'Right Hand Man' in Men of Steel
Simon McFarlane is Sparks, the heat-impervious and super-fast sidekick to local superhero Aero. Together they fight crime and save lives, but their main rival is a villain they call Blackout, who shrouds the scenes of his crimes in impenetrable darkness. Simon's been enamored of Aero since he was a teenager, so keeping his crush in check while they work together is extra difficult now that he knows the man behind the mask. Simon's attempt to get Aero to see him as an equal backfires when he’s kidnapped and wakes up in Blackout’s lair. Like so many other sidekicks, Sparks is being used as the bait to get Aero where Blackout wants him. Will Aero finally be able to see what’s right in front of him?
* * *
THE Double T was a hole-in-the-wall that Aero was known to frequent, and there was a table reserved for him at all times. Aero was already sitting in his booth when Simon skidded to a stop outside, one arm slung on the back of the seat as he flirted with the waitress. He never took his mask off in public, hiding the upper half of his face, but it wasn't difficult to tell from the rest of him how handsome he was. Simon pushed down a surge of envy and opened the diner's glass door. The bell over his head jingled out of key, and Aero looked up.
“There he is!” he called, pointing at Simon. “Sparks himself, ladies and gentlemen: walks through fire and runs like the wind. Catch him on the morning news.”
Simon rolled his eyes and sank down into the seat across from him, pushing his goggles up again and putting his elbows on the table. The waitress, Ann, who knew them pretty well, wasn't so star-struck anymore when they came in, and she pointed at him with the business end of her pen.
“What can I get'cha, hon?”
“Two eggs scrambled, side of bacon, wheat toast, please.”
“Milk and sugar.”
“And a short stack for the man of mystery,” Ann said, scribbling it down. She snapped her gum, winked at Simon, and then headed for the kitchen.
Aero bumped his knee into Simon's. “How late were you out last night?”
“I was just having dinner with Viz,” Simon protested. “Why, was I late to the scene?”
“No,” Aero said, “just lookin' a little ragged around the edges.”
“Well, it is 6:00 a.m.,” Simon said. “No one's pretty at 6:00 a.m.”
Aero's mask shifted, and Simon knew he was raising an eyebrow.
“Besides you,” he said, not all that grudgingly.
Aero snorted and drummed his fingers on the tabletop. Then he pulled his arm down from the back of the seat and leaned on his elbows. “So are you and Viz, like, a thing now?”
Viz, known to her closer friends and parents as Kate Monroe, was the other Super in town. She could walk through walls and phase in and out of sight, and she dealt mostly with bank robberies, break-ins, and hostage situations. She was a little older than Simon, had a master‟s degree in French Literature, and her sense of humor was based almost entirely on dry sarcasm. Simon liked her a lot, but she had too many X chromosomes for his more romantic tastes.
“No,” he said quickly, “no, dude, she's dating that guy who teaches at Carter, the art and design place? Jeff. They've been together for like, a million years.”
“You've met him.”
“Just checking,” Aero said.
Simon frowned at him suspiciously, but his coffee arrived right then so he didn't press the issue. Sure, it wasn't exactly ideal for a Super to date an average Joe, but it was easier than trying to find someone whose powers complemented your own. It was just one more identity to protect. Jeff knew Kate was a Super (it was hard not to notice that she disappeared into thin air when she got stressed) and he knew she was a heroine, but his fellow teachers and drinking buddies sure didn't.
The coffee was hot, fogging up his goggles and warming his face, and he breathed the steam in deeply before taking a sip. Aero watched him with a faint smile on his face, and when Simon finally caught his eye, Aero cleared his throat and looked away.
Their breakfast came, and Aero dug into his pancakes with visible relish. Simon piled the eggs and bacon onto the toast and maneuvered it carefully into his mouth, and for a little while they were silent, devouring. The clock wandered its way to six thirty, and Aero finally put down his fork and sighed.
“So, we've got some things to do today,” he said, wiping up leftover syrup with his index finger. He'd taken his gloves off to eat, and Simon got a little distracted staring at his hands. Then he put that finger into his mouth, and it was even worse. Simon looked back down at his plate, fighting a blush.
“Yeah?” he said. “Any movement from Blackout?”