Dear readers, tonight we print an in-story interview between two teen superheroes, studying in the Justice Academy, the special school for their kind. We’ll learn about assumed identities, alien races, and friendship.


I’ve been thinking, Grey. After seeing Sunbolt handling those journalists on Bantus, should we, maybe, practice interview techniques?

Hmm? Sorry, Seventhirtyfour, I was light years away. What was that about interviews?

I was just saying I should interview you; I could get extra credits for my superhero journalism course, Choose your Lane 101. Please? We’re still days away from the Academy, I’m bored, you know.

I’m not falling for that, you have a stack of textbooks still to read, and I know how much you love a textbook.

Sigh.

Go on then. Ask me some questions.

Okay, fantastic. Let’s see. You grew up in one of the wealthiest human families in the galaxy. What was that like?

I thought we agreed to pretend I didn’t have money? We definitely said that. Let’s imagine that instead of growing up as a Gravane, I… I don’t know. Just off the top of my head: I ran away from my parents at age eight. I spent the better part of a decade drifting from space station to space station, surviving on my wits, earning money to survive. Legitimately when I could, but less so when I had to.

Can you imagine if that was true? It sounds lonely.

Lonely? That’s not…  I’ve seen the galaxy, met amazing people from dozens of different species and only swindled a relatively small percentage of them. I may not have stayed in one place very long, I guess. Never really formed what you’d call close friendships. Put that against all the places I’ve been to, all the things I’ve learned. You can’t buy an education like that. In this hypothetical backstory.

What about you, Seventhirtyfour? Where did you grow up?

Oh, nothing special really, you know? Once I was let out of the maturation pod, I was posted to Clone Barracks 17 on Brontom Prime and started my five-year boot camp.  Just me and a couple thousand of my closest vat mates. It was a good time, we learned to fight and—wait, I’m supposed to be interviewing you.

Busted.

So, let’s talk about your time at the Justice Academy. What courses are you taking now?

Sure. I’m a Skills student. No Powers of any kind, no super Tech. That means I’m studying to be the best version of me I can be. To, um, fight crime and rescue innocents and the like. Basic superhero defense. Parkour. Grapnel Gun Basics and Maintenance. A couple of Prof Croft’s Criminology and Clue Analysis courses. Gutted I couldn’t get into Superheroics: A History with you, but, clashes, what can you do? I really want to do Rescueology next term, just to find out what it is.

We should do that together, that could be fun. All our courses got a bit derailed by this mission on Bantus. We should talk about that. How did you get involved?

Mrs. Gravane, that is to say, my mother, she had a report of a gang war on Bantus. A gang cold war, anyway. The Gravanes have some business interests out there and my mother wanted me to try and smooth things over. I had to agree to go. That would have looked weird if her son hadn’t agreed to go, right? But I didn’t know how to tackle it alone, so, I asked you, Pilvi, Gadget Dude and Avrim to come along too. And then we got saddled with Sunbolt.

I don’t think it went quite the way Mrs. Gravane intended, but there we go.  

What did you think when you were staring down the barrel of Tazforj’s gun?

All in a day’s work for a superhero. No.

It’s not actually the first time someone has wanted to shoot me. What does that say about me?

But, yeah. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it. I don’t have the Power to bounce bullets or Tech armour to protect me. If I get shot, I get hurt. It’s… but it does come with the territory, I guess. If you take on the lives we have chosen to live. That’s always going to be a risk. Thank the stars for Sunbolt. Don’t tell him I said that. Actually might be best not to save this answer.

Thinking about other types of superhero missions you might have to deal with in the future, what’s the worst scenario you can–

A kidnapping. Someone in my life being taken by people unknown and having the life of that person depend on my actions. I don’t know how I’d deal with the waiting, knowing that you can’t do anything until the kidnappers contact you. Not knowing if that person is already dead or being treated well or if you’re going to be able to meet the kidnappers demands. Or if you should. Just having the situation completely out of my control. Not being able to go to people for help because that might be what… That would… yeah, that would be pretty bad.

