The warehouse appears to be empty, but my partner and I know different: this is a trap. This feels very much like every other Friday to be honest. A crime is committed, and we leap into action. I’m Kid Bungee by the way, ace sidekick to the greatest superhero of them all, Captain Monogram. That square jaw, that confident smile – he’s all superhero, all the time. Anyway, we know who is inside, because we followed the clues. Three banks robbed in a single afternoon, perpetrated by a gang of black and white clad goons and their ringleader, a villain also dressed in black and white horizontal stripes, but also wildly hairy, like a raccoon stuffed into a people suit. Their costumes are like rippling barcodes, defeating image recognition programs, but we don’t need to identify the individuals to know they’re Big Hijack’s gang. He’s the baddest of the supervillains in Temple City, and Captain Monogram have put him away more times than I can count. But he’s good at breaking out, very good indeed, and when he does he immediately resurrects his gang and goes back on the rob. Big Hijack’s a menace to the city and the people, and we’re going to stop him this time, for good. Oh – the clues. Right, well. First there are the costumes, we already recognised those, and then there was the arrow that Big Hijack must have painted on the underside of that getaway van that had been abandoned in the middle of a fast-food joint. We followed that arrow and it led us to the zoo, where letters had been shaved into the fur of all the zebras. Captain Monogram corralled them into the right order in no time, with just a few cracks of his trusty mono-whip. That gave us the address for this place. We’re down by the port – classic Big Hijack hideout territory – and it’s all quiet. We warned off the dock workers because we don’t want anyone to get hurt. Not like Big Hijack and the trail of suffering he leaves behind.
There’s only one way to deal with a trap: spring it. Captain Monogram goes in through the front door, cape billowing out behind him, his mono-pistol at the ready. I take the high road, coming down through a skylight, bungee-anklets activated. Big Hijack’s troops emerge from cover, popping out of crates and from behind cunningly placed mirrors. Captain Monogram’s mono-pistol goes pop-pop-pop and the hijackers are pummelled by a spray of tiny monogrammed discs. They fly this way and that as Captain Monogram switches weapons, his mono-pistol smoothly retracting into his utility vest, as he draws out his mono-whip and spins, each touch of the whip leaving a perfect imprint of his initials on foreheads, thighs, hands and buttocks as the hijackers fall. I’m in constant movement, bouncing, grabbing, rising and releasing the hijackers like a bouncy ball being batted about by a playful cat. As I strain the bungees I fire out a new set and change between them. All those gym sessions really pay off! I’m like a cartwheeling spider, moving too fast for the hijackers to get a bead on me. Their bullets are all near misses, but they’re always misses, even when I appear right in front of a pair of hijackers and slam their heads together, before being flung off into another corner by my latest bungee anchors. It feels great: smashing the bad guys and being so good at it. It almost makes me forget about my parents’ murders for a little while. Even thinking of them makes me glance at Captain Monogram to check how my foster-dad is doing. He’s being swarmed by the hijackers (where do they all come from), but I know this trick of his. The scrum of bad guys is suddenly launched into the air (where I can punch and kick them from all angles before they land) as Captain Monogram activates his mono-copter, its rotors spinning up out of the back of his vest and slapping them away from him. Each slap leaves his monogram on their cheeks, chins and chests.
