The projector sputtered and crackled as grainy black and white footage with the accompanying background piano that made up for lack of recorded audio to match the video. Elliot, even after all these years, still found some magic in it as he watched from the back of the room with a grin slowly growing across his face. The children broke into a cheer as the title card came up; The Amazing Flying Fox! Hero of the City of Archimedes, the city of the future!
Not exactly subtle, but the bombastic quality had its merits. Darting across the screen the Amazing Flying Fox, or least a reasonable facsimile, struck a pose much to the delight of the kids. With his baggy flight suit (garish even when dulled by the black and white footage), his jetpack, and his of course his over-sized flight goggles he looked a little more like a comedian than a superhero. But it was a different time, and then as it still was now, if you had something as cool as a jetpack you could get away plenty of fashion faux pas.
Alongside the Amazing Flying Fox, Elliot felt if you didn’t say the whole thing it lost a bit of the magic, were his companions the Stalwart Society. Not as beloved by the kids, but they made great companions to their hero. Miracle, a man who’s mystic powers were practically divine, The Yellow Crusader (Elliot took the title cards at their word on that one) an avenging vigilante whose costume rivaled Flying Fox in sheer audacity, the lovely Mistress Talia whose costume was borderline inappropriate for the class in general, and the Mysterious Knight who reportedly wore a deep purple hood which made him positively subdued in comparison to his comrades. “The greatest heroes the world had ever known” the title card proclaimed, even if their role in most of these films was just to make Flying Fox look good. It was to be expected these were filmed and produced in Archimedes, and Fox was their hero.
The general tone of the class seemed positive. There was the occasional ‘oooh’, ‘aaah’, and cheer from the kids as Fox roughed up a baddie or three. Next to him was the teacher, Mrs. Brandt, who favored him with an appreciative smile. Elliot shifted his 6 foot frame and brushed back his messy brown hair. Subconsciously trying to look his best…even if he knew it was a wasted effort.
“This sucks!” A petulant sprout shouted from the back. To the determined shushes from the rest of the youngsters while the little troublemaker anchored himself spooling to take on his fellow prepubescents. The way they glared at the boy Elliot was sure this had been a sore point in the past. It could have escalated, but the child soon found himself carefully pulled from his seat by Mrs. Brandt. She was still young but was now what Elliot would call a mature 27. Her demeanor was professional and a lot more conservative than it used to be, though she did allow her red hair to grow out. Some of the fire had left her emerald eyes but none of the tenderness. She had a strict, if motherly, disposition that made her a quality third grade teacher.
“Now Taylor, why would you say something like that?” She said sternly just in earshot of Elliot. The boy looked from side to side; confidence wilting under the firm but gentle gaze of his teacher.
“But it does.” He mumbled defensively not meeting her gaze.
“Taylor.” Mrs. Brandt said with a hint of disappointment. Which gauging by the child’s response, probably hurt more than your standard punishment. Elliot knew that feeling all too well.
“He’s not a hero, my dad says he’s the reason the sky’s pink.” He said with whimpering defiance.
The teacher sighed, running a hand through the little boy’s dirty brown hair. “No he’s the reason we can still see the sky.” She corrected with a note sympathy. “Now go sit down.” She said gently nudging him back to his seat.
No one else spoke up, but for Eliot the mood had dipped. The kids, sans Taylor, applauded the finale as Flying Fox saved the damsel after she had been tossed right from the Capital Tower. They groaned in disappointment once the lights came up.
“Alright Kids, I hope you enjoyed today, because we’re getting right back to work on Monday. Have a safe and happy commemorative weekend.” Mrs. Brandt said, jovially clasping her hands together, and flashing a smile that caused Elliot to look away. The kids filed out, moods returning over the thought of parades, food, good weather, and of course, good old Flying Fox.
Once they had all departed Mrs. Brandt favored Elliot with a quick but sincere hug.
“Thanks for coming out again El. The text books aren’t nearly as thrilling as the serials.” She said gratefully.
