Authors: Blake M. Petit
OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES
Revised and expanded second edition with bonus content
Blake M. Petit
Amazon Kindle Edition
Copyright © 2011 Blake M. Petit
For more original fiction, podcasts, columns, reviews, rants, photoblogs, and more, visit Blake online at
A true and sincere thank you to everybody who has purchased this eBook.
Other People’s Heroes
is near and dear to my heart – it’s the first major work I ever completed, and it was a long fight to get the rights to it back. In the years since it first saw print a lot of things have changed, both personally for me and in the world of publishing in general, but one thing that has never changed is my love for the superhero genre and my enthusiasm for everything the medium could potentially be.
If this is your first time meeting the heroes of Siegel City, welcome! I hope you enjoy what you’re about to read. If you read this book in its original form, welcome back. Most everything is where you left it, although you may notice we’ve tidied up a bit and added a few new rooms in the back. If you listened to this book in its podcast form, you’ll still have a chance at a little new content, as I’ve included two additional short stories to this edition, the Christmas-themed tale “Lonely Miracle” and the prequel short story “Inciting Incident.” If you’ve already read both of those stories in their previous eBook editions (in my own
A Long November and Other Tales of Christmas
and the first edition of Flying Island Press’s
anthology, respectively)… well, then this author’s note is the only new content for you. But thanks anyway for your purchase, I could use the cash.
Special thanks to Jacob Bascle for providing the cover to this edition of the book, my uncle Wallace Faucheux for providing the original cover (I really loved it, but I wanted to differentiate this edition from the first one), my sister Heather Keller for the logo for the
podcast, my brother Jeff Hendricks for the
theme music and for unending faith and support, to Eric Barrett for being the last line of defense between me and the world of typos, and to my Erin, for poking and prodding me until this story was finally available to everybody again.
This book is not the end for my stories, or even for the tales of Siegel City. You’ll be able to keep track what I’m doing at my website,
, for as long as I can keep updating it.
Okay, enough of this. Let’s get to what you came here for. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and enter a world of heroes… and those who just wish they were.
Sometimes I still look at the sky and remember what it was like from the ground. I remember what it was like to stand on solid Earth and gaze at bodies in flight, not knowing what it was like to be a part of them. Sometimes I am lost in amazement at what I have become.
And sometimes I just tell myself I think way the hell too much about all this.
When I got out of high school, I wanted nothing more than to get a journalism scholarship to an Ivy League university. When I got out of college, I wanted to write for a major news magazine. When I got my job at
my wish was to win a Pulitzer Prize and have hundreds of scholarly-minded women hurl themselves at my feet.
While that last one never happened, the rest did.
Back when I worked for my college newspaper (I usually covered student government meetings and other riveting events, like watching administrative paint peel), I came to the conclusion that most of my colleagues who wrote about sports were aspiring athletes who lacked either the skills or the talent to be pros themselves. Unable to compete with people who had real ability in their chosen field, they decided to content themselves with turning out cliché-ridden yarns of missed goals and big games that were lost at the last second.
I can’t particularly blame them. I did the same thing. Except that my obsession wasn’t with Michael Jordan or Mark McGuire. My idols were the types that strapped on capes and tights, rushing out -- I always thought -- in a valiant battle against the forces of evil.
I wrote about superheroes.
We’ve all got our favorites... the Defender or Alien Angel… Even lame ones like Superconductor have their fans -- usually the ones they sweep in and save from the clutches of Herr Nemesis or Agent Orange or the Aryan Ape.
And I know it’s gone out of style, but my favorite was Lionheart.
When I was ten years old, I was saved from a burning building by the man who used that name. He’d been active for fifteen years by that time and this was a few years before he was the victim of what would become the most talked about Hero Vanishing in history. I still remember how that rescue felt -- I was holed up in the bathroom of the tiny apartment I shared with my parents and I filled the tub with water, hoping it would keep the flames back. It was an old claw-foot tub, though, and the flames were licking at the porcelain like a pot on the stove. I don’t know if the water actually approached boiling, but it was a lot hotter than I was comfortable with. I tried splashing some out onto the fire, but it didn’t make a difference and before I knew what was happening there was a veil of smoke and orange hell between me and the door.
