront the mild-mannered civilian who works two hero gigs.”

“Shut up. Next time. Tomorrow, I mean. Soon.”

As he got near the edge of the worksite, the sound of sirens caught Steve’s attention, and he saw three police cruisers converging on a bank nearby. He frowned, trying to remember.

Shit, who am I today?

He unbuttoned his shirt a bit, saw the red material there, and sighed. “That’s right,” he muttered to himself. “It’s Tuesday.”

The day he was Knockout.

Time to get into character, he thought, and went off to tell the foreman that he had a sudden family crisis to deal with.


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