Yeah. Yeah, we really need to take that Rescueology course. What is the worst thing about being a student superhero?

Hmm. Okay. Don’t hate me for this, but… some of it is just a bit… silly? The code names, the costumes. Don’t get me wrong, I think the work the Academy does is amazing. When Pilvi talked about wanting to use her agricultural knowledge to fight famines and save lives, I mean that’s flat out heroic. But I’m not sure I understand why she would need to put on a mask and call herself, I don’t know, the Iridescent Irrigator to do it.

Not all heroes wear a mask, Grey. But identities are hugely important for superheroes. Choosing a new identity, sometimes it lets you be something that you can’t be as yourself.

Yeah.

What is the best thing about it?

The real treasure is the friends you make along the way. It’s you guys. I didn’t know what to expect when I came to the Academy. It certainly wasn’t to stumble into you lot. Hanging out. Losing games of Power Ball, listening to Dez sing at the Gamma Bomb… it’s special. Important to me.

Aww, Grey. Tell me a little about your friends. I mean, I know obviously, but for the interview, you know?

Well first, there’s Seventhirtyfour, a seven-foot-tall four-armed green-skinned Brontom Clone warrior who would be really intimidating if he wasn’t such a doofus. He might have psychic powers, but we haven’t quite worked out what they are yet.

Sounds like a nice guy.

He’s the best. You’re the best, pal.

Pilvi, she’s our team scientist. She comes from an agri-world and knows more about farming than I knew there was to know. Smart, fierce, dedicated. Skills, like me. Human, like me.

Gadget Dude. He’s a blue Zalex, they have a talent for building things, but he takes it almost to the Powers level. But it’s Tech, so I’m not sure which bracket he fits in. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care.

Avrim is a Polifan. They look human apart from the wings. He’s a good guy to have in a fight, but he can be a bit grumpy. He can fly, because: wings. But he’s still technically a Skills student.

And Dez. She didn’t get to come to Bantus with us, I’m hoping she’ll forgive me, eventually. She’s skills too; fantastic singing voice.

And what about that girl you introduced me to before we left for Bantus?

Who, Lucy? She’s in my Grapnel Gun Basics class. She seems nice. I don’t… why ask about her?

Oh, no reason. So, hypothetically, what would your perfect first date be?

With Lucy?

I didn’t say so. Just asking for a bit of personal colour, you know?

I… I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it. Dinner somewhere, I guess. That’s what they do in movies, right? Anyway, moving on…

One last awkward question, and then a couple of easy ones.

Go on then, hit me.

Can I ask about your phobia?

I don’t know that it’s a phobia, not really. I’ve never had it diagnosed, but I guess I know what you’re talking about. The sky… kind of freaks me out. I’ve spent too much time in space stations looking down at worlds, and yes, I know gravity, but have you ever noticed there’s no top to the sky. If gravity failed and I fell away from a planet, there’d be nothing to keep me from floating into space. Nothing to grab onto. It’s… it’s not right.

What does the future hold for you, Grey?

I thought you said there would be easy ones? I don’t know. I guess I’m here at the Academy for the duration. After that, who can say? What do superheroes do? Confront supervillains, stop alien invasions, solve murders? An unlikely crossover, perhaps? I’ve lived my life moving forwards, always heading to the next thing, without a clear idea of what it might be.

I’m going to get myself under a roof though. That much I can tell you.

Last one. Something fun. Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

Does it have to be true?

I mean, if it’s not, it’s more of a lie than a secret.

That’s fair. Yeah. No.


Rob Edwards is a British born writer and podcaster, living in Finland.  His podcast, StorycastRob, features readings from his short stories and excerpts from longer work.  His work can also be found in the anthologies published by Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press. His greatest geek pride is his entry on wookieepedia, the result of writing several Star Wars RPG scenarios back in the day.

You can find Grey on the pages of The Ascension Machine.

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