“It’s my pleasure, kids should know their history, even if it’s limited to just this.” He gave a glance to the projector and the reels of film.
“Just this?” She said stifling a laugh. “There are people who would say these belong under lock and key in a museum, and you show them to anyone who will ask.”
Elliot bit his lip. “Well not just anyone.”
He threw the young teacher a puppy dog look. Favoring her with big brown eyes that once upon a time the teacher admitted she rather liked. Elliot wasn’t the most handsome man in the in the world but he’d like to think he could at least pull off average. Mrs. Brandt had the good sense not to feed him any good lines following that. She simply brushed back her hair; prominently displaying her wedding ring as she did so.
“Whatever do you mean by that?” she said innocently.
“Nothing Mrs. Brandt.” He said playfully putting an emphasis on the ‘misses’. Mrs. Brandt rolled her eyes but added no further comment on the blatant flirtation.
“So aside from saving young children from the grips of boredom what are you doing this weekend?” She said gently taking the topic into safer waters.
“Are you making suggestions?” He said with a leer, which earned a gentle punch the arm. He held up his hands defensively. “Easy, does Mr. Brandt put up with these hits?” That earned him another punch with a little more force added to it.
“Be serious. How’s your dad doing?” For a moment Eliot’s face turned somber.
“He’s doing what he always does this weekend, getting lost in the past.” He answered seriously, no longer meeting her gaze.
“It’s not that bad is it?” She chided, to which Elliot thought it over and shrugged.
“I don’t think it does any harm, but I’m not sure it does him any good either.”
She nodded. “If you’d like I could come by for a visit.” She pressed a finger to Elliot’s lips before he could get a word off. “To make sure your father has company.” Elliot sighed and gently removed the finger.
“I think I can manage by myself. It might not be the bonding experience it used to be, but it still matters to him.” Elliot said reluctantly, clearly not looking forward to just what that would entail.
She nodded, giving him what he could best describe as a blatantly platonic hug. “Still, try to have a good weekend. It’s always rough, but it will be over soon.”
“Thank you Mrs. Brandt.” He said now using the name in teasing fashion, but managing to keep his hands to himself. “I’ll try in any case.”
Elliot’s mood was briefly lifted by his best friend. It came back to earth the moment he stepped outside and the innocent words of that kid stabbed him anew. The day was really like any day. The same pink sky cast over the sprawling metropolis of Archimedes, the suburban, and farm land beyond. It was the same pleasant room temperature it always was, with nary a cloud in the sky, as it had been for nearly a century. A century since the day their city was cut off from the rest of the world and forever cast into isolation. The day the Amazing Flying Fox had saved their lives, but couldn’t save them from this new prison.
The anniversary weekend tended to look at the bright side. The majority of the citizens, including himself, now belonged to the third generation; children born to the children of those caught in the calamity. For the most part it was a celebration for none of them would be alive without Fox’s effort. But it was also a time of reflection. For the world they lost, and for the hardships they had endured in the years that followed; the resource shortages, the rebellions, and the bad old days, all those things that were put behind them now.
Archimedes was arguably in better shape now than it ever had been. Thanks to the collective intellectual might of some of the greatest minds of their time food was plentiful, unemployment was at all-time lows, and crime had been drastically cut back. But it didn’t make the sky blue, and for all their efforts it didn’t let them return to the world they had been torn from. If there was even a world to get back too, El reminded himself cynically.
Elliot’s phone ringing shook him from that depressing line of thought, the graying temples and slightly pudgy red face of his father popped up on his screen. “Speak of the devil.” He hesitated, but only for an instant, and answered.
“What’s going on Dad?” There was a disgruntled huff from the other end. His Father hated when he cut to the point like that.
“Not even so much as a hello.” Came the disappointed reply.
“Dad you know I’m on the way, you wouldn’t be calling if it wasn’t important.”
“I need to show you something.” His father said with a joyous light in his face.
“Dad I’m already on my way.”
