PowerTrip V: Vanisher
Gary Nile appeared in his jeans, button-up, and cozy sweater. A good sign of his mental state. When he appeared as the Vanisher, it was as though he were a different man—unreachable, intimidating. Gary was a fifty-year-old head researcher on the PowerTrip Project begun in 2037 after the second Infernals attack. He had completed the final phase of his project and subjected himself to the radiation treatment. He became something different than tests indicated a subject of the radiation would.
“Gladiator, how are you?” Gary appeared seated in the chair opposite Gary in the old mansion’s tea parlour, a gorgeous array of high-backed chairs with maroon velvet cushion surrounded by cases of old books.
“Good to see you, Gary. Always nice to see you out of costume sometimes.” Gary smiled slightly.
“The Infernals,” Gary said.
“No, the Vanisher. You could end this world, couldn’t you, Gary?”
“In seventeen ways I’ve found so far, not that I’ve been looking. Yes. Are you saying I am a threat to humanity? Perhaps you’re only asking.”
“Maybe the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t. Do we know you, Gary?”
“As well as anyone except perhaps my son. I see more of you all at this fire station of ours.”
“I want you to know that you’re a part of this family of misfits, Gary, always.”
“Thank you, Thara. That matters a lot.”
“Okay.” Gary’s image got up from the table to leave. He would vanish any second. “Gary!”
“What’s it like being you, after what happened and before?”
Gary’s face had subtle lines of pain in them from something he carried like a cancer. Those lines seemed to disappear as he spoke. “I was suicidal for years before my boy came along. I had some close calls, but then I arrived at some kind of covenant with myself not to take my life ever. Since then, I had my work on the power. Afterwards, I became intangible…” He paused, and collected himself. “Well, I could really use a hug from my son. From anyone. To feel sunlight as something other than a wind of sorts. To be warm. To feel something besides the tingle of passing through physical things.”
“Can you die?”
The lines of pain returned to Gary’s face. “Almost certainly not. Energy can’t be destroyed, only changed. I’ve looked into the changes; I’d stay intact no matter what type of energy I changed into. That scares me, Thara.”
“I was afraid you we still suicidal. Maybe now you feel something worse. Tell me.”
“I have never had more to live for; my boy growing up so fast. Grade 12, and in love with his dad as a superhero.”
“You gave us our first victory over the Infernals. Killed two of the bastards. To my people, you’re a battle hero. The most respected figures of our many warlike cultures.”
“Gee, shucks. No seriously, I appreciate your esteem especially, Thara. My power is yours to command.”
“Can I ask you an even more personal question? I’m learning in your culture it’s polite to ask before asking a question that presses on personal boundaries of a relationship.”
“Ask away.” Gary said. A little charmed, Thara thought.
“When you were suicidal, Gary—and I’m asking this as a friend, not because I’m worried about you blowing up the world—did you do any antisocial or strange things? Things you wouldn’t do normally?”
Gary’s face hardened.
“I see. If I was a trifle unpredictable during my depression and suicidal phase, what will the same man driven by the same impulses do with the power to destroy the world? Jesus. They paid me to be the smart guy in the room. If I look ahead, I can’t degrade, but surely my consciousness and self are not made to last. What happens when they break down? Madness with that kind of power?”
Thara’s jaw dropped. “Sorry, Gary. You just got a bit scarier. I still love you though. The love is the most important thing. And trust me, you’re the smart kid in the room. You’re our Reed Richards! The Fantastic Four?”
“I know who Reed Richards is and the comparison is flattering. Thara, what am I going to do with you. What are we going to do about me?”
“We stay super good best friends like we already are, and you stay connected. That’s our plan to get us through the next months. As a warrior nothing is more frightening than outliving the good life. In the months of friendship and mutual amusement, we get cracking on a solution to your death.”
“The Infernals first. Every last one of them.”
“Keep thinking about others, Gary. That’s being a hero, so I read. It’s what your people need. Thank you for postponing your great need for this group. I feel better knowing we have you with us. It’s been dangerous without you. It’s still dangerous.”
“You’re welcome. And I think you might just glue this group together, Thara.”
“I’m trying. Soon, Vanisher, we’ll go looking for your death together.
“When they’re all dead.”
“When they’re all dead,” Gladiator said.