Velocity sped into the kitchen in her dressing gown to put the coffee on. Mage was sitting at the table with a full breakfast already prepared.
“Morning!” he said cheerfully.
“Mage?! What in the name of Heaven are you doing?” she tied the belt of her dressing gown tighter, making sure she was completely covered up. “Since when do you get up this early? How did you get in here?”
“I can walk through walls when I need to.”
Velocity covered her face with her hands, it was too early in the morning to be dealing with this guy: “Why did you “need” to walk through ours first thing in the morning?”
“I need a small favour. Tiny, you could even say its infinitesimal. My new line of wholesome, healthy foodstuffs is getting its official launch today. Photographers, T.V. cameras, all that good stuff. I could use some backup. It’d be good P.R. for the team!”
Solarstorm entered the room dressed in a navy suit, a blue shirt and tie.
“This is the same “wholesome” stuff that you complained gave you Diarrhoea last month?” He asked.
“The very same. The Doctor actually said it was chronic Diarrhoea, by the way. I have a sick note.” Mage picked up a box of breakfast cereal from the table. “Check this out. It's called “Mages Choice” and it's worth a lot of money to selected charities.”
Velocity examined the box, which had a picture of Mage smiling and giving a thumbs up as he used a spoon to scoop up some cereal from a bowl.
She laughed: “Do these “charities” include the local bars, restaurants and clothes stores?”
“Oh, what’s this? I'm getting harassment from the woman who endorsed those running shoes that are made by five year olds in a sweatshop.”
“Those allegations were never proven!” Velocity retorted.
Solarstorm raised his voice to try and stop the developing argument: “We’re not interested Mage. Buying a lot of fancy food from your company won’t make people healthier or thinner, Why not just tell people to eat some fruit and vegetables and do some exercise if they want to be healthy?”
“Because” Mage said slowly, as if speaking to a child; “that’s…not…profitable. “Mage’s Choice” is more than just a food brand. The very name conjures up a lifestyle choice that means no stress and no effort, just the need to spend money on these “dried fruit crunchies” that I’m selling.”
Solarstorm sat down and poured himself a large cup of coffee.
“Very nice. Was some of that a quote from the press release?”
“No deal. People are told to buy useless junk by companies all the time; we’re not getting involved in that.”
“Fine, Ok. But what about that reality show that my agent is trying to set up over at the TV network? Can't you at least sign off on that?”
“Not happening. We're private individuals. We don't like seeing our faces plastered everywhere.”
“We're the world's greatest heroes. We're going to have our faces everywhere whether we want to or not. Am I the only one who wants to make some money off of that?”
Solarstorm sighed: “We’re well looked after by the Government. Velocity and I love to do the charity work but we're not in this for the money. In fact we're thinking of stepping back from all this.”
“You're breaking up the band?!” asked Mage, surprised.
“We've been talking about it.”
A tear appeared in Mage’s eye. He fell off his chair and got down on his knees:
“Please, please do this for me! For us! For the good of humanity! Couldn’t you at least wait until my brand has established itself in the marketplace?”
“That was much better than usual, have you been practicing your grovelling technique?”
Mage began to cry: “I don’t want to die poor! I don’t want to!”
Real tears continued to streak down his cheeks as he pounded his fist on the floor and wailed.
“We're not needed Mage.” Velocity cut in, “Yesterday was the first action we've seen in six months. Our family deserves a normal life. We've been superheroes but not great parents for a long while now. It's time for us to fix that.”
Mage got to his feet and wiped the tears from his eyes: “Thanks for that rousing speech, Yoko Ono. You two are a disappointment!”
Mage strode to the door, opened it and slammed it loudly, for effect. He turned around to face Velocity and glared angrily at her for a few seconds. He finally left the apartment by passing through the wall as if it wasn’t there.
Solarstorm looked puzzled: “How is it that he can enter our apartment and make breakfast without making a sound but he always makes sure to slam the door when he’s leaving?”
Solarstorm tried some of the cereal. It was terrible. He coughed most of the mouthful into a napkin and washed the remainder of the cereal down with some orange juice.
“That’s awful; I think I’ll have some toast instead.”
