Summary: A hopeful or depressing story about superheroes and drugs. Take your pick.
Genre: Superheroes, Sci-Fi, Filipino Elements
Written in 2011
“I don’t trust them, Ate,” Joben murmured, his hand trembling, even in his sister’s grasp.
Calloused and hard, Nena’s hands made evident her toil, her hard-working nature. She was a hero. Joben’s hero.
So why should this scare him?
“You don’t have to trust them, Joben. Just hold onto me and don’t say anything, okay?” Nena bade, pressing a kiss to her brother’s dark temple.
They stepped onto the wooden planks of the docks, lining themselves behind a man who was flagging down a private boat in the late evening darkness.
The boat was the fancy kind that Joben only ever saw on television, speeding away from policemen in chase scenes off the shores of Miami. It didn’t belong in an old pier that only ever docked tourist canoes and fishing boats.
The large man who roped the boat in greeted the siblings gruffly, his voice low enough to be quiet. Nena nodded when he asked his questions and followed when he gestured for her to step onto the bow. When the large man offered to carry Joben on, Nena refused, lifting him on her own, despite his weight being half of hers.
“You seem strong enough. Are you sure you want this?” the gruff man asked, leading her to the lower quarters.
“It’s not what I want; it’s what my family needs. My usual work can’t support my mother anymore, and my brother is too young to do the work I’m accustomed to. He sells things… but it isn’t enough most of the time.”
Joben had to bite his tongue to keep from speaking. Why didn’t Nena tell him his income wasn’t enough? He could have dropped out of school to work more.
As if she could hear his thoughts, Nena glared at him, pulling Joben along more firmly.
“Never give up your studies, Jonathan Robert, you hear me? You’ll make something of yourself and help me and Nanay that way. I’ll take care of our expenses. Just focus on graduating so you can get into high school, then college, and become a big-shot doctor or lawyer. Make Daddy proud so he’ll be able to come back from the war to a genius son.”
The glare of the fluorescent light made Joben blink a few times. Nena didn’t even flinch.
“So, I hear you’re interested in our product,” said a man. He was white in everything—from suit to skin to hair. His eyes were close enough—sharp gray, a piercing gaze that Joben didn’t want to meet.
“It’s pricey. You sure you have the resources to pay us? Up front is already fourteen grand, not to mention the later payments,” the man said, not sounding the least bit concerned about Nena’s financial welfare.
“I know. I have the money here.”
“Where did you get all that money, Nena?” Joben had asked.
“It was supposed to be my college fund. I’ve been using it to pay for Nanay’s medicines. I didn’t think…” Nena sighed, never finishing what she’d meant to say.
“All right, then. Gordon, get this girl started on the treatments immediately,” the white man said, clapping his hands briskly. It was clear to Joben that he was pleased, but his expression only sickened the eleven-year old.
“What about your little brother, then?” the man asked, patting his immaculate suit down and noticing Joben for the first time.
“He’s too young for this,” said Nena noncommittally.
“His time will come, of course. Now here; the first dose.”
The vial held barely more than a drop, but Nena downed it all, not missing a trace.
“And then what happened? Did Nena become a superhero?” Gina asked.
“What happened to their mom?” Johnny demanded.
“What about Jobert?” Chris cut in.
“Joben, Chris. His name was Joben,” Captain Michael explained. The classroom buzzed after the first question was asked, and Michael tried calling their attention to regain control of the situation, control that was diminishing rapidly as the kids demanded to see his magic spear.
“It’s not magic, it’s a specialized alloy that was forged into a spear for me by—no, I’m not gonna set anything on fire—listen—”
There was a sudden heat, a crack of thunder, and silence following both.
“Morningstar, there was no need for that,” Michael said as the kids looked at the newcomer fearfully.
“They were misbehaving,” Morningstar pointed out.
“They’re just kids,” Michael argued.
“The children back home would have shown more respect.”
“… yeah, but these are American kids. Cut ‘em a little slack.”
Before Morningstar could respond, Michael pushed him out door, giving sheepish excuses as he went.
“I assumed you accepted to speak for the Host of the Motherland to win international respect.”
Captain Michael smiled, handing Morningstar some coffee and sitting down on the next swing.
“We’re superheroes, Lucy. They respect us already. This wasn’t an ego trip. This was to teach the kids that the superhero life isn’t all glamour, even if back home, we’re the only country with as many superheroes as we have doctors or policemen,” Michael explained.
Morningstar nodded, sipping the cup, unusually humble.
“How does the story end?” Morningstar asked curiously.
“What happens to Nena? And Joben?”
Michael smiled at her, sadly.
“Nena dies from overdose. Her brother Joben tries to throw away her supply, but the radiation from broken vials makes him mature into some super man. He joins the Host, becoming Captain within four years for his leadership prowess.”
“…Depressing,” Morningstar observed quietly.
“Really? I think it’s hopeful. A poor kid who used to sell cigarettes becoming one of the most well-known superheroes in the country? His mother getting the best treatment the medical world has to offer? It’s a rags to riches deal. People eat it right up.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that Nena’s dead.”
Michael frowned at that, but softened when Morningstar’s hand extended to grasp his—soft and smooth, so unlike Joben’s… so unlike Nena’s…
“No,” he muttered.
“Super” (c) Motzie Dapul 2011-Present