“Yes but I need to show you something ‘special’.” He put an extra emphasis on the word as if they were speaking in public.
“We went over this dad I’m not really interested in the ‘side projects’ anymore.” He put his own emphasis on ‘side projects’, and felt like a moron doing so.
“You’ll want to see this, trust me. You still know the entrance don’t you boy?”
“I could always just take the normal way in.” Elliot said without much enthusiasm, earning him a derisive laugh from the old man
“I respect your wishes on many things my son, but I will never approve of you becoming dull. Now come on don’t dawdle, and don’t bother with your usual gift cards and bottle of wine. I’ve heard enough platitudes about the weekend, and my wine cabinet is still better than anything you’ll find on the shelves.”
“Love you too dad.” His father hung up, perhaps as payback for the curt greeting Elliot had given him. The young man tried to look on the bright side; he didn’t have to stop by the corner store.
The streets were full of potential party goers. Like any holiday with somber tones it was only a matter of years before it turned into just another reason to celebrate. There were stands for food, a few different concerts, and even though it was only early afternoon it was a safe bet the bars were full to capacity. It made getting through downtown a hassle.
Opting not to be crammed into a tin can like a sardine Elliot decided on walking instead of public transportation. It took a while but he wasn’t in a tremendous hurry, and as bonus he could spite the old man. His lengthy trip also had the benefit that when he finally made it to his Father’s home he had a smile on his face. Even if he had been trying to be sour a city full of happy faces was contagious.
His father naturally wasn’t inclined to get the door, but Elliot had a key handy and was eager to use it. Here the idea of a mundane activity was generally frowned upon, and so even opening the damn door offered difficulties. Once he went to turn the key a telescreen opened in the wall with a layout of a hand. Rolling his eyes at the needless level of security he pressed his hand front and center in the picture. The screen mapped out his finger prints and correctly identified him.
“Front door access denied.” Chirped a robotic tone. “Storehouse entry preferred.”
Elliot narrowed his eyes, debating the merits of tearing the machine from the wall and then walloping his father over the head with it.
There was a time when he loved this stuff. It added to the mood, it added to the necessity, it added a hint of charm and whimsy to what was quickly looking like the end of their city, and given their circumstances, the world as they knew it.
But it wasn’t the bad old days anymore. The food shortages had ended, and while employment wasn’t 100% unemployment struggled to get past 6%. For the most part people were happy. So why couldn’t his father be happy and move on too?
He headed to the back more out of duty to the weekend than wanting to encourage his dad’s exploits. The name ‘storage room’ was a bit of a misnomer, it implied something technical while it was really just a place to study dusty copies of books his father could only be bothered to read once and couldn’t be bothered to justify their existence afterwards.
There were five rows, of maybe a thousand books in total, give or take a couple hundred. Still Eliot knew exactly where to go. He headed to the first row, and after a bit of searching found the book on ‘Daring Do’ published nearly a century ago. He pulled it with utmost certainty and wasn’t even the slightest bit surprised when the floor gave way beneath him. Elliot latched onto the fireman’s pole that awaited underneath and suppressed a joyful laugh. Alright he could admit this bit was fun, but he didn’t want his father to hold it over him.
The ride down was about thirty feet, enough for his good mood to turn almost giddy. It was hard to fight the intoxicating mix of nostalgia and excitement, but it was what needed to be done. It was for his father’s health, for his for his family’s health. He landed composed, a man on a mission, it was time to make a stand.
It was his father, Nicholas DeMont, that was waiting for him. He had hit his 50s but aside from a few modest pounds and a little graying of his hair you’d never know it. He wasn’t at his peak anymore, when he was an imposing six foot three mass of muscle. Instead he had to settle for incredibly in shape, and enjoy the shocked faces on anyone who found out his actual age.
He was positively bouncing at the sight of Elliot. The son crossed his arms and tried to look stern, but his father’s giddiness was positively hard to resist. At this rate Elliot wouldn’t be able to say what he needed too.
