The Great Search, Part One

Commander Justice, Jr. whistled as he read his contract in the sidecar of the electric motor-cycle. “I thought I’d have to get a record contract to make this type of money.”

Captain Justice asked, “You know that all goes to the Justice Foundation, right?”

Junior frowned. “Why?”

“I’m not going to get rich off being a superhero. Our salary’s more than enough for us.”

“But the Sword is worth a quarter of a billion dollars.”

Captain Justice grimaced. “He may have written the book on being a heroic entrepreneur, but believe me the Founda-tion is the best way for us to go.”

“If it’s the Foundation’s job to pay us, why are we sending them money?”

“Do you know how we got this lousy electric motorcycle?”

“You bought it.”

“No, the foundation did. Being a superhero is expensive. We need a large cash reserve to replace helicopters and costumes. Things have gotten a lot less re-stricted at the Foundation. I used to be given three costumes a year and replace-ments beyond that came out of my salary. One year, I rejected their costumes and had to buy your father new tights.”

“Why did you have to buy dad’s?”

“Your dad wanted to change from white to skin-colored tights. He was eighteen, so he was old enough to make a variance in our look. Well, the acquisitions guy decided skin-colored and light pink were the same color. Needless to say, your father wasn’t amused.”

Junior smirked at the mental picture of his dad as a ballerina. He sobered. “Grand-pa, do you think this guy can really help us find Dad?”

“If he can’t help us, I don’t know who can.”

The motorcycle slowed to a crawl then stopped. Captain Justice smacked his handle bars. “Confound it. I thought we’d have enough power to make it to Riley’s house.”

“So maybe it’s not best for driving in the middle of nowhere, but I still think we should keep it.”

“It’s going back to the dealership. Get out and push. Riley should have an outlet.”

The two heroes got out, with Com-mander Justice, Jr. pushing the motorcycle. “Grandpa, don’t you want to ensure I have a clean planet to live on in my old age?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The way I’ve only been aging one year for every two since I turned 18, I can live to be 222.”

His grandpa smirked. “Really?”

“Yeah, see, one of my professors said, with good health practices, you can live to be 120. That means I can age 120 years. Subtracting the eighteen years of normal aging leaves 102 years of aging that will take me 204 years, and adding in the first eighteen years equals 222.”

“You know, Junior, I’ve heard of kids who think they’ll live forever, but you’re the first one I know whose done the math. Regardless, this electric motor-cycle’s not going to save the planet. Do you know where the electricity we’ve been plugging into comes from? Coal-fired power plants with carbon footprints.”

“I never thought of that.”

A quarter mile of huffing later, Riley Jacob’s finished log cabin rolled into view, with a SUV parked in front of a brick red shed that looked like a miniature barn. Junior raised an eyebrow. “This is where the great hacker Riley lives?”

“Looks can be deceiving.”

A  man with a scraggly black beard walked through the brush outside the house. He wore hip waders, a red flannel shirt, and muddy blue jeans “Cap, dat you?”

Captain Justice peered. “Riley?”

Junior sighed. Riley looked like a refugee from Little House on the Prairie.

Riley dropped his fish and ran over. “It’s been what? Twelve years? You’ve hardly aged at all. Who’s this? He reminds me of Commanda’.”

“That’s why I’m here. I need you to help us find the Commander. We need you to do some hacking to see what you can come up with.”

Riley shook his head. “Sorry, I can’t. I haven’t touched a computer in eleven years.”

Captain Justice gasped. “What?”

“Yeah, around the time the Y2K bug had everyone scared of all the computers crashing, I figured being a hacker wasn’t much of a future, so I read some Thoreau and decided to simplify. I gave the Com-mander my notice, sold all my stock, bought a supply of gold and food and moved out here. Just kept about twenty million in the bank in case there wasn’t an emergency. ”

Junior laughed. “Do I have good news for you! The world didn’t come to an end, after all!”

“Yeah, but I like it up here. I’m learning all the tricks of the forest; how to hunt, fish, and survive.”

“So you’re learning to hack nature?”

Riley nodded. “I’m sorry you came up here for nothin’.”

Captain Justice patted his back. “It’s okay, Riley. I need to call upon the Com-mander’s last hacker and see if I can get him back, and you were on the way.”

Junior said, “I can check the patent records when we get home.”

Captain Justice raised an eyebrow. “You don’t need to be a hacker for that?”

Riley laughed. “That’s public record.”

“Oh. Well, if we can plug in our motorcycle for an hour, we can get back to town.”

“Plug it in?”

“Electric motorcycles are the latest craze among some college students. How have you kept up on things?”

“I haven’t, but that reminds me. There’s something I’m just too embarrassed to ask on my biannual trip to town for supplies.”

“Go ahead.”

“Is Al Gore still President?”

Continued next Monday

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