Solarstorm picked up a slice of bread in his right hand and pointed his left index finger at it; his finger emitted a soft orange glow, within seconds the bread started to toast.
“Do you want to discuss what we said last night?" asked Velocity “Ryan will be up soon and we should talk to him about it”.
“I think we’re done. The super criminals are all safely locked away and the Police are well able to handle everything else, they could have dealt with that hostage situation in the Casino without our help. The Mayor didn’t need to call us in for that.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’ve been thinking the same for a while.”
Ryan walked into the room, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, carrying a schoolbag over his right shoulder. Solarstorm smiled at him:
“So kiddo, you ready for your first day of public school?”
Ryan nodded: He had already decided not to tell them that he had actually started yesterday. It would upset them if they realised that they had forgotten the correct date. “Got my switchblade, some notebooks, my laptop and these writing sticks.” He said, fishing in his backpack and producing some ballpoint pens.
“Pens? I remember those. Is your switchblade properly sharpened?” Solarstorm deadpanned.
“I think so; Warfare gave it to me last Christmas. He doesn’t usually give inferior sharp objects as gifts.”
Solarstorm looked across into the living room to see the display of old fashioned weaponry that Warfare had given the family over the years, Battle-Axes, Swords and even a Mace were displayed in various locked cabinets. Warfare had odd ideas about what people should receive for birthdays and Christmas, but his heart was in the right place.
“Honey, leave that at home!” said Velocity
“Mum, I don’t really have one.” said Ryan, a little exasperated, “I asked Warfare but he said I wasn’t ever going to need one.”
“He’s right; this is a public school you’re going to, not Iraq.”
“Ok, but if I come home covered in bruises…”
“Could you try to avoid that kind of thing? We’re running out of schools to send you to.”
“Tell the kids to stop picking on me just because my Dad can knock buildings over and my Mum can run faster than anyone else on the planet. Things are a lot different to when you two were in school.”
“Hey” Velocity cut in “We had it hard growing up too!”
“You had powers, I don’t.”
“You still might. You’re only fourteen.”
“I’d prefer not to get any, thanks. Am I supposed to grow up to be a super-powered accountant or something?”
Solarstorm grabbed his car keys from the kitchen counter: “Come on, I’ll drive you to school. We still have plenty of time to ruin your life for you. You’re our responsibility until you turn eighteen.”
“Yeah, you two go on ahead” said Velocity. “This apartment is a pigsty; I’m going to clean it.”
Ryan looked around the spotless apartment;” Mum, we really need to get you a hobby. I hear that knitting is a lot of fun.”
“I already tried it. I can knit a jumper in forty seconds. Your Dad has a wardrobe full of them from when we started dating.”
“I never wear them because they’re so special.” said Solarstorm. “It’s definitely not because they’re in garish colours that make my eyes bleed.”
“We’re going to be late!” said Ryan, checking his watch.
Solarstorm smiled: “See Lisa? He gets that from you. We’ll speak to Warfare when I get back.”
“Sure, go. I’ll see you in an hour or so.”
Ryan sat in the passenger seat of his Dad’s car as they drove through the traffic on the way to school.
“Listen Ryan. Your Mom and I are worried. Are you going to be OK in this new school? You’ve had a lot of trouble fitting in everywhere.”
“Something about having superhero parents doesn’t lead to making friends easily.”
“I can understand that. It’s difficult to make friends at all. You’d be surprised how few we have. Outside of the hero community, I mean.”
“Because you have powers?”
“That’s part of it, but it’s more like regular folks don’t really approach us as people. We’re icons, like famous actors or singers. People see the glitzy public façade but not what’s inside. The fact that we’re famous makes our relationships a bit on the superficial side. People want to be friends with you for what you can do for them. Not necessarily because of the person you are. We don’t want that for you. If there’s a chance for you to be a normal person, unaffected by all the craziness that this life brings, then we’re going to take it.”
“Which means what exactly?”
“It means we want you to study and talk to kids your own age, your best friend at the moment is a walking pile of rocks that likes to smash robots.”
“Good, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to pick you up, you can get the school bus home if neither your mother nor I can make it. I’ve a feeling that the meeting with Warfare is going to take some time. Enjoy your day. Try to talk to some other teenagers, preferably ones who aren’t members of a gang.”