“My boy, my boy, do I have something to show you!” Nicholas clasped his hands together, eyes as eager as a kid on Christmas.
“Dad we’ve talked about this I-“ His father held up a finger.
“We have, but I want you to see this, as one engineer to another, nothing more.” His father held up his hand as if taking a solemn vow. Elliot would be lying if he said he wasn’t interested, and if he tried to decline his dad would just keep at it all weekend.
“Fine.” His father jabbed a fist in the air, unrepentant in his moment of victory. “It’s over here by the relics.” He said leading the way past an array of retired ‘relics’.
They were each displayed behind glass, arranged chronologically. His father, while appreciative of advancement, was always dismissive of his earlier work. The first case was still in pristine condition after all it wasn’t one of Nicholas’ designs. The metal black and shining, leather straps polished to the point where’d you swear they had just been freshly crafted, it was the wonder of its day; the original Flying Fox Jetpack. Alongside it was the garish orange jumpsuit that earned his grandfather the name fox from an astonished press upon his debut. Why they didn’t go with Tiger or something a little more intimidating he could only attribute to the era, or a lack of foresight.
Next to it were various other costumes and armors, each a technological marvel in their own right. Suits that did everything from enhance speed, to strength, and of course each had that trademarked jetpack. He paused, coming to a pair of smaller costumes blue and teal respectively. The teal one was slightly smaller and built for a more feminine build.
“How is Amy by the way?” His father asked delicately. Elliot pursed his lips thinking about the best way to respond. “Mrs. Brandt is very happy.” He said dryly.
“Feh I wouldn’t push your buttons if you didn’t make them so damn obvious.” Nicholas said no more though, and let his son spend a few minutes soaking it all in. Elliot spent the most time next to the blue and black armor he wore long ago. He eventually pulled himself from nostalgia to find his father had taken a seat while waiting patiently for his son to finish.
“Enjoy your once a year trip down memory lane?” The old man said with an ounce of pity. To Elliot it was equal parts, joy, nostalgia, and pain. Those had been great times, but those times had been hard times as well. He would never, ever, ask for a different childhood, while at the same time he would never wish it on someone else. He would never regret the actions they took, in fact, he was proud of them. If Elliot died today he would point to that as his crowning moment in life.
That however did not mean he wished to relive it, and that was the only option his father laid before him.
“This is why I called you here. Wear it or not it’s the pinnacle of my work.” On that Elliot would not argue.
The color scheme was what he had worn during the bad old days as his father’s sidekick. However the helmet did carry a bit of a legacy. It was of the same design as his father’s, and grandfather’s, Gold Soldier and Flying Fox respectively. In his career as a sidekick it had been a mock version of the two. Paying his respects but acknowledging that he was on not their level.
Just seeing this new version, expecting to carry on both of their legacies, it hurt. Not because he didn’t acknowledge the need, but because inside he felt decidedly unworthy of it. To have him think he needed to live up to the legacy was archaic and didn’t reflect him at all. He had moved on, this was past him now; at least that’s what his rational thoughts told him. Yet a primal part of him simply demanded he wear the mask now.
“Dad you shouldn’t have gone to the trouble.” Elliot finally said.
His father huffed and waved away the complaint as if he was swatting a fly from the air. “I would have done it regardless I’m old, rich, and retired. Your mom isn’t around to keep me stable anymore, and you like to keep your visits brief.” It wasn’t an accusation as such, but that didn’t mean it didn’t sting.
“If I don’t do at least this, I think it’s a one way trip to senility for me.” Nicholas finished in all seriousness.
“Dad you know that…” Elliot started lamely, for all their problems he honestly didn’t want to consider such a thing. His father waved off his concern.
“An active mind is a healthy mind, and I say the development of this is the most active I’ve been in a long time.”
