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The question of whether Vance was dead or not became more than academic when he found himself in a bathtub up to his chin in ice water like some forgotten cocktail garnish, a demonic woman standing over him, and no memory of how he got there.
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Dispensing Justice - Chapter 1 - Doctor M's Robotic Hordes Attack, or Mom Interrupts the News

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When high school freshman Michael Gurrick's father is killed by supervillains, he takes up his father's supersuit and seeks justice (or will it be vengeance?) against his father's killers. (e)

Chapter 1 — Doctor M's Robotic Hordes Attack, or Mom Interrupts the News

Friday, December 7th, 1984 (13,821 days post Supernova 1947A)

It is a well-established fact that an individual in possession of a secret subterranean laboratory is either a superhero or a supervillain. In my case, I wish it had been that unambiguous. Perhaps your opinion on the matter will differ.

My cellphone tweedled, buzzing briefly against the command-and-control console desk. My mother's disembodied voice issued forth, "Michael? Are you down there again?"

Before I could answer, a news-alert-filter program sounded a bell-like tone and the two goose-necked lamps illuminating the work tray in my lap blinked in sympathy. I finished inserting the o-ring and fitted the back plate into place on the tape-measure sized pump I was reassembling. Only then did I look up. As I scanned the curving bank of displays looming over me, my fingers began fitting and tightening the tiny machine screws that held the back plate in place. One of the screens was flashing like the Daily Double Jeopardy question-in-the-form-of-an-answer. Framed by a yellow-highlight border and sitting behind a Lucite slab of a desk was a masked, bronzed, and very buff anchorman.

The filter agent turned up the volume. The Superhero News Network anchor, his too-blue eyes shining with excitement through his Lone-Ranger-esque mask, said, "We take you now to one of our news drones, hovering above the scene."

I suppressed a laugh. I don't know about you, but I find the SNN signature black domino masks and tightly tailored three-piece suits ridiculous; a cynical attempt by SNN to be 'hip' with the superhero scene. It's not as if a domino mask really conceals your identity. But then, that's almost certainly the point.

Behind the news anchor the feed from the news drone, splashed up on the SNN's studio's wall-sized bank of flat-screen monitors, was the image of a sleek black jump-jet with a red, eight-pointed star-burst prominently displayed on its fuselage. I couldn't resist watching as the jet's downward-pointing fan-ducts threw up whirlwinds of dust, leaves, and litter across the plaza's dark red paving stones and between the rank upon rank of slowly advancing, mostly humanoid, robots. "A Nova League jet is even now landing in Nova Genesis Memorial Plaza to do battle against Doctor M's Robotic Horde."

The skin between my shoulder blades tingled as I thought of the suit hanging behind me in the darkened lab. The suit that I had been working on for the last six months. I had finished inserting gel padding, and the augmentation of its offensive and defensive systems had entered the second-guess-and-tweak phase. It was ready. But was I? The impulse to put it on and go join the Nova League in their fight against the Robotic Horde was strong. But I would lose the opportunity I had been waiting for if this turned out to be the night that the Demolition Squad emerged from hiding.

The cellphone tweedled and buzzed again, this time long enough for the phone to start skittering across the desk surface. I slid the tray onto the console desk next to it. The phone stopped buzzing, halting its creeping progress when Mom said, "Michael? Are you there?"

I palmed the mute icon on the console, flipped the cellphone open and thumbed 'Talk.' "I'm here, Mom."

"What are you doing?"

I formulated my answer carefully. I wasn't going to give her the satisfaction that she had guessed right about my location. What was the point of a secret, sub-basement lab if your mother knew about it? Okay, that wasn't fair. It wasn't exactly my lab, or, at least I didn't feel quite like it was. Mom had known about it from the beginning, of course, but she just didn't appreciate it the way I did. Besides, she hadn't been down here since Dad—I squashed that painful train of thought.

"I'm watching SNN, Mom." Which was true enough. The SNN news ticker at the bottom of the screen was scrolling 'Doctor M's Robotic Horde attacks the Nova League Tower' while the masked news anchor gesticulated excitedly towards the jet and the Nova Leaguers it was disgorging.

"Michael Gabriel Gurick the Third! If you're watching that channel before finishing your homework, I will cancel the cable subscription!"

I sighed. "Yes, Mother, I did my calculus, including the extra-credit problems, made comments on the physics forum, and wrote a history paper."

As I talked, I watched the closed caption below the masked anchorman. "The question on everyone's lips right now is," the words bubbling up read, "Is this brazen attack by the Robotic Horde related to last summer's War-of-the-Worlds–style assault by the Demolition Squad?" The ongoing attempts to link last July's landing of a giant metal cylinder in the middle of the plaza to every supervillain attack in Galacticity was becoming tiresome.

Sounding genuinely interested, Mom asked, "What was the history paper about?"

"The moon base," I said, scanning the bank of screens hoping to catch sight of other supervillain activity that the filter agents had missed. CNN Live was replaying the President's signing of the Supplemental Strategic Super Powers Initiative bill while First Lady Bacall looked on, but as I watched it cut away to cover the Nova League landing. CSPAN seemed completely oblivious to the events in Galacticity, continuing to show talking heads discussing the signing of the S3PI bill, then shifting to an interview with the House Minority Whip.

As I continued to scan, Mom said, "I remember the first non-superhuman moon landing. It was two years before you were born, and only six years after President Kennedy announced the initiative. We were so excited to have done it on our own! No Galactitech, just plain old Earth ingenuity."

"Yes, Mother." Damn, there was no sign of the Demolition Squad. On the other hand, the Nova League was starting to plow through the Horde.

She gave a dreamy sigh. I looked down at the phone, feeling a frown starting to form. Was she going to drift off into one of her reminiscences again? It was disconcerting. With her post-traumatic stress syndrome, I could never be sure when she would regress, slipping back to some prior state of mind. But then she continued, "You are remembering to make mistakes on your homework, aren't you, dear?"

"Yes, Mother." Good, not drifting.

"Have you finished your social studies reading assignment?"

It was the follow-up question I was expecting. "Mom, I read The Sociological Impact of Supernova 1947A three years ago. I can recite it by heart." Just to prove it, I shut my eyes and visualized the first page of chapter three and began to read: "'Into the impending political and racial turmoil of the 1960s, the children born under the baleful light of Supernova 1947A were beginning to manifest the powers that would become the hallmark of the first Nova Genesis generation.'"

"Isn't Professor Jane's writing marvelous?" Mom said, her voice ethereal with nostalgia. "She really captures the essence of the Sixties."

"Yes, Mother." I wasn't so sure that Professor Jane's writing was really as good as Mom thought, but she had an excuse for her enthusiasm. She had met Dr. Jane Myers when she was hired to copyedit her first book, and they'd been friends ever since. I had signed copies of all the Professor's books. I'd even been interviewed, anonymously, of course, for the one she was working on now. "Can I go back to watching SNN, now?"

Continued in

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