Jerome applies to join the Superheroes League. 1st in BlackAdder’s Contest 2023.
|The Interesting Case of Mrs Ganly|
Jerome parked his jetboard in the alcove next to the imposing entrance to the League’s Headquarters. It had taken several days but he had finally built up the courage to enter that esteemed building. His father had been a member of the League and Jerome was determined to follow in his footsteps.
Emerging from the alcove, he paused to steel himself for whatever might be the reaction to his impertinence. He gazed up at the words emblazoned above the entrance. Paramount League of Superheroes on Ganymede they announced. For many years he had considered those words and dreamed of being a member with tight fitting suit and swagger to match. And now he was about to join this wonderful organisation. Or to try, at least.
He squared his shoulders in resolution and marched toward the doorway.
Inside, he found himself at the start of a long hallway that led to a closed door. The walls were lined with portraits of past members of the League, each illuminated by a spotlight fixed to the top of the frame. Serious and gallant faces frowned down at him as he made his way down the hall. One of them might have been his father, but Jerome had never known him. All he knew was that his father had died while fighting impossible odds in the last battle against the Bad Guys.
Reaching the door at the end of the passage, he pushed against it. A strong spring fought his efforts and he had to sidle through after managing to open it wide enough. He entered a small reception area with a desk at the far wall. Behind this, a man in a green and blue costume bent in his chair, head down and, apparently, asleep.
Jerome released the door and it began a slow and majestic travel to its closed position, groaning all the way. This seemed to wake the sleeping man, for he moved and caught himself as he was about to fall off the chair. He raised his head and caught sight of Jerome.
The man gestured at him to come forward and Jerome took the few steps to stand before the desk. For a moment, they regarded each other, as though unsure what to do next. Then Jerome blurted out, “I would like to join the League.”
The man’s face brightened. “Well, you’d better get a chair and we can fill out some forms.”
He indicated the opposite wall and a line of empty chairs. Jerome complied with the man’s suggestion. He sat down.
Now Jerome noticed that the man had letters emblazoned in blue across the background of his green tunic. MSB they read.
“What do the letters stand for?” asked Jerome.
The man looked down at his chest. “Oh, that,” he said. "They’re my initials. For my superhero name, you understand.”
Jerome waited but no further explanation was forthcoming. Eventually, he asked, “And what is that name?”
“Mister Spray Bottle. It’s a reference to my super power.”
The man seemed slightly embarrassed at this admission so Jerome did not press him on the matter. For his part, MSB started riffling through papers in a drawer of the desk until he emerged with an ornately-headed form.
“This is the one,” he announced, more to himself than Jerome. “Form GLS4901. Just a few questions you need to answer and then we can see about a costume for you.”
He picked up a pen and was poised over the form, ready to start writing. “Name?” he asked.
“Er, Jerome K Ganly,” said Jerome.
The pen stopped in mid-travel. MSB’s eyes shifted from the form to Jerome’s face. “D’you mean the Ganlys?”
“Well, I think we’re the only ones,” replied Jerome.
“So Mrs Ganly is your - what?”
“That’s my mom,” admitted Jerome. “Does it matter?”
MSB seemed to be over his surprise. He shrugged and answered, “Maybe, maybe not. No doubt we’ll come to that.” He returned to the form.
“Sixteen,” said Jerome. After a pause he added, “I will be tomorrow. It’s my birthday.”
MSB looked at him again but said nothing. He continued asking the standard questions but then came to the one Jerome had been dreading.
For a few seconds Jerome was silent. Then he said quietly, “I don’t know.”
MSB put down the pen. “What do you mean? You must have some idea, surely.” When Jerome remained quiet, MSB bent down to the drawer and hauled out another piece of paper. He threw it across the desk to Jerome.
“Here, have a look down this list. There’s bound to be one that reminds you of yours.”
Jerome studied the list. Growing hair really quickly. Living backwards. Speaking fluent Mondolese. A voice that deafens everyone within ten miles. Emitting high-pitched sounds that no one can hear. Emitting a cold water spray that dampens everyone’s ardour (suddenly Jerome understood about MSB’s super power). Taming Hampadorean mice. Being in two places at once. Always having the last word. Being able to say “Bastovarian Drive” while drinking a glass of water. Being able to sign your name backwards in mirror writing.
Jerome gave up. “I don’t see how any of these could really be a super power,” he said.
MSB was unfazed. “That’s because you don’t know your history. What do they teach them in the schools these days? When we were first shipwrecked on this planet, we only had a few superheroes and they had all the really powerful powers. Each super power is only granted once (don’t ask me why - I don’t know) so, as the generations rolled on and more and more superheroes were born, there were weirder and weirder powers handed out until you get to the situation we have now. You think I like being Mister Spray Bottle?”
“Well, no, I guess not. But I still don’t see how these powers can help when it comes to Bad Guys.”
“Wow, they really are skimping on history in the schools. You never heard that all the Bad Guys are gone? We cleaned them all out in the Last Battle and there are none left. You, of all people, should know that. I mean, your dad was killed in that battle.”
Jerome was shocked. “No, I never knew there were no more Bad Guys. I thought…”
There was silence as Jerome digested the new information. There was more he needed to know, however.
“So, if there are no more Bad Guys, why do we keep going with the League and all that? Surely that’s a bit pointless now?”
MSB sat back in his chair. “Now that I can understand them not telling you. But you must be old enough to cope with it by now. The problem is, young Jerome, your mom. Yes, the famous Mrs Ganly. And she’s the most interesting of us all.
“You see, the Interesting Mrs Ganly is the last Good Person on the planet. And she has no super power at all. If it weren’t for her, we superheroes would have no one to protect. And, without someone to protect, a superhero’s life becomes worthless. You called it pointless but it’s much worse than that.
“The thing is, Jerome, without Mrs Ganly, we’d all wither away and die for lack of a purpose in life. Unless…”
He stopped then and gazed off into space. Jerome was way ahead of him this time, however.
“My mom might not be the only one.”
MSB refocused. “You’re right, young Jerome. You might be another Good Guy. It seems the super power question is suddenly much more important than we thought.”
“And I lied about that,” said Jerome.
MSB frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I haven’t got a super power. All my life I wanted one so I could be like my father. I tried everything to get one but nothing works. It looks like I’m another Good Guy.”
MSB looked at him with new hope written on his face. “Which means we could have even more Good Guys. If you get married and have kids, of course.”
“Oh, I think I’d be duty-bound to do that,” said Jerome.
“We could make you an honorary member of the League in that case. After all, you’d have saved us all!”
MSB was grinning with exultation but Jerome shook his head. “I don’t think so. If this happens, I’ll be a hero but not a superhero. Still no super power, you see.”
“But we could still make you a member.”
“No chance,” replied Jerome. “Don’t you see? If everyone’s special, no one is. I’m the most special person on the planet and that’s good enough for me.”
Word count: 1,446
For BlackAdder’s Cantina Space Opera Contest, May 2023
Prompt: Family Ties.