Deciding to let his own issues go for a moment Elliot just looked over the work. “It’s impressive,” he meant that. He would love to see the schematics as there was only so much he could make out of the hardware underneath the aesthetic design, but from what he could tell it would put even the Gold armor to shame, “but why not one for Mrs…Amy instead?” He said, catching his Dad’s humored look, deciding not to give him any more ammunition.
“What do you think my next project is?” Nicholas laughed and clasped his son roughly on the shoulder. “But for now my work is done, and I’m going to sit back and relax.” He slipped just out of the work shop and came back with a bottle of wine and with two sparkling glasses. “Now do we want to go over all the usual bullshit chit chat, or do you want to cut to talking about your Granddad?”
Change is painful, there’s no getting around it. That was the conclusion Dr. Aaron Mutatio had come to, and it was a thought that would see him through to the bitter end. Of course that didn’t mean the pain would be equally shared, as the shop keep on the floor had found out. The poor lad sported a nasty bruise on his temple along with what was likely a concussion. The shopkeeper would live, and hopefully they’d get through this day without anything drastic, but sadly the good Doctor had long since stopped being an optimist.
The shop they were in was a modest, out of the way, business in one of the city’s oldest districts. Its contents were colorful remnants of the city’s once sparkling role in the ways of the world. But as there were fewer and fewer citizens of Archimedes that had actually seen the world as it had been, no doubt the demand for its trinkets died as well. The muscle Mutatio had brought with him seemed to share this view; looking only with disinterest and bemusement of the wares and goods that had long since lost their novelty.
“Doesn’t really seem to be worth anything boss.” Douglas, a bruiser of few words and fewer thoughts must have put a lot of effort into that sentence, and might have been proud of his keen observation. He was really a monster of a man 6’7’’ and a veritable wall of muscle. Douglas’ thick brow, nose that had been broken one too many times, and a smile that had its fair share of gaps spoke of a life hard lived. He wasn’t one of those savage types though as he preferred sticking mostly to breaking and entering and other theft rather than more brutish crimes. Douglass was an otherwise gentle soul that was driven to illegal pursuits, of which Mutatio could relate very well. Despite similar aspirations the two were physically opposites. The doctor was a slight man, nearly a good foot shorter than Douglass, his face untouched by scars or blemishes. He could almost be called youthful if not for the thinning strands of blonde hair atop his head. The doctor adjusted his wire frame glasses and peered into the dark, a smile creasing his lips.
“The best treasures are often hidden in plain sight my dear boy.” Mutatio said not unkindly, as he encouraged critical thinking, especially in those of which it was unexpected. “You see people like me, or at least those I used to associate with, have the nasty habit of never letting go of past accomplishments even when they really should.”
Douglas nodded along though Aaron was rather dubious if the man understood just what he meant.
“Why didn’t you use the thingy though? I wouldn’t have had to knock him about, probably wouldn’t have had to search either.” Aaron had been digging through assorted dusty baubles that likely hadn’t been looked through in years but rose at the question. Instead of telling the oaf to keep quiet, or ignoring him entirely, the doctor nodded.
“A fair question Douglas and I never care to keep those working with me in the dark. In truth while it would be convenient for us, and the poor shopkeep’s head. We are indeed trying to keep a low profile.” He spared the shopkeeper another look, and indeed he was still breathing which lightened the doctor’s mood. “The ‘thingy’ as you call it is indeed effective but will alert several to its misuse.”
Douglass seemed to accept this though he was still rather lost on what the doc was trying to accomplish, But the doc was one of those council types which meant the money was good at least, even though why a councilman would associate himself with one like Douglas was a mystery to him. That thought could wait for something caught the muscle’s eye.
“Doc, what did you say this key thingy looked like again?”
Aaron’s eye twitched at the repeated use of the word ‘thingy’, but any anger he had was quickly dispelled and replaced by a jubilant grin. Douglass nearly dropped the item as the Doctor took into a tight hug.
“That is it, and I dare say you may have worked your way into the history books!” Aaron took the metallic cylinder into his grasp. “Tomorrow shall be the first day of the rest of our lives.”