At takeoff, the Defender buckled into his aisle seat next to the Empress. He glanced towards Captain Revolution’s seat at the rear. A hairy blue hulk obscured his view.
He looked across aisle to Revelator and the Sword. Was this some kind of trap? One thing for sure, the Sword had better have a really good explanation for Captain Revolution’s presence on this plane.
The Empress growled beside him. “I wish I knew what that Red scoundrel was thinking.”
Revelator leaned over. “Lady, he’s thinking, ‘Is this some type of trap?’ and is wondering what you guys are doing here.”
The Defender laughed. “I guess he did not come looking for trouble.”
The Empress snorted. “Humph. He brings more than enough trouble with him wherever he goes. You are Revelator?”
Revelator smiled. “Indeed. But when we’re in private, please, call me Laban.”
“Should you really give away your secret identity?”
Revelator shrugged. “Only fair not to keep secrets from the team. After all, the team doesn’t have any secrets with me.”
The Empress sent a piercing glare at Revelator. “So you’re telling me that while we’ve been on this plane, you’ve scanned our innermost thoughts and feelings to find our secret identities.”
Revelator laughed. “I help Jesse maintain the roster and keep your identities secret. I have to know them.”
“Oh,” said the Empress.
Revelator leaned towards the Defender. “But one thing I must say, man. You are way too worried about impressing the Sword. Stop being a doormat. You didn’t become Russia’s greatest hero by acting like a fan boy.”
The Defender’s face fell. It was hard enough feeling more like an awkward fan than a real hero without someone else knowing his thoughts.
The Revelator smiled. “Jesse didn’t make you great. You were great already, which is why he wanted you on the team. Now, Jesse’s like a brother to me, but he’s not God. If you aren’t careful, he’ll walk all over you. Want to be a second-rate sidekick? Keep this up. Want respected as an equal? Act like one.”
The Defender blushed. Revelator had a point, but was now the time? Particularly with a beautiful woman by his side. “Do you always publicly rebuke people on your first meeting, or am I just special?”
Revelator laughed. “Since you let Jesse walk all over you, I figured you enjoyed being a doormat.”
He deserved that, but the Sword’s sidekick sure was one to lecture him. Time to change the subject.
“Oh, I’m not the Sword’s sidekick, but we have been crime-fighting partners six years, since you ask.”
Revelator paused. “Oh, you didn’t ask. Sorry, but you were going to, so I’ll tell. We’ve been through a lot together. The Sword got me to live again, and I’ll always owe him for that.”
“What’s it like?” asked the Defender.
“If you’d asked me four years ago, I’d have told you it was just like a comic book. We were out all hours of the night, hauling in criminal scum, and breaking up terror cells. We even went overseas to haul in terrorist scum. I can’t tell you how many lives we saved. During those years, the Sword made his money going to garage sales and selling stuff on eBay.”
Wow, real inside information right from the big guy’s sidekick. “Did you ever join forces with any others?”
“Again, I’m an equal, not a sidekick. But we have teamed up with Champion and Commander Justice a time or two. We joined forces with Payday a couple times and fought him once when he went too far. Overseas, we’ve gotten help from Pharaoh and Captain Zion, though not at the same time. The Sword had heard of others, but he didn’t have time to track them down.”
“What changed things?”
“The movie, the comic book company, becoming a family man. I don’t think it’s made him worse, but he’s different. The Sword’s subcontracted out defense of Philadelphia to a team of elite heroes. The Sword works 8-5, Monday-Friday, on call while tending to minimal duties at the comic book company. During the evenings, he’s on call for absolute emergencies that assigned heroes can’t handle.”
“People change,” said the Empress.
“Yeah, I just didn’t expect it in this business. When I was a kid, comic book heroes didn’t change. I just thought somehow it’d be the same in real life. But this stage has had its advantages. I’ve had less uniforms ruined and gotten to meet nearly every superhero on Earth.”
The Defender sighed. To be the Sword’s sidekick-er associate-was a great job, but he wouldn’t want to leave Russia. Maybe he could team up with other heroes occasionally. “What are the others like?”
Revelator smiled. “Some are great folks. Others are arrogant. And some-“
The plane rocked. The lights flickered.
A deep voice rumbled over the intercom. “Attention! Everyone, especially sidekicks, remain in your seats as we’re experiencing turbulence.”
“-and some I’d like to smack upside the head!” finished Revelator.
The Sword stirred. He pulled an earbud from his left ear. “We there yet, Laban?”
“Nah; just turbulence.”
“Oh.” The Sword replaced the earbud and turned back towards the window.
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