Then I felt a rush. The water, which by now was beginning to bubble, wasn’t burning me anymore, and my muscles were filled with an energy, a
I’d never felt. That’s when the smoke parted and Lionheart appeared. He was tall and strong, with his red, military-cut coat tucked into his black slacks. His blue cape and mask were buttoned securely to the tunic, and the proud yellow lion’s head he wore on his chest seemed to be looking straight at me as he approached.
“Are you all right, little guy?” he asked as he lifted me out of the tub. I was surprised -- he had a British accent. I would have expected a full-out, All-American Hero. Not that it bothered me. He was
“We’re getting you out of here, okay?”
I nodded. He dipped his cape in the water and wrapped it around me, made sure that I had no exposed skin and flew me out of the burning building into the chilled night air. When I dared to brush the cape from my eyes and look, I saw we were dropping down to the paramedics below -- but medical attention was the last thing I needed. I had never felt so good in my life.
,” I whispered while in the air. There was sort of a tingle and my rescuer smiled down at me.
“Got the heart of a lion yourself, don’t you?”
When he handed me over to the paramedics, I didn’t want to go. “Don’t worry, little guy,” he said. “You’ll be okay now.” Then he gave me a wry grin and a quick, dry salute, put his drenched cape back on, and flew back into the inferno. As soon as he was gone, the energy rush I felt subsided and I collapsed into the medic’s arms. I suffered some smoke inhalation, they later told me, but there was no permanent damage. I would be fine.
Except that once you’ve been saved by a Cape, you’re never quite the same again. Once you’ve flown with a man like Lionheart, you can’t be satisfied back on the ground.
When I was born, my mother called me Joshua Corwood. My
called me a slew of other names, the kindest of which was “Little Bugger.” But then, the man was fairly unpleasant to begin with and, soon after he fell asleep with a cigarette in his hand and burnt down our entire apartment complex, Mom divorced him. We considered ourselves better off for it.
I was given my second name by a man named Morris Abadie. The first time I spoke to him I was 23 years old, still a reporter for a superhero-focused newsmagazine called
. I’d been there for nearly a year and I was still stuck on feature articles and follow-ups. Nothing that could gain me much attention, nothing that would get me out in the field, with my heroes.
I was plodding around in my cubicle (which at least was against an outside wall and offered me a window), polishing up my retrospective piece on the LightCorps when Morrie called me. His calm, sensitive demeanor was a comfort right from the start.
“You Cordwood?” he asked.
wood,” I said. “Yes it is. What can I do for you?”
“I hear you’re looking to do a story on Doctor Noble,” he said. “I’m his publicist.”
“His publicist? Since when does a guy like Doctor Noble need a publicist?”
“You’re new, aren’t you, kid?” Morrie grumbled. “Look, there are only two ways to get a hold of any of the major Capes in this town. You either gotta catch ‘em while they’re putting a Mask in the slam or you go through guys like me.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’d be happy to go through you, Mister Abadie.” I’d been working on the Dr. Noble profile piece for weeks, but without an interview with the man himself it would never make it beyond a sidebar on page 64, only to be read by guys on the can too preoccupied to turn the page.
“Here’s the deal, then. I can give you fifteen minutes at a time and place of my choosing.
with the photographs -- Doc doesn’t trust your camera guys -- and we get approval before you turn the story into your editor. Oh, and no questions about the incident with Photon Man, the Doc doesn’t like to talk about that.”
Photon Man was one of dozens of energy-based Masks who operated in Siegel City, and all I really knew about him is that he had not been seen since his last public battle with Dr. Noble, a few weeks ago. I wasn’t thinking about that, though, I was just thinking about how slick Morrie was. “You
new at this, are you?”
