Concepts, Lore, & New Developments.
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Ed and Joseph stood away off from the others, leaning against the old wood fence that had lined the old Siegel place for the last fifty years or so. Each man held a glass beer bottle loosely in their fingers, and each watched the family gathering off down by the house with approval. Friends and relatives traveled from far and wide for the annual July 4th cookout, and Ed had been no exception - though he hadn't driven or flown, despite the mileage being rather significant. He'd run, and managed to make the trek down South from New York City in about an hour or two. He'd been getting faster at running, more coordinated. He figured he could cover the whole country in a day if he tried his hardest.
Ed and his dad had gone off separate from the rest of the party. It'd become an annual thing. It was how they caught up. It was also nice to talk in private.
"Saw you on the news again," Joseph winked. Ed looked away and sipped his beer, the ghost of a smile playing on his lips.
"That was something, you know, with the train," the older man continued, beaming up at the muscled man.
Edward sighed. His lips went taut, and his fingers curled ever so slightly harder around the neck of the bottle.
"I can't stop thinking about the missing people," he said, after a pause. "I don't know if I'll ever find them. I don't know where to even begin to look. They were taken right off the train, right under my nose. If I'd just moved faster..."
He trailed off, shrugging. He felt guilty, sitting here with a beer in his hand, trying to enjoy a holiday when there was work to be done.
The cicadas droned off by the lake.
"They'll turn up. There's detectives out there. And other superheroes, like you. They'll turn up, just you watch. Bet you fifty bucks right now."
Edward looked back down at his old man, giving him a slight nod.
"That's not all that's bothering you, is it." A statement, not a question. Family knows family, he supposed.
"No. I...well, that thing we talked about. I think it's inevitable at this point. I can't just say no. I have to join a team. I...I think I am joining a team."
Joseph nodded again.
"The big leagues," the old man supplied, smiling.
"You're not happy about it."
It'd come up a few times, back when he'd found out he could move in his altered state. He'd just gotten stronger from that point on, and every time he and his parents talked, they wanted to know if he had any super friends. They asked about the SOS, and he explained why he didn't want to join them, over and over. They knew why, but there was still that tinge of hope...
"Total Experience is finished, dad," Ed said, kneading his brow as he looked out at the house. "Things won't be the same anymore. At this level, things get more violent. The choices you have to make are harder, more...brutal. I've hurt people before - being a superhero means fighting dangerous people - but I've never killed anyone, and I never want to. Ever. But fighting alien invaders, demons, super-terrorists that want to push the whole coast into the ocean...it costs people their lives. I always thought I could play it quieter, just be a neighborhood hero...nine times out of ten, I show up and the bad guy gives up...there's never even a fight. But superheroes in teams? I mean, look at what they do to each other. I'm not made for this."
His dad scoffed.
Ed bit his lip, and turned on Joseph.
"That's not it. The people close to superheroes always get hurt. Say goodbye to my secret identity. There'll be no hiding it. I've not even told the men I'm going to be working with, and I'm not planning on it either. It'll come out all the same, but I want to just...hold on to what I have. Everything's about to change. I just learned there are parallel worlds out there, and we seem to be in a cold war with one of them."
Joseph chuckled and slapped his knee. Of course that's how he'd take the news of parallel worlds.
"Change's good, Ed. It's how we grow."
"That's not all that matters in the world. All this? It puts you and mom in danger, dad. It's enough to make me quit. Not just the team, but the whole job. I don't know what I'd do if something happened to you because I wanted to use these dumb powers to play hero."
His dad put his hand on his shoulder.
"Nothing. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the man you've become. Your mother and I know the risks to you and us, and they don't matter. If I die, I'd die happy, knowing you're out there fighting the good fight."
"Dad, don't say that. Don't talk about you or mom dying because of me. Please."
"What is it?"
The older man surprised him with an embrace.
"This world is a hard place full of desperate people. But you have a gift and you've chosen to use it for good. No matter what happens, I am so damn proud of you, son."
He hugged him back. Fireworks, in the distance.
"Thanks dad. Happy fourth."
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