It’s all going well, but we haven’t seen Big Hijack yet. These are just his goons and we can beat them up all week till Sunday. I keep my eyes peeled, but I’m here there and everywhere grabbing, tripping, snagging and hurling bad guys and I’m never looking in the same direction for more than a couple of seconds. I don’t see where he comes from, I just hear the roar of a chainsaw, and suddenly he’s there down on the floor with Captain Monogram. I only catch the end of it, an agonised scream from – impossible – Captain Monogram as Big Hijack’s enormous chainsaw rips right up between Captain Monogram’s legs and all the way through his body, cutting him in half, right up between his eyes. I can’t believe what I’m seeing, and I lose track of my bungees when one of the hijackers clips me with his rifle and my bungee contracts, flinging me out of a window and into the warehouse next door. I release the bungees and pull myself into a roll, but I still skid right the way across the floor. I don’t know what to do – I’ve just seen my hero, my mentor, my crime-fighting partner, my foster-father cut in half. Even from here I can hear Big Hijack’s roar of triumph. My blood is boiling and there’s nothing I want more than revenge. I pull myself together, shake off the shock and take a running jump back through the warehouse, snagging a trailing bungee with my wrist activator so it tosses me right through the broken window and I soar high over the warehouse floor.
But they’re all gone. Big Hijack and his gang have fled, their trap fully sprung and its victim lying dead in the centre of the warehouse floor, caught in a pool of swinging lamplight. I check the exits, make sure it’s not a second trap aimed at me, but there’s nothing. I do a triple flip and land perfectly on my feet just a few steps from Captain Monogram. Each half of his face shows that same look of gentle surprise, like someone’s popped out with a birthday cake and he’s taking it well, despite not wanting anyone to know he’s nearly fifty. There will be no more cakes for Captain Monogram. His mask is so good that it hasn’t even started to peel back yet, and his identity is still secret. It’s the most important thing. He drilled that into me from when I was really young. Our only protection from villains, and the only protection we can offer those we love is our anonymity as superheroes. Yet I can’t help peeling back one side of the mask, that layer of latex with a “C” over his left eye, just so I can see my foster-dad properly. His green eye stares straight past me. This is awful. I thought maybe, just maybe that it would be me who fell in battle. The sidekick, not the hero. Never the hero. I sit with him for a while, sitting in the spreading pool of his blood. I’ve got to get him out of here.
I put a tarpaulin over him that I yank off a crate, jam the lock on the warehouse door and flee into the night. We left the mono-mobile just a couple of streets away from the port, and with my bungees I use the cranes that dangle all over the place to get there In just a few swings. The mono-mobile starts with a purr and I take it back to the warehouse. I’m angry, so angry, as well as sad and frightened, so I smash through the warehouse doors and pull a skid that brings the back of the mono-mobile perfectly up next to Captain Monogram’s body. I wrap him up and take him home. Then I’m hit with the next dilemma. Captain Monogram’s dead, but the only people who know that are me, Big Hijack, and his hijackers. But no one knows that Chris Pearson, amiable Temple City insurance broker, is dead. And there’s no way an ordinary insurance guy could have ended up chainsawed in half. He works in a cubicle farm. The most dangerous thing there is either the static off the photocopier or that weird guy who hits on all the girls. If Chris shows up in the morgue like this there will be more than a few questions, and the only person around to answer them will be me, his foster-son, Peter Pearson. I’m going to have to hide him and pretend that both Captain Monogram and Chris Pearson are out of town on business, maybe forever. Or they’ve retired and moved to Maui. Or something. Oh god, it’s just me now and there are going to be so many questions. Maybe I should run too – go somewhere… But I haven’t done anything wrong, and it will just look like I killed him! It’s not my fault, it’s not me who’s been killed. But I’ve got to protect Chris’ aunt and his cousins – my aunt and cousins – if Big Hijack ever found out who Captain Monogram’s family are, he’ll stop at nothing to get at them all. In the end I put Captain Monogram in the big freezer chest in our operation centre and pile a load of cases and boxes on top of it. No one else knows where our secret base is, even though it’s just three floors below the basement level of Chris’ apartment block. I write a letter in Chris’ handwriting explaining that he’s taken a sudden leave of absence. I don’t know what to do next. There’s only one person I can call, only one person I can talk to, but Captain Monogram fell out with her last year over the Chicken Reactor fiasco. I’ve got no choice. I pick up the phone and dial in the encryption sequence he made us all learn. It starts to ring. And ring. I really hope Mega-Girl is in.