Special Agent Rickerson escorts me through the corridors of the compound. I’ve never been this far underground before. It’s so sterile. Stark. A clear sign of demotion. I catch faint bits of whispers from the few agents we pass along the way. I don’t have to hear their full conversations to know what they’re saying. What they’re thinking. There goes the dumbass kid that got Magna Angel killed. I mean, they’re not wrong; I am that dumbass.
The D’Vile Sisters’ schemes never work. Never. We fought them for three years and defeated them every time. So what went wrong? One minute, I’m holding my own like always, firing bomb after bomb at Sister Calamity; Magna Angel is fighting off Sister Gloom and Sister Ruin with her usual array of hellfire. The next thing I know, I hear Magna Angel playfully call for an assist because there were some new combo moves that we were wanting to try. I start to teleport, and then nothing. Nada. Straight blackout. Wake up in a holding cell covered in sparkly salt.
“We’ve decided to rebrand you, Brian. A total image overhaul to celebrate your return. Complete with a new codename.” Rickerson finally breaks the awkward amount of silence just as we near the end of the hallway.
“So I’m no longer Glitter Bomb?”
“Look,” Rickerson stops and exhales deeply. “We appreciate the barriers you broke down when you first came onto the scene. The first openly gay junior superhero to defeat the Army of Agony. And the first junior superhero to receive the most bids for sidekick in a drafting season ever. An impressive twenty-three. And the only sidekick to be selected by the late Magna Angel.”
“I understand if they’re all afraid I’m going to-“
“No one’s afraid of anything.” He puts a hand on my shoulder, but I can tell there’s no emotion behind the gesture. It’s just limp and dead weight. “We just feel that it’s in everyone’s best interest if you reemerge on the scene…anew.”
My heart practically bounds out of my chest with excitement. After two years of forced rehab and therapy, I am ready to get back to life. “I’m going back out into the field?!”
“Yes. And well no.” He removes his hand and wipes it across his pants as he takes the last few steps to the dead end wall.
“I don’t understand.”
“Your reemergence will be more of a quiet intro from the shadows,” Rickerson says as he gives a nod to the security camera in the corner. “Forget Glitter Bomb and that secret double-life you had as flamboyant-flight-attendant Brian. You don’t have to worry about alter-egos anymore. Now, you are part of a highly motivated and highly monitored team of other junior superheroes that are much like yourself.”
There’s a soft breeze of exhaust as the wall opens slowly as if purposely trying to add dramatic effect to my dim situation. Rickerson gestures me forward, so I take a step into the small room.
“Welcome back,” Rickerson shouts as the faux wall closes up behind me.
The room brightens with a soft amber that pulses through the walls. A series of lasers sporadically shoot across and scan various parts of me. I wonder if Highbeam and Kid Phaser use lasers for their secret lair too.
“Number 3305”. A polite A.I. chimes in. “Codename: Shrapnel. Access granted.”