“Look, you want the interview or not?”
“Yes!” I interjected. “Of course. Sure, you get approval and no questions about Photon Man. I can do that.”
“Right, of course. I wouldn’t dream of bringing a photographer.”
“All right, then. Roof of Simon Tower, 1 p.m.”
“Thank you, sir, of course sir.” I hung up the phone and took a glance at my watch. It was already 12:50 and Simon Tower was about fifteen minutes away. Fortunately, cab drivers in Siegel City are notorious for driving at three times the posted speed limit, so after bolting out of the office and nearly dying in the attempt to get one, I made it to Simon Tower just in time.
I hadn’t even made it to the glass doors that looked out from the lobby when I heard a whistling sound. I looked up, hoping to see Dr. Noble. The more I looked at the humanoid shape, though, the less he looked like he was flying and the more it looked like falling. Then I started to wonder where Dr. Noble’s cape had gone. And when he’d grown four extra arms. And why there were two of him.
I ran from Simon Tower just as a pair of orange, gelatinous creatures splattered into the pavement. Their viscous flesh coated the sidewalk, the building, the cars parked in front and about half a dozen people like they’d been dipped in orange wax. It also managed to splatter directly in my face like a pie in an old Three Stooges routine. All around, innocent bystanders began flinging goo from their faces and limbs.
“Look at this
“Guy’s a menace I tell you...”
I had written about these two before -- the Gunk and his companion, the Goop, were basically a pair of skeletons covered in thick, orange slime rather than flesh. The slime, however, was now covering the sidewalk, the building and the spectators. Gunk’s appreciative public stood around much the way I did, trying to clean themselves off. I wiped away the orange ooze from my eyes and shook my limbs, spraying the goo everywhere.
Looking towards the point of impact, I thought for a moment that Gunk had landed on some people. As the figures in the epicenter of the slime reached up with three bony arms, though, I realized I was looking at Gunk and Goop’s skeletons -- the only solid part of them. As they stood up, the orange slime began to pull away from the bystanders and surroundings, reassembling on the form of its respective owner.
As the slime pulled off me I felt a little weak in the knees, odd considering the incredible adrenaline rush I had. As energized as I was, I couldn’t seem to make any of my muscles obey me, and I fell over. A six-armed shadow looked down over me.
“Gunk... hurt... man?”
The monster’s vocabulary wasn’t the particularly good, nor had it been since the experiment that turned him into an arachnid slime creature. His brain, it seemed, was the first thing to “gunkify.” Still, for all the mayhem he’d caused, there were those of us who believed he was more like a confused child than a malevolent beast, and the look of concern in his eyes would seem to bear that out.
“Is he okay, Gunk? Huh? Is he?” Goop, Gunk’s mysterious buddy, had appeared some years after Gunk first burst onto the scene. No one had ever been able to figure out who he really was or where he came from. His story was a total mystery, but not one most folks worried about, since the smaller slime man -- despite having a slightly higher vocabulary than his boss -- showed all the intelligence and loyalty of a good dog.
“Heeeeeeey...” Goop said, strolling up to me. “You’re a little guy. Who’re ya? Y’okay? Y’weren’t
“I’m... okay,” I said, forcing myself up on one elbow. For some reason, that arm felt incredibly wet. I wanted to chuckle at Goop calling me “little guy” -- I was 250 pounds easy and stood at six-one when I hadn’t been knocked to the ground by a couple of slime-monsters.
“Okay,” the Gunk moaned. It was painful just to
to his slow, tortured speech.
“Yeah. It’s okay, Gunk,” Goop said, bounding around. “It ain’t our fault, it ain’t, you see that.” He glared at me a bit. “I
think I know ya from somewhere.”
“That’s... nice,” I said.
“Gunk... go... now.” The quasi-monster looked around at the blazing eyes of the public, crouched, and with a mighty leap returned to the air, Goop in tow. Once they were gone, my muscles seemed to solidify and I sat up on the pavement.