Short story: Being super is not all it is cracked up to be

Superman apron, �12.99, from
Superman apron, �12.99, from

An alarm blared through the building.

“Up up and away,” griped Trent Tyler as he slid down the chute after his three colleagues, down to the garage and jumped into the van.

The situation was common enough – hostages being held at the local supermarket – and by the time they arrived, the police had already surrounded the place. They let Trent and the others through, ready to storm the supermarket if they failed as was normal procedure.

“Stand aside, people,” ordered the head officer. “The superheroes are coming through!”

For some reason, their official name of ‘alter-human auxillary emergency units’ had never caught on.

They strode into the supermarket and King started using his vocal hypnotism to talk down the gunman, his voice seeming to fill the room. But Trent could see something in the criminal’s eyes. He was too nervous, too fractious, to really fall under King’s spell. Without any warning, he started firing!

“Not your best work,” shouted Trent as he dived to protect his colleague.

“At least I managed to prevent him from shooting the hostages,” retorted King as the bullets ricocheted from Trent’s invulnerable body. Jones shot forward at lightning speed, grabbing the closest hostage and racing him to safety across the room.

Hamilton grabbed at the shotgun and crushed the barrel flat with her immense strength, causing the gunman to freeze in terror.

“Be sensible and surrender,” King said. This time, it worked perfectly.

A small crowd had gathered and were cheering madly as they led the gunman outside to the waiting police van. A wide-eyed boy at the front stared at Trent in wonder and gushed, “I wanna be just like you when I grow up!”

Trent only narrowly avoided snapping: “No you don’t.”

He hated this job, keeping him away from what life he had for months on end and making him little more than a quick-fix for when the real police fouled up. He’d never been asked if he actually wanted to work in the family business, but he couldn’t help that he’d been born different. He was a Tyler after all, great-grandson of the company’s founder and part of one of the most respected superhero families in the world.

“Chin up,” smiled Jones on the drive back to headquarters. “After today you’re on holiday! Back to the missus and the little one!”

Stupid job had even made him miss his own daughter’s birth!

Trent seethed with frustration the whole trip home. He didn’t have a secret identity as such - the company was too public for that - but at least he had some degree of anonymity in civilian clothes. Regular people always went on about how fantastic it must be to be bulletproof, but he knew better. No sense of touch, the repetitive exercises to retain his flexibility, people always using him as a human shield or attacking him to test his powers - being invulnerable stank.

He’d only just rung the doorbell when his wife Sharon came racing out of the front door into his arms. He hugged back but, as usual, didn’t feel anything. Nothing less than a bomb going off in his face could affect Trent and, although Sharon always squeezed tight, his wife’s touch just didn’t register.

She gleefully led him upstairs to the bedroom, proudly showing him the week-old Tracy Tyler in her pink cot.

“Got the test results from the hospital today,” beamed Sharon proudly. “She’ll grow up super, like you!”

“Oh. Good,” said Trent blankly. He fought to keep his face neutral as he painfully remembered his childhood, when the initial thrill of being superhuman had quickly been swept away once he realised it only brought you unwanted attention from bullies and pushy relatives.

Sharon noticed her husband wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as he should be. “You want to hold her?”

Trent half-heartedly took the infant, hardly feeling her weight in his arms. He almost forgot Tracy was there as he reflected on how having superpowers would screw up both their lives. How could he be a good parent when he couldn’t even feel his child against his invulnerable skin? When he wouldn’t be able to trust himself to play with her for fear his powers would make him forget his own strength and maybe injure her? When he knew Tracy would be signed up for future recruitment by the company the second she discovered her superpowers?

Suddenly, he felt a strange tingle. It was almost like the ‘supershocks’ that cousin Amber had given him with her electric powers for a prank when they were kids, but gentler, softer, more natural. He looked down, and saw Tracy clutching his thumb with her tiny fingers. His heart just melted, flooding him with the sort of warm joy he had thought was one of the many things he couldn’t feel.

“See?” grinned Sharon. “You’re going to be a super dad!”

“No, I’m not.” smiled Trent. “I’m going to be a dad!”

He held the baby just a little closer. For the first time, he felt like a father. More than that, he felt human.